January MG Reviews

Hello everybody!
Today, I`m going to be reviewing all of the middle grade books I read in January. Usually, I don`t read as much as I have this month (or don`t review a few as I wouldn`t rate them higher than 3 stars, my personal cut off for what I do and don`t review), but aside from a few DNFs early on in the book, I enjoyed all of the 20 books I got through this month. I thought 20 reviews in one post might be a bit much, so I decided to split them into middle grade and young adult posts (the YA one will be here in a few days!). Without further ado, onto the books!

The Snow Angel by Lauren St John

What a way to kick off my reading year the Snow Angel was! I`ve been a huge fan of Lauren`s work for years, and I thought this book was reminiscent of the White Giraffe series due to it having the same setting, but was also unique enough to stand out and feel very different. It is about Makena, who lives with her parents in South Africa until tragedy strikes and her life changes forever. From cruel relatives, to life in a slum, to having to begin again in Scotland, my heart was absolutely breaking for Makena during this book, and I cried more than once reading it. However, there are some beautiful, joyful moments too, such as the concept of having three magical moments every day, the friendship of Makena and Snow, and both when Makena discovers the foxes, and the mountains, of her new home. I also thought the ending was perfect for the story, and I very much recommend this if you enjoy contemporary MG with a hint of adventure. 4.5/5

How to Catch a Witch by Abie Longstaff

While I initially struggled to get into this, I definitely enjoyed the 1st book of Abie Longstaff`s middle grade series. It`s the story of Charlie, who moves to a new area and finds out that magic may be real after all, when she becomes embroiled in preventing quite a sinister plot. I really liked the way the book handles magic (it was very easy to understand but also interesting and had a logical system, which is something I like to see) and I thought Charlie was a relatable, interesting main character. I particularly appreciated the fact that she has a stammer, which seemed to be sensitively tackled (though I don`t have a stammer so can`t speak fully to that), as I can`t recall ever having read that even though it`s fairly common, and I was happy it didn`t prevent her from participating in the magic, and in fact is an asset. The other main character Kat, was also excellent. Finally, the book reminded me a bit of the World of Wishes series by Carol Barton, which was one of my absolute favourites when I was in the target age group, which was lovely, and I`ll definitely be picking up How to Bewitch a Wolf at some stage to go on another adventure in Abie`s world. 4/5

Rubies and Runaways by Janine Beacham

If anything, Rose Raventhorpe`s second adventure is even better than her first. I absolutely love the dry, witty narrative tone and I think that Rose is a really excellent heroine who is a great detective and glorious in the way she stands up for herself against what people expect of her (e.g in this book, she may have to marry her stuck up horrible cousin Herbert, and her retaliations/reactions to this) made me giggle more than once. As well as `Ghastly Herbert`, in this book Rose must investigate where a missing orphan is. The mystery is well plotted and paced, and I would never have guessed the exact outcome. The secret society of butlers continued to be a really cool concept well executed, and I love how their presence feels so natural to the stories, and the characters it allows to be part of them are brilliant (I particularly adore Bronson). I`m very much looking forward to reading Hounds and Hauntings at some point hopefully soon. 4.5/5

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

From the prologue till the last page, Sky Song captured me and took me to the magical kingdom of Erkenwald, which is under the rule of the evil Ice Queen, as young heroes Eksa and Flint attempt to rescue the kingdom from the queen`s plan to take over completely. The characters, Flint and Eksa, and also Flint`s little sister Blu, were wonderfully endearing characters who I wanted to succeed in their quest desperately, and the animal companions (particularly Pebble the fox) were so sweet and The Ice Queen, though not loveable, was a sinister, chilling villain. The book itself is excellently paced, and I was always eager to read on, and as previously mentioned the best way to describe it is simply magical. 4.5/5

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

After enjoying last year`s the Goldfish Boy, I was surprised that I liked Thompson`s 2nd novel even more. This is the story of Nate, as he and his mum move to a cottage in the country to escape his mum`s abusive partner Gary, but when his mum doesn`t return from shopping, Nate must navigate a few days on his own, aside from a few unexpected friends who involve him in a mystery linked to the past of the cottage. Nate was such a lovely character and I was so sympathetic to everything he went through, and the flashbacks to his life with Gary were so emotional, and showed that domestic violence isn`t always the stereotypical physical portrayal. I also really liked both of the other plot threads; the mystery, in which Nate hunts for a mysterious treasure with Kitty, who lives nearby and the magical realism of the imaginary friends, which had really intriguing, well done worldbuilding, and isn`t a thing I`ve seen done often. The ending was incredibly heart-warming, and I`m already looking forward to seeing what Lisa Thompson does next. 4.5/5

I Swapped my Brother on the Internet by Jo Simmons and illustrated by Nathan Reed (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)

While I wasn`t sure this was my sort of thing, I thought it was absolutely excellent younger middle grade. It`s about what happens when Jonny swaps his older brother Ted on new website Sibling Swap, and gets a few more brothers than he bargained for. There are a variety of bizarre new brothers, ranging from merboys to monarchs to meerkats, and I thought the concept was really clever, and imagine this idea would be even more relevant to those with siblings of their own. I think my favourite scene had to be those with Henry the 8th as they were laugh out loud funny in places, and I would highly recommend this book. There was also a mystery element to the plot, which I totally (and shamefully, for a mystery fan) didn`t pick up on over who ran Sibling Swap, and I was rather surprised at the outcome of that. I highly recommend this if you enjoy some funny middle grade and are looking for something that`ll give you a giggle. 4.5/5

The Curse in the Candlelight by Sophie Cleverly

The 5th in the Scarlet and Ivy series was as gothic and mysterious as ever, as new pupil Ebony McCloud arrives, and seems to have an unnatural influence over both pupils at Rookwood and the staff. I still loved both of the twins, but funny, feisty Scarlet is my favourite for sure, and I`m so glad we now have a dual narrative that includes both the twins so I can have both perspectives. Another interesting point of this was that the relationship between the twins and their friend Ariadne was further explored, and it felt like a realistic scenario of not knowing how to fit in with each other and the tensions that could cause, and also touched on the idea of giving people a second chance. The mystery itself was also rather creepy, and I had no idea what would happen till almost the very end (I am far too easy to fool with mystery books, even though I read loads of them!), which kept me hooked. If you want spooky and creepy MG mysteries with a hint of possible magic that still have a sense of humour, these are the books for you. 4.5/5

Here Comes Hercules by Stella Tarakson and illustrated by Nick Robertson (received from publisher in exchange for my honest review)

While I didn`t dislike this, and enjoyed it for the most part, it didn`t quite fully meet my expectations. First, I did like main character Tim as I thought he was sweet and smart, and rather capable, and I always enjoy stories where mythology and modern day meet. This introduced some more basic aspects of Ancient Greece too, so it would be good to introduce readers from the age group to the concept before learning many of the actual myths. Another aspect of the book I thought was fun was that Hercules wasn`t as heroic or helpful as expected, and some scenes showing this were really humorous, so I do wish there had been a few more of these. However, I found some parts of the story, for example Tim`s mum`s job, unrealistic, and I thought the ending was a bit too abrupt, but I look forward to trying the sequel Hera`s Terrible Trap.3.5/5

The Mystery of Me by Karen McCombie and illustrated by Cathy Brett (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)

This was my first Karen McCombie novella, but it won`t be my last. Somehow, she managed to pack in her trademark combination of humour and heart into a very small amount of pages, in telling the story of Ketty. Ketty has just had brain surgery, and this is the story of her returning to school and regaining her memory. As someone with some experience of this scenario myself, I thought it was spot on in capturing how overwhelming and exhausting and downright terrifying the whole thing is. I also really liked Ketty and seeing the world through her eyes for a while, and I thought Otis, who makes a special point of looking out for her, was lovely. I didn`t expect the twist that comes quite near the end at all. Cathy Brett`s illustrations also add to the book and made me like it even more, particularly the last image we see. 4.5/5

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

This book was quite different to my expectations of it, but I still liked the story as a whole. It`s about Amelia Fang, who lives in a fictional world called Nocturnia, as her family are arranging the Barbaric Ball and manage to draw out the king and his son from their palace for the first time in years. Amelia was an enjoyable heroine, her friends Florence and Grimaldi were both very distinct and unique, and the supporting characters such as Amelia`s family or butler Woo were great too. My favourite character was most certainly the adorable pumpkin Squashy, who is taken by the rather unpleasant prince and must be rescued, and Laura`s illustrations were absolutely wonderful and helped me visualise all these characters and like them even more. The story also took a few unexpected turns, particularly with regards to revealing more about the prince and why he`s been so unkind since meeting Amelia and her friends, and I`m intrigued enough by the twist that I`ll be reading more of Amelia`s stories as they are released. Finally, I thought the worldbuilding of Nocturnia was extremely clever as it not only subverts typical story conventions but also includes some adapted pop culture references which I smiled about when I found. 4/5

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

In a gloriously imaginative tale, Lissa Evans transports Fidge to the world of her sister`s favourite books, after Fidge`s frustration with sister Minnie`s toy Wed Wabbit ends in disaster. In the world of Wimbley Woo, Wed Wabbit is now a dictator, and to find her way back home, Fidge must work with irritating cousin Graham, a toy elephant and a tiny carrot toy who thinks it`s a doctor, as well as negotiate Wimbley Woos and avoid the wrath of Wed Wabbit. The world is entirely unique, really does feel like the sort of thing a young child like Minnie would be obsessed with, and the tasks they must undertake themselves were exciting to follow along with. I thought Fidge was a brilliant heroine, and I was surprised that by the end Graham had really grown on me too, and the character development was subtle but very apparent. The toys were a sheer delight, particularly Dr. Carrot, and their journey was so fun to be part of. The humour in this, particularly at the beginning, also hugely appealed to me, and I found myself chuckling more than once. If you`re looking for a world like nothing you`ve read before, and want to have a surreal experience with a great group of characters, Wed Wabbit is the book for you. 4.5/5

The Nowhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie

I read this when it first came out, but had forgotten about it. After this reread, I can`t see that happening again. I was drawn into orphan Daniel`s world straight away, and became more intrigued still when he stumbles into a rather unique world on the run from his bullies, and soon a delightful magical adventure ensues. Daniel`s new mentor Mr Silver is very mysterious, so I adored the flashback sections that allow the reader to piece together his past before Daniel, and his new friend Ellie do. The story revolves around the Nowhere Emporium, which is essentially a collection of incredible magic rooms, which Daniel is now assisting Mr Silver in running, as things start to go suddenly wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the plot was perfectly paced and kept me utterly hooked (to the point where I read it in one glorious gulp over a Sunday afternoon) and the worldbuilding was quite honestly exceptional. All in all, I loved this a whole lot and I can`t wait to get my hands on the upcoming sequel the Elsewhere Emporium soon! 5/5

Thank you so much for reading! What did you think of these books, if you`ve read them? Have you got any on your TBR? Let me know down in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl

Amy xxx

Advertisements

Author: goldenbooksgirl

Middle grade/young adult book blogger

6 thoughts on “January MG Reviews”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.