FrighteninglyGoodRead · Middle Grade

Frighteningly Good Reads #4: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

This middle grade book is the kind of thrillingly creepy tale that will bring a shiver to your spine even as the last heat of the summer sun continues to burn your skin.

The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making. Goodreads.

thenightgardenerThe Night Gardener the story of Molly and her brother Kip. Molly and Kip have been sent to the countryside of England to find work during the Irish potato famine. They are alone, their parents mysteriously behind them, and they are headed for work at an English manor. Every step they take closer to the manor comes with warnings from the people along the way: they are headed to their death.

Molly and Kip are quite a pair. Molly is blessed with the knack for storytelling while Kip has a green thumb. But it will take more than stories and planting to save them from the deadly traps set in the woods around the manor. Meanwhile, the Windsor family is hiding a secret so wretched that it appears to be eating them alive.

In the grand scheme of scary, this book is less jump-out-and-shock-you and more like that nightmare we all have where no matter how fast we are running the murderer is gaining on you. The atmosphere of this story is masterful and the fear becomes palatable until I found myself flipping the pages faster and faster to the end.

Beyond the spooky atmosphere, there was much to be admired in both Molly and Kip. Molly has taken the role of protector and mother to her younger brother. She maintains a positive mindset and attitude in the face of tremendous adversity. Kip has a physical disability. This is presented as a fact, not a defining characteristic. He works, he plays, he carries the crutch his father made and named Courage, he is a typical eleven year old boy. His disability is reminiscent of the character of Freddy from Shazam and I liked the portrayal.

Middle grade readers will need to pack their patience for this book. Since the story relies heavily on building a genuinely creepy atmosphere, it doesn’t move quickly. Instead, your sense of fear and dread sneak up on you. Some middle grade readers may need encouragement to persevere all the way to the end but reassure them – it is worth it!

The Night Gardener was an excellent study in how the slow drip of fear can overcome you. Like Small SpacesThe Night Gardener is a perfect creepy middle grade book.


Tell me, please!

Do you enjoy middle grade reads?


 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Middle Grade · Uncategorized

Frighteningly Good Reads #3: The Witches by Roald Dahl

“My darling…you won’t last long in this world if you don’t know how to spot a witch when you see one.”

This is not a fairy-tale. This is about real witches. Real witches don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, cunning, detestable creatures who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies. So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Well, if you don’t know yet you’d better find out quickly-because there’s nothing a witch loathes quite as much as children and she’ll wield all kinds of terrifying powers to get rid of them. Goodreads.

thewitchesI read this book as a child and I have re-read it several times since then. It is my go-to recommendation for middle grade spooky reads. The reasons are simple. A nameless boy and his nameless Gramamama fight evil with two simple skills: communication and observation. Just the ability to look around and see what’s happening and talk to an adult about your concerns. In addition, even though the child’s parents are killed (can’t kids go on adventures with their parents?) the Grandmama actually listens to her grandson. It may seem silly but think about it, how many children’s books have you read where the underlying theme is, “parents just don’t understand”? Around the world there are children who talk to and are listened to by adults in their lives. But, somehow, in fiction our under-age protagonists are usually saddled with parents who don’t believe them in addition to their bigger problem. I love this book for the simple fact that it showcases an adult and a child working together.

Also, neither Grandmama nor the Grandson have any super powers. The Grandson isn’t gifted with super intelligence either. They are just regular people working together to thwart evil.

And the evil? It looks like a regular adult. The world is frequently terrifying to kids today. They know, or are taught, that there is evil everywhere in the world. But, if you know how to spot it you can stay safe.

This book is not perfect. It is a rare book that can claim that title. I will admit, I vastly preferred the ending in the movie to the one in the book (sacrilege, I know!). And, certainly, Dahl has been accused of darker motives.

But, The Witches is still one of my favorite Frighteningly Good Reads and one I highly recommend. The scary and macabre tone has an underpinning of the importance of listening to each other. And, one day, I hope I am the kind of Grandmama that makes a cup of cocoa, sits down and says,

“Tell me everything.”


Tell me, please!

Do you have a favorite Roald Dahl book?


 

Middle Grade

Marvelous Middle Grade Books

This summer has been a bit….hectic. What with the move and all, I find myself short on the type of energy needed to properly read a variety of more “serious” books. I turn, as I frequently do, to middle grade books for solace. Middle grade books can be tricky but when done well they are absolutely marvelous. Here are some middle grade books I have read this summer and just adored.


FortunatelyTheMilkFortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman is a quick read. Honestly, it might even be early childhood and not quite middle grade but it doesn’t matter because the story transcends age. I cannot see anyone failing to enjoy this delightful tale. Children are left in the care of their father while their Mother is away and they run out of milk. When Father is gone far, far longer than is required to fetch the milk he returns with an extremely tall tale of his adventures in getting the milk. The illustrations by Skottie Young are on nearly ever page and add the perfect touch of whimsy. I had to read it twice in one sitting, I couldn’t get enough. This would be an easy book to hand a reluctant reader since it is short, quick, and fun. Similarly, this would be a fun book to read aloud since it is broken down into adventures.


thelittelestbigfootThe Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner grabbed my attention in chapter one and took a firm grip on my heart by the final page. I had read Jennifer Weiner’s other fiction books but I didn’t know if she would be successful as a children’s book writer. In my opinion, she excelled beyond any expectation.

The Littlest Bigfoot blends the stories of three children, none of whom feel like they belong. Alice Mayfair is twelve and has been to a new school every year, often sent away to boarding schools by a family too busy to even see her off. All she wants is a friend. Millie Maximus, a Bigfoot from a hidden clan, is obsessed with the No-Fur world. Millie’s boisterous nature conflicts with her clan’s emphasis on staying hidden. Jeremy is the third boy in his family. Being third is hard enough and Jeremy is trying to follow in the footsteps of one genius older brother and one sport talented brother. His parents hardly notice him. When he sees a Bigfoot he becomes obsessed. Maybe if he can find a real Bigfoot he will finally fit into his family of over-achievers?

We have all read stories of kids who don’t fit in. But there is something about the way Jennifer Weiner unravels this particular experience that feels so poignantly fresh. I rooted for all three children, even when each person’s goal conflicted with another. Everyone deserves to feel important and accepted by at least one other person. And this story gave me all the good feels that middle grade books are known for. I cannot wait for the sequel!


nevermoorNevermoor, The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend has been on my bookshelf for ages. This is mostly because when the sequel came out it was roundly declared “disappointing” by so many people. I let that put me off this book and I should not have. Nevermoor is a fun adventure with wonderful characters and it truly surprised me. If the sequel is lesser, so be it. This was a marvelous middle grade book and I shouldn’t have ignored it for so long.

Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide and, as such, she is unlucky. She is also destined to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. Then she meets Jupiter North. Jupiter offers her an opportunity to live, but to do so she must run to Nevermoor. This magical city is full of surprises but none as big as the plans Jupiter has for Morrigan. He intends her to compete to become a member of the Wundrous society. The competition consists of four dangerous and deadly trials, each set to measure a candidate’s appropriateness. If Morrigan cannot pass she will have to return home and face her fate.

All of this magical fun is wonderful but the real story is one of finding yourself. Watching Morrigan understand who she is without the curse and determine who she wants to become was the best part of the story. It was certainly good enough to ignore the bad reviews and get my hands on the second in the series!


thenightgardenerThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is not for the faint of heart. This scary tale is reminiscent of Small Spaces and is just scary enough to keep you reading well into the night.

Two Irish children find themselves in the English countryside alone and in desperate need of work. When they locate a position at a crumbly manor house, it seems like their lives are finally looking up. But a series of odd things alert them to the heavy undercurrent of….something. Then, a mysterious person and an ancient curse make their presence know.

I know that I’m a grown up but scary stories take me right back to those moments in childhood where you were sure, absolutely sure, there was a person outside your window. This book is the perfect dose of scary for a person like me (read: scaredy cat). It is a wonderfully told tale sure to keep you reading long into the summer night.


Tell me, please!

Have you read any Marvelous Middle Grade Books?


 

Fantasy · Middle Grade · SeriousSeriesLove · Uncategorized

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Trilogy: A Series Review

I have been enjoying Rick Riordan’s books since I first read The Lightning Thief almost 15 years ago. Through the years I have followed the adventures of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover and then became equally swept up by the Heroes of Olympus Series. I grew to adore Jason, Piper, and Leo! For months, I highly anticipated the first Kane Chronicles book….but that series just didn’t grab my attention. Truthfully, I wondered if perhaps I had just outgrown my love for mythology based adventures. But then I read Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Of all of Riordan’s books, this series is easily my favorite. Read these blurbs from each book and it will be easy to see why the action-packed Norse mythology appealed to me.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Sword of Summer

Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down—his uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents. . . .

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Hammer of Thor

“Magnus Chase, you nearly started Ragnarok. What are you going to do next?”

It’s been six weeks since Magnus and his friends returned from defeating Fenris Wolf and the fire giants. Magnus has adjusted to life at the Hotel Valhalla—as much as a once-homeless and previously alive kid can. As a son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of Odin’s chosen warriors, but he has a few good peeps among his hallmates on floor nineteen, and he’s been dutifully training for Ragnarok along with everyone else. His days have settled into a new kind of normal.

But Magnus should have known there’s no such thing as normal in the Nine Worlds. His friends Hearthstone and Blitzen have disappeared. A new hallmate is creating chaos. According to a very nervous goat, a certain object belonging to Thor is still missing, and the thunder god’s enemies will stop at nothing to gain control of it.

Time to summon Jack, the Sword of Summer, and take action. Too bad the only action Jack seems to be interested in is dates with other magical weapons. . . .

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Ship of the Dead

Magnus Chase, son of Frey, the god of summer and health, isn’t naturally inclined toward being a brave warrior. Still, with the help of his motley group of friends, he has achieved deeds he never would have thought possible. Now he faces his most dangerous trial yet.

Loki is free from his chains. He’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, complete with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus and his friends to stop him, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfarbefore it’s ready to sail. Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon. But Magnus’s biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. Does he have what it takes to outwit the wily trickster god?

Beyond the fantastic storytelling and action Riordan has put together an all-star cast of diverse characters that everyone dreams of having as friends.

Magnus Chase himself is not the son of a powerful god. Rather he is the son of Frey, god of summer and health. He is the epitome of that healing character we all want on our journeys but no one actually wants to play. By making him the main character and the protagonist in this series, Riordan has put forward a powerful statement about the different kinds of strength we all need to succeed.

Then there is Samirah al Abbas. Not only is Sam a Valkyrie while still in high school, she is also the daughter of Loki and a devout Muslim. Her unwaivering allegiance to her family and her faith reminds me of growing up in an equally devout Irish Catholic family.

Blitzen the Dwarf is a talented tailor who cares almost as much about his appearance as he does his best friend, Hearthstone the Elf. Hearthstone is Deaf and together these two adopt Magnus when he is first homeless in Boston. It is here that I believe the diversity in this series really shined because Hearthstone’s Deafness is not talked about as a disability but just one aspect of him. Everyone uses American Sign Language around Hearthstone and the culture and history of Deaf people has clearly been researched and explored by the author.

In book two we meet Alex Fierro who is also a child of Loki and is gender fluid. Like Hearthstone this aspect of Alex’s person is talked about, accepted for what it is, and just becomes woven into the story.

Halfborn Gunderson, Thomas Jefferson, Jr, and Mallory Keen all live on Magnus’s floor in in Hotel Valhalla. Along with Frey, Loki, Thor and the Sword of Summer (a.k.a. Jack) the books have an enviable cast of characters. I only wished I had peeked at these wonderful drawings of the characters before I had read the books – they are better than I imagined them!

This is a middle grade book just like Riordan’s other series. But this is the first of his that feels like it was cast from an actual sampling of people living in the world. I would love for parents and teachers to read this book with their students or children and have an open discussion about the wonderful differences that exist between people and how, in the end, we are much more the same because of our shared experiences. I highly recommend this series!


Tell me, please!

Have you read this series? If not, which book do you love for its diverse characters?


Middle Grade

Solving for M by Jennifer Swender

You know when you are searching for an apartment and you see certain words and instantly understand that they have a different meaning? Like, “garden apartment” means basement. Or, “charming” means old with low water pressure. Books are the same. We know “poignant,” “tender,” and “heartbreaking” all mean sad. But do kids know that? Do they know what these buzzwords actually mean? Take a look at how Solving for M by Jennifer Swender is being sold:

Perfect for fans of Raymie Nightingale and The Fourteenth Goldfish, this heartfelt middle-grade novel seamlessly melds STEAM content with first loss in an honest and striking debut.

When Mika starts fifth grade at the middle school, her neat life gets messy. Separated from old friends and starting new classes, Mika is far from her comfort zone. And math class is the most confusing of all, especially when her teacher Mr. Vann assigns math journals. Art in math? Who’s ever heard of such a thing?

But when challenges arise at home, Mika realizes there are no easy answers. Maybe, with some help from friends, family, and one unique teacher, a math journal can help her work out problems, and not just the math ones.

Debut author Jennifer Swender delivers poignant prose and illustrator Jennifer Naalchigar brings Mika’s journal to life in this perfect equation of honesty plus hope that adds up to a heartwarming coming-of-age story.

Would you know that this book puts Mika in a position to sit along the sidelines as her single Mom deals with a sudden and wholly unexpected diagnosis of melanoma? Would “challenges arise at home” instantly let an adult or child understand that Mika’s whole world is changed overnight with her mother’s illness? Does “messy” convey the idea that Mika’s hyper-supportive, organized, and involved is Mom suddenly spending days in bed and no one is explaining anything to Mika? I certainly didn’t.

I wish the publishers would make this more obvious. Because this is a really hard story to read but wonderfully written. There was so much to love about this book that had nothing to do with her Mother’s cancer that could easily be missed.

Some middle grade readers will love this book for highlighting the strangeness of making new friends when life-long ones are right there. This will resonate with so many 11-14 year olds who question why different schools and adolescence means that sometimes friends simply drift apart. No one is mad, they are just different. This book is also wonderful for showing the deep and abiding importance of giving people a second look.

solvingforMBut, without a little warning, this book becomes shockingly hard to read. This is especially true for kids whose parents are dealing with illnesses of their own. In a world full of trigger warnings, why can’t we give kids fair warning that there are some serious themes present? Or, do we simple expect that if they watch Disney / Pixar movies then they probably know someone will get sick or die anyway because it is everywhere in children’s media?

What this book did so masterfully, and what the world needs so much more of, is show the immeasurable importance of teachers in a child’s life. Mika has never been good at Math. She has the heart and soul of an artist. Her Math teacher has the students keep journals and uses their personal interests to connect them to new Math content. Mika uses art, her friend uses baking, and another friend attacks the subject from a science angle. While teaching them to love a difficult (and often hated) subject he also provides his students with a safe place to be every single day. And, in the chaos of middle school and the upheaval of her Mother’s diagnosis, Mika finds acceptance and peace in math class. In math class.

I liked this book. Tremendously. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it. But I do want parents and kids to know that the “challenge” this book is referring to is cancer. Some kids will be absolutely fine with everything this book has to offer. But, I would not recommend this book for the students and children in your life for whom anxiety is an issue or for those who have dealt with sickness and loss.


Tell me, please!

How do you feel about more frank thematic disclosure for children and             middle grade books?


all ages · Fantasy · Middle Grade

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

assasinationOnly a middle grade book can successfully disguise itself as a spy thriller wrapped in fantasy and still educate its reader about the value of perspective and the importance of cultural awareness. The hilarious (or tragic!) story of The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pays homage to the famous travel writers of history while poking fun at the experiences of trying to bring your own ideals to a new land.

At first glance the book appears to mimic Brian Selznick’s work with the story alternating between written and illustrated sections. But, unlike the art in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the illustrations in Spurge tell a completely different story then the narration. And this insanely clever trick beautifully demonstrates how a different perspective and upbringing can result in two entirely different experiences even when two people are in the same place at the same time.

In Spurge the elfin historian Brangwain Spurge has been sent on a mission to spy on the goblin city. Unfortunately, Goblin archivist Warfel thinks he is hosting an emissary and plans for the two to become great friends! As Warfel proudly shows Spurge around his beloved neighborhood and city and introduces him to important people he becomes more and more discouraged by Spurge’s attitude. And then he discovers Spurge’s underlying plan! What will Warfel do with the spy?

Warfel is the foreign host we all hope to have when we travel into unknown lands. He is kind and proud and willing to put his good name, reputation and even his life on the line to keep his guest comfortable. Sadly, even without the spying Spurge is the annoying and judgmental guest who comes into a land already prepared to hate everything he sees. Still, watching the characters grow and change was an absolute delight.

This book was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award and it shows. In addition, I can only imagine how useful this story would be to parents and teachers for explaining how perspective, culture, and history (especially of conquered peoples) vastly alters our present experiences. And, more importantly, how without frank dialogue and an open mind, neither side will be able to see from the other’s point of view.

If you aren’t already convinced by my glowing review, please check out the funny book trailer by the authors here.


Tell me, please!

Do you find that YA and Middle Grade books are often more poignant in delivering messages than adult books?


historical fiction · Middle Grade

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

I’ll admit, I didn’t know how Pakistan became a country until I saw the latest season of Dr. Who. When Yasmin went into the past to learn a family secret I was, truthfully, a little stunned that I had lived this long unaware of the partitioning of India. How strange it is then that I had The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani waiting for me on my own bookshelf.

nightdiaryThe Night Diary is the journal of twelve year old Nisha. She writes nightly to her Mama who died giving birth to Nisha and her twin brother, Amil. Her entries begin in July, 1947 and describe a childhood in India where Nisha’s daily life consists of going to school with the other girls, helping their cook, Kazi, make dinner, and playing with her brother. She lives a happy life with her physician Father and her Dadi. Nisha has as much trouble speaking her thoughts as her brother does reading his schoolwork. But her eloquent writing showcases a highly observant child who makes the perfect narrator for the dramatic changes to India during this time.

On midnight between the 14th and 15th of August 1947 India was partitioned into two countries, India for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslins. If you were living in certain sections of India and Hindu on August 14th you awoke on the 15th in Pakistan and a refugee. One of these refugee is writer Veera Hiranandani’s father who, along with his family, was forced to leave their home after partition.

“My childhood would always have a line drawn through it, the before and the after.”

In creating the character of Nisha and allowing us to see the upheaval of the world through her eyes, Ms. Hiranandani makes it clear that this history may be a half a world away but this experience is still relevant today at home. I thought it especially brilliant of the author to make Nisha’s father a physician with a critical job. Furthermore, her Father is Hindu and her Mother was Muslim. When you you have ties to everywhere how can you not belong? Why is just one part of you suddenly the only thing that matters? As her country redefines its identity, Nisha is struggling to figure out her own.

If you are trying to explain the refugee crisis and immigration issues of today to children, this book will help illuminate this historically complicated but still relevant problems. When a few people make decisions that affect so many others there will always be those who need our protection or our voices. Or, perhaps you just want to read a poignant, beautiful and eventually uplifting story. Either way I highly recommend The Night Diary.


Tell me, please!

Did you know the history of Pakistan?


Middle Grade

The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown

I want a robot. I’m absolutely willing to take the risk that my AI robot might one day imprison me for my safety so that I can have a robot friend. I have one of those vacuum robots and I named him, I talk to him, and he is my tiny friend. Middle Grade books like The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes only encourage me to believe that one day I will be able to have a smart and kind robotic friend.

thewildrobotThe Wild Robot introduces readers to robot Roz. After being shipwrecked on an island Roz awakens for the first time alone and surrounded by wilderness. As a robot she knows that she must have a purpose but what is it? She battles storms and dangerous animal attacks on the island before she understands that she must adapt to her environment in order to survive. As she begins to learn the language of the animals, make friends and form connections, the island starts to feel like home. But then, Roz’s past comes back to haunt her.

The Wild Robot is lauded as a wonderful for examining where technology and nature overlap. However, the more profound aspect of this book for me, and the children I have read it to, it Roz’s struggle to fit in. Children have told me that Roz is like being a new kid in class, an immigrant in a new country, or someone learning a new language. All of these important issues came to these middle grade readers while watching Roz try to adapt to her wild environment. And, for me, I strongly identified with the cultural and social struggle that accompanies learning a new language.

wildrobotescapesThe Wild Robot Escapes begins with Roz on a farm. As she meets the owner of the farm and his two young children she tries to hatch a plan to return to her wild island and her animal family and friends. But how will a wild robot adapt to working in a civilized situation?

As a sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes is almost as enjoyable as the first book because Brown created, in Roz, a character that the reader cares about deeply. It is slower to start but when the action does begin it is incredibly fast paced – especially for a middle grade book. Roz continues to struggle through situations where she begins as an outsider and has to work to be considered part of her community. The real question starts to become, will Roz be able to leave this new home to return to her wild island?

In both The Wild Robot, but even more so in The Wild Robot Escapes, we see Roz using two things in order to make friends and belong: kindness and honesty.  In so many middle grade books the parents are removed from the story so that the child can be the in charge of the action. But Brown’s use of an innocent robot has made for a unique protagonist that is simultaneously wise and immature.  But Roz is smart enough to be honest and mature enough to be kind and those two things work for her over time.

Middle grade books are a perfect reminder of the difficulties children face. And these two books arm us with a story that explains how it feels to not fit in, how a person can cope with those feelings, what is our higher purpose, and how using kindness and truthfulness will help us become who we want to be in the end.


Tell me, please!

Do you read middle grade books? Why?

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Middle Grade · YA

The Last of the Frighteningly Good Reads

Happy Halloween!

My favorite of all holidays is today! Dressing up (Edna Mode, thank you very much) and festive candy eating is the only thing that will distract me from the end of Frighteningly Good Reads 2018. I have had a wonderful month reading spooky, scary and suspenseful stories and I hope you all have found one or two that have tickled your terror needs.

I do have two more I finished just yesterday that I would like to highlight. The first is a middle grade book Small Spaces and the second is The Bone Witch. Both were excellent reads and were a perfect way to wrap up FGR!

smallspacesSmall Spaces is a middle grade story by Katherine Arden. In it, a girl names Olivia (Ollie) meets a distraught woman tearfully attempting to toss a book into the water. Like any good and dedicated reader she bravely saves the book. When her class goes on a field trip to a local farm she is surprised to see the woman from the edge of the water there – and she is the farm’s owner! Soon terrifying things begin to happen. Is it the book? Or the woman?

Small Spaces may be for middle grade readers but I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Ollie was a complicated character and watching her befriend two classmates, Coco and Brian, while running for her life was great scary fun. The author kept the tension going long enough for it to be delightfully spooky and never boring or repetitive, a difficult feat! I loved it.

The Bone Witch by Rain Chupeco is the first in a YA trilogy. In this story, Tea (pronounced Tee-ah) accidentally raises her brother from the dead. After doing so she is labelled a bone witch and is carried off to meet the King and be placed in school that will train her to become an Asha – more specifically – a Dark Asha. Since Tea and only one other Dark Asha exist, it is their sole responsibility to raise and order back to the dead eternal creatures of the enemy.

This book, as is true with many YA series, is set in a complicated world. The first third of the book is full of wonderful other-world explanations and adventures and while the middle third of the book lags, it more than makes up for it in the ending. Now, as is also true of most YA series, I feel the strong need to read the next two books. I foresee a complicated romance for young Tea as well as an adventure fraught with peril!

And so completes Frightening Good Reads 2018! Next Month is Non-Fiction November and I am thrilled to be participating. You can look forward to seeing a number of new non-fiction books here.


Tell me, please!

What do you prefer, spooky or non-fiction?

Fantasy · fiction · FrighteninglyGoodRead · Middle Grade

FGR #6: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This book came into my hands highly recommended and I only wish I could, in turn, place it directly into your hands. The characters alone have me cuddling the book tightly in my arms as I type. But the story…this story. Sigh. Well, there is a reason this book won both the Newberry Medal and the Carnegie Medal.

graveyard
A blue cover with gold writing featuring an antique headstone and a golden Newberry sticker.

The Graveyard Book gives us the story of Nobody Owens and, much The Jungle Book, Nobody Owens is as unique as Mogli because his home is unique. He is being raised by ghosts, taunted by ghouls, and protected by magical beings. Bod, to his friends and family, has the blessings of the graveyard and many of the unusual gifts of his long dead family and friends. In short, Bod is the very coolest of characters.

It is why he is in the graveyard that matters. He doesn’t belong there but he is only safe while he remains inside. But safe from what? Or who? And for how long?

Neil Gaiman is a prolific and talented writer. I have enjoyed several of his other books. But I doubt that any other story of his will remain with me the way The Graveyard Book is sure to from this day onward. I loved it like so many others before me. It is, without a doubt, a perfect Frighteningly Good Read.


Tell me, please!

Have you read this book or others by Neil Gaiman? Which is your favorite?