Tuesday, June 27, 2023

YA review of Worldwide Crush by Kristin Nilsen

Worldwide Crush by Kirstin Nilsen
Publisher:  SparkPress
Format:  ARC-Paperback
Number of pages:  272
Publishing:   July 11th, 2023
Hanna Lindsley from Spark Point Studio 

Opening Lines:  "I love Rory Calhoun.  I've loved him forever.  Since before Summer, even."

The first time Millie saw Rory Calhoun singing Worldwide Crush, she knew she loved him.  Millie fantasizes about the conversations that they'll have and that one day they'll be together.  She's his number one fan, having memorized all the lyrics to his songs.  She keeps track of everything he posts on social media and even has a diary of all the important facts about Rory's likes and dislikes.  His posters line her walls and sometimes she even writes letters to him, but she knows it would be silly to actually mail them.  When he announced in Teen Talk magazine that he's single and looking for a girlfriend, she takes it as a sign that he's sending her a message that she's the one he's looking for.  

Entering the seventh grade has been a trying time for Millie.  She's concerned about seeming cool enough, whether she should be buying a school lunch instead of bringing a sack lunch.  Worrying about where to sit on the bus.  Her best friend Shauna is the only person who understands her dream about one day attending one of Rory's concerts and meeting him in person.  Then news arrives that Rory will be performing a US tour and as it happens, he'll even be coming to Minneapolis.  There's no way that the girls can miss this once in a lifetime opportunity, so following some begging and pleading, Millie gets her mom to agree to buy the concert tickets.  The only problem is that her mom missed the ticket sale time, and the show is now sold out.  Crushed that she won't be able to see her idol, Millie lashes out at her mom.  But later apologizes when by a twist of fate her mom is able to land two tickets to the show after all.  Everything seems like it's back on track, until Millie learns that the show has been cancelled because of a medical emergency.  Soon Millie is devising a new plan to go to Rory's hometown in Bodega Bay, California.  Can she find her idol and confess her feelings to him?  

Worldwide Crush is such a feel-good story.  I adored everything about it.  I loved the inclusion of a family that feels so realistic and one that genuinely care about each other.  Heck even the siblings get along.  I loved Millie's little brother Billy who has got to be the most adorable kindergartener, asking so many unanswerable questions and hanging out in Millie's closest wearing a Darth Vadar mask everywhere.  Then there's Grandma Cheryl who sneaks a smoke in the backyard playhouse, curses up a storm but has great advice.  Even Millie's parents are the best.  Her mom tries so hard to get the tickets for Millie and even takes it to heart when things kind of fall apart.   I loved how the family lives on Laura Lane in Walut Grove Estates and even finding some teen idols names like David Cassidy's interspersed among Millie's classmates.

This had all those anxious middle school, puberty feelings.  The desire to be liked by other people, to find your clique and be seen as one of the cool kids.  Sitting in the cafeteria, riding the school bus and texting your friend.  There were even song lyrics, acrostic poems, newspaper reports, and tips for writing a letter.  Then there's the story of a girl smitten by a famous singer.  How she idealizes him and is infatuated by everything he does.  I love how Nilsen shows that Mille's feelings are true feelings, that her emotions shouldn't be trivialized.  That her crush says something about Millie and what it has meant to her.  That it's not always easy for the individual to manage their own emotions in this situation, but that they'll come to terms with it and eventually those feelings will fade away.

Lastly, I enjoyed Rory and how he was so positive to his fans.  How he respected Millie's feelings and tried to be supportive as well as kept a boundary between them.  There's something inherently relatable about Millie's middle school experience and her crush that I'm sure readers will enjoy.  I was definitely happy to read the acknowledgements and find that Nielsen thanked her own first crush, Shaun Cassidy for inspiring Worldwide Crush.  It's so cool that they got to communicate online, and he provided insight into Rory's character.  This makes for a wonderful summertime read, something definitely meant to be read with a friend or family member.  I'd defiantly pair this with To All The Boys I've Loved Before.

**A huge thank you to Spark Point Studio for the review copy**

Monday, June 26, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of Between Monsters and Marvels by Alysa Wishingrad

Between Monsters and Marvels by Alysa Wishingrad
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages: 400
Publishing:   September 13th, 2023
Source:  Netgalley

Opening Line:  Dare Coates was an awful girl."  

Everyone in Barrow's Bay has always said that she's an awful girl.  She's even being setup to be the monster for Founders Day, when she'd rather be playing Louise, even though Louise doesn't get saved in time.   Dare is perfectly happy not being considered as one of the "good" people.  Her dad is the Captain of the Guard, chief monster hunter.  Although everyone says that the monsters are all gone, killed off.  Yet, Dare senses it's not true.  Especially, when her father is killed while on patrol and the governor tries to pass off his death as an encounter with a thief.  He even gets her mom to marry him and now she's being shipped off to a great aunt on the mainland.  How is she to uncover the truth now?

Once at her aunt's, Dare is shocked to learn of the difficulties that her aunt's theater is having, and she then becomes immersed in a local Palace of Wonders whose owner knew her father.  The city is very different from her previous life on the island.  It's corrupt, loud, crowded and both dirty and cold.  The primary means of income are its factories which don't pay a fair wage and are ruining the air quality in the city.  It's here she meets Nell, a young girl performer her age and Gil, a mysterious boy who comes and goes helping Dare on her search for answers.  The story has lots of twists and turns as Dare navigates the city.  She's also faced with many troubling truths.  And more questions, like did her father infiltrate Tupper's gang (a sailor she met from her voyage across to the mainland), and for what purpose?  Meanwhile, monsters continue to haunt Dare's dreams and theirs a lingering stench in the city that she can't explain.  When Dare goes to a Millinery shop, she's awakened to the question whether the creatures she's seen are monsters or marvels.

Dare is considered an awful girl, but she's very proud of that distinction.  She's clever, decisive, willful, and maybe a little judgmental but she loved her father with all her heart.  His death has left a huge hole.  When she comes to learn that the story's she's been told don't match the facts around her, she's left questioning her father, Tupper and even Gil and Nell.  When they try to be nice to her, she can't figure out why? I enjoyed the message of the story, to question things and seek out your own answer's.  To not except things at face value and just because something is told over and over it doesn't make it true.  This a lovely story with its themes about social inequality, labor exploitation, environmental degradation and commentary on endangered species.    

I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE

Monday, June 19, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream by Polly Farquhar

Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream by Polly Farquhar
Publisher:  Holiday House
Format:  Ebook
Number of pages: 240 pages
Published:   April 25th, 2023
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss +

Opening Lines: "My name is Lolo Weaver.  It's a nickname."

It's the beginning of summer vacation and Lolo is stuck in summer school on account of not passing her state exam.  To make matters worse, she has Mrs. Cryer as her teacher.  She's the teacher known for being the statue of Liberty at the fourth of July parade each year and is considered to be tough.  Lolo thinks Mrs. Cryer hates her.  Especially after she teased her on the first day of class that her nickname, Lolo sounds like she gives off low expectations.

Lolo has also been pretty sad lately.  Pretty soon she's going to be a big sister and her beloved grandfather just passed away and shortly after her grandma sent his dog Hank to a foster family across the lake.  Lolo knows how much Papa loved that foster dog and now that grandma is hurting so much, she knows that Hank is just what she needs to mend her grandma's broken heart.  If only she could get Hank back.  When a medical emergency leads to her mom being hospitalized, and she's forced to move in with her grandma, Lolo hatches a plan to borrow a canoe and travel across the lake to steal Hank back.  

Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream has all the summery vibes even though Lolo's summer is going to be spent going to summer school.   Initially, Lolo and Mrs. Cryer don't appear to get along.  She gives them lots of writing tasks and Lolo doesn't appear ready to discuss her feelings.  She suffers from blank page syndrome; each writing prompt is more difficult for her than the last.  Lolo's still trying to process the new baby that's on the way and grieving over her loss of her grandfather and Hank.  Then theirs her grandma, whose life seems to be at a standstill.  She hasn't got rid of papa's clothes and his shoes are still lined up neatly in the garage.  Lolo's heart aches for her grandma and she is convinced that Hank is the answer.  Hank is a sweet rescue dog who has some serious PTSD which has resulted in an aversion to doorways.  He's a big dog and grandma felt she couldn't manage him anymore.  There's a lot of guilt surrounding Lolo's decision to retrieve Hank, she feels bad that she might've been the cause of him being sent away in the first place.  

I really liked Lolo, she has a quadruple set of problems to start off her summer but doesn't really complain or grumble about it.  She's a take charge kind of person whose heart is really in the right place.  She has a complicated set of emotions and agonizes over doing the right thing by Hank.  Oh, and the humor, so spot on for this age.  I laughed myself silly when Lolo asked Noah if he ever watched a leech removal video and then her contemplating whether or not he was still breathing.  

What I also really enjoyed were all the lovely details about the town and Lolo's family. Who would've thought that reading about goose poop could be so interesting?  There are descriptions about how the city has changed and how all the fun of the lake had dwindled because it had to be drained to fix the dam.  There are even lots of details describing Lolo's teacher and classmates looks and character traits, to the point that I was reminded of one of my teachers.  I was even reminded of The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt in how both of the kid's initial impressions of their teacher changed.  Overall, just a fun read with lovely summer vibes.        

I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE

Monday, June 12, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of Food Fight by Linda B. Davis

Food Fight by Linda B. Davis
Publisher:  Fitzroy Books
Format:  Paperback ARC
Number of pages:  248
Publishing:   June 27th, 2023
Source:  Jackie Karneth from Books Forward

Opening Line:  "I've been eating the same lunch since first grade: a plain bagel, a handful of pretzels, and two Hershey's Kisses- pretty normal and impressive only in terms of its exact sameness day after day."

Ben has been pretty happy with his routine for school lunches, it's the exact sameness in his diet that has helped him get through elementary school.  But middle school is an entirely different thing.   Like where you sit during lunch kind of determines what social group you'll end up in and Ben's friend, Josh is determined that they'll be a part of the popular kids.  He's even started to put together a group of cool kids for Ben, Nick and him to hang out with.  But being a super picky eater tends to be something that can also get you noticed, and not in a good way.  Which is exactly the situation Ben finds himself in when Darren, the boy who he beat out for a spot on the soccer team ends up sitting at their lunch table.  Darren is a relentless bully, he makes a point of calling Ben's meal a "sad excuse for a lunch," and taunts him any chance he gets.  He tries to embarrass Ben in front of his friends and even in front of Lauren, the girl they both have a crush on.  Ben tries to use humor to deflect Darren's comments, but Darren isn't easily dissuaded.  

Things start to go from bad to worse when Ben learns that the upcoming three-night trip to Abner Farm will include eating six authentic colonial meals.  Ben doesn't believe there is any way that he can go on the trip, as the rules are pretty strict about bringing any outside food, and he doesn't want to have his mom ask for any accommodations believing that will just draw more attention to himself.  But leaving Lauren on the trip with Darren alone proves to be too hard for him to swallow and Ben decides to go on the trip.  Just as Ben starts to think he can make things work on the Farm, eating the small flapjacks they offer for breakfast and the few apples he finds and tries to snack on, he is accused of bringing contraband onto the Farm (candy bars) and risks being sent home.  Eventually, Ben summons the courage to explain to everyone why the candy bars couldn't belong to him and educates everyone about ARFID, or his diagnosis of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.

 I must admit I knew very little about ARFID prior to reading Food Fight.  I have however met many kids who are selective in what they like and don't like to eat.  I know of one kid who only eats yogurt, waffles, and Poptart's.  That's it.  And another kid who won't eat any condiments (ketchup, mayo, tomato sauce etc.) and likes their pasta and rice without anything but butter and a little cheese.  I can even relate to that feeling of not being able to eat certain foods.  Growing up our family dinner motto was being a part of the clean plate club.  Whatever mom made, we had to clean our plate, nothing was to be wasted or thrown away.  Now as a kid I wasn't a fan of cauliflower or zucchini, and I spent many a dinner sitting at the table with ice cold vegetables staring at me, knowing that there was no way that I could gag them down.  So yeah, I could relate to how Ben must have felt and I'm sure that many other kids can too.  Ben has never been able to explain his eating habits and has kind of given up on trying because no one seems to believe him anyway.  His dad was not very supportive, thinking that it's just something that he can get over by trying new foods.  Chicken is just chicken.  What's the big deal about trying something other than the chicken nuggets from McDonalds?  What he doesn't realize is that Ben physically can't make himself swallow new foods and starts to gag when he tries.  Ben's mom was more supportive and tries to find ways to help him cope.  She even extends the idea about him going to counseling to better understand his condition. 

While reading I also felt really sad about all the bullying that Ben endured and that his friends didn't pick up what Darren was doing at first.  While feeling so realistic to what kids encounter at school, it also made me sad and pretty mad.    It's that sort of subtle bullying where snide comments are made in the hallway, or insults are made under your breath to shame the person.  Unfortunately, this is the kind of bullying that can so easily go unnoticed or be misinterpreted as just having made a joke. Ugg, I so dislike bullying.  Ben had a strategy to deal with it most of the time and I certainly commend him for his tolerance.  My favorite character had to be Olivia.  She's just so darn friendly and doesn't seem to let other people's thoughts about her bother her.  She reminds me of the kids who wear what they want to wear, and don't want to be a part of some popular clique.  They just want to be themselves and who cares what other people think right?  There was just so much about this book that worked for me.  The characters and circumstances were all so realistic and felt so relatable.  I'm looking forward to see what the author writes next.  

I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Blog Tour for IN THE TUNNEL by Julie Lee with Review + Giveaway

Today I'm excited to be hosting a spot for IN THE TUNNEL by Julie Lee Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. I hope you'll check out my review and make sure to enter the giveaway!


                                                                                             About the Book:

Author: Julie Lee
Pub. Date: May 30, 2023
Publisher: Holiday House
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 304

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/IN-THE-TUNNEL

Trapped in an enemy tunnel, a young refugee experiences the Korean War firsthand in this searing story of survival, loss, and hope, a companion to the Freeman Award-winning novel Brother’s Keeper.

Myung-gi knows war is coming: War between North and South Korea. Life in communist North Korea has become more and more unbearable—there is no freedom of speech, movement, association, or thought—and his parents have been carefully planning the family’s escape.

But when his father is abducted by the secret police, all those plans fall apart. How can Myung-gi leave North Korea without his dad? Especially when he believes that the abduction was his fault?

Set during a cataclysmic war which shaped the world we know today, this is the story of one boy’s coming-of-age during a time when inhumanity, lawlessness, and terror reigned supreme. Myung-gi, his mother, and his twelve-year-old sister Yoomee do everything they can to protect one another. But gentle, quiet, bookish Myung-gi has plans to find his father at any cost—even if it means joining the army and being sent to the front lines, where his deepest fears await him.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
A Book Riot Best New Book of 2023
"An absolute must-read."—Booklist, starred review
"Vivid, powerful."—School Library Journal
"Moving."—Publishers Weekly
"Searing. . . . Beautifully written."—Book Riot


My Review:

Opening line:  "This is the end."

In the Tunnel is a historical fiction novel set during the Korean War and chronicles one boy's timeline alternating between his present, and past spanning across seven years of his life.  The book opens with Myung-gi at sixteen years old, having just enlisted in the south Korean army so that he can head north to try and locate his father when suddenly, he is trapped in an enemy tunnel approximately 20-30 feet underground.  Then it shifts to him at nine years of age detailing the facts surrounding the Japanese and later Russian rule of Korea.  The dual timeline points help provide the historical details of how Korea was separated in half and how the oppressive occupations that the country endured by the Japanese, Russians and Americans impacted the Korean people during the war and are still impacting them now.  I love how the story draws you into Myung-gi's life.  How details are shared slowly as to how he ended up trapped.  He's such a wonderful main character.  I adore his love of books, the way he can get lost in a story.  I was so saddened that he lost his passion for reading when his family and country were torn apart.  Both Myung-gi and his sister Yoomee showed such strength and resilience in everything that they endured.  This is truly a story of survival as the majority of the time their country was being ruled by someone else.  There was a constant state of fear of being seen as anti-communists, being taken in the middle of the night or being made to join the fight for a side you didn't even believe in.  Then there was their escape and traveling across harsh terrain, the hunger and fear that they could be caught and killed at any moment.  You really get vested in Myung-gi and hope he and his family will reach Busan and the preceived safety that it will provide.   I really liked the way that Lee seamlessly incorporated all the historical facts into the story, while always centering it on Myung-gi.    

I felt the story is both powerful, sad, emotional and depicts hardships, heartbreaking moments, feelings of loss, helplessness, sorrow and guilt.  I learned so much about the Korean War and felt it was so impactful in the way that it details all the hardships facing the Korean people.  It's told with compassion and realistically through the eyes of the main character.  The book banning is something that really stuck out to me and I thought kids of today can relate to how it's something still happening.  Myung-gi's escape to Busan presents a glimpse at a brighter future for him but is accurate in acknowledging his continued separation from his father by the boundaries that split the country in two. I also loved the authors note so much.  Lee explains her hopes for the story, and she spoke of the Korean families that ended up being separated into the North and South, and how even to this day there are lingering questions about what had happened to them.  She expressed the grief and guilt that accompanied the separation and explained how the people were able to move on with their lives.  Finally, I really appreciated all of the literary quotes that punctuated the chapters where Myung-gi was trapped in the tunnel.  They included such authors as Kim Sowol, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Thoreau, Steinbeck, Kim Yeongnang and Enrich Remanque to name a few.    As I said, this is a very impactful story and I would highly recommend this book to middle graders that have read the authors Brothers Keepers, are interested in the Korean War, or who love historical fiction.  Definitely put this on your not to be missed list.              

About Julie:

Julie Lee, a marketer-turned-writer, lives in an Atlanta suburb with her three children and her husband. A first-generation American, her mother escaped North Korea during the Korean War and later immigrated to the United States. Julie holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from VCFA, as well as a BA in History from Cornell.


Website | Twitter | Facebook | InstagramGoodreads | Amazon


Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of IN THE TUNNEL, US Only.

Ends June 20th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:


The Chirpy Bookaholic

Excerpt/IG Post


A Dream Within A Dream



Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post


#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt/IG Post



IG Review



IG Review


Log Cabin Library




IG Review


The Momma Spot



YA Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

Monday, June 5, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of The Carrefour Curse by Dianne K. Salerni

The Carrefour Curse by Dianne K. Salerni
Publisher:  Holiday House
Format:  E-book
Number of pages: 224 pages
Published:  January 31st, 2023
Source:  Edelweiss +

Opening Line: "You’d think spitting up frogs would be a lot like the worst stomach flu you’ve ever had, but it’s surprisingly different. "

Garnet's mom owns a magic shop and they both have the magical ability to hear the secret song of the gemstones and crystals that they sell.  That is until the current mishap that has befallen Garnet silences them.  Garnet has always desired to meet her mom's side of the family, she's heard all the stories, but her mom has never taken her to the family's estate, Crossroad House.  Which is how Garnet ended up cursing herself, and the whole spitting up frog's thing got started.  Who would have thought that getting in the way of her mom's protection spell would rebound in such a disgusting manner?  But in the end, Garnet's plan worked and now she finally gets her wish.  But Crossroad House isn't quite what Garnet expected.  For one the house is really run down, with parts of it still needing to be rebuilt from the fire that happened a long time ago.  Then there are her relatives, an extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins that she's never met before, and who do not all get along.  Not to mention they are the ones who have been hinting, threating and finally summoned her mom to return to the family estate.  Which explains why her mom has been in a self-exile from the place, well that and apparently her aunt saw an omen before Garnet was born that made her mom leave the estate for good.  

Lucky for Garnet her aunt's possess plant and air magic which help to cure her frog problem, but they're also now trapped at the estate because there is a source that doesn't want them to leave.  Is it the house itself?  Then Uncle Flint, the historian of the family dies, and everyone begins to suspect Garnet's great grandfather Jasper might have drawn out all of his life energy to keep himself younger.  But Jasper is supposed to "transition" soon and give his ring and powers to a successor, but he doesn't seem to want to give it up just yet.  At the same time, Garnet uncovers the premonition that her mom is so concerned about and suddenly, she learns that she can travel in time, and possess someone's else's body.  At first, it's kind of exciting to see her mom as a teenager, but then she starts to learn about a girl who disappeared at the estate in the summer of 1998 and starts to wonder if there is a link between the fire in 1892 that cost three of her families lives and injured two of them, and the girl who disappeared.  Can Garnet use her new found ability to travel back in time and fix the past?  And can she stop her aunt's premonition before she too disappears.  

The Carrefour Curse has been described as The Addams Family meets The Westing Game, and I quite like that description. 
It also seems that the inspiration for the story was the Dark Shadows TV series that the author used to watch as a kid with her mom.  There's this really old house that is crumbling and dilapidated.  Yet also mysterious and dangerous.  I do so love old houses and this one sounds scary.  Then there's the mystery about who's trapping the family at the estate, is it Jasper or the house itself?  Or is it because of the ley lines holding their families magic and forcing them to stay until the transition is complete?  Oh, and Jasper, he makes for an interesting character too.  Leeching off of his family to preserve himself, just creepy.  Conjures up the idea of a vampire.  

I enjoyed how the beginning of each chapter features a gemstone and relates facts about their color and magical properties.  I also enjoyed the magical system where some family members use plants, or air, water and even fire.  Even Garnet and her mom's ability to hear the songs of their gemstones.  I also like how their names are matched with their abilities.  Like Garnet, Emerald, Ash, Holly and Rose, etc.  Truthfully, I liked all of Garnet's family.  Her cousins were really sweet and I'm glad there wasn't any drama between them.  It was fun watching them get closer and Garnet learning about her family's history.  Overall, this was a lovely mystery with creepy vibes and made for a quick read.  

I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE