Middle Grade Book Recommendations

A long time ago, along with other book bloggers, I started organizing middle grade book readalongs, centered at first on Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but the idea died down month after month, and I got busy with life and other things. What didn’t die is my love for middle grade books. In the midst of a two months long confinement, I just celebrated the fact that I HAVE BEEN WORKING AT THE BOOKSTORE FOR A YEAR NOW! And I’m in charge of the kidlit/middle grade/YA section, which means that I got the chance to discover and read more middle grade books this past year! And this rekindled my love for middle grade books. Some I would probably have read anyway, and some I discovered by chance and fell in love with. Which is why, today, I’m here to share all the love that I have for middle grade books!

I’m obviously not going to talk about Percy Jackson, even if I just binge read Heroes of Olympus, because it’s all I’m talking about these days, and I wanted to share my love for OTHER SERIES that also deserve it ♥ (Have I mentioned how excited I am that Percy Jackson is finally getting the TV show it deserves?)


Without further ado, here are seven middle grade books(eries) that you should check out!

City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake #1) by Victoria Schwab

Okay so yes, I know I just said I wanted to share the love about authors and books I don’t talk about all the times, and I KNOW I talk about Victoria Schwab a lot. But hey, it’s worth it. Her books are amazing. The Cassidy Blake series is about a young girl whose parents earn a living by talking about ghosts. They have written many famous books as “The Inspecters” and are now having their own TV Show, which means they’re going to travel to cities famous for their ghosts. They talk about folklore and history, and are not necessarily believers. Cassidy probably wouldn’t have been a believer either, if not for the fact that… her best friend is a ghost. Jacob has been hanging out for the past year, ever since Cassidy almost died. And now they are going to be thrown into cities populated by dangerous ghosts. First Edinburgh, then Paris… And the third books, which will be released next March, is going to be set in Venice!

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet #1) by Roshani Chokshi

This one is another series in the making and I am OBSESSED with it. I have yet to read the third book, but to be perfectly honest with you, I’m waiting for the paperback version to be released because I want it to match the rest of the series… Anyway. This one does have a special place in my heart, obviously because I loved it. The story is fun, action packed, with awesome characters. But also because I managed to sell it splendidly at work, and I will forever be proud of it. Spreading the love, one book sale at a time! Anyway. Think Percy Jackson, except it’s hindu mythology. On a bet, Aru opens a magical lamp in her mother’s museum. And suddenly, she finds out she is the reincarnation of a famous hero, and she has ten days to save the world, while traveling across the US. These books are excellent, and I will never stop recommending them.

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

A contemporary book for a change! Nowhere Boy is absolutely precious, and I’m so glad I decided to give it a go. Throughout the book, we follow two books who despite the fact that they have nothing in common, end up sharing a house in Brussels. Max comes from the US and his father has been relocated to Belgium for one year. He has to attend school in French despite his not speaking a word of it, and left all of his friends behind. Needless to say, he is less than happy about it. Ahmed fled Syria with his father. He lost him on the way, and ended up seeking refuge in the basement of a house in Brussels. One night, they meet, and the boys become friends. It’s a beautiful book about friendship in the face of adversity, that also deals with important topics such as the refugee crisis. And of course, I would definitely recommend that you check it out ASAP.

The Strangers (Greystone Secrets #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This one is another fantasy book series that I believe is underrated. I’ve seen the first two books I mentioned around quite a lot on Bookstagram, or Book Twitter, but I haven’t seen this one much except for when I actively look for it. But I’m here to say: if you like middle grade books, then you should definitely give this one a try. The second book in the series has been released in early April and I have yet to read it. Here’s the premise: one day when the come back from school, the Greystone kids come across an odd piece of news. Three kids have gone missing, and they share their names, as well as age, and exact birth dates. The coincidence becomes even bigger when their mom disappears the next morning, leaving behind her a few scattered clues, and abandoning them in the care of a woman they barely know. So of course, they try to piece it together, and what they discover is even bigger than anything they could have foreseen, and much scarier… I’m not going to say anything more, but I LOVED the plot twists in this one, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel!

Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain by Zac Gorman

Just like The Strangers, I came across this one unexpectedly, because I received an ARC copy of the French edition at work. And I’m so glad that I decided to give it a go! It’s full of dark humour and irony for a start, and I am always here for that. It’s a story about friendship, and girls standing up for one another, which again, I am here for. Thisby is in charge of feeding the monsters of the Black Mountain, and checking up on them regularly, so that it remains what it is supposed to be: an attraction for wannabe heroes who want to earn some glory. From the get go, I loved the twist on classic fairytale like stories. One day, Iphigenia, the princess and heiress to the throne comes to visit with her brother. When the prince goes missing, the two girls set up on a quest among the half destroyed mountain to save him, facing on their way more monsters than they possibly could have expected. This book was fun and original, and featured not one but two badass female characters. There’s also a sequel called Thisby Thestoop and the Wretched Scrattle, and I can’t wait to check it out!

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Like Aru Shah, this book is a part of the Rick Riordan Presents imprint that promotes books featuring all different kinds of mythology and cultures. That’s pretty much everything they have in common… Well, except for the fact that I also loved them both. Dragon Pearl is a standalone sci-fi/fantasy book featuring creatures from classical Korean mythology, except that it’s set in space. Think something like Gu Family Book or Arang and the Magistrate* meet Star Wars. Min comes from an old family of gumihos, who live on a distant planet. Nobody really knows about their origins, because foxes have a bad reputation. Because, you know, they can shapeshift. When her bother goes missing, and is accused from treason, she runs away from home with one goal in mind: find him, figure out what happened, and clear his name. The book is full of action, and had a very strong vibe of “middle grader saving the world” vibe which I absolutely loved. If you want to check out more middle grade fantasy books, but are too afraid of starting a series because you know you won’t finish it, then this is the thing for you!

*Two of my favourite sageuk kdramas, the first one featuring Gumihos aka shapeshifting nine-tailed foxes, and the second one being about ghosts.

Wings of Olympus by Kallie George

Last but not least, a book about Greek mythology that isn’t written by Rick Riordan (yes, they do exist!) This one is set up in ancient Greece, and follows Pippa, a girl who loves horses, and who is an orphan. One day, she is selected by Aphrodite to take part in a pegasus race organised by the Gods, an event that only takes place every hundred years. It’s an incredible honour, but her pegasus has a mind of its own, and the other kids look down on her because they come from wealthier backgrounds. And honestly, who would take Aphrodite seriously when it comes to winning a competition? She is the goddess of love after all. But Pippa is strong-willed, loves her pegasus Zephyr with all she has, and his determined to win. Its a beautiful book about friendship, and I quickly fell in love with it. A sequel, The Colt of the Coulds, was released in April and I cannot wait to check it out.


And of course, I couldn’t end this article without mentioning one of my favourite reads of 2019, a middle grade book AND a Canadian Classic, yes I’m talking about Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. If you haven’t done that yet, do yourself a favour and go read this book. I don’t know why I waited so long. (And yes, I am also obsessed with the show Anne with an E. I’m still upset Netflix canceled it.)

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And with that, I’m done for today, and going back to reading!

Top 5 Tuesday: Anticipated Releases for 2020

The theme two weeks ago was “books I need to read in 2020” and as I have given up on TBRs and whatnot I am going to link you to my previous “New releases I didn’t get to in 2019” because basically those are the books I would like to read!

Top 5 Tuesday is hosted by Shanah @ The Bionic Book Worm. Since the T5W seems to be MIA, and since this particular topic inspired me (because, you know, I try not to make TBRs but I also LOVE talking about books that I want to read!) I decided to participate at least for today, but I don’t know yet how often I will take part!

And anyway, without further ado, here are some of my most anticipated releases for the year 2020 (a number which by the way still seems very unrealistic).

Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

I discovered Roshani Chokshi in 2019 and got obsessed with her books. I am relentlessly recommending this series at work, and I cannot wait to see what will happen in the third installment! It’s taking me back to my PJO reading years and I am here for that. I love sassy kids fighting ancient gods, and I cannot wait to see what the Tree of Wishes will have in store for us.

Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab

Cassidy Blake is the second middle grade story I got obsessed with in the year 2019. I love how original and quirky it is, while also meddling with great travelling and historical points. I know I have to wait for most of the year, but I’m really excited! And I am also delighted to let you know that the French translation of City of Ghosts is getting released this week, and I cannot wait to shove it into everyone’s hands!

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

I saw the blurb for this one on twitter, and I was immediately hyped. I don’t read enough F/F books to be honest and I do want to read more. Plus, this one seems right up my alley, so I’ll be on the lookout!

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Did I ever think a new book in the Hunger Games universe would be released? No I didn’t. But now that it’s happening, I need it and I cannot wait! (And also I’m not that excited about the fact that it’s going to be about SNOW of all people, I have to admit I am still curious.)

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Okay so this one has already been released, but it was indeed a 2020 release that I highly anticipated so it well deserves its spot on this list. Furthermore, I haven’t picked it up yet because I have actually decided to go on a book buying ban! I’m getting one last Owlcrate this month, and after that, I won’t be buying any books for… I guess as long as I can. I’m trying to save up money, and I already have tons of books at home. In addition to that, I can also get books from work if I return them undamaged, and from the library. (Ich schaffe das!) ANYWAY. I haven’t read a book by Adam Silvera in a while, but I loved what I saw and I cannot wait to see what new universe he crafted!


And that’s it for today! Thank you so much for reading, and please feel free to share some of your anticipated releases for the year!

Aru Shah and the Song of Death: My Review

I finally read the second book in the Pandava Quartet and I’m so glad that I did! I find myself reading more and more middle grade books these days, partly because of work, but also because I love them dearly. And Aru Shah and the Song of Death was no exception.

Title: Aru Shah and the Song of Death (Pandava Quartet #2)
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Release: 2019
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The story:

It picks up right where The End of Time left, as Aru and Mini get a glimpse at their new sister. And that’s right before they’re all accused of thievery and given 10 days to right a wrong they had nothing to do with, unless they want to be kicked out of Otherworld and have all of their memories erased.

Aru, Mini and their new sister Brynne are sent on a new quest along with boy next door Aiden. On the way, they will meet new friends, new prophecies, and make new enemies. And once again, the story ends on a cliffhanger!

My thoughts:

I think my favourite thing in this book was the humour. The narration is clever and witty, which makes it all the more impossible to put the book down. A second close in terms of my favourite things about this book is the Hindu mythology. In this book, we learn more about the history of the Pandava brothers (who are now reincarnated as sisters, although the weight of the original brothers weighs on them constantly). We also meet new divinities and places, and they’re all absolutely amazing. It’s really refreshing to read about divinities I’m not really familiar with. I love Roman and Greek mythology but I know about it, and I’ve read about it A LOT so it’s nice to have something keeping this atmosphere / universe that I like, but with completely new stories!

And my third favourite thing was obviously the characters. I love the dynamic between Aru and Mini, they’re both so precious. And I thought that Brynne and Aiden were a great addition to their little family. I love how they’re all different. They all have hardships in their lives, mostly related to their parents and / or their parents’ expectations for them, or (at least) in Aru’s case her classmates. But they’re all trying their best, they’re smart and refuse to give up in the face of adversity. Honestly, they all deserve a giant hug.

*Cue my new favourite hug gif*

We also got briefly introduced to the last two sisters at the end of the book and let me tell you I can’t wait to see how that will turn out in the sequel!

One thing I regretted though was that I would have loved to learn more about Aru’s mom and her past. Hopefully I will get a few answers in the next book!

Oh and before I forget, this is a small thing but it makes the book so much better in many ways: Aru is full of pop culture references which is both sweet and hilarious, and sometimes super random, and I love it so much! In the first book she wandered through the kingdom of the dead in her Spiderman pyjamas, and this time she dressed up as Gandalf for her birthday party. Despite the whole saving-the-world thing, she is and remains a kid and I absolutely love how she is portrayed. She is so precious. And as I recommend Aru Shah and the End of Time to as many customers buying books for young readers as I can, I am so glad that I can give these kids such a great model to follow! Aru is imperfect and inspiring at the same time, and I love her. I can’t shut up about this book, and every time someone buys it, it makes me immensely happy.

So… To conclude, I can’t wait for book 3, and I can’t wait for book 2 to be released in French so I can promote it as well! Have you read this one yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

(PS: check out my review for book 1)

Aru Shah and the End of Time: My Review

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To be really honest with you, this book has been on my radar ever since I heard of its existence and I have absolutely no clue as to why I did not pick it up sooner. I love mythology, and I’m also a huge fan of Percy Jackson, so when I heard that a similar concept would be applied to Indian mythology (to put it shortly) I knew that I had to read it.

Back in January, I also read Roshani Chokshi’s book The Gilded Wolves and I absolutely fell in love with her writing, which reminded me that I also really wanted to read Aru Shah. And finally, a few weeks ago we received some copies of the French translation at work, and I finally knew that my opportunity was here.

Title: Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet #1)
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade Fiction
Release: 2018
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The story:

Aru knew she should not have touched the lamp, but when three of her classmates call her a liar and dare her to do so, she cannot resist. And now her mother is petrified, and the rest of the world is going to end… She has ten days to stop it with the help of one of her newly found sisters, and a talking pigeon.

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book. I started it hoping that I would, and slightly afraid that I’d be disappointed but I was not, not one second. I absolutely loved that universe, as well as its characters. It was really fun to read about Indian mythology, and its heroes and deities. I learnt a lot, and it made me want to know more!

Reading middle grade books is somehow very comforting, especially when you know it’s the first book in a series. You know there’s going to be some crazy adventures and twists, and at the same time, you have your eyes full of stars and excitement because you are discovering a new universe, and in the end you also know that nothing too bad can happen because it’s only the first volume in the series. Aru Shah and the End of Time was all of this for me. It also had a catastrophic cliffhanger at the end which I absolutely loved, and I’m very grateful that I finally received my copy of the sequel so I can know what happens next.

While reading Aru Shah it felt a little bit like I was coming home, in fantasyland where I belong, and I love that feeling.

hearts

I loved both Aru and Mini. They complete each other in many ways, and have a great dynamic. While Aru knew nothing about her origins, Mini has been raised knowing all about how real the Pandava are… Except that her entire family thought her brother would be the chosen one. Both of their upbringing make for very strong and interesting characters which I LOVED. I also really loved their companion Boo, and can’t wait to find out more about him, as well as the other sisters we will most likely meet in the other books.

One more thing I loved was the flashbacks and the backstory surrounding Aru’s mother: yet another thing I can’t wait to find out more about!

Overall, Aru Shah is a great first book in a fantasy middle grade series! It is well written and dynamic. It is original, and has both some smart and fun moments. It’s a very endearing book, which managed to warm my cold heart and grab a spot on the list of books that will always be dear to me. I’m trying to promote it at the bookstore but it’s not really working so far… I’m not giving up though!

read the book with text

So to conclude, GO 👏 READ 👏 THIS 👏 BOOK and also brace yourselves because I can’t shut up about it, so you’re probably going to see it on the blog a lot!