Posted in Book review

Mini Review Round Up: Middle Grade Books

Here is another round up! This time around I’m featuring some middle grade novels I’ve read recently. Here are the books reviewed below:

  • Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades by Mike Cavallaro

  • Waiting on Normal by Leslie Connor
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Nico Bravo and the Hound of HadesNico Bravo and the Hound of Hades

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Got a problem? At Vulcan’s Celestial Supply Shop, you can find the magical merchandise to set things right. The seasoned staff―a kid named Nico Bravo, a sphinx named Lula, and a unicorn named Buck―pride themselves on providing “legendary service and expertise in all areas of the arcane.”

But Nico’s world is about to be turned upside down, and it’s all thanks his latest customer: Eowulf, the pint-size descendant of the monster slayer Beowulf. Determined to carry on the family business, this would-be warrior plans to slay Cerberus, the terrifying, three-headed hound of Hades. There’s just one problem―Cerberus is the only thing preventing the hordes of the Underworld from entering the land of the living. Can Nico stop Eowulf from unleashing a zombie apocalypse?

Nico Bravo is a fun story about a young staff member of a supply shop trying to stop a monster hunter, a descendent of Beowulf, from killing Cerberus. While I’m torn between liking and not liking the artwork, I’m totally a fan of the story. And honestly, this is just me being super picky about artwork when I have no right to be.

Nico is a great character, I loved the inclusion of a Unicorn war veteran who fought in a war no one else believes in, and all the mythical references were great fun. I liked Eowulf and thought it was cool our monster hunter was a girl ready for adventure.

I love how the mythical people and creatures are portrayed. There are a lot of myths brought up. While the main focus here is Greek because of Cerberus & Hades, there is mention of many others and not all Western. I hope if this truly is a series that we’ll see inclusion of even more non-Western mythical people and creatures.

This book is goofy fun even if I wasn’t always on board with the dimensional traveling and such.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Waiting for NormalWaiting on Normal

Synopsis from Goodreads
Addie is waiting for normal. But Addie’s mother has an all-or-nothing approach to life: a food fiesta or an empty pantry, her way or no way.

Addie’s mother is bipolar, and she often neglects Addie. All-or-nothing never adds up to normal, and it can’t bring Addie home, where she wants to be with her half-sisters and her stepfather. But Addie never stops hoping that one day, maybe, she’ll find normal.

I picked this one up because it was recommended to me. I went into it unsure what I was getting into and not fully believing I’d like it. The first few pages didn’t help my mindset, but the more I read the fast my ‘what the heck am I reading?’ mindset turned to an emotional ‘Wow, this poor girl.’

This book is amazing and I was rooting for Addie to finally get her normal. She is in a neglectful situation, put into difficult situations, and deals with them the best way a tween might know how. Honestly, so much about this book felt so realistic, it made me more emotional– yes the tears flowed a few times.

There are some predictable factors here, and perhaps the degree of the hope is a little high for real-life, but I prefer my books to end with a happy ending. This book touched my heart and is one I’ll recommend to anyone looking for a more realistic fiction with an upbeat hero.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dragon PearlDragon Pearl

Synopsis from GoodreadsTHIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD MIN comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.

Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.

This is a great middle grade full of adventure. Honestly, the setting, the characters, and story felt unique and new. I loved how well the sci-fi aspects worked with the fantasy ones. There were many more supernatural beings than I anticipated there being.

I did, on occasion, find my mind wandering, or not connecting with Min, BUT I am so not the target audience. The amount of action here and the choices taken will probably be a hit for most tweens and younger readers. Also, this isn’t to say I didn’t like the book or find it all predictable. There were times I was completely thrown by events — some I really wasn’t expecting to read in a middle grade book. A great read and one I’ll be recommending to young readers looking for a more sci-fi read with action.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Be PreparedBe Prepared

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
All Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

I heard about this book at an event and after hearing some of my youths say they liked it, I knew I had to give it a try.

It is such an adorable book and yet so very real. It is part memoir, part fiction to fill in the author’s memory gaps, but 100% fantastic. I see people say it is funny and while there may be light-hearted moments, I wouldn’t mark it as a comedy. It’s a book about wanting to fit in, but learning to make real friends while figuring out who you are. Yeah, that’s a lot, I know, but that’s what I take away from it. So, there are moments when the protagonist doesn’t make the right moves, where she is part of the problem, but she’s 10 and she’s learning– constantly getting better.

It also ends well, which put a smile on my face. I’m so glad I read this one. I’m also glad I never went to summer camp, or any kind of camp where I didn’t know anyone.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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