Amanda’s Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2020

Hi, lovelies! As I said in my top ten favorite books of 2020 post (find that here), I’m going to have a few lists other than that one. Today’s list is my favorite middle-grade books that I read last year. These are not all only 2020 releases, just books I read in 2020. I cannot stop thinking about these books or they really touched me on an emotional level, which is why they’ve made this list. I do also want to mention that there may be repeats on this list from my first favorites post, but it’s just because I really loved them.

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

Tristan Strong Destroys the World by Kwame Mbalia

Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

The Deceivers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Looking at this list, I realize I’ve mostly just read all of the books from the Rick Riordan Presents publishing imprint. I do not have a problem with that at all because they’re amazing books and I would shout about them from the rooftops if I could. So, go to your local library, borrow them from a friend, buy the ebooks, however you like to get books, get these and read them.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

Summary:
For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.
For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.
Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
Closer to NowhereReview:
Hopkins has been a long-time favorite author of mine. So, when I heard that her newest novel was going to be a middle-grade story written in verse, I was very excited. Closer to Nowhere follows two cousins, Hannah and Cal. Cal’s mom died and his dad is in prison, so he’s moved in with his aunt and uncle, and his cousin, Hannah. At it’s heart, this is a story about two kids that are learning how their words and actions effect the people around them.
Cal has had a hard childhood. With an abusive father and the death of his mother, he struggles with PTSD. We see this in many examples of Cal ‘running away’ and walking around the neighborhood for hours, screaming when he’s unable to work through his anger or other emotions. He also is just a kid that likes to play jokes. He pulls all kinds of pranks that are objectively hilarious, but Hannah disagrees. I didn’t come from an abusive home, but I do have family history of substance abuse, so I thought this topic of Cal’s dad’s addiction was discussed thoughtfully and how his addiction effected Cal was also really well done, in my opinion.
Hannah has had a relatively happy childhood. She lives in a nice home with both her mom and dad. Both her parents do all they can to support her by showing up to all of her sporting events. But when Cal moves into her house, things start to change. I think it was interesting to see how Hannah’s life changed after Cal moved in and how Hannah dealt with those changes (read: not well, at first). Hannah has lived a privileged life and she wishes things could go back to how they were before Cal moved in. But Hannah slowly learns about the things that Cal has had to deal with. The more she learns about his past, the more she tries to be more understanding. I really liked this aspect of Hannah’s story. She still wishes that things hadn’t changed with her parents, but she starts to realize that none of those changes are Cal’s fault.
I think telling this story with both Cal and Hannah’s points of view was an excellent idea. We get both first-person perspectives from them and the perspective of another. It was thought-provoking to see how two characters experienced the same events in different ways.
Overall, I loved this book. I truly hope that we will get more middle-grade stories from Hopkins. She did a really great job talking about addiction, PTSD and other mental health topics, death, homelessness, marital problems, alcoholism, and blended families in an accessible way for middle school age children. I highly recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo series is here! Will the Greek god Apollo, cast down to earth in the pathetic moral form of a teenager named Lester Papadopoulos, finally regain his place on Mount Olympus? Lester’s demigod friends at Camp Jupiter just helped him survive attacks from bloodthirsty ghouls, an evil Roman king and his army of the undead, and the lethal emperors Caligula and Commodus. Now the former god and his demigod master Meg must follow a prophecy uncovered by Ella the harpy. Lester’s final challenge will be at the Tower of Nero, back in New York. Will Meg have a last showdown with her father? Will this helpless form of Apollo have to face his arch nemesis, Python? Who will be on hand at Camp Half-Blood to assist? These questions and more will be answered in this book that all demigods are eagerly awaiting.
The Tower of Nero (The Trials of Apollo, #5)Review:
The Tower of Nero is the finale of the Trials of Apollo series. I just have to say, wow, how far we have come with this series. In the first and second book, I really didn’t like Apollo. He was vain and completely annoying. It was my biggest problem with the first two books. I loved everything else, but I really didn’t like Apollo. I’m so glad to say that the Apollo in this final book is completely different from who he was in the previous books. His growth is so well done and I’m so happy about that.
In this book, Apollo has one final challenge to complete: defeat Nero. But that’s not as easy as it seems. I really cannot say enough good things about this world that Riordan has created. And this series really solidifies that because we get to see the characters we love from his previous books. Between the mythology that he has brought to life and the characters he’s gotten us invested in, there was no way I wasn’t going to love this book.
I’m going to keep this review short so I don’t just repeat everything from my previous reviews. I loved Apollo’s growth. I loved his friendship with Meg. I especially loved that Meg had her own challenges to face in this book. I think it was just such a well rounded story, filled with loveable characters that learn and grow from one another.
Overall, the audiobook was super good. I was very happy with the way this series ended but it made my heart ache because there’s no news about what books might be coming next. I also just have to say that the last few chapters (or maybe it was the epilogue) were exactly what I wanted. I was so happy to get to see Apollo visit with everyone after the dust settled. I loved this book. I loved this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.
Our story begins on a frosty night…
Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.
But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.
Whichwood (Furthermore, #2)Review:
I absolutely adored Furthermore, but Whichwood just hit something different for me. This is a companion story to Furthermore. We do indeed get to see my beloved Alice and Oliver again, but to story is focused on a new character.
We meet Laylee who lives in the village of Whichwood. It’s another magical town similar to Furthermore. Laylee is Whichwood’s mordeshoor, which means she prepares the bodies of the dead and their souls for the afterlife. This is a very important job. But Laylee is just a girl and it’s too much responsibility for just one young girl. The people in her town either don’t care that they’re neglecting her or don’t realize what their actions are doing. Alice and Oliver travel to Whichwood because Alice has been given a task to help Laylee. But Laylee doesn’t want help from them. She’s pretty unhappy and I didn’t blame her for a moment. Her father just up and left after her mother died and she was left all alone with this huge responsibility. So, Laylee’s anger and frustration was completely justified. I would have felt exactly the same if I were in her position. So, it’s understandable that she isn’t super excited to have Alice and Oliver butt into her life and tell her that she needs their help.
The best part of this story was Laylee getting past her hurt and her anger and letting Alice and Oliver help her. We also get to know another character from Whichwood, Benjamin. He’s Laylee’s closest neighbor and I loved his part in this story.
Overall, I adored Whichwood even more than Furthermore. It was definitely darker than Furthermore, but it was filled with great themes like friendship, forgiveness, persistence, and responsibility. I really enjoyed getting to see more of this magical world. I really hope that Mafi is going to write more books set in this world, maybe in other magical towns. I loved the magic, the setting, and most of all the characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.
Furthermore (Furthermore, #1)Review:
Furthermore is the story of Alice finding adventure. She lives in the town of Ferenwood where color is everything. It’s a magical town, where the people care for the land and the land cares for the people. Alice’s father disappeared a few years ago and since then Alice’s life has only gotten worse. Her mother is not outright neglectful, but she’s certainly not super caring and attentive. So, Alice spend much time on her own. She loves her town of Ferenwood, but she longs for adventure.
When Oliver comes to her and asks her to help him, she refuses because when they were in school together, he said something mean about her and she doesn’t want to help him. She is also very focused on her Surrender, a presentation of abilities that the children of Ferenwood participate in. They can be tasked with something. Alice thinks this will be the adventure she’s been waiting for. But when her Surrender doesn’t go the way she’d hoped, she’s left with the possibility of helping Oliver.
The two set off on an adventure outside of Ferenwood. When the two leave is when the story really gets started. I don’t want to talk too much about what they’re actually trying to do because figuring out their journey is most of the fun of this story. I do want to talk about Alice and Oliver. Oliver grows and develops so much in this book and I loved it. He really learned some lessons and did his best to grow from those lessons and do better. I really enjoyed that we got to see that. Alice was so brave. She jumps into this adventure head first, with no regard for the things she doesn’t know. I adore Alice.
I also really enjoyed the magic. It wasn’t super clear what exactly the magic did aside from each person’s special ability. But once Alice and Oliver leave Ferenwood, we see different types of magic and it was fascinating to see all the different ways that magic was used in the place that they travel to.
Overall, I adored this book. I don’t know why I put off reading it for so long. I loved every page and I flew through the story. I loved Alice and eventually loved Oliver. I want more books set in this world please Tahereh Mafi, pretty please.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
In his penultimate adventure, a devastated but determined Apollo travels to Camp Jupiter, where he must learn what it is to be a hero, or die trying.
It’s not easy being Apollo, especially when you’ve been turned into a human and banished from Olympus. On his path to restoring five ancient oracles and reclaiming his godly powers, Apollo (aka Lester Papadopoulos) has faced both triumphs and tragedies. Now his journey takes him to Camp Jupiter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Roman demigods are preparing for a desperate last stand against the evil Triumvirate of Roman emperors. Hazel, Reyna, Frank, Tyson, Ella, and many other old friends will need Apollo’s aid to survive the onslaught. Unfortunately, the answer to their salvation lies in the forgotten tomb of a Roman ruler . . . someone even worse than the emperors Apollo has already faced.
The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo, #4)Review:
The Tyrant’s Tomb is the second to last book in the Trials of Apollo series. I actually had to take a break after the last book (The Burning Maze). I think that’s because I listened to the audiobooks for the first three books all in a row and I just needed a break from audiobooks. So, I took my break and then picked this one up.
I’m not going to lie. I cried several times while listening to this story. This is absolutely my favorite book in the series (unless the last one is even better). Apollo’s growth really shows in these pages. He’s doing things like helping his friends and putting himself in danger because he cares about those around him, rather than avoiding danger because of selfish reasons. I really liked his growth. Part of the reason I didn’t love the first three books was that Apollo was a jerk. He still has some negative qualities, but he’s really grown with his experiences of having to think like mortals do. He’s still incredibly vain and talks way too much about his weak, flabby body.
I really loved getting to see characters from the previous series, like Hazel and Frank. I loved being back at the Roman camp, a familiar place. It was so enjoyable to see new characters in a place I already love.
Overall, this book has it all. It has great character growth, action, and adventure, quests, and the audiobook narrator did an incredible job telling this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

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GoodReads Summary:
The formerly glorious god Apollo, cast down to earth in punishment by Zeus, is now an awkward mortal teenager named Lester Papadopoulos. In order to regain his place on Mount Olympus, Lester must restore five Oracles that have gone dark. But he has to achieve this impossible task without having any godly powers and while being duty-bound to a confounding young daughter of Demeter named Meg. Thanks a lot, Dad.
With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor—and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles—somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon. . . .
The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo, #3)Review:
I think I’m going to keep this review short because I tend to say the same things when I review Riordan’s books. So, in The Burning Maze the characters find themselves in a literal burning maze. They face all sorts of trials and challenges as they are looking for the next oracle on the list and facing the third Roman emperor.
The things I liked about this book were all about the characters. I really loved seeing Grover again. I enjoyed learning about where he’s been since the end of Percy’s books. I always love seeing old characters in new stories. Grover is sort of the voice of reason in this story and it was great. Apollo was better in this book. He was less insufferable. He had actually sort of started to think about how he might change his behavior if/when he was to regain his godliness. I really enjoyed this aspect of his development because he’s been pretty terrible in his complaining about not being a god. I also loved how much he was really starting to care about those around him (read: Meg). He’s growing and I hope it continues. Meg is still a big mystery. We learn a bit about her childhood before her dad died and I loved that. I loved learning more about her, but I was still left wanting more. We still haven’t really found out what happened before she left Nero again and I want to know.
Overall, I enjoyed this story and I’m excited to continue. I always love seeing more mythological creatures brought to life by Riordan. I love that these characters are growing and that we’re getting to see old friends. But I also love all of the new friends we’ve made as well. Also, my heart is broken and I’ll never forgive you Rick Riordan (you know what you did.)

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

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GoodReads Summary:
Go west. Capture Apollo before he can find the next oracle.
If you cannot bring him to me alive, kill him.
Those were the orders my old enemy Nero had given to Meg McCaffrey. But why would an ancient Roman emperor zero in on Indianapolis? And now that I have made it here (still in the embarrassing form of Lester Papadopoulos), where is Meg?
Meg, my demigod master, is a cantankerous street urchin. She betrayed me to Nero back at Camp Half-Blood. And while I’m mortal, she can order me to do anything . . . even kill myself. Despite all this, if I have a chance of prying her away from her villainous stepfather, I have to try.
But I’m new at this heroic-quest business, and my father, Zeus, stripped me of all my godly powers. Oh, the indignities and pain I have already suffered! Untold humiliation, impossible time limits, life-threatening danger . . . Shouldn’t there be a reward at the end of each completed task? Not just more deadly quests?
I vow that if I ever regain my godhood, I will never again send a poor mortal on a quest. Unless it is really important. And unless I am sure the mortal can handle it. And unless I am pressed for time . . . or I really just don’t feel like doing it myself. I will be much kinder and more generous than everyone is being to me—especially that sorceress Calypso. What does Leo see in her, anyway?
The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, #2)Review:
In this book, Apollo is on another task toward his ultimate mission of collecting all of the known oracles. He had two so far and is dreading this third. He travels with two characters we’ve met before (that I totally love!!) to Indianapolis. They run into new creatures I’ve not met before and people Apollo knows from his past.
I think what I most enjoyed about this book was all of the side characters. I really enjoyed getting to know them and how they knew Apollo. He can’t remember much because his mortal brain just can’t remember 4,000 years of memories. So, this allowed for some entertaining and occasionally dangerous antics. I liked learning about the things that he did remember. It was interesting to get to know him better, to see whim reflect on his past choices when he was different now. I still didn’t love Apollo. Despite all he’s been through as a mortal he’s still pretty conceited and I didn’t love that. He is growing, but now enough for my liking. It seems almost like he’s just going to write all this off as soon as he becomes a god again and that leaves a bad taste.
I really liked that Meg was back for this one. She disappeared at the end of the first book. We find her again in this one and I was glad for that. But we got little to no explanation and I wanted more. I wanted to know her thoughts and what happened while she was gone.
Overall, this is filled with all the best things we’ve come to know from Rick Riordan. I liked meeting new characters and spending time with ones we already know. I enjoyed meeting new creatures and battling new villains. I’ve already started the third book, so hopefully, Apollo gets better in that one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
How do you punish an immortal?
By making him human.
After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.
But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go… an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.
The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, #1)Review:
Okay, I’m going to be honest here. I was pretty excited about the concept of Apollo being stuck in a mortal body but it actually was my least favorite thing about this book.
I loved getting to see all my old favorites like Percy and his mom. I also loved that this story actually mostly takes place at camp half-blood. It was so fun for me to get to explore more of the camp. I loved everything that happened in the woods.
But Apollo was pretty insufferable. He’s a God trapped in the body of a teenager named Lester. First of all, is this some sort of possession kind of thing? Because if so, poor Lester. If not, I’d like some more explanation. Apollo is coming to terms with the fact that he’s a sixteen-year-old mortal boy. One with acne, which is commented on at least ten times. I get that he’s supposed to be growing, but every time he made progress, he then took five steps back. That was frustrating because it felt like he’d have these huge revelations then just go back to complaining about how he wasn’t an all-powerful god anymore. He was so selfish and conceited it was hard to like him when he kept regressing. Though I’m hoping he will make more actual progress in the next books.
Overall, this was still a fun story. I loved how the plot is connected to things that happened in the previous series. I also love that we got to see characters from those series that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to yet. But I also liked that there’s a whole new cast of characters for the reader to learn about and love (read: the characters in the Apollo cabin). I also enjoyed the twists. I definitely saw a few of them coming but they were still good and pulled at my emotions. Finally, I loved that Apollo was so casual about his bisexuality. He talks about flirting and loving both men and women and it was basically the only thing I liked about him. I’m definitely going to continue the series; I’m just really hoping Apollo gets less annoying.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

GoodReads Summary:
Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It’s all they’ve heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths.
Hating her mother’s humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right. . . .
Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears (Paola Santiago #1)Review:
Tehlor Kay Mejia is very quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I read her YA fantasy duology this year and I’ve already preordered her co-written book that comes out soon. If that’s not clear, I loved this book.
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears follows Paola (or Pao) as she tries to find her best friend. Emma was supposed to meet Pao and Dante at the river to test out Pao’s new telescope, but Emma never arrives. This leads Paola and Dante on a wild ride to find their best friend. First, the pair go home and try to call Emma because maybe she was still at home? But when they talk to her parents and learn she’s not home they go to the police. I really liked that this was included in the story. When Pao and Dante go to the police station to wait for Emma’s parents they are treated unfairly because they are Latinx. I really liked the way this story showed this reality that many deal with daily. I think it’s a really important thing to showcase in books for younger audiences. When Paola realizes that the police are not going to be helpful, she decides that she’s going to go to the river and find out what happened and try to save Emma. This is where mythology comes in. I never learned much about Mexican folklore or mythology so this was so much fun for me. I’d heard of some, like the Chupacabras, but didn’t really know much else. I had so much fun with all of the mythological aspects of this book. It was spectacularly spooky and honestly warms my heart to think of the kids that will see themselves and their culture represented in this story. I think this story is the perfect one for October (but still great year-round) because there are ghosts and all kinds of other monsters that Paola and Dante encounter.
Paola was a character I really loved. She struggles with her relationship with her mother. Her mother is very superstitious and Paola doesn’t care for that. She doesn’t believe in any of the things her mother tries to instill in her. She is a huge science nerd and I loved that. She tries to solve her problems with facts and logic and I loved the representation of a young girl interested in STEM. I really related to Pao’s issues with her mom and their rocky relationship. I really enjoyed that it was clear she loved her mom, but that they didn’t have a perfect relationship. Paola is a character I found myself rooting for the whole time.
Dante was interesting because we only see him from Paola’s perspective. I really wanted to like him, and I did. But I also felt bad because he was getting older and finding new things that interested him and Pao sort of resented him for that. Despite Paola not always being kind to him, he stood by her and protected her when he had the chance. He went with her to search for Emma even though he didn’t really want to. He was a real friend and I ended up really liking him.
There are so many other wonderful characters in this story. I loved them all. I think this was an incredible story. The world was so well built and beautifully written. I absolutely cannot wait for the next book in the series.
I do also want to mention that I listened to the audiobook and the narrator did such a great job telling this story. I will absolutely continue the series via the audiobooks if the next one has the same narrator.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus faces his most dangerous trial yet. His cousin, Annabeth, recruits her boyfriend, Percy Jackson, to give Magnus some pointers, but will his training be enough?
Loki is free from his chains. He’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, complete with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus and his friends to stop him, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfarbefore it’s ready to sail. Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon. But Magnus’s biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. Does he have what it takes to outwit the wily trickster god?
The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #3)Review:
I wish I was able to be more excited about this series. The Ship of the Dead was a good conclusion to an interesting series. I liked the characters. I mostly liked the story. And I really enjoyed the mythology. But I just didn’t love this series as much as I did Riordan’s others. I did enjoy it and I definitely love these characters.
The story continues following Magnus Chase as he and his friends (who are totally my favorite) try to stop Ragnarok. This story had the typical quests and action scenes and demigod hijinks. It was the characters that made the story good. I loved Magnus. He’s a huge goofball. But further, Sam was my favorite. She’s Muslim, but she’s also a Valkyrie. She holds firm to her beliefs despite the world potentially ending. In this book, it’s Ramadan. So, we get to see Sam fast while sailing around the world, trying to get to Loki before he sails Naglfar. I loved that this was included in the book. Then we have Alex, who was my favorite. She’s genderfluid and snarky as hell. I loved Alex a ton.
Overall, I don’t have a ton to say about this book. I’ve said already that I love the characters. I also really liked the message that was shared in the final ‘battle’ between Magnus and Loki. I think this was a great series for the middle-grade age group. It’s diverse and interesting. It focuses on Norse mythology, which isn’t nearly as popular as other myths. So, I liked that it has it’s own series now.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

GoodReads Summary:
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents the sequel to the critically acclaimed Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, a brilliant sci-fi romp with Cuban influence. Among many other challenges, Sal and Gabi have to try to make everything right with our world when there is a rogue Gabi from another universe running loose.
Sal Vidon doesn’t want to live a Mami-free life. Pulling different versions of his mother from other universes is how he copes with missing his own, who died years ago. But Sal’s father, a calamity physicist, is trying to shut down all the wormholes Sal creates, because Papi thinks they are eroding the very fabric of our world. All of Papi’s efforts are in vain, however, because a Gabi from another universe has gone rogue and is popping up all over the place, seeking revenge for the fact that her world has been destroyed. While Sal and Gabi work together to keep both Papi and Rogue Gabi under control, they also have to solve the mystery of Yasmany, who has gone missing from school. Could it have something to do with the wormhole in the back of his locker?
Readers who enjoyed Sal and Gabi Break the Universe will relish being back in the world of Culeco Academy and the Coral Castle along with such unforgettable characters as American Stepmom, the Gabi-Dads, Principal Torres, and the sassy entropy sweeper. With multiple Sals and Gabis in charge, it’s no wonder this sequel offers even more hilarious weirdness and love than the first book.
Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #2)Review:
I absolutely adored Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (read my review here), so I was beyond excited for this sequel. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to finally pick it up, but it was everything I expected.
So, in the last book, Sal and Gabi finally let their parents in on what they’ve been doing with the holes that Sal can make in the universe. That’s one aspect I really liked about this book (and series) the parents were actually involved in what was going on, for the most part. In this sequel, Sal is definitely hiding some things from his Papi, but he did it for what he thought were the right reasons. I really also loved the school that Sal and Gabi go to. There’s such a sense of community and it’s just such a wonderful place. I can only hope to find a school like that for my child in the future.
The thing I liked best about this story was the characters. Sal is a boy that has diabetes. He doesn’t let it hinder his life, but it’s very present in the story. I really liked this aspect of the story. On top of Sal’s diabetes, he’s Cuban (as are many of the other characters in the story.) I loved that the main cast of characters was diverse and interesting.
Gabi, Sal’s best friend, is equally one of the best parts of this book. She’s such a take-charge girl and I love her so much. She has such a huge heart and does anything she can for the people in her life. I love her caring personality and I love her family. She has such an interesting and wonderful family dynamic that I loved seeing in this book. She has many dads and I love how different and loving her family is.
Overall, this book was amazing. The story was interesting and kept me wanting to read non-stop, but also want to read it slowly so that it wouldn’t be over. This story is so full of love, supportive friendships, adventure, and a whole bunch of science I could never understand. This series is one I will scream about forever.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
It’s been six weeks since Magnus and his friends returned from defeating Fenris Wolf and the fire giants. Magnus has adjusted to life at the Hotel Valhalla—as much as a once-homeless and previously alive kid can. As a son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of Odin’s chosen warriors, but he has a few good peeps among his hallmates on floor nineteen, and he’s been dutifully training for Ragnarok along with everyone else. His days have settled into a new kind of normal.
But Magnus should have known there’s no such thing as normal in the Nine Worlds. His friends Hearthstone and Blitzen have disappeared. A new hallmate is creating chaos. According to a very nervous goat, a certain object belonging to Thor is still missing, and the thunder god’s enemies will stop at nothing to gain control of it.
Time to summon Jack, the Sword of Summer, and take action. Too bad the only action Jack seems to be interested in is dates with other magical weapons…
The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #2)Review:
I have loved every single one of Riordan’s books I’ve read so far. I don’t know what it is about this series but I just don’t love it as much as his others. There are many things I do like. For example, Magnus was a homeless kid in Boston before he died and I think it’s so great that this is a thing that exists because homelessness is a topic generally avoided and Riordan didn’t do that. This series is also filled with a diverse cast of characters. The newest edition, Alex, is gender fluid. I can’t speak to the quality of the representation but I thought it was really interesting to read Magnus’s questions and Alex’s answers. I also love Samira. I love that even though she’s sucked into the world of Norse mythology, she still holds strong to her faith and beliefs. I thought this was a great part of the story.
My biggest issue with this book was that literally, everything was such high stakes. I guess I understand because it’s the second book in a series, but it was too much sometimes. Every step toward their goal was ‘complete this task or DIE’ and it just seemed a little unnecessary.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. The characters were 100% the best part. I loved the diverse cast and getting to see them learning more about one another. I plan to finish the series for sure to see how everything ends up. Also, the way this story ended had me screaming. I cannot wait for the two different groups to meet up.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.
One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down—his uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents…
Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.
The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1)Review:
I’ve been slowly working on reading all of Riordan’s books for the last year or so. Next up was the Magnus Chase series. I waited for the audiobooks to be available from my library. I almost wish I’d just decided to read it physically because I didn’t care for the narrator. But by the end of the story, I really enjoyed it. I think the narrator made it harder for me to get into the story, but Riordan’s storytelling abilities pushed through.
The book follows Magnus, a homeless teen living in Boston who is grieving his mother. I really liked that Magnus was homeless, this is something you almost never see in novels for a younger audience, but it’s something that happens all too often in the real world. I also liked the Boston setting as I grew up in Massachusetts and recognized a bunch of the places Magnus went to. Then Magnus turns sixteen and dies.
From there he’s thrown into the world of Norse mythology. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story. Most of what I know of Norse myths are from Neil Gaiman’s book and from movies and tv shows. I know this story was fiction, but I also know that Riordan tries to stick to the truth of the mythology. I liked learning more about this mythology and I liked that (like all his other books) it’s turned into adventures.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I’m excited to continue the series. I loved that there was a diverse cast of characters. I like the friendships and found family that we learned to become a part of. Riordan did it again with a story I couldn’t get enough of.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Books for My Younger Self

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is Books for My Younger Self (These could be books you wish you had read as a child, books younger you could have really learned something from, books that meshed with your hobbies/interests, books that could have helped you go through events/changes in your life, etc.) These are all going to be middle-grade and YA books I wish existed when I was that age.

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Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason

The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

These are just a few books that were pretty impactful on me when reading them and I wish they’d been around for me to read at an earlier age.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.