I was sent this fantastic infographic from Penguin and couldn’t help but post it! Every parent is looking for the perfect gift for their child this time of year. Using this chart, you can find a book for even the most reluctant reader! Check it out below!
Category: Middle Grade
Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.
There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.
But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn’t exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.
The way I went about getting this book was quite appropriate. Very piractical and Hilary would entirely approve. I commandeered it one evening from Jeremy. I regret nothing.
Anyway, this book is entirely adorable. Hilary Westfield wants to be a pirate in a world where ladies are simply not pirates. Why, the idea is quite unthinkable, thank you very much. But where there’s a will there’s a way and Hilary finds herself and her gargoyle off on the high seas in search of treasure as she tries to shirk all the people who want to make her into a proper young lady, including her governess, father and owner of the Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate ladies, Miss Pimm. Meanwhile, following the lead of The Terror of the Southlands, otherwise known as Jasper Fletcher, pirate.
I honestly can’t remember if or when I’ve ever read a pirate book (surprising because I love the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and ride with an intense passion) but I have to say that I’m glad this was my first. Adorable, funny and super sweet, there’s not one moment of this book I didn’t like. I like Hilary and her pursuit of her dream, even if it meant disappointing her parents and breaking all the rules. Her best friend Claire for being insanely awesome for a girl who wants to be proper and a good friend. Jasper’s second-in-command, Charlie, who is loyal and sweet and if/ when there’s another book in the series, I’d like more Charlie, Caroline Carlson, okay? And gargoyle. Can’t forget him! I mean, what insane person Miss Greyson who might just be the most swashbuckling governess ever and of course the dashing and witty Jasper Fletcher.
If you never read a pirate book (or read hundreds!) I’d recommend this light, fun book about a girl just trying to be herself in a too-proper world.
Similar recommendations: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand and the Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter .
Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories—they’re dangerous! Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl is a riveting, magical adventure.
This is the start of what I’m now calling The Great Middle Grade Catch Up of 2013. I looked back at all the Middle Grade books I’ve read and I was ashamed and appalled at the number. Most weren’t even current; they were things I read as middle schooler. So I picked up Artemis Fowl on several different recommendations. Several friend-bloggers said they liked it, then a co-worker (bookseller) hand-sold me the book. I’m so good at hand-selling, you’d think I’d be impervious to it, but no.
I have to honestly say that I was incredibly surprised by this book. It surpassed expectations I never even knew I had. Now, I know there are some bloggers out there who (sadly) will not even entertain the idea of Middle Grade. Like they are too old for it. Newsflash: most bloggers are too old for YA, but whatever. However, it’s true that Middle Grade can sometimes have a childish feel to it. THIS BOOK IS NOT THAT. I dare you — I DARE YOU — to go to a bookstore, pick this book up and read the first 10 pages and NOT think, ‘holy crap, this is a book for kids?!’ because there is absolutely nothing about this book that ‘talks down’ to its readers. Kids don’t like books that talk down to them (or anyone for that matter) and suddenly this series’ strong popularity of over 12 years isn’t surprising at all.
One of the buying factors was the premise of being introduced to the one, the only Artemis Fowl, who was described as a “snarky little asshole” by my co-worker. And if my past literary loves attest to anything, it’s that I have a weakness for snarky little assholes in Middle Grade fiction. *coughPercyJacksoncough* I was not disappointed by Artemis though I definitely found him to be more of a maniacal genius worthy of the likes of Benedict Cumberpatch’s Sherlock Holmes than the sillier idiocy of Percy. Still, it’s him alone that is going to make me continue with the series. I’m very interested to see where this kid goes.
I was also surprised by how much this book is very, very much a ‘boy book’. There is quite a lot of military operations and lingo thrown around, so much so that at times I felt like I was dropped in the middle of an adult war film, rather reading something meant for 12 year olds. And there’s a girl — a fairy, no less — but she’s not all pretty and glittery, Holly can kick some serious ass and not think twice about it, so don’t think you’ll be seeing an even side of gender balance here. That being said, just because of its male inclinations, I was thoroughly intrigued the entire time of reading and not put off by its overt ‘boyness’.
I am very, very intrigued and excited to see where this series goes.
11-year old Oz Chambers lives in a haunted house (Penwurt). His mother wants to move, but Oz would rather do double algebra (yuck) every day for twelve months than leave. Where others see spooky, Oz sees wonder and mystery and aching reminders of his deceased dad. When he and his friends hear ghostly footsteps in the boarded-up dorm at Halloween, it leads to an exploration of the old place’s eerie reputation. In his Dad’s locked study, Oz finds a parcel addressed to him and posted the day before his father died. Inside is the obsidian pebble, the link to all of Penwurt’s astonishing secrets. Suddenly Oz begins to change; he goes from maths dunce to A student overnight and has to deal with suspicious teachers and jealous pupils. But the footsteps in the locked rooms don’t go away and slowly, Oz begins to knit together the strands of lies and mystery that tie the obsidian pebble, his father and him together. What Oz hasn’t bargained for is that he’s not alone in that search for understanding and that solving Penwurt’s puzzles lead to other, much darker secrets that will test his loyalty and his bravery to the limit.
While reading this, I had flashbacks of Harry Potter. If Harry Potter weren’t a wizard, Hogwarts were a slightly creepy house and it were set in Wales not London. Meet Oz, Ellie and Ruff, the trio and each of them have their own thing they bring to the group in order to make them a strong little team. Not too much unlike *drum roll* Harry Potter. And in replacement of magic and beasts, there are cyphers, ghosts, mysterious artifacts and above all Welsh jargon! Less on the Harry Potter spectrum, there’s also a nice element of history which also weaves into the use hieroglyphics, cyphers and artifacts from Egypt. Creeptastic!
I’m happy to be the seventh stop of the blog tour for the Obsidian Pebble by Rhys A Jones. You can check out my review here. Now I could give you a synopsis, but if you just read my review or will, that’s enough words. How about I give you a fancy pants book trailer?
Sounds awesome, no? Where can you buy it?
Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Amazon |
Award winning author (OMG) Rhys A Jones writes fantastic, funny, scary (is this a bit too presumptuous? By fantastic I mean fantasy, not brilliant–though I hope they are–brilliant that is), mysteries for ages 10 and up. His job is to take you where anything is possible. When he isn’t writing he walks the dogs and occasionally practices medicine. He lives in an evergreen valley in West Wales with his very understanding wife.
There’s nothing quite like a spooky read that gets you in the mood for Halloween. I mean ABC Family does their best by showing scary — yet family-friendly — movies each night leading up to the night of tricks and treats, but watching a movie is not the same as reading a book. Reading takes place entirely in your own mind. Your brain becomes the fear landscape. Everything feels a little too real. Sometimes causing you to slam the book shut and hide under the covers. Trust me, it’s happened to me before. And I don’t scare easily.
I’ve come up with a list of middle grade and young adult books that I can promise will send shivers down your spine and possibly make you sleep with a night light for a while. If you have any books that you think are great — and spooky — Halloween reads, let me know in the comments!
Click through the covers below to read a little bit more about each!
What books are on your Halloween reading list?
Fans of both Percy Jackson and Indiana Jones will be captivated by the lost civilizations, ancient secrets, and buried treasure found in the third book of the Ashtown Burials series, an action-packed adventure by N. D. Wilson, the author of Leepike Ridge and the 100 Cupboards trilogy.
Cyrus and Antigone Smith have thwarted Dr. Phoenix’s plans—for the moment. And they’ve uncovered a new threat from the transmortals and managed to escape with their lives. Their next adventure will take them deep into the caves below Ashtown, where they will look for help from those imprisoned in one of Ashtown’s oldest tombs.
Series books get so hard to write because I try to spoil as little as possible, yet there’s just so much going on! But I will say this, wowza is the game stepped UP. In the vein of Percy Jackson leveling up from Middle Grade to Young Adult, this series is pulling no punches for its supposed 8-12 year old audience.
The biggest thing about this book in particular is it does not tread lightly into the weighed themes of morality, justice and forgiveness. To the point where I’m wondering when I stopped reading a action/ adventure Middle Grade book and started reading modernized Plato (not Plato per se, just a philosopher example). Some of the beautifully written sentences I could so easily see coming out of an actor’s mouth in one of those surprisingly deep half-war films. I’ll go less serious and say the last few Harry Potter movies for that. No, really.
This isn’t to say that the characters take a backseat. Cyrus and Antigone are as bad ass as ever and more. I can honestly think I’d go so far as to say that they are just the best brother-sister duo I’ve ever read. Those kind of siblings that beat up on each other but if anyone else touches beats up the other, oh, may the gods have mercy on your soul because you ain’t surviving it. They are really the front runners in this book like in the first book, only more trained up, daring and with wicked skills.
I have to say that I was a bit spoiled when it came to these books so far. I signed up to receive all three books so I never finished one without having the next one in hand. Until this one, of course. And now I’m sitting here all mad thinking, “really?! Me? Wait a year?! But why do I have to?!” Clearly, no matter how many times this happens to me it never really sinks in. I cannot wait for the next book to see just how more bad ass Cyrus and Antigone can get. Besides there has been so much rising, there is one serious war coming and I can’t wait to see Cyrus lead it.
It’s been almost a year since Cyrus and Antigone Smith earned their places as Journeymen at Ashtown, home of an ancient order of explorers that has long guarded the world’s secrets and treasures. While their studies go well, Cy and Tigs are not well liked since losing the Dragon’s Tooth to the nefarious Dr. Phoenix. The Tooth is the only object in the world capable of killing the long-lived transmortals, and Phoenix has been tracking them down one-by-one, and murdering them.
The surviving transmortals, led by legendary warrior Gilgamesh of Uruk, descend on Ashtown in force, demanding justice. Cy and Tigs find themselves on the run in a desperate search to locate Phoenix and regain the Tooth. In the process, they uncover an evil even more dangerous than Phoenix, one that has been waiting for centuries to emerge.
And we’re back for the second installment of the Ashtown Burials series and with a whole lot of awesome new characters and adventure thrown into the mix. In summation, there’s a trouble brewin’ in Ashtown and it’s the new baddie’s fault Dr. Phoenix who is the Mad Scientist kind of villain and not someone you want to mess with.
Phoenix is infiltrating Ashtown and forcing our awesome team to flee. But they aren’t doing it alone. They’ve gained some new powerful friends. Like Arachne. Under any other circumstances, I wouldn’t like any character named Arachne. I join the ranks of Ron Weasley and Annabeth Chase in my whole really not liking spiders deal. But give me a kinda creepy and sweet girl with a bag full of spiders under her command and damn it all, I’m intrigued. And she can do some of the most badass things.
What I really loved about this book was the whole sibling bond between Cyrus and Antigone. This was of course present in The Dragon’s Tooth, but it was really expanded on in The Drowned Vault and I just loved seeing it. Not a lot of Middle Grade novels focus on a sibling bond in fantasy/ action-adventure stories, but I’m really glad to see Cyrus and Antigone as a solid team. Makes my only-child self wistful.
I really want to give you more about what happens, but there’s so much and it happens so quickly once it starts that there isn’t much I can say without ruining some of it. But I will say this, if you liked The Dragon’s Tooth, you’re going to love this sequel. I truly can’t wait for the third book!
For two years, Cyrus and Antigone Smith have run a sagging roadside motel with their older brother, Daniel. Nothing ever seems to happen. Then a strange old man with bone tattoos arrives, demanding a specific room.
Less than 24 hours later, the old man is dead. The motel has burned, and Daniel is missing. And Cyrus and Antigone are kneeling in a crowded hall, swearing an oath to an order of explorers who have long served as caretakers of the world’s secrets, keepers of powerful relics from lost civilizations, and jailers to unkillable criminals who have terrorized the world for millennia.
N. D. Wilson, author of Leepike Ridge and 100 Cupboards, returns with an imagination-capturing adventure that inventively combines the contemporary and the legendary.
This book was pitched to me as something for fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and I have to say when I hear that, I go, ‘uh huh, yeah right, nice try though’. Don’t give me that look, we all do. But, (and get ready to read something incredible) this book is actually really appropriate for fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. And you all KNOW I don’t drop my homeboy’s name Percy into anything very often. Because it’s PERCY. But I’m legit gonna say that if you like Percy Jackson, you’ll like this. Because I did. And I LOVE Percy as we all know.
Let’s start with Cyrus. Cyrus is kind of snarky and stubborn and totally bad ass. Gee, who does that sound like? Only my favorite Middle Grade protagonist ever. But he’s less jokey and more serious like (here we go) Harry Potter.
And then there’s Cyrus’s sister Antigone with the absolutely most adorable nickname ever, Tigs. As antiquated and as tragic as the name means, Tigs makes it so cute! But she is also kickass. Kind of like her namesake. Together, they are even more freaking kick ass. Sure, they are orphaned, their oldest brother is missing and their home has been burned to the ground, but does that intimidate them?! No! They sally forth into magic and worlds unknown regardless.
Nolan. I’ve got to talk about him. I want more Nolan. In fact, can I somehow commission ND Wilson to write a whole book about Nolan? I love this kid. A morbid immortal kid who is just a touch shady, but you know he’s begrudgingly good? Well, that’s it. That’s my favorite kind of character in one sentence.
Now let’s talk about the lesser known fact that this book loosely alludes to Treasure Island. Not all kiddos might get this, but as a youngin’ I obsessively watched Muppet Treasure Island to the point of psychosis and oh, I totally got it on the oh-so-clever William Skeleton (Billy Bones) reference. I am so smart. And while I’ve never read Treasure Island (let’s face it, the book doesn’t have Tim Curry singing in it) I did appreciate the loose alluding to it. But it’s not just straight up Treasure Island because that would be boring and done-before. There is magic and all kinds of mythology thrown into a giant melting pot of a book. I love mythology and I LOVE that it isn’t just Greek and Roman!
It was very fortunate that the sequel was sitting beside me because when I finished this book, I needed the sequel, there was no question about that. But I will tell you that if you give a reader this book, they’re going to want the sequel. It is that good.
Now, I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this, but for this book’s ‘Similar recommendations’ section, the winner is: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. That’s it, folks. Everyone can go home now.
At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?
They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.
Dear old Uncle Rick had set himself up for quite a task. With the end of Mark of Athena (if you haven’t read that, why are you reading this? There are series spoilers as there would be for any 9th book in a series… but no book spoilers!) being as epically epic as it was, it’s hard for anyone to follow it up, but Mr. Riordan did a damn good job. (PJ fans go ahhh!)
We basically leave right off where we finished last. Percabeth is falling into an endless pit, the other five and Nico di Angelo are off to meet them in hell and it’s all so cheery and hopeful. I was worried that Mr. Riordan was going to be nasty and not give us any scenes in Tartarus. No, no, he did worse, he gave us those scenes in Tartarus. Horrible, soul-crushing scenes. As one would expect in Tartarus, but to read it — to read about my little babies of the last nine books going through that?! I die. I die a thousand times over. And half the book is that. At some point early on, whilst reading, I said to myself, “so, Percy and Annabeth are Sam and Frodo, walking through Mordor to destroy a door.” If you’re a nerd like me, then you know that by the end of the long journey, Sam and Frodo are at their end mentally and physically and guess who else is? That’s right. Our little darlings. Amazing that they still retain themselves, Annabeth and her total and complete badassery. Percy’s humor, if nothing else than to keep us and them from utter despair. And it’s Classic Percy humor. Crack a joke in the face of certain death.
The other half of the book is Jason, Nico, Piper, Leo, Frank and Hazel battling all the things on the land. Now while Percy and Annabeth are going through the darkest and most painful experiences, they’ve ever gone through, the land crew is going through a several amount of personal growth and in a much less destructive nature. Honestly, I can’t think of one of them that didn’t grow or change in some HUGE monumental way. When I say that, I really mean it. They each came into their own, some more than others. Hazel and Piper had their brilliant moments of being awesome, but I feel like the boys owned that maturity a little harder. Frank’s growth was straight-up impressive. I totally called it on that kid, yo. Jason’s was just kind of flooring. As much as I resisted loving that kid, I fully, fully admit it. Jason Grace is amazing. Leo… oh, Leo, honey, I didn’t think I’d see the day… I’m so proud of you! Nico (yeah, he’s not one of the seven, but I don’t give a flying harpy). Nico, there aren’t enough words for. I’ve loved Nico di Angelo since he was that small little boy shuffling Mythomagic cards in Westover Hall and you will never convince me that he is not one of the most finely crafted characters ever.
Now there’s something else that needs to be discussed. It’s of vital importance. Here starts my epic paragraph of vagueness. I would LOVE to sit here and tell you about THE MOST MONUMENTAL THING that happens in this book, but it would spoil that and you’re better off going in not knowing. But I HAVE TO mention it and just be cryptically vague. I do this for you. But if you’re really smart and shrewd, you might just figure it out anyway. Ladies. Gentlemen. Demigods. Rick Riordan has broken a boundary. It’s not some big shattering explosion that would make Coach Hedge proud, but small and legendary. In my humble opinion, it is something that has needed to happen and the fact that Rick has done it, makes it impossibly mighty. Not only did he do this, but also he did it in a NYT bestselling Middle Grade series. Legen — wait for it — dary. In The Heroes of Olympus series, Mr. Riordan has worked to achieve diversity in his characters, clearly to reflect his broad fan base; a Chinese Canadian (my personal favorite ethnicity), Native American, Creole and Hispanic. He’s taken another step, and that’s both as mind-blowing and as specific as I’m going to get. If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about I’m sure.
In short, there was so much going on this book, it’s hard to keep any review short and sweet. We have our classic favorites being tortured in a thousand ways, being broken down from any of glory they could ever think they deserve. We have our new friends who have carved little homes in our hearts, shifting and changing and ultimately getting ready for the final BIG battle, the likes of which they’ve never faced. It’s a bittersweet accumulation of three massive novels and five more of backstory and it’s all about to explode. As a whole, The Heroes of Olympus series is like the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on steroids and more teen. So if The Blood of Olympus (5th book title) is anything at all like The Last Olympian on steroids, they I’m going to pick out my burial plot now because, guys, ain’t any of us gonna survive it.