Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Middle Grade Roundup

shadow weaver

Title: Shadow Weaver

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Publishers Description:

Fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak and The Night Gardener will devour Shadow Weaver, the first in a dark middle-grade fantasy duology that’s filled with shadows, danger, magic, and has the feel of a new classic.

Emmeline’s gift of controlling shadows has isolated her from the rest of the world, but she’s grown to be content, hidden away in her mansion with Dar, her own shadow, as her only company.

Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble’s mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away.

With the noble’s guards on her trail, Emmeline’s only hope of clearing her name is to escape capture and perform the ritual that will set Dar free. But Emmeline’s not sure she can trust Dar anymore, and it’s hard to keep secrets from someone who can never leave your side.

I was immediately drawn to this story because of its cover and premise, and I wasn’t let down when I finally got to sit down and read it.

The writing style was both lyrical and simple enough for reluctant readers. Fans of Connolly will embrace the familiarity in the style and the dark  but magical quality in every word and plot choice.

Emmeline is a flawed character, but one to root for. Her relationship with Dar, and the idea of a battle between darkness and light, isn’t a new idea, but it’s an important one I love seeing in middle grade, this fresh take on displaying this theme was well done. I especially liked Lucas and Emmeline together. Following them through their adventures kept the pages turning all the way to the satisfying, but teasing, conclusion.


Title: Tess of the Road

Author: Rachel Hartman

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: February 27, 2018

Publisher’s Description:

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl–a subspecies of dragon–who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Right away I loved the folk tale feel of this story. It pulled me in and felt classic and fresh all at once. As a Seraphina fan I was eagerly awaiting my chance to dive into this story. But to be clear, while Tess is set in the same world, all of the characters are new and this story feels much heavier and darker.

There is so much to love about this story. Hartman’s writing is, as always, on point. This book is not for the reluctant reader though because the prose and the fantastical elements are not simple or easy, which isn’t a good or bad thing, just something I feel should be mentioned in a review for young readers.

The messages in this book are quite mature, but not ones children shouldn’t be aware of. I think readers of all ages will root for Tess in all of her complexity and vulnerability, and get lost in her quest and adventure. Tess grows as a character and like any good middle grade protagonist, she needs to discover her strengths and weaknesses and put them together to become the person she was meant to be.

I love this world and this new important story that has been told within it.


Title: Once You Know This

Author: Emily Blejwas

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Publisher’s Description:

A girl wishes for a better life for herself, her mom, and her baby brother and musters the courage to make it happen in this moving and emotionally satisfying story for readers of Kate DiCamillo and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Eleven-year-old Brittany knows there has to be a better world out there. Lately, though, it sure doesn’t feel like it. She and her best friend, Marisol, stick together at school, but at home Brittany’s granny is sick, her cat is missing, there’s never any money, and there’s her little brother, Tommy, to worry about. Brittany has a hard time picturing her future as anything but a plain white sky. If her life is going to ever change, she needs a plan. And once she starts believing in herself, Brittany realizes that what has always seemed out of reach might be just around the corner.

This debut novel by Emily Blejwas is perfect for readers who love emotionally satisfying books. Thoughtful and understated, it’s the hopeful story of a girl who struggles to make her future bright . . . and the makeshift family that emerges around her.

It’s no secret I’m a fan of middle grade that addresses tough issues but inspire hope at the same time. This book checks off all the boxes of what makes a compelling story for me: Lovable characters, real-life issues, real-life reactions, lovely prose, messages about believing in your dreams and finding yourself.

While the content may be tough for some young readers, with the proper conversations with trusted adults, there are important lessons to be learned.

I loved this heart-warming story and am inclined to pick up any future book by this author.


Title: The Exact Location of Home

Author: Kate Messner

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children

Publication Date: September 12, 2017

Publisher’s Description:

Kirby “Zig” Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people–especially his father, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. When his dad’s latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo–a garage sale GPS unit–for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there’s more than one set of coordinates for home.

An important story of love and hope that will capture readers’ hearts, The Exact Location of Home is another must read from beloved author Kate Messner.

I haven’t picked up a Kate Messner book that I didn’t like, that’s why it’s funny I didn’t pick this one up when it first came out years ago. But I’m so glad I found it this time around. This story has all the elements I love about a Messner story and so much more.

My boys are obsessed with the geocaching right now, so it was fun to see the theme of this story advanced through this device. Zig was such a lovable little guy with so many qualities that made him feel real, and not created. I wanted him to be safe in his secret and to find everything he was looking for.

Again, there are some tough topic involved, but I don’t think they are insensitively handled or unnecessarily told. This story stole my heart and will definitely be one I re-read in the future.


Title: Stars Beneath Our Feet

Author: David Barclay Moore

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: September 17, 2017

Publisher’s Description:

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.
His path isn’t clear–and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape–and an unexpected bridge back to the world.

Oh my goodness, this book made me FEEL so many things. I think it’s so important for middle grade books to both allow the reader to see themselves in it and introduce them to parts of the world and humanity that will make them a better person. This book does both.

Oh, Lolly. I wanted to hug him through the whole book … but he didn’t need me to, and that was part of his greatness. He navigated his trials and came out way better than I would have in his position.

The way the author balances tough topics with things a lot of kids can relate to as an escape (like Legos) was a brilliant touch.

Moore constructed his plot and paced it in a way so the reader worked through the pages the way Lolly built his creations. The dialogue was realistic and the bits of humor in the heaviness of the subject-matter was well-done.

Definitely one I’d recommend to the middle grade readers I know.


MMGM: Interview with Frank L Cole

frankadventure machine

About the author: Frank L. Cole was born into a family of southern storytellers and wrote his first book at age eight. Highly superstitious and gullible to a fault, Frank will believe in any creepy story you tell him, especially ones involving ghosts and Big Foot. Currently, along with his wife and three children, he resides in the shadow of a majestic western mountain range, which is most likely haunted. The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine is Frank’s 9th published book.
About the Book: An adventure novel about four lucky kids and a mysterious, but thrilling ride for fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Jurassic Park!
    CastleCorp and the famous Castleton brothers are unveiling the World’s Greatest Adventure Machine! The roller coaster is an experience like no other, and four lucky kids have won the chance to be the first to ride it. 
    There’s Trevor, whose latest stunt got him in trouble at school again. There’s Devin, whose father is pushing him to be the next Internet sensation. Nika’s wealthy grandfather isn’t too pleased about her participation. And Cameron, he’ll be the first to tell you, is a certified genius. 
    The whole world is watching. But as the kids set off on their journey, they begin to realize that there is perhaps more to their fellow contest winners than meets the eye. And the Adventure Machine? It might just have a mind of its own.
    Join the contestants on their wild ride if you dare. Your adventure starts now!
“[The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine] made me laugh out loud as I was pulled through the twists and turns until my stomach dropped in suspense or I waved my hands in the air, cheering at the adventure. It will take you on a ride that you won’t soon forget!”-Peggy Eddleman, author of Sky Jumpers
I am so happy to have Frank L Cole here today talking about Middle Grade and specifically his fantastic book, THE WORLD’S GREATEST ADVENTURE MACHINE.
My boys devoured this book and wanted more just like it as soon as they were done. It has such a classic feel to it, but was so fresh and exciting.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk Middle Grade with us, Frank!


Where did you get the idea for this book?

In the shower. I know, weird. But I had just submitted an idea about another story to my agent that wasn’t working and I had to do major rewrites and I was stressed. I got in the shower and stood there for a long time and the ideas started coming about a boy who couldn’t feel fear. I wondered how that could work in a story and what would be the scenario/plot he’d be involved in and it just sprouted into life. I’m now a huge advocate of promoting hygiene. Showers rock! 

What is your favorite scene in THE WORLD’S GREATEST ADVENTURE MACHINE?

That’s a tough one! I have so many, but I love little Cameron and I suppose
the scene where he faces the giant moose is one of my all-time favorites. I personally have issues with moose. They’re like giant, alien deer. They freak me out and I projected my fear onto the page and poor Cameron had to endure it.

What did this story teach you about writing?

That sometimes it takes major rewrites to create something special. I had to rework so much of this novel that I’m sure I lost half the hairs on my head. I also learned that the creation process may begin with one author, but there’s no way I can take all the credit. My editor, my agent, my beta readers, my family, they all played a huge role in helping the story come to life.

What has been your greatest adventure in life so far?

My kids. My life has never been the same since my family expanded. I recently took my 15-year-old driving. I might as well have been on the Adventure Machine myself. Had giant bug creatures suddenly appeared and chased us down the road, I would not have been surprised. As a parent, I want so much happiness for my kids and through them I can live on, even when my old body doesn’t want to cooperate with adventures.

What advice do you have for those chasing their own adventures?

Give yourself a chance to live and enjoy life, but don’t forget that friendships and family can enhance that adventure. So often we feel that to truly have an adventure we need to tackle it as a solo mission. I disagree. Just as in any of my favorite middle grade novels, the main character rarely has to go alone. That’s how it should be (in most cases) in life too.

What is your favorite thing about middle grade?

I love that age. Some of my fondest memories happened when I was 12-13 years old. Real freedom and innocence exists at that age, and I love the fact that Harry Potter starts in middle grade. You can grow with characters in a middle grade novel or series. And I’ve always felt the right middle grade story never cheapens the experience by leaving out the gritty details that are often reserved for older books, but the level of adventure and excitement can be equally as satisfying.

Can you please list your top 3 middle grade reads?

Any one of the Harry Potter novels (though the older ones are more YA), The Graveyard Book is fantastic (I think that’s middle grade), and I really enjoyed the whole Fablehaven series.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to write middle grade?

Try to follow this basic system when creating your main middle grade character. Give them a talent (skill, attribute, ability), a weakness, a secret, a goal, and a friend. Some of these can be combined easily enough. Your main character can go through difficult scenes alone, if necessary, but it works better if the prospect of friendship exists early on in the book.

What I Read: September 2017

I’m sure it’s been obvious that I haven’t been posting on this blog as often as I’d like to. With my work load consistently growing, I’m having a hard time posting weekly/bi-weekly to share what I’m reading. So from now on, I’m going to post the first of each month with what I read the month before, and then include interviews throughout the month when I get them.

What I Read (Children’s Books) in September 2017:


Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women, Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo, December 1, 2016, Timbuktu Labs.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a children’s book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. This book inspires girls with the stories of great women, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

Still reveling in this one and limiting myself to one inspiring story a night. I love teaching my boys about these women.


The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match, Elizabeth Eulberg, September 12, 2017, Bloomsbury.

The Great Shelby Holmes may have finally met her match in this humorous sequel to Elizabeth Eulberg’s fresh twist on Sherlock Holmes.

Being friends with a super sleuth isn’t easy, especially when she’s nine years old and four feet tall, and full of attitude. But for eleven-year-old aspiring writer John Watson, being friends with Shelby Holmes is just the adventure he’s looking for.
In the few weeks since moving to Harlem with his mom, Shelby has been training John in the art of observation—a skill that comes in handy on the first day of school. John’s new teacher, Mr. Crosby, is acting suspiciously, and Shelby knows this is a mystery worth investigating. But as Shelby and John dig deeper, they discover that there may be someone unexpected involved—someone who may have Shelby beat.
From internationally bestselling author Elizabeth Eulberg comes a feel-good sequel for fans of Kate Messner and Chris Grabenstein.

I had to read this one right when it came out, it is just too cute and I’m sucker for Holmes “retellings.” I loved this one just as much as the first.


Click’d, Tamara Ireland Stone, September 5, 2017, Disney-Hyperion.

Allie Navarro can’t wait to show her best friends the app she built at CodeGirls summer camp. CLICK’D pairs users based on common interests and sends them on a fun (and occasionally rule-breaking) scavenger hunt to find each other. And it’s a hit. By the second day of school, everyone is talking about CLICK’D.

Watching her app go viral is amazing. Leaderboards are filling up! Everyone’s making new friends. And with all the data Allie is collecting, she has an even better shot at beating her archenemy, Nathan, at the upcoming youth coding competition. But when Allie discovers a glitch that threatens to expose everyone’s secrets, she has to figure out how to make things right, even if that means sharing the computer lab with Nathan. Can Allie fix her app, stop it from doing any more damage, and win back the friends it hurt-all before she steps on stage to present CLICK’D to the judges?

New York Times best-selling author Tamara Ireland Stone combines friendship, coding, and lots of popcorn in her fun and empowering middle-grade debut.

I reviewed this for The Deseret News, review found HERE.


Michael Vey: The Final Spark, Richard Paul Evans, Simon Pulse/Mercury Ink, September 12, 2017

The Electroclan is facing a devastating loss: Michael is missing. What’s next?

The battle on the island of Hades ended with a devastating explosion that left the island a smoking ruin and much of Hatch’s army dead. Hatch survived, however, and while his plans have certainly suffered a setback, he’s more determined than ever to bring the world’s governments under his control. But first, he wants to wipe out the resistance and capture the remaining members of the Electroclan.

As Hatch’s forces storm into action, it seems nothing can stand in their way. The Electroclan is divided. The voice is captured, and Michael’s mother is being used as bait to lure the leader of the resistance out of hiding. Can anything—or anyone—stop the Elgen? Or is this the end?

I reviewed this for The Deseret News. Full review HERE, interview with author HERE.


Dragonwatch, Brandon Mull, Shadow Mountain, March 17, 2017.

In the hidden dragon sanctuary of Wyrmroost, Celebrant the Just, King of the Dragons, plots his revenge. He has long seen the sanctuaries as prisons, and he wants nothing more than to overthrow his captors and return the world to the Age of Dragons, when he and his kind ruled and reigned without borders. The time has come to break free and reclaim his power.

No one person is capable of stopping Celebrant and his dragon horde. It will take the ancient order of Dragonwatch to gather again if there is any chance of saving the world from destruction. In ancient times, Dragonwatch was a group of wizards, enchantresses, dragon slayers, and others who originally confined the majority of dragons into sanctuaries. But nearly all of the original Dragonwatch members are gone, and so the wizard Agad reaches out to Grandpa Sorenson for help.

As Kendra and Seth confront this new danger, they must draw upon all their skills, talents, and knowledge as only they have the ability to function together as a powerful dragon tamer. Together they must battle against forces with superior supernatural powers and breathtaking magical abilities.

How will the epic dragon showdown end? Will dragons overthrow humans and change the world as we know it?

Been trying to read this one for months and finally sat down to read it and finished it in one night. So fun being back in the Fablehaven World. And Brandon Mull writes dragons very well.


Deadzone, Jennifer A. Nielsen, September 12, 2017, Scholastic.

Not something I would usually pick up, but enjoyed the read for my review for The Deseret News. Full review HERE.

I didn’t read ANY Young Adult books last month! Crazy. Hoping to remedy that in October.

Happy reading!




Author: Wendy Mass

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 1, 2008

Publisher’s Description:

And as streams of light fan out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly, I realize that I never saw real beauty until now.

At Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. It’s also where three lives are about to be changed forever:

Ally likes the simple things in life–labyrinths, star-gazing, and comet-hunting. Her home, the Moon Shadow campground, is a part of who she is, and she refuses to imagine it any other way.

Popular and gorgeous (everybody says so), Bree is a future homecoming queen for sure. Bree wears her beauty like a suit of armor. But what is she trying to hide?

Overweight and awkward, Jack is used to spending a lot of time alone. But when opportunity knocks, he finds himself in situations he never would have imagined and making friends in the most unexpected situations.

Told from three distinct voices and perspectives, Wendy Mass weaves an intricate and compelling story about strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one’s place in the universe.

This book has been on my mind the last few weeks and I realized today that I haven’t reviewed it yet. So, what better day to review this than on Eclipse Day!

Ever since I read this book, I imagined that for the next solar eclipse, I would go to a campground just like this one and have an adventure fitting such a unique experience. What I actually did this morning was spend it in my front yard with my four boys, wondering and in awe at the science and cosmos of this amazing world. I think Wendy Mass would approve anyway.

But that’s what this book causes you to do. It makes you dream. It inspires you to look outside yourself and help others and find out your place in the mixed up strings of the universe.

What I loved about this book:

The three POV’s. Three narrators is tough to do, but when it’s done right, you get three distinct voices and three characters to love. Mass does it right. I loved being in each of these kids’ heads and learning what they thought of their world.

The tension. Watching the clock tick down to the final moment of the moon eclipsing the sun, and seeing all of the little details in the character’s lives as they fell into and out of place to get them to that point … brilliant.

The science. All of the space facts were captivating. I wanted to be an astronomer after I read this … and I was an adult who had finished with my education. No problem, I’ll teach my kids to reach for the stars, right? Whichever starts they aim for 🙂

The friendships. The publisher’s description calls them unlikely, and they are, but they are so genuine. It’s such an important message for middle school kids to learn … you can be friends with anyone and it’s what’s inside that connects us, not physical appearances.

The heart. Anyone who reads my reviews can tell I gravitate toward a book with heart, so it’s not surprising this book has it, and a lot of it. I felt for each child character, and now as an adult, the supporting characters. And the heart I’m speaking of actually comes out through all of the previous things I’ve mentioned. It’s infused through every scene and every word.




MMGM: THE LIST by Patricia Forde

the list


Author: Patricia Forde

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

Publisher’s Description:

In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

This cover and description totally pulled me in and I knew I had to read this book. I wasn’t disappointed as the story fulfilled my expectations and I was pleased by Forde’s prose and to live in her world for a short time.

I’m not one of those who wishes Dystopian would die and never come back. I love a well-told Dystopian tale. Plus, THE GIVER, FARENHEIT 451, 1984 … all of these are tales of my childhood and a book which comps these titles at least deserves a peek from me.

Letta’s world is in the far future after global warming caused floods to cover the earth and all that is left is a small town called Ark, founded by a man (Noa) who foresaw the floods. (Funny, right?) What I love about this town (well, hate about it, but it makes for a good story) is the limit they put on the words the people may use, but they are intent on preserving the language.

This is where Letta and her wordsmith master come in. What follows is a twisty tale full of intense conflict that, while not wholly original, will pull young readers in for sure. The villain is one to love to hate, and Letta is a protagonist to cheer for.

I love the message that words have power and can hurt, but at the same time, taking them away only limits society and is not the answer. Forde’s use of this limited word bank shows in the dialogue and in the development of the characters and the journey they are on.

I thought Forde’s worldbuilding was clear and detailed and she used mystery and so many feelings to allow the reader to connect to the characters and the story.

I would classify this as upper middle grade because of the violence and the slight love story, but it’s still very tame and teaches many valuable lessons.

Definitely a book suitable for a classroom library or a middle school project. Very well done.



YA Wednesday: Brenda Drake Books

With all of the endless work the amazing Brenda Drake puts into Pitch Wars every year, I wanted to put it out there that one of the best ways to show our gratitude is to read her books … which really isn’t fair because they’re so good, we really get the best deal on both ends.

I wanted to share with you what I love about her books and encourage you to go buy them asap … you won’t be sorry!



Publisher’s Description:

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed. 


Publisher’s Description:

Saving him could end her world.

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

This series is really a dream come true for a book lover like me. Jumping through a book to visit libraries all over the world? So amazing! Brenda does an awesome job of putting so much into one story without overwhelming the reader. The settings are gorgeous, the libraries are to die for, the boys are so cute!, Gia is someone I want to be, and the magical creatures and twists and turns will keep you reading into the night. So excited for the third one to come out next year!

Touching Fate 1

Publisher’s Description:

Aster Layne believes in physics, not psychics. A tarot card reading on the Ocean City Boardwalk should have been a ridiculous, just-for-fun thing. It wasn’t. Aster discovers she has a very unscientific gift—with a simple touch of the cards, she can change a person’s fate.

Reese Van Buren is cursed. Like the kind of old-school, centuries-old curse that runs in royal families. Every firstborn son is doomed to die on his eighteenth birthday—and Reese’s is coming up fast. Bummer. He tries to distract himself from his inevitable death…only to find the one person who can save him.

Aster doesn’t know that the hot Dutch guy she’s just met needs her help–or that he’s about to die.

But worst of all…she doesn’t know that her new gift comes with dark, dark consequences that can harm everyone she loves. 


Publisher’s Description:

There’s something strange about the Layne sisters, and Wade Diaz wants nothing to do with them. Especially the one who ripped his heart out and set it on fire before tossing it in the garbage several months ago. Iris. He can’t even think her name without unconsciously rubbing the spot in his chest where she left a gaping hole. But now her sisters are claiming some evil spirit is after his soul, and Iris is the only one who can save him. Well, at least his heart would stop hurting, right? Didn’t sound so bad.

Iris Layne has always been the sweet sister. She’s kind to everyone, including her best friend Wade… Until she makes a horrible mistake and breaks his heart. All she wants is to go back to before ‘the dumping’. Of course, Wade would rather see her in hell first. But then Iris touches her sister’s tarot cards and unleashes an evil curse intent on playing a deadly game where no one Iris loves is safe, especially Wade.

How do you convince someone they need your help when you’re the one who hurt them most?

This series shows Brenda’s diversity as a writer and ability to write so many types of stories. I love the idea of a character having the power to change someone’s fate and the way Brenda develops the idea and the conflict Aster, and later her sister, Iris, go through is intense! Again, these are two books I couldn’t put down. The tension and pacing are perfection and there wasn’t a lull in the story or any part I didn’t enjoy. I loved how the series progressively got darker as well. The magic is eerie, the characters are fun to be around, and the writing is stellar. Must Read!





Author: Ali Standish

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publish Date: January 24, 2017

Publisher’s Description:

Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from Boston to the small town of Palm Knot, Georgia.

Palm Knot may be tiny, but it’s the home of possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. 

My mind is still reeling and my heart is still feeling fuzzy from finishing this wonderful MG read. This book has so many aspects I love in a story: complex characters, setting as a character, mystery, secrets, a little spooky, humor, sadness, love, healing.

Standish writes Ethan so spot-on with what I imagine he would be in real life. This boy has been through something so tragic, but she strings us on wanting to know what exactly happens without frustrating us as a reader. Ethan has voice without being untrue to his experiences and issues, and his growth and struggles made me feel so much! His family were also very well-written and I found myself rooting for them and aching in the way their lives were falling apart and being put back together.

As soon as Coralee entered the story it was like a spotlight illuminated her everywhere she was. I love her, and I loved her and Ethan and their adventures together even more. The way they lean on each other, hide from each other, and reveal each other’s true selves was so special. I was captivated by this duo.

And Grandpa Ike. I just want to hug him and his own secrets.

So many secrets, guys! But it’s all worth it in the end as Standish meticulously pieces it all together and shows us all of the hard and beautiful parts of life. I love and admire when an author can write about hard things but make it about more than that hard thing.

I can’t recommend this book enough and have put Ali Standish on my must read list for any future stories she writes.