Home Away from Home by Cynthia Lord

Every summer, Mia has visited her grandmother in Maine with her family. This year is different – her parents have been divorced for a few years, Dad has a new wife and baby and Mom has a new boyfriend, Scott. Normally, Mom would come with Mia to Maine but Mom and Scott have decided to buy a new house which means getting the old house ready to sell. Therefore, Mia will be spending a month with Grandma on her own, which she is very excited about. Upon arriving, Mia learns that Grandma has a new neighbor with a know-it-all boy her age. Mia feels the need to compete with Cayman for her grandmother’s attention. One of Mia’s favorite activities is observing the nesting bale eagles raise their young and the path to the nest is on Cayman’s property. Mia and Cayman go together one day and see a strange white bird of prey around the nest. Mia takes her perceived competition with Cayman a little too far in trying to determine what type of raptor is harassing the eagles and, inadvertently, puts the birds in danger. Can Mia fix things before it’s too late?

This realistic fiction book is perfect for middle grades and is relatively short at just over 200 pages. There is a good deal of information about birds, not just eagles, but not overwhelming. Highly recommend for grades 4 and up.



Salma Makes a Home by Danny Ramadan

Thank you to Amick Press and NetGalley for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

In this sequel to Salma the Syrian Chef, Salma’s father is finally joining Salma and her mother in Vancouver, Canada. Salma is excited to see her baba and nervous too – what if he doesn’t like it in Vancouver and wants to go back to Syria? What if Baba doesn’t love Canada as much as Salma does? Baba does have a difficult time adjusting and Salma’s worries and anxiety do get the better of her. They talk and Baba explains that Salma can hold two homes in her heart, her home where she was born and her new home where she now lives. This illustrated early chapter book is sure to be a hit with young readers. It is not necessary to have read The Syrian Chef prior to this one. Recommended for grades 2 – 4.

#SalmaMakesAHome #NetGalley

This title will be available May 9, 2023


Grounded: A novel by Aisha Saeed, Huda Al-Marashi, Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow, & S.K. Ali

Thank you to Amulet Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Four Muslim twelve-year-olds are on their way home from a Muslim convention and get stuck at the airport when all flights are grounded due to severe thunderstorms. These four kids don’t seem to have much in common but they team up to help find a cat that is lost in the airport. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view. These kids, all with their own issues, wind up roaming all over the airport, going into places that they shouldn’t be, with no consequences, until, eventually, there are. This is where I really started enjoying the book instead of realizing I was not the target audience. These tweens learn to accept and respect each other and work together to achieve their goal. Recommended for grades 4 and up.



Lo & Behold by Wendy Mass

Thank you to Random House Graphic and NetGalley for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Twelve-year-old Addie, named for a 250-year-old tortoise, is having a rough time ever since her mother’s accident. When her father gets a summer job at a university on the other side of the country working with several grad students’ virtual reality projects. Addie meets Mateo who lives across the hall from her and they learn to share each other’s interests. Mateo is working on a pay-it-forward project and helps pull Addie out of her shell. The VR projects go beyond gaming, helping cancer patients and elderly man revisit his homeland. There are hints of what happened to Addie’s mother, which is not revealed until the end.

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels but I really enjoyed this one. Because of the sensitive nature of Addie’s mother, I would recommend this graphic novel for grades 5 and up.

#Lo&Behold #NetGalley


You Are Here: Connecting Flights; edited by Ellen Oh

This is a collection of interconnecting stories written by twelve Asian American authors. It takes place at a large Chicago airport shortly after travel has opened up following Covid. The characters are all Southeast or East Asian-American and each has a unique point of view. An incident happens at security that winds up delaying many flights. Because the incident involves an Asian, some passengers express their racism out loud. Each character is affected by the incident in some way or form. The various characters don’t know each other but see one another at the food court. Each character is confronted with racism either directly or indirectly, finding the courage they didn’t know they had to stand up for themselves. Highly recommended for grades 4 and up.


Just Gus by McCall Hoyle

Thank you to Shadow Mountain Publishing and NetGalley for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Just Gus is a companion book to the author’s previous book, Stella. Gus is a rescue Great Pyrenees who has been retrained as a livestock guardian dog. When Chloe’s (Stella’s human) cousin, Diego, comes to visit, he is very quiet and shy. Gus can smell the anxiety and sadness on Diego, but his first priority are his sheep. One night, a bear comes into the pasture and Gus does what’s in his DNA – protect his sheep. Gus is gravely injured and when he returns from the veterinary hospital, all he wants is to return to his sheep. Diego seems to be the only one who can get through to Gus – probably because they are both a little broke. Diego and his father agree to bring Gus down to North Carolina to get him away from the sheep and allow him to heal properly. Gus helps Diego with his social anxiety and Diego becomes “his boy.”

I truly love dog books and this one did not disappoint. Gus’ life has been a roller coaster of good events after bad ones. This is a great story about belonging. Recommended for grades 4 and up.

#JustGus #NetGalley


The Worlds We Leave Behind by A.F. Harrold

Best friends Hex and Tommo do everything together. On a break from school, the boys head to the woods where there is a rope swing above the river. They are followed by a young neighbor girl, Sascha. When Hex throws a rock and accidentally causes Sascha to fall and break her arm, Maria, Sascha’s older sister is furious and punches Hex in the face. Hex runs through the woods and comes to a clearing that he had never seen before. In the clearing was a small cottage with and old lady and her enormous dog. The old lady offers Hex a way to rid the world of the one who wronged him – crush the acorn she gave him and no one will remember. Slight catch, someone else was offered the same deal. When Tommo wake up the next day, he feels something is off, whispers of memories that he cannot quite grasp. Will Tommo be able to make things right again?

This story is told in prose and pencil drawings similar in style to Brian Selznick but different as these illustrations accompany the text rather than tell the story. Still beautifully drawn and beautifully, and creepily, written. I would definitely recommend this book for grades 4 and up.



My Not-So-Great French Escape by Cliff Burke

Thank you to Clarion Books and NetGalley for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Twelve-year-old Rylan has been drifting away from his best friend Wilder. Their moms have been best friends forever but the boys’ interests have changed. When an opportunity arises to do a summer internship on a French farm, Wilder invites Rylan to join him. Rylan accepts, hoping new scenery might bring them back to being best friends. Then Rylan’s mother drops a bombshell – Rylan’s dad, who left the family right after his third birthday, is living in Paris and wants to get back in touch with his son. He sends an email to his dad and tries not to get his hopes up. Upon arriving at the farm, Rylan and Wilder are put into two different groups with very different personalities. Wilder hangs with his new French friends, pretty much ignoring Rylan, who, in turn, bonds with his more international group. When a competition starts where the winning team goes to Paris for Bastille Day, Rylan is determined to win so that he might meet up with his father.

I enjoyed the premise of this story and, hopefully, some of the things that bothered me will be fixed in the final copy. For instance, when getting his passport, Rylan is concerned that he will have his terrible photo until he’s 22. U.S. passports are only valid for 5 years if the applicant is under 16. Now the target audience probably wouldn’t even pick up on that, but a simple Google search or visit to the State department website would have given a more factual answer. There was also something quite unbelievable toward the end that I don’t want to give away, and again, I’m not the target audience. I will still recommend this title for grade 4 and up with a 3 star rating.

#MyNotSoGreatFrenchEscape #Netgalley


Book Review: Pilar Ramirez and the Curse of San Zenon

Thank you to Henry Holt & Co. and NetGalley for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

It has been one year since the events of Pilar’s first visit to Zafa and her family and sister Lorena’s professor have won a trip to the Dominican Republic. Pilar hasn’t told her family about Zafa or that her cousin, Natasha, is still alive and still a tween because, of course, her family would never believe her! Upon arriving in the DR, Pilar has a disturbing vision of a rising storm so powerful she passes out. Her family thinks it’s just the Caribbean heat. But other things start happening, from the Uber driver giving off bad vibes to the return of Carmen, the ciguapa from Zafa. A very powerful former bruja is trying to bring back a demon from the first book and Pilar and Carmen must return to Zafa to help prevent this from happening.

This is a good sequel but did drag in some areas. I, unfortunately, found myself getting a little bored in the middle. The action does pick up and the ending is satisfying. Reading the first book is necessary to understand and appreciate the events in this sequel. My rating is 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

#PilarRamirezAndTheCurseOfSanZenon #NetGalley

This title will be available February 28, 2023.


Book Review: The Road to After by Rebekah Lowell

Warning: This book is about a survivor of domestic abuse.

Lacey, along with her mother and younger sister Jenna, had been prisoners in their own home, held there by her father. This was her life until her mother changed the rules when her father wasn’t there. With the help of her grandparents and the police, Lacey, Jenna, and Mom packed quickly and went to a women’s and children’s shelter. The rest of the story, told in verse, is the “after” and learning to adjust to real life. It is very hard on all three survivors, discovering nature outside, learning to make friends, learning not to be scared all the time.

The author draws upon personal experiences in writing this inspiring story. All three females exhibit strength, bravery, and resilience to move past the before and the after becomes normal.  I would recommend for grade 6 and up.