Review: Trouble in the Stars

Title: Trouble in the Stars
Author: Sarah Prineas
Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Publisher: Philomel Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 27, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

An outer-space adventure about a troublesome little shape-shifter on the run from the law.

Trouble knows two things: they are a shapeshifter, and they are running from something–but they don’t know what. So when the government–the StarLeague–shows up, Trouble figures it’s time to flee.

Changing from blob of goo form, to adorable puppy form, to human boy form, Trouble stows away on the Hindsight, a ship crewed by the best navigators and engineers in the galaxy, led by the fearsome Captain Astra. When Trouble is discovered, the captain decides to be nice–instead of tossing them out an airlock, she’ll drop Trouble off at the next space station.

As the ship travels, Trouble uses the time to figure out how to be a good human boy, and starts to feel safe. But when a young StarLeague cadet shows up to capture Trouble, things get complicated, especially when Trouble reveals a shapeshifter form that none of them could have expected. Soon a chase across the galaxy begins. Safety, freedom, and home are at stake, and not just for Trouble.

Review:

Trouble is a shapeshifter who finds themself on a spaceship. Trouble can change shape from a blob of goo to a puppy to a human. Trouble’s gender can change between different forms. When they stow away on the Hindsight, Captain Astra decides to keep Trouble on board until they reach the next space station. However, the Hindsight is being chased by the Starleague, the law enforcers of space, who are looking for an escaped prisoner. Trouble and the rest of the crew have to run from the law, while Trouble is also looking for the home that they came from.

This story introduced some complex ideas for young readers who may not have come across them in fiction before. One main idea was gender fluidity. Trouble’s gender changes depending on the shape that they are in. As a puppy, Trouble was a girl, but as a human Trouble was a boy. There were different species of humanoids on the ship that also expressed gender in different ways. Some were gender fluid, like Trouble. Another one shared a mind between different bodies. There were also some humans who identified as their biological gender. This is a great way to introduce complex gender ideas through science fiction characters.

Another large idea that was in this story was what it means to be a person. Since Trouble was a shapeshifter who didn’t have a permanent body, others questioned whether or not they were a person. Trouble also didn’t know where they came from, so they wanted to find their origins. This idea was explored more at the end of the story so I won’t give away the ending. I think this was a great way to introduce a complex idea with a complex character.

I really enjoyed this middle grade science fiction story!

Thank you Penguin for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Target Practice by Mike Maihack

Winterling by Sarah Prineas

Have you read Trouble in the Stars? What did you think of it?

Review: Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery

Title: Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery
Author: Julia Golding
Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Lion Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 23, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Jane Austen turns detective in this spooky historical adventure by award-winning author Julia Golding!

It’s 1789 and a young Jane Austen turns detective as she seeks to solve the mysterious happenings at Southmoor Abbey. When a carriage accident forces a change of plans, 13-year-old Jane is sent to be a companion to Lady Cromwell for a week as the household prepares to celebrate the eldest son’s coming-of-age party. While there, Jane vows to solve the mystery of the ghostly monk in the Abbey grounds – for she does not believe in such stories!

But this is not the only strange occurrence for the adventurous young Jane to investigate. There are shivery night-time investigations, an Indian girl with secret talents, a library fire, two prize horses in danger, and friends to save from false accusations.

With notebook in hand and her faithful dog Grandison by her side, will Jane overcome the continuous obstacles and find out the truth?

Review:

1789: After her older sister is injured, thirteen-year-old Jane Austen is sent in her place to be a companion to Lady Cromwell while she prepares for her son’s birthday party. Jane is excited to go so she can solve the mystery of the ghost that haunts the Abbey. However, Jane soon has to investigate some incidents. Two horses go missing and a fire burns part of the library on the same night. Jane must sneak around the Abbey to figure out who is to blame for these two crimes.

As soon as I saw this novel about a young Jane Austen who investigates mysteries, I knew I had to read it. This is a middle grade mystery novel, similar to Nancy Drew but set in the 18th century. Jane was a hilarious character, who was outspoken and sneaky, but I don’t think she was like the real Jane Austen at that age. Jane made some funny comments, such as writing an obituary for her dress that was ruined which promoted her third-best dress to second-best dress. She was a witty and entertaining character.

Another thing I liked about this story was the way that it hinted to Jane’s future novels. There were characters named Fitzwilliam and Tilney, like the characters in Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. The story was also set in a haunted Abbey, like Northanger Abbey. There was even some diversity in the story, which wouldn’t have been in a story written during that time period. Jane became friends with an Indian girl, Deepti, who lived at the Abbey with her father, the cook. These additions to this historical fiction story made it more relatable to a modern audience.

I loved this story. I hope there will be more Jane Austen Investigates novels!

Thank you Lion Fiction for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Body Under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Have you read Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: Sugar and Spite

Title: Sugar and Spite
Author: Gail D. Villanueva
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?

Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in-training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion.

And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina — now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks.

But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love — or hate — will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…

Magic and reality mingle in this brilliant new middle-grade novel by Gail D. Villanueva that asks whether it’s ever okay to take away someone’s free will.

Review:

Eleven-year-old Jolina has moved with her family from the city of Manila in the Philippines to an island town to live with her grandfather. Her grandfather practices arbularyo magic, and he is teaching it to Jolina. When Jolina is bullied by Claudine, the popular, and rich, girl in her bible study class, she decides to make a love potion to make Claudine like her. Jolina has to be careful because she hasn’t made a potion like that on her own before. However, every spell and potion has consequences that Jolina will have to face during a powerful storm.

This is the first book that I’ve read that is set in the Philippines, though I’ve had many friends from there. This setting really became a character in the story. It had a vibrant description. I love it when the food from different cultures is described in books. There were a particular kind of candy, called yema balls, which played an important role in the story. There was even a recipe to make them at the end of the book, so I may have to try them!

There were some potentially triggering events at the end of the book. There was a typhoon and the death of a pet. These were emotional scenes that could be triggering to some readers, but these events were crucial to the plot.

I really enjoyed this middle grade story!

Thank you Scholastic Press and TBR and Beyond Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

About the author:

Gail D. Villanueva is the author of Sugar And Spite (Scholastic, 2021). Her debut novel, My Fate According to the Butterfly (Scholastic, 2019), was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, an Amazon Best Book of the Month Editor’s Pick, and a NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Born and based in the Philippines, Gail’s daily routine includes running a web design company with her husband while trying to keep up with the shenanigans of their many pets—dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and random birds they befriend in the backyard. Learn more at http://www.gaildvillanueva.com.

Tour Schedule:

April 19
Kait Plus Books – Interview
The Book Dutchesses – Review & Favourite Quotes
Melancholic Blithe – Review & Mood Board

April 20th
Jill’s Book Blog – Review
The Writer’s Alley – Review, Playlist, & Favourite Quotes
The Reading Chemist – Review

April 21st
The Last Rader – Top 5 Reasons to Read Sugar and Spite
Booker T’s Farm – Review & Top 5 Reasons to Read Sugar and Spite
Balancing Books and Beauties – Review & Creative Post (List)

April 22nd
Nine Bookish Lives – Interview & Review
Stuck in Fiction – Top 5 Reasons to Read Sugar and Spite
Wishing Upon a Star – Review & Favourite Quote
Justice For Readers – Review & Mood Board

April 23rd
Confessions of a YA Reader – Review & Favourite Quotes
Notes From a Paper Plane Nomad – Review & Top 5 Reasons to Read Sugar and Spite
Miss Linda Bennet – Fanart

April 24th
Enthralled Bookworm – Interview
PopTheButterfly Reads – Review
Yna the Mood Reader – Review & Favourite Quotes

April 25th
Morena Monologues – Review & Journal Spread
Lu is lost in books – Review & Favourite Quotes
I’m Into Books – Promo Post

Where to buy:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52664780-sugar-and-spite

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sugar-Spite-Gail-Villanueva/dp/133863092X/ref=sr_1_4?crid=3VPTZ8NSJDFZY&dchild=1&keywords=sugar+and+spite&qid=1612106428&sprefix=sugar+and+spite%2Caps%2C183&sr=8-4

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sugar-and-spite-gail-villanueva/1136883201?ean=9781338630923

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Sugar-Spite-Gail-Villanueva/9781338630923?ref=grid-view&qid=1612106440747&sr=1-1

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/fr-ca/livres/sugar-and-spite/9781338630923-article.html?ikwid=sugar+and+spite&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=410b71e185c6c273f588b0a51a91d464

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781338630923

Have you read Sugar and Spite? What did you think of it?

Review: Secrets of Camp Whatever, Vol. 1

Title: Secrets of Camp Whatever, Vol. 1
Author: Chris Grine
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Oni Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 30, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

“Just the right amount of chills for tweens who enjoy supernatural suspense.” — KIRKUS

Perfect for fans of Lumberjanes and Brain Camp, there’s more than mosquitos at Camp Whatever and Willow will need to face truths about herself and her family as summer camp dread goes head to head with the supernatural.

Eleven year-old Willow doesn’t want to go to her dad’s weird old summer camp any more than she wants her family to move to the weird old town where that camp is located. But her family—and fate itself—seem to have plans of their own. Soon Willow finds herself neck-deep in a confounding mystery involving stolen snacks, suspected vampires, and missing campers, all shrouded in the sinister fog that hides a generation of secrets at Camp … Whatever it’s called.

Review:

Eleven-year-old Willow’s family has moved back to her dad’s strange hometown of Nowhere. She’s going to go to his old camp, Camp Whatever. He enjoyed the camp when he went there, but one of the campers went missing while he was there. As soon as Willow boards the ship to go to the camp, she can see that it is going to be a strange week. She ends up encountering supernatural mysteries, including gnomes, Bigfoot, and a possible vampire, all hidden in the fog of Camp Whatever.

This was such a fun graphic novel. Going to a new camp can be intimidating enough, without the possibility of encountering supernatural creatures. There were a couple of warning signs before Willow left for camp, such as when her dad said a kid went missing while he was there and there was a creepy clown holding a balloon standing on the dock to the ship. I could tell things would get creepy after those two events.

This story kept me guessing until the end. There were so many different supernatural creatures that I didn’t know what was going to happen next. The setting of a camp can be exciting enough, with kids isolated in a space with limited supervision, but the addition of fantasy creatures made it even more exciting.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel! I can’t wait to read more in this series.

Thank you Oni Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooklyn Allen

Martian Ghost Centaur by Mat Heagerty, Steph Mided

Have you read Secrets of Camp Whatever, Vol. 1? What did you think of it?

Review: Bridge of Souls (Cassidy Blake #3)

Title: Bridge of Souls (Cassidy Blake #3)
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal, Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Where there are ghosts, Cassidy Blake follows … unless it’s the other way around?

Cass thinks she might have this ghost-hunting thing down. After all, she and her ghost best friend, Jacob, have survived two haunted cities while travelling for her parents’ TV show.

But nothing can prepare Cass for New Orleans, which wears all of its hauntings on its sleeve. In a city of ghost tours and tombs, raucous music and all kinds of magic, Cass could get lost in all the colourful, grisly local legends. And the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.

Cass takes on her most dangerous challenge yet…

Review:

Cassidy Blake travels with her parents to New Orleans to film their paranormal tv show. Cassidy’s parents don’t know that she’s a ghost hunter, who is always accompanied by her ghost best friend Jacob. New Orleans is a haunted city, filled with ghosts for Cassidy to hunt down. However, soon after she arrives, she sees a mysterious person with a skeleton mask, who she first saw in Paris. This person is an emissary of Death, who has come to claim what Cassidy stole from Death. She must figure out how to get rid of the emissary before her time is up.

This is one of my favourite series. I love them as an adult, and I know I would have loved it as a young reader. The story is fast paced and creepy, so it flies by quickly.

I definitely want to visit New Orleans after reading this story. Cassidy and her parents visited many haunted areas of the city. There’s a lot of dark history and ghosts stories in New Orleans. They were even more creepy in this story, since Cassidy could look within the veil, where ghosts live, and see the ghosts herself. I love paranormal stories like this one, so I’d love to visit New Orleans.

This is such a fun series! I hope Victoria Schwab writes more Cassidy Blake stories in the future.

What to read next:

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Other books in the series:

Have you read Bridge of Souls? What did you think of it?

Review: Cuckoo’s Flight

Title: Cuckoo’s Flight
Author: Wendy Orr
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pajama Press
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: March 30, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A new gripping Bronze Age story from Wendy Orr, internationally acclaimed author of Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance

Clio can’t remember a time when she didn’t share a bond with the mare Grey Girl. On the whole island of Crete, she and her Trojan-born father are the only people who raise and ride horses—and she couldn’t live without it. Between the freedom of the pasture and the safety of her grandmother Leira’s pottery studio, Clio always has had everything she needed.

Then an accident stole Clio’s ability to ride, or even to walk without a crutch. The weather changed and summers grew drier. Now raiders are preying on nearby towns. As anxiety builds, a terrible pronouncement is issued by the palace: at the spring festival, a girl between the ages of twelve and fourteen will be chosen to save the town from disaster. She will be sacrificed as an offering to the mother goddess.

In Cuckoo’s Flight, internationally bestselling author Wendy Orr returns to the Bronze-Age setting of her critically acclaimed novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. With her signature blend of striking prose and emotionally taut verse, she immerses readers in a thrilling coming-of-age story as Clio battles the political power of the palace and her own feelings of inadequacy to save her town, her horses, and perhaps even herself.

Review:

In the Bronze Age, Clio lives with her family and grandmother who makes pottery. Clio has a bond with their horse Grey Girl, but after falling off her, Clio must walk with a crutch and can’t ride anymore. When raiders approach their town, everyone is on edge. The oracle announces that there will have to be a sacrifice of a young girl. Clio feels like she’s destined to be the sacrifice, but she does everything she can to save her village.

This story was set in the same world as Wendy Orr’s books Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. The stories are related but you don’t have to read the others to understand this one. I love the format that these books are written in. Most of the story is written in prose, but some parts are written in verse. The verses reminded me of Ancient Greek texts. The story is accessible for a modern reader, but it has the appearance of an Ancient Greek story.

This story had representation of a disability. Clio fell off a horse and damaged her hip. She had to walk with a crutch and she couldn’t ride a horse anymore. Her father built her a chariot so she could still travel with her horse. Though this story was set in a different time period and Clio had restrictions that a child today wouldn’t have with a disability, this story had great representation of a child with a disability that I haven’t seen often in children’s books.

This is a beautiful middle grade story.

Thank you Pajama Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Other books in the series:

Have you read Cuckoo’s Flight? What did you think of it?

Review: The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore #1)

Title: The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore #1)
Author: Amanda Foody
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 30, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods.

The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.

Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.

To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.

But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.

Review:

Barclay Thorne is an apprentice to a mushroom farmer in Dullshire. He’s an orphan, whose parents were killed by a massive beast. In Barclay’s town, they keep the beasts away. No one is allowed to go into the forest where the beasts live. When his friend goes running into the forest while they’re gathering mushrooms one day, Barclay follows him. Barclay’s worst nightmare comes true when he encounters a beast, who creates a bond with him, turning Barclay into a Lore Keeper. Barclay is run out of town when the townspeople realize he has a magical connection to a beast. He meets Violet in the forest, who brings Barclay to a town to have his bond with the beast removed. However, the bond is not easily broken, so Barclay is convinced to participate in an apprenticeship contest in order to get his beast bond removed.

This was a fun twist on the middle grade fantasy story. Usually, the main characters in fantasy stories are eager to find and connect with animals. In this case, that was the worst thing that Barclay could imagine. His bond with a beast ruined the plans he had to live a quiet life in his town as a mushroom farmer. The life he wanted to live was so quiet, that the town is actually called “dull.” He didn’t want to go on an adventure, unlike most fantasy characters.

There were some surprising twists throughout the story. Some characters weren’t what they seemed, which really surprised me. The story ended with another adventure beginning, so I’m excited to see what happens in the next book.

This was a fun middle grade fantasy.

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying by Kelley Armstrong

The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Have you read The Accidental Apprentice? What did you think of it?

Review: Delicates (Sheets #2)

Title: Delicates (Sheets #2)
Author: Brenna Thummler
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Oni Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 23, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Following the events of the bestselling graphic novel SheetsDelicates brings Brenna Thummler’s beloved characters, artwork, and charm back to life.

Marjorie Glatt’s life hasn’t been the same ever since she discovered a group of ghosts hiding in her family’s laundromat. Wendell, who died young and now must wander Earth as a ghost with nothing more than a sheet for a body, soon became one of Marjorie’s only friends. But when Marjorie finally gets accepted by the popular kids at school, she begins to worry that if anyone learns about her secret ghost friends, she’ll be labeled as a freak who sees dead people. With Marjorie’s insistence on keeping Wendell’s ghost identity a secret from her new friends, Wendell begins to feel even more invisible than he already is.

Eliza Duncan feels invisible too. She’s an avid photographer, and her zealous interest in finding and photographing ghosts gets her labeled as “different” by all the other kids in school. Constantly feeling on the outside, Eliza begins to feel like a ghost herself. Marjorie must soon come to terms with the price she pays to be accepted by the popular kids. Is it worth losing her friend, Wendell? Is she partially to blame for the bullying Eliza endures?

Delicates tells a powerful story about what it means to fit in, and those left on the outside. It shows what it’s like to feel invisible, and the importance of feeling seen. Above all, it is a story of asking for help when all seems dark, and bringing help and light to those who need it most.

Review:

Eighth grader Marjorie has a group of ghosts that live in her family’s laundromat. When Marjorie starts school after the summer, she’s become friends with the kids that used to bully her. This year, the kids have turned to bullying Eliza, a girl who has been left back a grade and is in their class. Eliza feels left out and finds comfort in her photography hobby. Eliza tries to take photos of ghosts, which also makes her the subject of teasing. However, Marjorie knows that ghosts do exist. Eventually, the bullying reaches a breaking point, and Marjorie is the only one who can save Eliza.

This is the perfect companion to the graphic novel Sheets. In that story, Marjorie and her laundromat full of ghosts were introduced. In this sequel, Marjorie has to use what she learned in the first story to help Eliza.

There was a lot of bullying in this story. There was also some discussion of suicide. This theme of death is part of the story, since Marjorie is friends with the ghosts of people who have died. This could be triggering content, but this story is also an important teaching experience about depression.

I really loved this graphic novel!

Thank you Oni Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Martian Ghost Centaur by Mat Heagerty, Steph Mided

Girl Have by Lilah Sturges

Other books in the series:

Have you read Delicates? What did you think of it?

Review: City of the Plague God

Title: City of the Plague God
Author: Sarwat Chadda
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents CITY OF THE PLAGUE GOD, an adventure based on ancient Mesopotamian mythology written by Sarwat Chadda, author of the Ash Mistry series. Characters from the Epic of Gilgamesh populate this high-stakes contemporary adventure in which all of Manhattan is threatened by the ancient god of plagues.

Thirteen-year-old Sik wants a simple life going to school and helping at his parents’ deli in the evenings. But all that is blown to smithereens when Nergal comes looking for him, thinking that Sik holds the secret to eternal life.Turns out Sik is immortal but doesn’t know it, and that’s about to get him and the entire city into deep, deep trouble. 

Sik’s not in this alone. He’s got Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, on his side, and a former hero named Gilgamesh, who has taken up gardening in Central Park. Now all they have to do is retrieve the Flower of Immortality to save Manhattan from being wiped out by disease. To succeed, they’ll have to conquer sly demons, treacherous gods, and their own darkest nightmares.

Review:

Thirteen-year-old Sik helps out with his parents’ deli in Manhattan. One night, he’s attacked by demons who were working with the plague god Nergal. Their deli is destroyed and his parents are left in the hospital with a mysterious virus. Sik is rescued by his new friend Belet who lives with a god of her own. Nargal insists that Sik is hiding an item that Sik’s brother sent back from Iraq just before he died. Sik and Belet have to find this item, with the help of the hero Gilgamesh, to save their city and Sik’s parents.

I have never read Mesopotamian mythology before, or even the epic story of Gilgamesh, so this was all new to me. I loved learning about the different gods and their stories. The story was set in the familiar city of New York, so I could picture everything that happened, even though the characters were all new.

This story addressed racism and Islamophobia. Sik’s friend Daoud was an actor, but he had accepted the fact that he was always going to be cast as the villain or a terrorist. He wouldn’t be the hero. Luckily in this story, Sik is a Muslim hero. This racism was disturbing because it’s so outrageous and doesn’t make any sense. I’m glad that books like this can be published, because I love reading about different cultures. My favourite books are the ones that teach me things, and I feel like I learned a lot from this one.

This is a great story in the Rick Riordan Presents collection!

Thank you Rick Riordan Presents for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Tristan Strong Punches a Hold in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Have you read City of the Plague God? What did you think of it?

Review: Amina’s Song

Title: Amina’s Song (Amina’s Voice #2)
Author: Hena Khan
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Source: Publisher
Format: paperback arc
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In the companion novel to the beloved and award-winning Amina’s Voice, Amina once again uses her voice to bridge the places, people, and communities she loves—this time across continents. 

It’s the last few days of her vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family—all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. Now that the school year is starting again, she’s sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale. 

After she’s home, though, her friends don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen?

Review:

Amina is on vacation in Pakistan to visit her extended family. She loves everything on the trip, including the food, the shopping, and spending time with family members. During the trip, Amina takes lots of photos and videos to save her favourite memories. Amina had to return to the US when the summer was over, but her uncle makes her promise that she will share her memories of Pakistan with her friends. Her teacher assigns a project to research a person who has made a significant contribution to history. Amina chooses Malala Yousafzai, to show her students an important person from Pakistan. However, her classmates only remembered the negative parts of her story, like that girls in her village couldn’t get an education, leading her classmates to believe Pakistan is a bad place. Amina had to show her friends and classmates that her family is from a wonderful country.

This story gives an informative look at Pakistan. I’ve never been there, but it sounded like a beautiful place in the story. Amina was surprised when her cousin told her that she would be too scared to visit America. The stories her family hears are only negative ones, since those are shared more in the news. At the same time, Amina was scared to go to Pakistan at first, because she had only heard stories like Malala’s story of being attacked by terrorists, so that was her image of the country. This shows that you can’t always believe the stories that you hear about a place without visiting for yourself. This reminded me of how Toronto, where I live, used to be known around the world for the SARS virus. Only a small number of people had the virus, but the news story about it being in Toronto made it around the world, giving us that reputation for years. Just because a country or city is known for one thing, doesn’t mean the entire place is like that.

This book is a companion to the book Amina’s Voice. The events of that book are mentioned in this story, but you could read this one as a stand-alone.

This was such a beautiful middle grade novel!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

More to the Story by Hena Khan

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed (editors)

Other books in the series:

Have you read Amina’s Song? What did you think of it?