Hello everybody! Today, it’s time for my MG edition of my favourites of 2018. As I mentioned in the YA post, I decided not to have a strict number limit of 10 this year and just talk about every 5 star read I had over the course of the year, which has led to this one being a bit lengthier than my YA one! There are a LOT of books to talk about,
The Nowhere Emporium/The Elsewhere Emporium– I read the Nowhere Emporium when it first came out, but I didn’t remember it and so one Sunday afternoon in January I randomly decided to pick it back up and see what I thought of it. It was finished before I went to bed, because I just couldn’t out it down. It’s perfect to curl up with under a blanket and experience the wonders and magic it weaves through the real world. The sequel, which I read when I was on holiday in the summer, was even better if anything. It was just as thrilling, and the writing style of the split timeline that threads together is so satisfying to read in both of them too.
Battle of the Beetles– I was both very excited about this and terrified to pick it up because I love this series so much, but I thought it was fabulous. It was an absolutely perfect ending to the trilogy, and it was such a gripping story; it focuses on what happens when Lucretia Cutter, the supervillain of the series, really ramps up her plans for world domination and Darkus and his friends need to stop her and save everyone from her plans. Lucretia has always been one of the standouts of this series for me, as well as the unique concept and loveable group of heroes and heroines, and her characterisation is particularly phenomenal in this installment.
When the Mountains Roared– I had a feeling Jess Butterworth would become one of my favourite authors when I read Running on the Roof of the World, and I was right. Her writing style is so beautiful and makes me feel like I am right there alongside her wonderfully endearing protagonists (in this case, Ruby), she never fails to make me cry at some point by writing incredibly emotional scenes and I just loved this so much. Her animal characters are incredible too, and the Grandma in this book was SUCH a badass; it just made me love her even more knowing that she is based on Jess’s own grandma. I cannot wait to read Jess’s 3rd book next year!
A Spoonful of Murder/Death in the Spotlight– after a year of no full length Murder Most Unladylike books in 2017, I was so thrilled to see two released in 2018. As fabulous as the Guggenheim Mystery was, I truly missed Daisy and Hazel and all the ingredients that make this series so wonderful, and I often found myself tearing up a bit during both of these because it was just so great to be back with Daisy and Hazel. These are both funny, excellently plotted mystery books with brilliantly drawn characters, and if you’ve not started this series yet then I highly recommend rectifying that in 2019 if you’ve ever thought you might like them (and even if not!)
The House with Chicken Legs- this is such a unique debut it’s a Baba Yaga inspired story about a girl named Marinka who lives in a house with chicken legs that never stays in one place for long enough that she can make friends. I thought Marinka was an utterly lovely character, who my heart broke for at so many points, the secondary characters are all wonderful and I was astonished by how much I loved the House. It’s both an endearing character and unusual, perfectly written setting and I felt so much affection towards it by the end. The writing was beautiful too, and I was so impressed by this; it was definitely my favourite debut I read all year.
Beyond the Odyssey- this is the 3rd book in the Who Let the Gods Out quartet, and it really ramped up the tension and emotion in the story of young carer Elliot and the Greek gods who live with him; my heart was absolutely in my mouth the entire time I was reading because I was so worried about all the different dangers they were facing from various sources. There were so many thrilling twists and reveals that I became suspicious of basically everyone and had no clue how to feel, the climax made me weepy and I just love Elliot so much that reading about his world is super enjoyable. Also, I really enjoy the humour of the series, which adds some lighthearted relief when things are getting intense. I’m really sad the series is ending this year, but I also can’t wait to see how things turn out for Elliot, his family and the Gods.
Seeker of the Crown- this is the second book in the Demidova series, and it again follows Valor, and this time we see her and her eclectic group of fellow escaped prisoners take on a dangerous mission for a member of the royal family, who later disappears under suspicious circumstances. I’m trying really hard not to give anything away here- I don’t want to spoil the first book or any of this one, and it’s quite hard to talk about them without accidentally doing so. I will however say that I still loved the ensemble group and the dynamics between them, as well as the fact that I think Valor is a wonderful heroine, and also that I really love the writing itself and how thrilling an adventure this is.
The Children of Castle Rock- I’ve written about this book a lot, and I think the best way to pitch it is as a modern day Enid Blyton-esque adventure that tells the story of three very different children when they meet at Scottish boarding school Stormy Loch and go on an adventure together. I absolutely adore all three main characters, I find the humour of the book so funny and the adventure is great fun to follow along with. The wroting style is gorgeous as well. I accidentally reread it the other week, and loved it even more than I did the first time.
Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury- this is the sequel to Alex Sparrowand the Really Big Stink, and I enjoyed it so,so much- it focuses on children who have very unusual superpowers as they investigate unusual goings on at their local animal sanctuary. Alex is such a delightful chatacter- he’s a real mix of cocky and a sweetheart and I just love him- and I also really like his best friend Jess, as well as their hilarious bantering friendship. The action packed plot is so fun, and I really loved the focus on the animal sanctuary too as the animal characters were so lovable (especially the adorable hedgehog Mr Prickles!). Reading this was an incredibly fun escape from reality as it’s just so thoroughly enjoyable and exciting, and I look forward to seeing what happens to Alex and Jess next.
The Elephant Thief- this is the story of a pickpocket orphan called Danny as he is given the chance to become elephant Maharajah’s rider in the Great Elephant Race- a premise that is loosely based on true events. I could not have loved the bond between Danny and Maharajah more, especially as it helped Danny gain so much confidence after all the trauma he has experienced, I found this an absolute emotional rollercoaster between all the danger and drama and betrayals but also lovely moments that made me so happy, and so I could barely stop reading so I could get to the end and see how things turned out (I was very happy with the ending, which was gratifying after how much gasping THAT BETRAYAL made me do and all the crying over basically everything. I genuinely messaged a friend at one point to tell me how a certain sitiation turned out because I loved Danny and Maharajah so much that I needed to prepare myself in case it was bad). As much as I’m making this sound somewhat traumatic to read, I did also love it and I can’t wait to put myself through the wringer again with the sequel that comes out in March (but I may wait till the same, fellow superfan friend who actually recommended me this in the first place, Louise, has read it so she can warn me if there’s anything that I will be in bits over before I start…).
Tilly and the Bookwanderers- this follows a girl named Tilly, who lives in a bookshop with her grandparents in a delightful sounding bookshop named Pages and Co, as she discovers she has the ability to ‘bookwander’- which means that her favourite characters can come into our world and she can step into any book she likes and experience it. Aka this book is about something almost every book lover wants to do. It was just as spectacular as that premise promised, and every second I spent waiting on it (I’ve been excited since basically the day it got announced) was totally worth it. It was such a magical, cosy and comforting read, yet an exciting adventure at the same time , and I thought the characters were fabulous too, especially Tilly. Her relationship with her grandparents was another highlight, as were all the super fun bookish in jokes.
Secrets of a Sun King- I think everything Emma Carroll writes is basically perfection, and this book did nothing to change that belief. She is so wonderful at immersing her reader into a world with her descriptive writing style and interesting historical detail that brings whatever period she’s writing about to life. In this case, she is writing about both the 20s and Ancient Egypt, as she is telling the story of Lil, who must journey to Egypt in the 20s to return a mysterious package that is seemingly cursed and we learn more about the origins of this package in the Ancient Egypt timeline, which I also loved as I got super attached to all of the characters in both. The Adventure is wonderful and the climax/ending made me incredibly emotional as it was just so right for the story and the characters. Emma Carroll truly is the queen of historical fiction that her tagline describes her as. I don’t know what she’s releasing next, but I do know that I’ll be reading it regardless.
Peril in Paris- I really liked all of the Sinclair’s books, but this follow on that focuses on Sophie and Lil now that they do spy work for the Secret Service Bureau is my new favourite Katherine Woodfine. It sees the girls apart for the first time, and it was really strange but I also loved it as it allowed me to get to know them both even better and see their strengths separately, rather than how they complemented the other’s. Oddly enough, it also made me appreciate their friendship even more as it was SO clear that they missed each other a great deal. The mystery plots are incredibly intriguing, especially as we alternate chapters between the two girls and so you’re almost always left wondering what will happen next to one of tnem, and Katherine Woodfine’s writing is as gorgeous and elegant as ever.
A Darkness of Dragons- this was a really pleasant surprise. I’d expected to like it, but I ended up thinking it was absolutely EPIC: it’s set in a world where the Piper of Hamelyn (the Pied Piper) was an anomaly among many other Pipers who use their Songs to help people, and this focuses on a boy named Patch- who has been wrongly imprisoned after making a terrible mistake- who ends up locked in conflict with the Pied Piper after he escapes from prison. I know it sounds a bit complicated, but the worldbuilding is so rich and detailed and intricate that I was fascinated by this world, I loved the relationship between Patch, Wren and Barver (their dialogue is hilarious!) and the plot unfolds in such an intriguing way that kept me totally hooked. I’m very excited for the second installment
Storm Witch- this is the story of a girl called Storm as she undertakes her choosing ceremony and is chosen by all of the elements bar one; a rare act that marks her out as deeply powerful. The worldbuilding of this is just absolutely incredible and so interesting, the plot is thrilling and as such gripping and I enjoyed this so much. I cannot wait to see how Storm’s story develops in the sequel Under Earth next year, because I have a feeling it’s going to be insanely good.
Wundersmith- last year, I fell in love with Nevermoor, and this year I fell in love with it’s sequel, which sees Morrigan navigate life within the Wundrous Society and investigate why members are going missing, among other things. There is a lot going on, but everything comes together so well and the plot is seamless. The cast is beyond brilliant (ESPECIALLY Morrigan, Fenestra and Jupiter), and I loved meeting the new people Morrigan comes into contact with, as well as seeing those such as notorious Wundersmith Ezra Squall developed in such an intriguing way. This was amazing; it’s one of those books that I was almost not allowing myself to fully devour because I just wanted to stay in Nevermoor forever.
Explorers on Witch Mountain– to finish off, another phenomenal sequel to a book that was among my MG favourites last year. This follows Stella as she navigates her newly discovered powers as an ice princess, and journeys up Witch Mountain with the gang from book one (Shay, Beanie and Ethan), and some new additions to save her father Felix from the witch who has abducted him. It’s full of humour and charm and wonderful magic, has absolutely wonderful characters and the climax is so shocking (though not quite as shocking as the cliffhanger ending…!)
Which middle grade books have you read and loved this year? Are you planning to pick up any of those I loved? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!