Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

GoodReads Summary:
War between the devas and the demons is imminent, and the Otherworld is on high alert. When intelligence from the human world reveals that the Sleeper is holding a powerful clairvoyant and her sister captive, 14-year-old Aru and her friends launch a search-and-rescue mission. The captives, a pair of twins, turn out to be the newest Pandava sisters, though, according to a prophecy, one sister is not true.
During the celebration of Holi, the heavenly attendants stage a massage PR rebranding campaign to convince everyone that the Pandavas are to be trusted. As much as Aru relishes the attention, she fears that she is destined to bring destruction to her sisters, as the Sleeper has predicted. Aru believes that the only way to prove her reputation is to find the Kalpavriksha, the wish-granting tree that came out of the Ocean of Milk when it was churned. If she can reach it before the Sleeper, perhaps she can turn everything around with one wish.
Careful what you wish for, Aru…
Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes (Pandava Quartet #3)Review:
I have a fierce love for this series. I love Aru Shah with my whole heart. So, I’m not sure how I’m going to explain my feelings for this book. I might just keep this short and tell you to read it a hundred times and then end it. Just kidding.
We’re following Aru, Mini, and Brynn as their trying to save the world from the Sleeper. There’s also Aidan and Rudy that tag along with the girls. I love this found family so much. We find two new Pandava sisters at the start of this story. Twins named Sheela and Nikita, who have very interesting abilities. I loved how quickly the three pull Sheela and Nikita into their loving arms. I love that even though most of them have families to go back to that are loving and supportive, these sisters (and Aidan and Rudy) have made a family of their own. The found family aspect of this story was so wonderful.
The stakes have never been higher for this group. They’ve failed a few minor missions and are feeling lower than low. So, they take off on their own without permission from the higher-ups. I loved the nonstop action of the story, even while they were just traveling from one task to the next, they were met with challenges that they faced bravely and always together.
Overall, I adored this story just like all the previous books. I am already dying for the next installment to know what happens next. The friendships are wonderful, the writing is amazing. I adore the world and the mythology that this story centers around. I love everything about this book and the rest of the series. If you haven’t read it yet you’re really missing out.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
Nico had warned them. Going through the House of Hades would stir the demigods’ worst memories. Their ghosts would become restless. Nico may actually become a ghost if he has to shadow-travel with Reyna and Coach Hedge one more time. But that might be better than the alternative: allowing someone else to die, as Hades foretold.
Jason’s ghost is his mother, who abandoned him when he was little. He may not know how he is going to prove himself as a leader, but he does know that he will not break promises like she did. He will complete his line of the prophecy: To storm or fire the world must fall.
Reyna fears the ghosts of her ancestors, who radiate anger. But she can’t allow them to distract her from getting the Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood before war breaks out between the Romans and Greeks. Will she have enough strength to succeed, especially with a deadly hunter on her trail?
Leo fears that his plan won’t work, that his friends might interfere. But there is no other way. All of them know that one of the Seven has to die in order to defeat Gaea, the Earth Mother.
Piper must learn to give herself over to fear. Only then will she be able to do her part at the end: utter a single word.
Heroes, gods, and monsters all have a role to play in the climactic fulfillment of the prophecy in The Blood of Olympus, the electrifying finale of the best-selling Heroes of Olympus series.
The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)Review:
I cannot start this review any other way besides saying, WHAT THE F WAS THAT ENDING. I’m genuinely upset about the lack of reuniting with a certain friend group. To the point where I had to text Antonia and scream to her about it (with a context text to let me know I wasn’t talking about someone we knew in real life).
I really liked how everything was wrapped up with the big bad in this story. I thought the end result was full of action and drama. I loved the team that came together and ended up really loving one another, despite their many differences. I think Riordan is the king of lovable friend groups. I really liked how each of their stories ended (aside from the lack of the reuniting with on particular character that I mentioned above). They each made life-changing decisions and I really liked these choices.
I’m going to keep this review on the shorter side because I honestly feel like I’ve said everything and more in my previous four reviews. I love this series. I love these characters. I love Rick Riordan. I am very excited to keep reading his books. If you haven’t, start now.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
Hazel stands at a crossroads. She and the remaining crew of the Argo II could return home with the Athena Parthenos statue and try to stop Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter from going to war. Or they could continue their quest to find the House of Hades, where they might be able to open the Doors of Death, rescue their friends Percy and Annabeth from Tartarus, and prevent monsters from being reincarnated in the mortal world. Whichever road they decide to take, they have to hurry, because time is running out. Gaea, the bloodthirsty Earth Mother, has set the date of August 1 for her rise to power.
Annabeth and Percy are overwhelmed. How will the two of them make it through Tartarus? Starving, thirsty, and in pain, they are barely able to stumble on in the dark and poisonous landscape that holds new horrors at every turn. They have no way of locating the Doors of Death. Even if they did, a legion of Gaea’s strongest monsters guards the Doors on the Tartarus side. Annabeth and Percy can’t exactly launch a frontal assault.
Despite the terrible odds, Hazel, Annabeth, Percy, and the other demigods of the prophecy know that there is only one choice: to attempt the impossible. Not just for themselves, but for everyone they love. Even though love can be the riskiest choice of all.
Join the demigods as they face their biggest challenges yet in The House of Hades, the hair-raising penultimate book in the best-selling Heroes of Olympus series.
The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, #4)Review:
I have to mention first off that the audiobook narrator was changed for this book (and I’ve just learned the final book as well) and I’m extremely upset by this. Though I don’t hate the new narrator the voices he does for the characters are obviously different than those of the previous narrator from the last three books in this series (and also the original Percy Jackson series.) I did grow used to the new narrator, thankfully.
Okay, I loved this book. If you haven’t read the first three books in the series please stop reading right now and skip to my last “overall” paragraph because I’m going to talk about what’s going on in this book which will spoil events in the previous ones.
Percy and Annabeth have ended up in Tartarus and while it was terrible for them I really enjoyed their chapters. Seeing monsters we’ve met before and exploring a new aspect of the myths we’ve heard about was fascinating. They face serious threats (though there’s another book so it’s hard to imagine they were actually in life-threatening danger) but are aided by unlikely friends. I loved Bob and Small Bob. They were excellent and I hope we see them again.
Then there’s Leo, he also finds someone we’ve met before and I freaking loved it. I just adored him finally getting his own romance. I like the connections that we see and he’s always figuring out bizarre ways to fix the countless problems this crew encounters.
Hazel and frank I’m going to mention together because I love them. I love how happy their relationship is. They’ve both grown so much and experienced more than any kid their age should. But they handle everything really well and are really learning more about themselves and their abilities.
Piper and Jason are also growing and learning about themselves. I love that piper is continuing to gain confidence in herself, her abilities, and the fact that she is an important member of the team. Jason deals with inner conflicts that I think we will see more in the final book.
I also have to mention Coach Hedge. He was annoying in the first book but now he’s really a member of this little family. I love that we see him become more vulnerable. The moment where he finally tells frank what’s going on made me so happy.
Then there’s Nico. Oh, Nico. I love this dark little bean. He confides in Jason a secret that I totally didn’t expect but one that made me love him just that much more. I think he and Hazel’s growing sibling relationship was precious.
Overall, this book was filled with wonderful characters that each have distinct personalities and important roles. I adored the mythology, the old and new monsters and gods/goddesses. I am very excited to see what’s going to happen in the finale.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
Annabeth is terrified. Just when she’s about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon figurehead, Leo’s fantastical creation doesn’t appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.
And that’s only one of her worries. In her pocket, Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving command: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close—the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?
Annabeth’s biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he’s now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader—but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side
Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare. . . .
The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, #3)Review:
Book three in The Heroes of Olympus was a wild ride. Part of me felt like it was nonstop action and another part of me felt like it was a little slow. I know this doesn’t make any sense. But there was always something going on and all the characters have such big feelings that even when the action is slow the story is not.
I don’t really feel like getting into each of the characters, but overall, they all continue to grow. A few things I do want to mention are the weirdness between Leo, frank, and hazel. I loved this connection. I thought it was such an interesting twist within the story.
The mystery about Annabeth’s mission to follow the mark of Athena was another compelling part of the story. I like that some of the characters knew little bits that helped Annabeth. I enjoyed this side quest that was ongoing alongside the ultimate goal of stopping Gia.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the romance with hazel and frank. I loved getting to see more of Percy and Annabeth. Piper and Leo were also enjoyable. The action was exciting. We got to meet new (and old) gods and goddesses which is always interesting. As with my other reviews, I’m currently listening to book four while typing this review on my phone. I just cannot get enough of this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

GoodReads Summary:
Take two sisters making it on their own: brainy twelve-year-old GiGi and junior-high-dropout-turned-hairstylist DiDi. Add a million dollars in prize money from a national cooking contest and a move from the trailer parks of South Carolina to the North Shore of Long Island. Mix in a fancy new school, new friends and enemies, a first crush, and a generous sprinkling of family secrets.
That’s the recipe for The Truth About Twinkie Pie, a voice-driven middle-grade debut about the true meaning of family and friendship.
The Truth About Twinkie PieReview:
This book was so much more emotional than I anticipated. While GiGi was kind of a little terror, I liked it anyway. GiGi is a twelve-year-old that has just moved to a new school. Her mom died and she’s being raised by her older sister, DiDi. I loved the sister relationship when it was good. It’s hard to have a sister that’s is also your parents, so I could understand GiGi’s attitude. But also, being the adult that I am, I just wanted GiGi to open up to her sister and talk to her.
GiGi’s biggest worry is that he’s not going to make friends at her new school. I loved that this was the smallest problem in the book. She quickly made friends and I loved these relationships. They were sweet and I could see them lasting long into adulthood. I liked that even the girl GiGi was ‘frenemies’ had an interesting outcome. Mace and GiGi butted heads a lot, but I thought it was an interesting and necessary relationship.
Overall, this story was sweet and heartbreaking. It made me feel so many things I was not expecting. I loved the characters and this story had so much heart. I loved the family values and friendships. Also, this book had recipes in it and I totally loved how they were tied into the story. So, keep an eye out for a books & baking post related to this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn’t ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth.
Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem—when the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wishes she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.
Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.
Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, #2)Review:
In this second installment, we get to see what Percy Jackson is up to again, along with two new characters hazel and frank. I liked these characters, but honestly, I missed Leo, piper, and Jason. I found myself liking Hazel and Frank’s chapters more than Percy’s. He wasn’t the main event in this book and I’m not totally mad about that. I still like him and I wanted him to regain his memories, but I was rooting mostly for frank and hazel.
Percys lost all his memories, so we know more than he does. I think this is why I didn’t care that much about his chapters. They were filled with him wondering what was going on and the next steps of the newest quest.
Hazel was really interesting. She’s been brought back from the dead with all the nonsense going on thanks to Mother Earth. I really liked the connections to the character we’ve already met. I also thought her curse was really interesting. I’m intrigued to see where her story goes, especially since I’m already a bit into the next book and there are some mysterious things going on. I liked that hazel gains confidence and makes peace with her past. She really grew throughout this story.
Then there’s frank. I really liked Frank. He’s been told he could be anything his whole life but he still doesn’t have much confidence in himself. He’s seen as a goofy kid when he’s really so much more. He has a lot of growth too and I really enjoyed learning more about him and his abilities.
I think my favorite thing about this book was finally getting a peek inside the Roman demigod camp. It was so different from the camp half-blood we already know and love. It was fascinating to see how different things were for the gods during Roman times and how the Roman demigods have thrived in that culture.
Overall, I enjoyed these characters and their adventures. But mostly I just wanted them to meet up with the gang from the first book. There wasn’t as much mystery or questions in this book because we learned so much in book one. I’m super excited to continue the series now that all seven that the prophecy speaks of have come together.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

GoodReads Summary:
Jason has a problem.
He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?
Piper has a secret.
Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.
Leo has a way with tools.
When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’s amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?
The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, #1)Review:
I was honestly so excited to get back into the world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. This new series is one I’ve been excited for since reading the first, but even more so after finishing The Lost Hero. As I type this review (on my phone) I’m listening to the first chapter of the second book. There’s just something so fun about these stories and their characters.
Let’s jump into the characters. I absolutely adore Piper and Leo. They’re great best friends to Jason. We follow Jason at first, who has no memories and has somehow ended up on a school bus. Jason, despite not knowing literally anything, manages the challenges they face really well. I liked his natural leadership and his growing friendship with Leo and Piper.
Piper was probably my favorite. She’s torn between saving her dad, which means betraying her friends or being a hero. I thought this was such a complex inner battle. I loved how her story turned out. I also really loved seeing her grow and gain confidence, which as a daughter of Aphrodite is important with her ability to charm speak as it’s based on confidence.
Leo was adorable. He is the son of Hephaestus. He also has a rare fire ability. So, he’s learning how to control his ability and also trying to make himself believe that he is just as important to the team as the others. I thought he was great, the comedic relief but also a character with substance.
I really like the godly interactions. We get to see Hera quite a bit and though she isn’t well-liked, I could understand her feelings. I really loved Piper and Leo both getting to talk to their godly parents. I thought those interactions came at just the right times.
Overall, I loved this. As I mentioned I’m currently already listening to book two and it’s giving me all of the answers I still wanted from book one. There are so many questions were still left with, but were also given many answers. Riordan writes the story in the perfect way where were given enough information to be kept interested, but not too much we feel like everything is over. I also had a few things figured out but not all the details. Any mythology lovers are going to adore this series for sure.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s 2019 Middle Grade Favorites

Hi, lovelies! As I said last week, I have lots of lists prepared for you this month. Today’s list is going to be my middle-grade favorites. I’ve been trying to expand the genres and age groups that I read and I successfully did that by reading a bunch of middle grade books this year. So, these are my favorite middle-grade books that I read in 2019.

1. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

2. The Battle of the Labirynth by Rick Riordan

3. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

4. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

5. The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I read probably ten middle grade books in 2019 and absolutely loved the five books that I listed aboce. Have you read any middle-grade this year that you adored? Leave a comment and let me know!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Blogmas Book Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

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GoodReads Summary:
Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it-–is that a doll?-–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)Review:
I’ve only really started getting into middle-grade books this year. I’m so happy that I have because I’ve found some absolutely incredible books. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is one of those books.
We follow Tristian Strong as he falls into a world where all the myths he was taught growing up, actually exist and live. His entrance into their world had caused some pretty bad things, so he must stay and help fix them before he can figure out how to get back home.
I loved this. I loved Tristian, and I loved seeing him learn that all the stories are true. I also really loved all of the Gods and characters we meet. Specifically, Gum Baby. Gum Baby absolutely was the best part of this story. She was hilarious and sassy and I loved her so much. I really loved learning about African mythology that I’ve never known previously. They were just fascinating.
This story was action-packed. Every time the squad finished their latest task, something else goes wrong. I really enjoyed that because this book was almost 500 pages long, but I felt like it flew by. I was paced well and I didn’t want to put it down because so much was going on.
Overall, I cannot wait to read the next one. I loved the mythology this story is based on. I loved the messages brought up. I thought it was well written and more than entertaining. Also, I loved Gum Baby. I also really liked that this book can stand on its own as a whole story. There will be another book, but even if there wasn’t. This story had an ending that was good enough for this to be a standalone.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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GoodReads Summary:
Told in alternating points of view from Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone, Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers is the beginning of a new page-turning adventure that examines assumptions about identity, family, and home, from the master of middle grade suspense.
What makes you you?
The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.
But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children—who share the same first and middle names, ages, and exact birth dates as the Greystone kids—reach the Greystone family. This bizarre coincidence makes them wonder: Who exactly are these strangers? Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a mysterious work trip. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.
The Strangers (Greystone Secrets, #1)Review:
The Strangers was such a fun and suspenseful story. I loved Haddix’s books when I was growing up so now that I’ve been starting to read middle-grade books again I had to get this when I saw it. I’m so glad that I did.
The Strangers was wholesome and bizarre in the best ways. I thought this was just going to be a fun mystery, which it was, but it took a turn toward science fiction that I was not expecting, but definitely loved.
I adored all three kids that we follow. Emma was smart and clever, but still very clearly loved her siblings and mom. Chess was the oldest and felt responsible for all the others, even though he really shouldn’t have all that weight on him. I liked Finn most of all. He was the youngest and always being underestimated. He played a role just as important as the others.
I loved how obvious their love for one another was. And their love for their mother fueled their mission. I also really enjoyed how they got Natalie in on helping them.
Overall, this book was an absolute delight. I really had fun reading it. The characters were easy to love. I definitely suggest this one to anyone that liked middle-grade books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

GoodReads Summary:
Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.
She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.
When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.
And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Victoria Schwab returns to the spooky and heart-pounding world of City of Ghosts, delivering thrilling new adventures and an unforgettable spin on friendship. (Because sometimes, even psychic ghost best friends have secrets. . .)
Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake, #2)Review:
Another buddy read on the books! I love buddy reading with Alana, Rae, & Books in the Skye. We always have such fun conversations about the books we read, even when we all have very different opinions.
While I had fun with the story, much like the first book, I just didn’t love it. Cassidy is brave and I really admired that. She even makes a Spiderman reference when her best friend Jacob tries to convince her that this particular ghost really isn’t their problem. “With great power comes great responsibility.” There was actually quite a bit of pop culture references, mostly Harry Potter, which made me smile.
Jacob honestly just annoyed me for most of the book. He didn’t want Cassidy to help the ghost she found, but he came around eventually. We got to learn a bit of his back story toward the end of the book and I liked that.
I wanted more of Lara, the friend she made in the previous book. She was the wise mentor that Cassidy called when she needed help. But it was only over the phone, and I want them to team up again.
I adored the Paris setting. Seeing all the haunted areas of Paris was really interesting. I think it was a great choice for this second book.
Overall, this was an average read for me. I liked it but I didn’t love it. I’m still undecided whether I’ll continue the series because both books have been pretty average. But they are great reads for the spooky season.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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GoodReads Summary: In this prequel to Ella Enchanted, which can stand on its own, young healer Evie is transformed into an ogre by the meddling fairy Lucinda. She’ll turn back only if someone proposes and she accepts!

Returning to the land and many of the characters from her beloved Newbery Honor–winning Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine has written a delightful tale about a clever and endearing heroine who is determined to defy expectations.

Evie is happiest when she is healing people, diagnosing symptoms, and prescribing medications, with the help of her devoted friend (and test subject) Wormy. So when Wormy unexpectedly proposes to her, she kindly turns him down; she has far too much to do to be marrying anyone. And besides, she simply isn’t in love with him.

But a certain meddling fairy named Lucinda has been listening in, and she doesn’t approve of Evie’s rejection. Suddenly, Evie finds herself transformed from a girl into a hideous, hungry ogre. Evie now has only sixty-two days to accept another proposal—or else be stuck as an ogre forever.

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Review: First off, thanks to Emily at Wunderkind PR for sending me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review. It’s not something I usually do, especially because I hardly write reviews anymore but I’ve loved Levine’s books in the past and I just had to say yes to this one.

Unfortunately, I ended up being really disappointed by the ending. I’m going to give some general thoughts first and then go into the things I had issues with at the end so anyone who wants to avoid spoilers can skip that part.

Overall I enjoyed the characters. Evie is smart and kind and I loved the fact that the main character is basically a monster for most of the book. Yes, she’s still human inside but her ogre side takes over sometimes. She finds herself suddenly thinking humans might taste pretty good and she frequently has to resist the urge to eat her friends. She’s constantly hungry and isn’t too picky about what she eats as long as it’s meat. She smells terrible and the other characters comment on it a lot. She’s angry all the time about tiny things. They’re such unique traits to give a heroine and I enjoyed watching how she deals with these obstacles to try to break the curse and even just survive. Evie is a strong, brave young woman and I liked getting to see her learn more about herself throughout this adventure.

I liked Wormy as well though he wasn’t there for a big chunk of the book. I would have liked to have seen more of him especially because the change he makes by the end seemed a little unrealistic but that’s probably because I wasn’t able to see him actually go through the change. He was just suddenly different when he comes back into the storyline later on.

Eleanor was probably my favorite character (another reason the ending made me so angry). She was fun, kind and the most amazing friend to Evie.

The fairy Lucinda is obviously very annoying. If you’ve read Ella Enchanted (or even seen the movie) you know she just buts into everyone’s business randomly and ruins their lives because she can. I think the most annoying part is that in her twisted mind she honestly thinks she’s helping people. I get that she’s super powerful but it still astounds me that no one even tries to do anything about her, they just sort of let it happen.

The plot was decent. It’s exactly what you expect from a story inspired by fairy tales. Now that I’m older I find I don’t have as much patience for how unrealistic stories like this can be. Don’t get me wrong, I love the magic and mythical creatures but wish the characters didn’t act so ridiculous sometimes. However, given that this book is middle-grade it’s kind of to be expected.

**Now is where I’ll talk about the spoilers for the ending so please stop reading if you want to be surprised.

I’m not sure why I expected anything different but when I first read the description for this book I was like, “Finally! A girl who doesn’t want to get married at fifteen. Who has a guy friend she doesn’t fall in love with. This is great!” Guess what happens by the end of the book? They have a long engagement (which was something they said at the beginning Lucinda wouldn’t let them do so I don’t understand what changed) but they’re still engaged at sixteen and married at eighteen which is something we seriously need to stop portraying in books and film. I’m so sick of this trope of girls falling in love with their best friend. Just because he loves her does not mean she has to reciprocate.

Eleanor’s fate is what upset me the most though. Before everyone finds out he’s the villain, Eleanor gets engaged to Sir Peter and, of course, Lucinda shows up. Her “gift” is basically that Eleanor can’t back out of marrying Peter which she obviously doesn’t mind at the time. However, once everyone found out he was a traitor I assumed they’d figure something out, most likely that the king would execute him for treason (yes it’s middle-grade but there were ogres literally eating people). Nope. They all agree that they’ll pardon him for poor Eleanor’s sake and send him off to be a travelling merchant. As though being married to someone she hates is in any way a good thing. The part that really got to me though is that in the epilogue she’s pregnant. Why was that necessary? Their baby is Ella from Ella Enchanted so she had to exist somehow but since Eleanor hates Peter I’m trying really hard not to imagine how that baby was made.

**End spoilers.

Long story short: sorry guys. I really wanted to like this book but the ending absolutely ruined it for me. I’ve liked Levine’s work in the past so if you enjoy middle-grade and fairytales you should still give it a try. Thanks for reading.

-Antonia.

The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes

Summary:
Zane Obispo spends every day exploring the sleeping volcano in his backyard. “The Beast,” as he calls it, is the one place where he can escape other kids, who make fun of him because he has a limp and walks with a cane.
After a twin-engine plane crashes into the Beast, a mysterious girl named Brooks shows up at Zane’s doorstep insisting that they meet at the volcano, where she will reveal a terrible secret. Zane agrees, mostly because beautiful girls like her don’t usually talk to him. Brooks tells him that the volcano is actually a centuries-old prison for the Maya god of death, whose destiny is directly tied to Zane’s.
No way, Zane thinks. He’s just a thirteen-year-old nobody, and destiny or no destiny, he wants nothing to do with any of it, especially some god of death. But Brooks opens his eyes to the truth: magic, monsters, and gods are real, and Zane is at the center of an ancient prophecy that could mean the destruction of the world. Suddenly finding himself entangled in a web of dangerous secrets, Zane embarks on a quest that will take him far from home and test him to the very core.
Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.
The Storm Runner (The Storm Runner, #1)Review:
The Storm Runner is a book that follows an unlikely hero on a quest to save the world. Where have I heard that one before? There were things I liked about this book and I wouldn’t say that there were things I didn’t like; I just think that this book didn’t hit the mark for me.
I liked the mythology that we learned about in this story. I thought it was the most interest part of the story. I would have liked to have more vivid and descriptive settings though. Zane finds himself in some pretty interesting places, but I think they could have been built up a little more.
I didn’t find myself connecting with the characters as much as I have with some of the others I’ve read that are middle-grade books. I’m not sure if that’s due to my reading so many middle-grade books that focus on mythology or that I’ve really loved the others that I’ve read.
I don’t want to say that there was anything wrong with The Storm Runner because there certainly wasn’t. It was fun to read. It was fast-paced, but not too much so. There was adventure and mystery. I just didn’t connect to the story in the way I expected to.
Overall, this was a fun story but it was average for me. I think it’s definitely worth reading. The mythology was fascinating and we follow the main character who has a physical disability. I liked this book and will be continuing the series without a doubt.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Summary:
How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany’s locker? When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared. Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #1)Review:
Rick Riordan is doing absolutely everything right with his publishing imprint. I will absolutely buy every book that has his name on it because I have loved every single one that I have read so far. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe was so much fun to read.
First things first, I don’t know WHY people aren’t talking about how this story follows Sal, who is a young Cuban boy that lives with diabetes. There really are not enough books out there that have characters that live with illnesses. The diabetes part of this book was so well represented. Though it slowly was mentioned less and less as the book went on. I really loved how Sal taught others about his experiences.
Sal as a whol, was such a fun character. He was such a ham, always pulling pranks and doing magic tricks. The way his mind worked was such a ride. I love the way he thought out his tricks but made sure to think about how they would make people feel.
My favorite part about this book was the family aspects. I actually had to look up an alternative for the phrase ‘broken family’that ares typically used when talking about an atypical family. But there was nothing broken about these families. Sal has a stepmother that he calls ‘American Stepmother’ which just cracked me up. I loved the relationship the family had. It was sweet and heartwarming. I also really enjoyed (and sometimes couldn’t keep up with) Gabi’s family. She has about a hundred different dad’s and they all have their own dad nicknames. One of them was even a robot. I loved every page.
I loved the science-based magic. Sal’s ability to see alternate realities really was fascinating. I thought it was so interesting the way the author used science and what not to explain Sal’s abilities.
Overall, this book had me grinning like a fool and cracking up. It was a bit less action filled than I thought it was going to be, but I still absolutely adored it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Summary:
Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.
So, things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger.
When Cass’s parents land a gig hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets another girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil—and herself.
And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.
City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake, #1)Review:
This story was so cute. I’ve recently started reading middle-grade books and this has been on my TBR since it came out and everyone loved it. I also really enjoyed it.
I thought Cassidy was such a fun main character. She’s pretty young and sees ghosts. I loved the setting. I would absolutely love to visit Scotland so I enjoyed seeing this as the setting and getting to explore the city in these pages.
I thought this was such a fun story. I know I’m not the audience that this story is directed at, which is probably why I just thought it was fun. It didn’t blow me out of the way or anything but I thought it was a fun quick read.
This book would have been the perfect book to read during Spooktober. Overall, I thought it was fun and interesting. I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the setting. I adored Cassidy’s friendship with her best friend Jacob. I also appreciated that her parents were in the story and mostly involved in her life. I definitely will be recommending this book to my nieces and nephew.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.