Tag Archives: Middle grade series

Review : Rendezvous in Russia by Lauren St. John

Middle-grade book review by Rendezvous in Russia by Lauren St. John

Rendezvous in Russia (Laura Marlin Mysteries, #4)Goodreads Blurb

The fourth Laura Marlin mystery from the Blue Peter award-winning author of DEAD MAN’S COVE

When Laura Marlin’s Siberian husky, Skye, saves an actress’s life in Cornwall, she and her best friend, Tariq, receive a surprise invitation to work as extras in a film about an art heist in St Petersburg, Russia. But what promises to be the coolest holiday ever quickly turns deadly as a series of accidents threaten both cast and crew, and Laura finds herself at the centre of a deadly game.

Meanwhile, the Straight-A gang are dead set on revenge and Laura is at the top of their hit list. As the doors open on a lavish film party at the legendary Hermitage Museum, Laura and Tariq have to decide who and what is real. Could art be about to imitate life?

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade mystery is about a two friends’ adventure in Russia when their pet husky is selected to star in a movie.

Laura and her best friend tag along as extras on the set and enjoyed the experience of the world of movie-making, even if all is not as glamourous and exciting as it seemed. There are little clues that all is not right, but Laura had promised she would not go looking for trouble. However trouble came looking for her.

I liked both the Russian setting and the story being set around making a movie. The characters are likeable and who wouldn’t fall in love with a three-legged husky? The pacing in this story is good; the writing is easy to read, hence turning the pages to find out what’s next comes naturally. 3/5

Review : The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Middle-grade review of The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

The Ship of Shadows (The Ship of Shadows, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.

But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.

Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realize that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find.

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade adventure book is about a girls-only pirate ship sailing the oceans blue in search of a treasure map.

Our heroine discovers a secret and this knowledge puts her life in danger. In the chase she meets a captain who offers to hide her in her ship for a few hours. Unfortunately it was still unsafe for Aleja to disembark and she ends up travelling to the far lands with the crew.

This book has everything: a magical ship, an ancestor with a mysterious legacy, cryptic puzzles, strange beasts from the sea and land, exotic locations of towns and deserts and of course, swash-buckling life at sea. What I liked about this book is how all the characters have their own strengths eg linguist, chemist, technologist, soldier, strategist. Together they made a great team.

If you like the sound of this, you might be pleased to know that this is the first book of a series. 3/5

Review : Little Bird Lands by Karen McCombie

Middle-grade review on Little Bird Lands by Karen McCombie

Little Bird Lands (Little Bird, #2)Goodreads Blurb

Little Bird has landed in America, far from her home in Scotland and far from the danger that stalked her family. But the new world holds new perils, and soon she’s on the run again. From the teeming streets of New York to the prairies of the west, Little Bird holds tight to secrets and dreams of freedom. Then, on her journey, she comes face-to-face with an unwelcome ghost from the past…

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is the second book in the story. However it can stand alone. I have not read the first book, which I understand is about our main character’s life in Scotland.

In this book, our protagonist and her father have arrived in America and settle in a copper mining community. They meet lots of new people, including a nasty shopkeeper, an independent lady doctor and a reliable Native American.

Set at the end of the civil war, this book gives a good flavour of immigrant life in America. I was whisked away to the time. I could picture the activities they did, their outlook in life and even the details of what they ate and wore.

This is a book with diverse and inclusive characters. The ending was heart-warming, concluding the story from the first book. A good read. 4/5

Review : The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karin Yan Glaser

Middle-grade book review of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (The Vanderbeekers, #1)

Goodreads Blurb

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

My Thoughts After Reading

This middle-grade book is a light-hearted and feel-good read, especially around Christmas.

This family of seven rent a place in Harlem, New York. But a few days before Christmas the five children discover they have to move. Their landlord, who lives on the top floor, has refused to renew their lease. Convinced that he doesn’t like them, they embark on a mission to charm him into changing his mind.

This book makes me feel as if I am back in the olde worlde days before technology, where you live in a small community and you know all your neighbours and local shopkeepers. However when one of the children talks about making battery cells out of lemons, and another talks about the school dance, it brings me back to the modern world.

However, the children’s antic are adorable and overall it works. This book is very similar in tone to The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone and The Secret of the Night Train. Check it out if you’ve enjoyed the other two.

Review : Unlocked by Shannon Messenger

Middle-grade book review of Unlocked by Shannon Messenger

Unlocked (Keeper of the Lost Cities, #8.5)Goodreads Blurb

Book 8.5 in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series delivers what fans of the series have been begging for! Told in an exciting new way, the saga continues with plenty of huge reveals and shocking new twists—plus a complete series guide with beautiful color and black-and-white illustrations and other awesome bonuses!

In this extra special installment of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, the story picks up right from Legacy’s particularly devastating cliffhanger. But chapters alternate between Sophie and Keefe’s perspectives to give readers deeper insights into both beloved characters. New powers will be discovered. Hard truths from the past will come to light. And all of your favorite characters will find themselves tested in ways they never imagined.

And that’s not all!

Unlocked also includes a comprehensive guide to the world of the Lost Cities, featuring new character and world details that have never been revealed before—plus fun bonuses like Keeper-themed recipes, a detailed map of the Lost Cities, gorgeous full-color illustrations, and so much more!

My Thoughts after Reading

I had been disappointed with this series’ plot development in the last few books, so I was not sure if I wanted to read this ~800-page book, especially when it is only 0.5 increment from the previous one. However, when I learnt that the story part in fact was only a quarter of the book, I felt more inclined to give my time to it. Having been with this series since its early days, I want to read it for the sake of completion.

Nevertheless, I was not holding out any hope for this book to make any major milestones towards the end. By now, I was familiar with the author’s style. I was able to spot long sections of dialogue not going anywhere and skimmed through them. After eight thick books, the banter was no longer fresh and the characters predictable. Nonetheless, I was glad to see some progress was made in the second half of the book. Even if the ‘resolution’ of this book seemed too easy, I did not feel cheated as the story was only 200 skimmed pages long. I expect the next book will reveal more.

Because I finished the story much quicker that before, I was inclined to look at the earlier pages. This is a useful recap for readers like me, who have lost track of the many characters and key points in the series. As I had approached this book with low expectations, I was not disappointed. On the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised. 3/5

Review : Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Middle-grade book review of Dragon Mountain by Katie Tsang

Dragon MountainGoodreads Blurb

Deep within the mountain, a great creature stirred in its sleep. Its eyes rolled back in its head, and its wings jerked wide open…

When 12-year-old Billy Chan finds out his parents are sending him to a summer camp in middle-of-nowhere China he doesn’t know what to expect. There he meets fellow campers Dylan, Charlotte and Ling-Fei and together they stumble upon an age-old secret: four powerful warrior dragons, hidden deep within the mountain behind the camp. They have been trapped since an epic battle with the Dragon of Death and need the children’s help to set them free before terrible evil is unleashed on the earth. Billy and his friends must set off on a dangerous adventure that will take them to the heart of the Dragon Realm. But can they save the dragon and human worlds from destruction?

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is about an unexpected twist during a summer camp in China.

Billy would rather be surfing back home in California than endure a summer camp to polish up his Mandarin. He gets teamed up with three other children and on their first activity they venture into forbidden part of the area as a short cut to their destination. They survived an earthquake but to their surprise everyone else at camp did not experience it. One of his team-mates had lost her precious necklace. Returning for it, they discovered the cave of dragons and their adventure began.

If you enjoyed The Golden Compass, you’ll also enjoy this story as they have a similar bonding with their dragons. I liked how the authors had merged Eastern and Western folklores of dragons. I also liked how they gave representation to mixed-race children who grow up having extra expectations heaped on them. But this book did not dwell on the characters that deeply. On the contrary, the children leapt from one crisis to another in this is fast-paced story.

This is one for readers moving on from chapter books. 3/5