Friday, June 2, 2023

Today's read... Food Fight by Linda B. Davis

Beginning of last month, I took a peek at Jarrett Lerner's latest novel, A Work in Progress, which hit the theme of losing weight, self-imaging, and a middle school boy. Today's read heads in a somewhat similar direction but takes a look at another eating disorder, which is often wrongly identified as picky-eating.

This comes out in a few weeks...just in time for the summer reading lists. So, let's find out if this one holds all the goodness it could. 

by Linda B. Davis
Fitzroy Books
Middle Grade Contemporary
248 pages
ages 9 to 12

JUNE 27th!!!

"A must-read for anyone who has ever fought their own battles with both fitting in and being themselves." — Shannon Schuren, author of Where Echoes Lie Ben.

Snyder is ready for middle school. But his super picky eating, which has never been a big deal before, is about to take him down. Suddenly everybody’s on his case about what he’s eating and what he’s not—his old friends, his new friends, his weird lab partner, the girl he’s crushing on, and a bully—and Ben finds himself in social free fall, sliding toward the bottom of the middle school food chain. Even worse, there’s an upcoming three-day class trip to a colonial campsite. Knowing he can’t handle the gag-worthy menu, Ben prepares for the outing like it’s a survival mission. Armed with new and unexpected information about his eating habits that could change everything, he sets out with three tactical impress the girl, outsmart the bully, and avoid every single meal. But when epic hunger threatens to push him over the edge, Ben must decide how far he will go to fit in and if he has the courage to stand out.

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /   AMAZON


With tons of heart and a nudge of humor, a boy does his best to stand the battlefield of middle school while swinging through the difficulties of ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder).

It's the first day of sixth grade and that means tackling the entirely new world called middle school. Ben isn't sure he's ready, but he'll take it on with as much style as he can. Of course, it's not easy thanks to a bully, a cute girl, a weird lab partner, and his friend, who seems to have his own idea on how to handle the new environment. All's workable, though, until a 3-day school trip hits and there isn't anything on the menu Ben can eat. Suddenly, his 10-item only food intake causes serious waves. While he does his best to keep himself from becoming the center of ridicule, hunger might put a wrench in everything.

Ben is a nice guy and as normal as can be if it wasn't for his eating disorder. When this read starts out, he realizes that his 10-item diet isn't exactly 'normal', but even his parents qualify it as simply being picky. The first days in middle school come across naturally as it doesn't cause real waves (although it's often at the fore-front of Ben's mind) outside of a bully, who also has it in for Ben for other reasons. Ben's lunch is only another place for the kid to poke at. The problem takes off with the school trip as Ben tries to balance the other aspects of finding his footing in the new situation and surroundings. It was a fun setting, which allows the serious themes to flow, while keeping everything interesting.

I did appreciate that the author hit this theme, since it's not well-known but does exist more than many realize. The message is clear throughout the tale, but Ben has a crisp sense of humor...despite the more serious side...which adds just the right amount of quirkiness to keep it from bogging down. The humor wasn't as strong as I thought it might be, meaning that it was a more dramatic read than I expected. The usual issues of bullying, first crushes, old friends changing, and new friendships drive the tale forward. And it is well done. The only thing which hit me a bit odd was that the parents didn't pick up on the issue, but that's just a side thought. 

This is an entertaining read with tons of heart and enough humor to keep it light, while bringing across the theme in a meaningful way.

And here she is...

Linda holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Vanderbilt University and a master’s in clinical social work from University of South Florida. Ultimately, her career training prepared her to be curious about why we do the things we do. She is passionate about the need for accessible and accurate information about mental health, especially in children’s books.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

What's Coming in June?

As I look at this month's pile of books, I see a lot of middle grade. Middle grade, middle grade, and more middle grade. Of course, there are picture books, graphic novels, and some young adult reads mixed in, too, but this month will hold many treats for those readers ages 8 to 12. (Summer reading time!!!)

Actually, I'm really excited about the titles coming up this month...but then, I always am. There are some gems in the mix...or at least, they do appear to be. I read the books only the evening before posting. So, I'm in the dark until the last minute. 

Here's a tiny peek at what's coming, although I'd love listing every single one. But where's the fun in that?


With tons of humor and heart, this read centers around an often overlooked eating disorder referred to as ARFID - a picky-eater or selective food interest direction. It's been getting good reviews and caught my attention. I'm expecting it to hit themes such as bullying, too. Find out more tomorrow (the 2nd)!

Middle Grade Contemporary


I've had this one on my book pile for quite awhile and have been waiting to finally have the chance to pick it up and enjoy. Time travel meets an academy, where danger lurks and action is guaranteed. It's the first in a new series, and my expectations are high. Find out more with me on its release day, the 6th!

Young Adult Fantasy / Time Travel


The title made me do a double-take...and I have no doubt it will catch the attention of young readers, too. This one takes a swim into the ecosystem and oceans. I'm betting that it delivers information in a super-cute way and am looking forward to meeting the young whale and his friends. I'll be plunging into these pages on the 8th.

Picture Book


Sold as Aru Shah meets One Thousand and One Nights, this novel promises fantasy with Arabian flair. There should be djinn, sorcerers, flying carpets, and more in what appears to be an exciting journey. I'm really hoping that this one is packed with imaginative richness and builds an amazing world, so the reader can really sink into the heroine's adventures. Join the magical winds with me on the 9th.

Middle Grade Fantasy


This read has been staring up at me from my pile for quite a while, now. And how I've wanted to grab it up! But I had to wait for release day. (sigh) It centers around a girl, whose great-great-great...well, whatever grandmother was hung as a witch...but maybe she was really a witch! There's mystery, secrets, hunting in libraries, and more. And the promise of something sinister lurking in the shadows. Doesn't that sound perfect? Discover more with me on the 13th.

Middle Grade Mystery / Paranormal


I haven't read this series, yet, and will be jumping right in with the third adventure. This is an interactive read...which I'm not sure what that means but promises to be tons of fun. I'm thinking the reader will have to think right along (maybe puzzles, choices and such?) It seems to have something to do with time travel and all sorts of surprises. Perhaps, even spooky ones? I'll find out more on the 16th.

Middle Grade Adventure


The cover caught my attention on this read...a fuzzy monster cuddling up with the kid just screams goodness and fun. It is supposed to hit more serious themes such as loss, while holding tons of goodness and friendship, too. I'm hoping this one will be a treat and will let you know on the 18th.

Picture Book


A comic book and tons of fun? Sounds perfect! This is a spin-off of The Last Kids on Earth and takes the familiar gang on a new adventure as they discover that their favorite comic book series has come to an end...and decide to continue it themselves. I'm expecting tons of silliness, adventure, and pure ridiculous moments. Be prepared to laugh with me on the 20th.

Middle Grade Adventure/Humor  Graphic Novel


This is the first in a science fiction series, which surrounds inter-planetary intrigue with a hint of dystopian threats. I'm expecting quite a bit of action and heart as the main character is on a mission to rescue her father and ends up facing more than a few gray areas and tough decisions. I'll be reviewing the 1st in this series on the 24th and the 2nd on the 30th.

Young Adult Science Fiction


Have you heard of a middle grade novel surrounding a deli? I hadn't. So, this one definitely caught my attention. It's about a girl, who is trying to save her family's deli from being over-run by a larger chain. I'm expecting some funny moments, friendships, and...if I understood correctly... recipes as well as more than a few illustrations. Join me for the fun on the 28th.

Middle Grade Contemporary

Every month, I have more books on my reading pile than days to review. So each month, I choose one book from these 'extras' and place it in my Joker category because the publishing industry is a hectic place...and I always have a spot or two, which suddenly open up. 
This month I'm choosing:


If you can't tell by the cover, this one has been chalking up one prize after the other. I'm expecting tons of heart and a bit of magical realism. And no, I'm not drawn to this one because of my own, green-house dreams. Nope, not one bit. (Yep, I might be lying a bit).

When will I get to this one? I'm not sure quite yet, but keep your eyes open!

Middle Grade Magical Realism

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Today's read... A Sky Full of Song by Susan Lynn Meyer

We, currently, live less than a day's wagon ride from Laura Ingalls Wilder's home. Actually, I even had the honor to take part in their Children's Literature Festival with my own middle grade novel a year or two ago. So, when I got my hands on today's read, I was more than a little curious to peek inside. 

This one follows a girl and her family from the Ukraine to the prairies of North Dakota, and that during the homesteading period. I'm expecting historical goodness with heart and adventure. Plus, I'm curious to see what the cranes have to do with all of it. So, let's dive in!

by Susan Lynn Meyer
Union Square Kids
Middle Grade Historical Fiction
263 pages
ages 8 to 12

This heartwarming, beautifully written middle-grade historical novel about an untold American frontier story is destined to be a cherished classic. 
North Dakota, 1905
After fleeing persecution in the Russian Empire, eleven-year-old Shoshana and her family, Jewish immigrants, start a new life on the prairie. Shoshana takes fierce joy in the wild beauty of the plains and the thrill of forging a new, American identity. But it’s not as simple for her older sister, Libke, who misses their Ukrainian village and doesn’t pick up English as quickly or make new friends as easily. Desperate to fit in, Shoshana finds herself hiding her Jewish identity in the face of prejudice, just as Libke insists they preserve it.
For the first time, Shoshana is at odds with her beloved sister, and has to look deep inside herself to realize that her family’s difference is their greatest strength. By listening to the music that’s lived in her heart all along, Shoshana finds new meaning in the Jewish expression all beginnings are difficult , as well as in the resilience and traditions her people have brought all the way to the North Dakota prairie

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /   B&N   /    KOBO


The pioneering spirit shines bright while weaving in historical themes with cultural care and adding interesting tidbits along the way.

Shoshana and her family can't remain in the Ukraine. As Jews, their lives are constantly threatened. So when the day arrives to pack up and head to America, Shoshana has very mixed feelings. She, her mother, and her siblings head to North Dakota, where her oldest brother and father have already spent the last years building up a farm. With a dugout as their house, English difficult to understand, and survival on the land not guaranteed, Shoshana must figure out how this new life works.

The second I saw the cover, The Little House on the Prairie popped into my head...and that wasn't wrong. The first chapters take place in the Ukraine, opening with the persecution Shoshana and her family face. While the family boards the ship, sails to America, and then, takes a train until they finally arrive in North Dakota, the reader has a chance to get a glimpse at Shoshana and several of her family member's personalities, hopes, and concerns. From there, life on the northern plains with all of its difficulties, wonders, and dreams unfolds...and this in a way, which offers nods toward the still-loved novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder. There's the father's fiddle, a mother's beloved belongings, a lofty shop-owner's daughter and so on. Even the pacing and direction reminds of the above novel. And yet, this book takes on a life of its own.

The Ukrainian origins give Shoshana and her family an intriguing twist. The author has done her research and this shows on every page. From the Yiddish phrases to details surrounding cooking, school life, and more, there is quite a bit for readers to discover and learn. I would have enjoyed seeing more of Shoshana's life in the Ukraine first (to help deepen the understanding of the changes she faces and what she left behind), but there is quite a bit going on in this read already. Not only are the historical details and homesteading side interesting, but themes such as Indian displacement and cultural/religious suppression are also addressed...and that in a natural way. This one is not only great for classrooms and libraries but will draw the interest of more than a few homeschoolers.

And here she is...

Susan Lynn Meyer is the author of two previous middle-grade historical novels—Black Radishes, a Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner, and Skating with the Statue of Liberty—as well as three picture books. Her works have won the Jane Addams Peace Association Children’s Book Award and the New York State Charlotte Award, as well as many other honors. Her novels have been chosen as Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selections, included among Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, and translated into German and Chinese. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Wellesley College and lives outside Boston.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms by Jenna Yoon!

It's celebration time! Today's read is hitting the shelves today and is the second in the Lia Park series. I did read the first one (yes, you can gasp in amazement) and enjoyed it quite a bit. So, when this one came out, of course I wanted to take a peek. 

Ready for magic, adventure, and mystery, too?

by Jenna Yoon
Middle Grade Fantasy
352 pages
ages 8 to 12

Perfect for fans of the Gifted Clans and Aru Shah series, this thrilling second book of the middle grade fantasy Lia Park series sees Lia and Joon on a mission to protect important magical objects—and themselves—from a mysterious enemy.

Twelve-year-old Lia Park and her best friend, Joon, are now full-time students at International Magic Academy after defeating corrupt diviner Gaya, and their first assignment is an ambitious one. The evil nine-headed monster and King of Darkness, Jihaedaegukjeok, wants to destroy the three Heavenly Heirlooms that create fire and light to plunge the world into darkness and destroy humanity.

The heirlooms can only be destroyed if they are all together, so over time, they have been hidden carefully with magic. Except now, one of them is missing. Lia, Joon, and their classmates have been tasked with recovering the lost heirloom and bringing it to IMA for safekeeping. They expected the task to be difficult, but the number of obstacles the magic trainees run into makes Lia start to wonder if the sabotage could be coming from someone inside the school.

GOODREADS    /     AMAZON    /     B&N 


If magic and adventure weren't enough, this read works in Japanese mythology, friendship, and family love, too.

Lia is off to the IMA (International Magic Academy) and, of course, Joon is with her. While excited, she's also a bit unsure. Not only does she do her best to hide her white streak of hair to avoid attention (doesn't want others knowing she's the famous girl who defeated Gaya), but everyone else there has known about their magic for years. When her magic refuses to function properly, she's the center of the school's gossip, and even Joon seems to be taking sides against her. But these personal problems are going to have to be shoved aside. The King of Darkness has appeared and is determined to destroy the world if someone doesn't stop him.

This is the second book in the Lia Park series and continues Lia's adventures after book one. While it isn't too difficult to sink into this read without reading the first book, I'd still recommend starting at the beginning since earlier events are mentioned several times.

The first chapters start off with rich imagination as Lia enters the IMA for the first time. The magical surroundings and details create a whimsical atmosphere for the academy. This does remind of similar settings, though: broken into four houses/sections of students, a type of choosing ceremony... It's magically familiar while still being original and does draw in. 

Lia's frustration and uncertainty makes her easy to identify with, especially with Joon's behavior (which had me wondering but might work with a big twist at the end). Then, there are the new friends...or not. While the forming friendships appear golden, there's enough doubt and suspicion to even keep that aspect uncertain. Around every corner, a new secret appears and nobody seems to be telling Lia everything. Not even Joon. So, tension is definitely kept high on this end. The occasional family warmth adds lovely balance to all of this.

While monsters keep Lia and friends on their toes, it's the workings of the IMA (and more?) which dig the mystery and secrets in deep, and prepare the foundation for the books to come. These hints trickle in during the rest of the action, making sure there isn't a single boring moment, and promises tons of richness and intrigue to come. With all of this, the 350 or so pages go by quickly, and the last chapters felt rushed. But it ends well enough, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Lia Park and her friends will face next.

And here she is...

Jenna Yoon studied Art History at Wellesley College and received her master’s degree in Korean art history from Ewha Womans University. She’s lived about half her life in both Korea and the United States. When she’s not writing, Jenna loves to travel, find yummy eats, play board games, and take skin care very seriously. Currently, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two kids.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Today's read... Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

I'm back! But I bet none of you realized I was even gone. After one of my sons graduated from high school, we took a road trip down to southern Colorado and New Mexico to see the wonderful sites that area of the world has to offer. It was a ton of fun... of course, not everything ran smoothly, but that's where the memories are truly made.

Anyway, today's read was my nightly go-to book before bed at the hotels. After reading this authors duology, These Violent Delights, I was looking forward to diving into her new series. Plus, this takes place around the 1930's in China and centers around the problems of the Japanese victory and the political situation...which really thrilled me since I'm just finishing up a Chinese drama, which also centers around this time frame. 

Today's read is the first in a trilogy and came out Fall last year (2022). The second book is scheduled to hit the shelves in September with the third already in the works. Oh, and this one was recommend to the best list on Goodreads for 2022.

Foul Lady Fortune, #1
by Chloe Gong
Margaret K McElderry
YA Historical Fantasy
528 pages

The first book in a captivating new duology following an ill-matched pair of spies posing as a married couple to investigate a series of brutal murders in 1930s Shanghai.

It’s 1931 in Shanghai, and the stage is set for a new decade of intrigue.

Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death, but the strange experiment that saved her also stopped her from sleeping and aging—and allows her to heal from any wound. In short, Rosalind cannot die. Now, desperate for redemption from her traitorous past, she uses her abilities as an assassin for her country.

Code name: Fortune.

But when the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion march, Rosalind’s mission pivots. A series of murders is causing unrest in Shanghai, and the Japanese are under suspicion. Rosalind’s new orders are to infiltrate foreign society and identify the culprits behind the terror plot before more of her people are killed.

To reduce suspicion, however, she must pose as the wife of another Nationalist spy, Orion Hong, and though Rosalind finds Orion’s cavalier attitude and playboy demeanor infuriating, she is willing to work with him for the greater good. But Orion has an agenda of his own, and Rosalind has secrets that she wants to keep buried. As they both attempt to unravel the conspiracy, the two spies soon find that there are deeper and more horrifying layers to this mystery than they ever imagined.

GOODREADS    /     AMAZON     /    B&N     /      KOBO (Audio)


Intrigue, conspiracy, secrets, and deadly situations mix with politics, romance, and a touch of magic to create an exciting ride. 

Rosalind isn't only one of the most feared assassins of her time, but she hasn't aged a day for several years. Her past hasn't exactly been riddled with sunshine, and guilt as well as secrets drive her forward to amend for many mistakes. When her handler assigns her to a mission, which doesn't target someone with their death, she's not sure how to take it. Worse, she's been assigned a partner to act as her husband...a playboy, who is as different from her as different could be. Somehow, they need to discover the secret plans of the Japanese as well as uncover the reasoning behind the murders plaguing Shanghai.  But as secrets come to light, the danger...and chaos...grows.

I did read this author's duology, These Violent Delights, and recommend reading that before hitting this series because this new series takes place a few years after the events explored in that duology. Since several of the characters reappear in this book, it would spoil some aspects of that tale if a reader were to go back to it after reading this new series.

The book starts out with a bang, landing the reader smack-dab in the middle of Rosalind's latest mission. And it works well to launch into the thick weave, which makes up the rest of the book. While Rosalind stands at the center of this series, rich sub-characters make it a read, which is hard to put down. This world is full of complicated intrigue and intentions, making it impossible to know what is truly going on or who is pulling what strings (and a little confusing, at a good way). The characters drive this forward in the most delightful ways. There are some, which are simply likable, while many are slippery, at best. The intentions are well hidden and impossible to guess, and this makes it grabbing until the end.

The main characters are a little hard to embrace, and that fits them well. Both Rosalind and Orion are masters of their craft and hard to get connect to because of this. It's no problem to root for Rosalind—luckily, the author spends quite a bit of time letting the reader really get to know her before the large twists hit. Orion, on the other hand, comes across as endearing, but never really sinks in enough to make a perfect romantic connection to Rosalind...almost but the gap between them never truly shrinks. While there is cute banter, the chemistry isn't quite there. But considering the ending (no spoilers, though) and the fact that there are two more books on the way, this might be exactly the way it needs to be. So, I wasn't disappointed. Not yet. (Gosh, there's so much going on in this read!)

While the book holds a very steady, gripping pace with character depth and building intrigue, about 3/4ths the way through, it suddenly shifts gears with a huge twist. This hits hard and flips everything on its head in a way, which I'm still not sure settles in right...although the logic and reasoning is pretty much there. Again, it will depends on how the tale continues from here. So, I'm definitely wanting to read book two because this book is quite a ride and promises tons to come.

I do want to throw in that this is sold as a young adult book, and I'm not sure why. Rosalind might be '19', but she stopped aging, making her truly in her early twenties. She acts way too mature for a teen as do almost all characters in this read. Most of the characters are adults. She works with mostly adults, is faking a marriage, and deals with other adult agents. A few characters are stated to be 18, but if these announced ages were dropped, I'd have never ever guessed the characters weren't adults. But YA-ers are sure to enjoy this read, too. I just see this fitting for older audiences, too.

Summed up, this is a very well-woven and thrilling read for fans of rich historical settings with a side-dish of fantasy.

And here she is...

Chloe Gong is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Secret Shanghai novels, as well as the Flesh and False Gods trilogy. Her books have been published in over twenty countries and have been featured in The New York TimesPeopleForbes, and more. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she double-majored in English and international relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Chloe is now located in New York City, pretending to be a real adult.