Monday, July 31, 2017

MG Realistic Fiction: Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Author: Melanie Heuiser Hill
Format: eBook 
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Number of Pages: Hardcover 448
Publishing:  September 12th, 2017

Source:  E-ARC from NetGalley

The Giant Pumpkin Suite is set in Minnesota where twelve-year-old Rose and her twin brother Thomas have very different plans for their summer vacation.  Rose is an exceptional cellist and student, skipping ahead in school.  She is very driven, setting her goals onto sticky-notes, "sit more" and "win the Bach Cello Suites Competition," for which she plans to play her cello every free minute she has.  If she can manage to win the competition, she is sure to get a fellowship with Maestro Waldenstein, one of her life long dreams.    But, playing her cello all the time will also leave very little time for Thomas or her neighbor Jane.  Even the best-laid plans can dramatically change when their neighbor, Mr. Pickering is injured after falling down his basement stairs and Thomas takes over growing Mr. Pickering's pumpkin seed.  A responsibility that turns out to be too much for Thomas to handle alone, so Rose unwilling steps in to help.  At first, everything is going well Rose is doing the research and Thomas is performing the day to day chores to help the pumpkin seed to sprout, but then Rose is involved in a serious accident altering all of her plans for the future.  Now growing a prize winning pumpkin for the Minnesota State Fair takes on a new meaning for both of the siblings, but with a little help from their neighbors, they might even be able to win.

At a first glance, Rose comes off as a slightly unlikable character, maybe because of her over confidence in her musical abilities or just because of how she treats her brother and neighbor Jane.  After she is injured, Rose spends more time on her brother's project and she begins to grow and change.  It's her character growth that I enjoyed most about the story.   Although, I also really liked Rose's Cello teacher, Mrs. Holling who recognized that Rose was burning herself out with practicing her cello so much and forced her to play for no more than one hour per day.  Giant Pumpkin Suite also includes lots of details about how to grow a prize winning pumpkin, including how to pollinate the flowers, composting and even the mail-ordering of worms.  Things initially I didn't think I would be too interested in, but it really started to grow on me,  growing a giant pumpkin seemed to take a lot of work and the whole process was pretty fascinating to read about.  Rose has such a passion for playing the Cello and I learned quite a bit about Bach.  For example, I never knew Bach included math, puzzles, and ciphers into the structure of his music and that the number fourteen held a significance to him.   Rose also had a fascination with numbers taking the letters of a persons name and the corresponding number for their place in the alphabet to determine a total numerical value.   So, for example, the sum of the letters in Bach's name equaled fourteen, she also used this strategy to classify people as a good or bad person.   Giant Pumpkin Suite included many diverse neighbors for Rose and Thomas, with one being Japanese, Latina, and a gay couple who become actively involved in helping with the project as well.  Mrs. Kiyo was delightful and I especially enjoyed reading about the Japanese tea the siblings shared with her with all the lovely details about wagashi cookies.  I thought this was a wonderful sibling story and although it was sad when Rose was injured and her ability to play the cello was changed, things were still resolved in a happy if not realistic way. 

Favorite lines when Mrs. Kiyo is describing a bowl that was broken and repaired with gold,  "The gold reminds us that beauty is found in the story of the object, its history,” said Mrs. Kiyo. “The bowl is more beautiful, more valuable, for all that has happened to it.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well (Zaria Fierce #4) by Keira Gillett

Author: Keira Gillett 
Format: eBook 
Publisher: Keira Gillett 
Number of Pages: 260 
Date Published:  July 7th, 2017

Source:  In exchange for an honest review, an ebook was provided by the author for free. 

I really enjoyed reading the first three books in Gillett's Zaria Fierce series and was excited to see that the adventures weren't over for Zaria and her friends Geirr, Filip, Aleks, and Christoffer.  Although this fourth book features Aleks in the title, The Twice Lost Fairy Well still includes all of the children I've come to know and love adventuring across the Norwegian countryside once again. There's just something so comforting about returning to Zaria and the gang, while also learning more about Aleks story. 

Aleks Mickelsen is a changeling who would rather be an average teenage human boy then have anything to do with his fey heritage.   After the gang's last adventures, he'd be happy if he never saw a troll or dragon again.  If Aleks gets his wish, he will completely become a human on his sixteenth birthday and leave his fey abilities behind forever, including his pointy ears and the ability of never getting lost.   Yet, when mysterious accidents begin to occur to Aleks and his friends, they become suspicious that someone or something may be targeting them. Then Aleks sister Nori shows up, after having escaped from Niflheim, and tells them how there is a third dragon, Fritjof on the loose and he's the one who's been behind all of their troubles.  At first, the gang doesn't believe her, but slowly recognize signs that Fritjof is trying to escape from the Under Realm and he's one mean dragon bent on wreaking chaos.   

Gillett's books always include plenty of action and I love the adventures that the gang has across Norway as they try to prevent Fritjof's escape.  Fritjof appears to be an excellent foe for the gang, having the power to make people doubt his very existence, even interfering with Aleks abilities.  There's plenty of instances of their getting lost and separated, as well as tough situations like being captured and jailed by trolls.  Throughout, these friends have come to depend on one another, with each bringing their own set of skills to the mix.  I've really come to enjoy the bond that they share and the more of Gillett's books that I read, the more I feel like I'm beginning to understand the uniqueness of each of the magical kingdoms they travel through, as well as the Norwegian folklore these stories are based on.   Aside from the adventuring,  I really love the illustrations by Eoghan Kerrigan which are beautifully detailed bringing the characters and story to life.  He draws some of the best dragons and trolls that I've seen,  but this time around I particularly liked his banshees and bears, o.k. so basically all of the illustrations from the series. While not everything is resolved by the end of The Twice Lost Fairy Well,  I'm very curious about what the future has in store for Aleks.  He's kinda on a time clock to get his wish for becoming a human, but as he loses his magical ability of never getting lost, he begins to realize that also means that he might not be able to help them on this quest.  And maybe being a fey isn't as terrible as he once thought.  Interesting things to contemplate as I await the next book of the series.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday's Future Favorites


This is a new monthly feature on the second Friday of each month from Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile  highlighting the excitement for upcoming books.  I have three books that I can't wait to read.

Jessica Lawson wrote  Nooks & Crannies, The Actual &Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher and Waiting for Augusta, all books that I really enjoyed reading.  I really like the premise of an old bottle and the covered bridge.  

Due to release: September 5th, 2017

"In the tradition of Rooftoppers and Three Times Lucky, critically acclaimed author Jessica Lawson returns with her fourth whimsical, lyrical, and heartfelt middle grade novel about a girl who’s desperately trying to keep her life together, when everything seems to be falling apart.

In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her?

Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions."


Anderson is an auto-buy author for me, I love the variety of books that he writes.  Books like Mrs. Bixby's Last Day and Posted, and then there are fantasy's like Dungeoneers and Insert Coin to Continue and well Granted's cover just has me all curious.  I especially want to know about that yellow leaf.

Due to release:  February 13th, 2018

Granted, a hilarious, heartfelt, and unforgettable novel about a fairy-in-training and her first wish-granting assignment.

Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for. But even so, rest assured: There is someone out there who hears it.

Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is no ordinary fairy—she is a Granter: one of the select few whose job it is to venture beyond the boundaries of the Haven and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day. It’s the work of the Granters that generates the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do and to keep the Haven hidden and safe. But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds. On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of wishes made get granted. And even granting those promised few means navigating a human world fraught with danger.

Today, however, is anything but typical. Because today Ophelia is going out on her first assignment. And she’s about to discover that getting what you truly want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.


Natalie Lloyd is another auto-buy author for me.  I loved A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary, I have pages and pages of quotes from her books.  Isn't that cover just gorgeous too?  

Due to release:  February 6th, 2018

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary comes a new middle grade series about seven strange siblings all born on a different day of the week and the neighbors who keep trying to tear their family apart.

When the Problim children’s ramshackle bungalow in the Swampy Woods goes kaboom, the seven siblings and their pet pig have no choice but to move into their Grandpa’s abandoned old mansion in Lost Cove. No problem! For the Problim children, every problem is a gift.

Wendell and Thea—twins born two minutes apart on a Wednesday and a Thursday—see the move as a chance to make new friends in time for their birthday cake smash. But the neighbors find the Problims’ return problematic—what with Sal’s foggy garden full of Wrangling Ivy, toddler Toot’s 365 stanktastic fart varieties, and Mona’s human catapult.

Truth be told, rumors are flying about the Problims! Rumors of a bitter feud, a treasure, and a certain kind of magic lingering in the halls of #7 Main Street. And the neighbors will do anything to get their hands on those secrets—including sending the Problim children to seven different homes on seven different continents!

With a snicker of Lemony Snicket, a dollop of the Addams Family, and a healthy dose of charm, The Problim Children is an unforgettable tale about adventure, family, and finding the courage to tackle any problem heart-first.

What books are you looking forward to?  Feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MG Fantasy Review: Jorie and the Gold Key by A.H. Richardson

Sorry for being so MIA lately on the blog and Twitter.  I've been a bit under the weather and it's taking me longer than I anticipated to get back into reading and blogging, but now that I'm getting back into the swing of things,  I'm happy to highlight the second book in A.H. Richardson's series, Jorie and the Gold Key.  You can read my review and an excerpt of the first book here.

Jorie and the Gold Key by A.H. Richardson

Publisher: Serano Press
Format:  Paperback
Number of Pages: 247
Published:  November 25th, 2015
SourceIn exchange for an honest review, a review copy was received from the author.
Why I wanted to read this:   Continuation of Jorie and Rufus' adventures.  Plus there are dragons.  

In book one of the series, Jorie had just moved into Mortimer Manor with her great Aunt Letty and started a friendship with her next door neighbor, Rufus.  The two find a mysterious book leading them to a small lake or "Tarn" which then transported them to Cabrynthian.  A world of dragons, shape-shifters and a struggle between The Great One, a Wizard and Lord Fodomalk an evil sorcerer from Shyloxia, who was trying to capture the powers of three magical stones for himself.  Jorie and Rufus were tasked with locating the three stones for the Great One so that he could protect them from Lord Fodomalk.   

Jorie and the Gold Key takes place shortly after the events of book one, Lord Fodomalk has taken possession of the three magical stones and plans to use their power to unite Cabrnthius and Shyloxia under his rule.  However,  Jorie is still the Atir or chosen one and despite Lord Fodomalk having the stones, he still fears that she has some power to defeat him.  Meanwhile, Jorie has been on a trip with her great Aunt Letty and upon returning to Mortimer Manor learns that Rufus is stuck entertaining Nigel, a friend of his grandfather's grandson.  Nigel is quite stuck on himself and isn't quite the exploring type, which complicates things when Jorie and Rufus' are summoned to return to Cabrynthius in order to save the world once again.  Despite their reservations, Jorie and Rufus take Nigel with them to Cabrnthius, where he is kidnapped by Lord Fodomalk to try and extract information on Jorie's plans.  Things quickly escalate into a rescue and retrieval of the magical stones from Shyloxia.  

The first book in the series, Jorie and The Magic Stones, really had that sort of classic feel to it.  Two kids exploring around Mortimer Manor, the Tarn and being whisked to another world for an adventure.  There was just the right amount of tension to keep it interesting and did I mention there was a baby dragon who acted like a puppy?  The second installment has a similar adventurous feel to it.  Jorie and Rufus make plans to return to the Cave of Fire with the key they found while exploring it in the first book to determine what it unlocks, and whether or not they can use what is inside to defeat Lord Fodomalk. Nigel at first comes off as snooty and full of himself, but he really grew on me and seemed to round out the trio.  Professor Schrinch, Rufus' former teacher, also made an appearance, and I particularly liked how he seemed to turn over a new leaf by trying to help Nigel while they are locked up inside of Shyloxia together.  As I said before, the fantasy elements are written well,  there is plenty of adventure coupled with humor and the short chapters, making this an ideal read-aloud.  Overall, a wonderful friendship story and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.     

 About the Author:

A. H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an Author.

She published her debut novel Jorie and the Magic Stones in December 2014. At the request of those who loved the first ‘Jorie’ story, Richardson wrote the sequel,  Jorie and the Gold Key, and she is currently working on the third book in the series.

She is also the author of Murder in Little Shendon, a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick,  Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. She has more ‘who-dun-its’ planned for this clever and interesting duo… watch for them!

A. H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

Readers can connect with Angela on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

To learn more, go to