MG Book Review: Middle School Just My Rotten Luck by James Patterson

Middle School Just My Rotten Luck by James Patterson

I was reluctant to read MIDDLE SCHOOL: JUST MY ROTTEN LUCK for no good reason (okay, maybe just jealous that Patterson is writing MG). When my son read it and laughed non-stop, I had to see what the fuss was about.

Unfortunately, I loved it.

The MC, Rafe, heads back to Hill Village Middle School and is forced to take “special” classes. In an attempt to forgo any ridicule and bullying, Rafe decides to join the flag football team. Of course is just the start of his hilarious misadventures.

Reading this book brought me back to those tough years in middle school, where everybody is trying to figure out where they belong and being different isn’t always treated with kindness. I felt for Rafe and his desire to make seventh grade better than sixth, but laughter won out as he stumbled along.

I highly recommend this book, and the series.  It is funny, entertaining, and a fast read. It’s perfect for those in middle school now and for us who survived it.


YA Book Review – Gregor the Overlander & the Marks of Secret


The Marks of Secret is the fourth installment of Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series and takes us for another adventure in the Underland. The series is centered around an 11 year old boy from New York City who does his best Alice impression by falling down the rabbit hole and finding himself in a subterranean world. In the Underland, humans exist along side giant, talking creatures (rats, bats, cockroaches, mice, and more) and there is an constant struggle for power. Gregor discovers he is the center of a set of prophecies about an Overlander warrior who is key in the future of the Underland. In the first three books, there was a resolution to the conflict and Gregor returned home, but in Marks of Secret, Collins takes the reader along for a ride that resembles a Peter Jackson movie. Continue reading

MG Book Review – Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin by @LieslShurtliff


Spoiler Alert… Rumplestiltskin wasn’t a bad guy.  Or so is told in Rump by Liesl Shurtliff. Shurtliff where the truth is revealed about a fairy tale “villain” that really is a likable protagonist in search for his full name and the destiny that comes with it.

In a world where people believe that a person’s name is directly attached to their destiny, Rump wonders what his life is meant to be since he is named after a person’s backside. The path to famous fairy tale all starts when he discovers his mother’s old spinning wheel.  While he is warned against using it, the magic inside of him draws him to the wheel and straw becomes gold.  The need for more food leads Rump to spinning more and more gold, but what he soon learns is that he has no power over what he gets in return. This all leads to him to the fateful night where he the queen is in danger of losing her baby if she can’t guess his name. Continue reading

YA Review – The Fellowship for Alien Detection by @kcemerson

Fellowship Alien Detection

With last weekend’s writing conference behind me, I am almost finished reviewing the books I read over the past few months.  So, let’s go…

The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson was on my Goodreads list in the spring and was excited to digging in.  The title alone is so unique and begged me to find out what the “Fellowship” was all about. When I saw it in my local library, I snagged it quickly. Continue reading

YA/MG Review – Gregor the Overlander & the Curse of the Warmbloods

gregor 34 star

This is the third book in the YA series, read first two over a year ago, and continues the tale of am 11 year old boy, Gregor, who falls down under New York City and discovers a world full of conflict.  He and young sister, Boots, come across a race of pale humans and large talking creatures (bats, cockroaches, rats, among others).  Gregor learns he is part of a prophecy and heads out on a quest, that leads to him finding his lost father.

The first two books kept me wanting more until it was done – four hours for each, which is fast for me since I have ADHD!  The pace was quick, the character development was rich and the climax was built to a perfect crescendo.

With that being said, the third installment in Suzanne Collins Gregor the Overlander series, The Curse of the Warmbloods, does an adequate job carrying on the story of this unlikely hero.  The basis of the plot is that there is a plague in the Underland and Gregor is once again brought in as part of a prophecy, this time with his mother (who doesn’t like Gregor going to this world).  The mother becomes ill and the race to find the cure is on.

Gregor and the gang have a goal to find the cure and cool a rising conflict between the Rats and Humans.  The characters are mostly part of the same group, but there a few additions to the cast.  The pace is good, but not up to the first two.  There is a good amount of peril and a couple characters are developed in more detail, giving the reader new insight into this world.

I found myself not caring as much about the group of characters and was a little underwhelmed at the end battle.  The answers to the cure and the genesis of the disease was a nice touch, but a bit predictable for me as an adult reader.

While I have pointed out a few weaknesses in the story compared to the first two, Ms. Collins does a great job creating a fantasy world that becomes more real as the reader progresses through the books.  It is a strong story as a whole and deserves to be read.

It has an 11 year old character, but this story is classified as YA.  I found it in the MG section of my local library.  So, parents should be aware that the level of action, violence and death is more than other books with similarly aged characters.

Just started #4.

MG Review: Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by @ChristophrHealy

n4141665 stars

In attempts to catch up with summer reading reviews, I am pleased to share The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy. This is book #1 in the League of Princes series and a creative look at some familiar stories.

In the story, Healy introduces us to several Prince Charming characters and their princesses from four popular fairy tales/Disney movies – Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.  Even though it shares the basic premise of the storybook love stories, this slant portrays a very different, and hilarious, depiction of what really happened.  Each character is presented with backstory, quirks, flaws and desires.  As a parent reading with my 9 year old, I found myself laughing out loud along with my son.  Healy is gifted at bringing the reader into this world and to pull for the “heroes”. Another bonus is princesses are more than just a pretty face, they are very strong female characters girls can look up to.

In the book, the four Princes Charming are trying to save royal bards from a wicked witch.  These song writers have written each of their stories with one major thing left out – their actual name.  While the princesses are the focus of the tunes, the princes are cast as the generic prince and they despise it –  but it brings them together.

Their quest to storm the castle and save the bards keeps getting tripped up by their character flaws, but in the end they accomplish their goal of defeating the witch.  In what seems like a redemption of their names becomes just another blow to their egos – leading to the second book, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle.

I absolutely LOVED this book.  Filled with humor and action, the mid-grade reader will enjoy the story (even though some of the words are advanced, leading to me defining for my guy so he could understand what was being said).  As an adult, it was pure fun.  I might even call it – dare I use the word – delightful.  (There I said it, not a manly word, but fits perfectly) 🙂

Go out and pick up the two books (teaser: half way through book 2 and it does not disappoint) and look for book 3 in spring 2014.


MG Review – The One and Only Ivan by @kaaauthor


5 stars
Now that the summer has come to a close and the kids are back at school, I begin my summer reading wrap up. First on the list is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, which I was lucky enough to find at my local library.

This book has won numerous awards and after reading it I can say that it more than lived up to the hype. I remember reading “award winning” books as a kid and for me that usually meant one thing – BORING. What adults deem as a great book many times differs from the attended audience’s opinion. I can attest that Ivan kept me and my reluctant reader engaged and craving more when it was time to turn the lights out for the night.

For those who are not familiar with the story, The One and Only Ivan is about a silverback gorilla, Ivan, who lives in a mall with a few other animals. His life is confined to his glass enclosure where kids can gawk at him and do their best gorilla impressions. Ivan is not impressed with humans much, except for the daughter of the mall’s janitor, Julia. The connection she forms with Ivan is beautiful and endearing as they both are able to express themselves through art.

While Ivan is not able to communicate with Julia, he is able to talk with the other animals at the mall. The character development of the animals draws the reader in their world, far different than a Disney movie. I felt as if I could truly see the world through their eyes and feel what was in their heart. The animal characters posses a level of “humanity” that aided in the portrayal of the emotional complexity that we cannot always see in animals. The gentle and expressive Ivan feels loneliness, pride, love and sadness and the reader is bought along for the ride.

Each time I read the story, I can admit that I had a lump in my throat, and occasionally cried. I know it is not “manly” to admit crying over a gorilla’s feelings, but it is a true testament to Applegate’s ability to convey the depth of his soul. The reader is rewarded with a perfectly satisfying ending where Ivan and his fellow animals find happiness.

This has become one of my top recommendations to parents and writers as a story to engage the mind and touch the heart. The next time you are in the bookstore, buy this book for yourself (and share it with your child).