Month: January 2016


Posted January 25, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Middle Grade / 0 Comments

CrenshawCrenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Format: Paperback
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 256
Published by Feiwel & Friends Goodreads

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.
Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?
Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

I really wanted to love this book. I liked it as an adult but I’m not sure I want my daughter to read it. It’s kind of sad. Let me explain.

I feel like we push our kids too hard these days. We are always pushing them to get good grades, do chores, be a good citizen, don’t do this, and don’t do that nag, nag, nag! When can they just be kids?  As adults we take breaks when we get stressed out, we go out with our friends, curl up with a good book or whatever we need to do to de-stress. What about our kids? When do they get a break, a few hours to really wind down? Books are great for this. I want my daughter to fall in love with a book, to be transfixed by the setting and the characters, take a break from the stresses in real life. What I don’t want is for her to start thinking about the reality of life. I know that sounds crazy and terrible BUT! it’s true. This book is about a family going through a really hard time. They have to sell all their belongings, and at one point live in their van. Crenshaw is a human sized imaginary cat that Jackson created to help him get through everything going on in his life. Even though by the end of the book things are looking up, Crenshaw sticks around. The very last line of the book is Jackson saying he is glad Crenshaw decided to stick around; he wanted to enjoy the magic as long as he could, my sentiments exactly!

I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, I did. It’s not something I want my 10-year-old to have to think about. Also, please note, this book is something I don’t want MY daughter to read until she’s a little older, I still recommend the book.




100 Cupboards

Posted January 18, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Middle Grade / 0 Comments

100 Cupboards100 Cupboards (100 Cupboards, #1) by N.D. Wilson
Format: Paperback
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade
on December 26th 2007
Pages: 289
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers Goodreads

Twelve-year-old Henry York is going to sleep one night when he hears a bump on the attic wall above his head. It's an unfamiliar house—Henry is staying with his aunt, uncle, and three cousins—so he tries to ignore it. But the next night he wakes up with bits of plaster in his hair. Two knobs have broken through the wall, and one of them is slowly turning...
Henry scrapes the plaster off the wall and discovers doors—ninety-nine cupboards of all different sizes and shapes. Through one he can hear the sound of falling rain. Through another he sees a glowing room—with a man strolling back and forth! Henry and his cousin Henrietta soon understand that these are not just cupboards. They are, in fact, portals to other worlds.
100 Cupboards is the first book of a new fantasy adventure, written in the best world-hopping tradition and reinvented in N.D Wilson's own inimitable style.


Henry moves his with his aunt and uncle after his mom and dad are taken hostage in Columbia while riding their bicycles. Odd right? I kind of thought so too, but I’m thinking there is more to that story to come. Since his cousins are all girls, Henry stays in the attic closet which was converted into a bedroom just for him. Henry and cousin Henrietta work together to try to understand the cupboards and discover there are actually 99 of them, each one different in its own way. Oh, did I mention the cupboards work both ways? Henry and Henrietta can travel through some of the cupboards, which means things can travel out of the cupboards into Henry’s room as well. When Henry and Henrietta discover their grandfathers journals and cupboard keys their adventure really begins. One night while trying to uncover how the cupboards work, Henrietta disappears into a cupboard Henry didn’t know existed…the 100th cupboard. He has to go in after her, find her and figure out how to get them both home safely.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a lot to keep a young reader interested, and keep them wondering. My daughter thought the cover looked creepy, and thought it would be scary, there were a few scenes toward the end of the book that might give some readers the creeps-the witch and the chainsaw scenes for sure. I have not gotten to the second or the third book yet but they are on my TBR pile!










Horten’s Incredible Illusions

Posted January 11, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Middle Grade / 0 Comments

Horten’s Incredible IllusionsHorten's Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
on September 4th 2012
Pages: 352
Published by Sterling Children's Books Goodreads

Stuart Horten (ten, but looks younger) is now the owner of a magician's workshop - except that without his Great-Uncle's Last Will and Testament, he can't actually prove it.Which is a problem, since someone else wants it as well; someone who has a lot of money.
The workshop contains seven magnificent stage illusions, but when Stuart starts to investigate them, he discovers that each is the gateway to a magical adventure, with a puzzle to solve, and a clue to extract.
As the clues mount up, the adventures become riskier. Friendship is strained, and danger looms and Stuart has to decide what sort of prize he really, truly wants.



In this amazing follow-up, Stuart Horten has befriended April, one of the triplet next door neighbors and together they work to prove that Stuart really is the rightful owner of Teeny Tiny Tony’s Magical Workshop. In order to prove he is the owner, Stuart needs to find his great-uncle Tony’s will.

When the local museum agrees to put the contents of his uncles workshop on display, Stuart finally gets the chance to explore each of the 7 illusions properly. In doing so he makes another discovery; each illusion can send the user to a magical place that gives clues to uncle Tony’s will, but also tests and tricks the user. With names like Pharaoh’s Pyramid, The Well of Wishes and The Cabinet of Blood, Stuart and April are surely in for an adventure, however, these illusions are they are also very dangerous. April and Stuart have to solve the puzzle each illusion holds, safely get back home and do it quickly because they are not the only ones after the will to his great uncle’s workshop of illusions.

I love this book just as much as the first one (see my review here). Another fun, quick magical read appropriate for any middle grade reader!


Have you read the Stuart Horten series? If so, let’s chat!


Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms

Posted January 4, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Middle Grade / 1 Comment

Horten’s Miraculous MechanismsHorten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
on April 3rd 2012
Pages: 272
Published by Sterling Children's Books Goodreads

The exciting launch title of Sterling's middle-grade fiction list:HORTEN'S MIRACULOUS MECHANISMS

Enter a wonderful world filled with real magic, mystery … and danger.

As if being small for his age and also having S. Horten as his name isn't bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends. But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart's swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony--a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth--and Tony's marvelous, long-lost workshop.  Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who's also desperate to get hold of Tony's treasures.

A quirky, smart, charming page-turner, Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms will enchant young readers--as well as teachers, librarians, and parents.


As soon as I read the inside front cover of this book I was hooked. I first heard about Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms (I affectionally call it Horten) and his magical journey from a co-worker who thought it was absolutely adorable and fun to read so, of course I had to check it out. This book (and it’s sequel) has so much going for it but there are a few little things to be wary of but I will talk about those in a minute.


If any middle grade reader found this book on a shelf at a bookstore or library, the description matched with it’s cover would grab them immediately! The magic and adventure are enough to grab the attention of boy or girl alike. The story starts out as Stuart’s parents decide to move back to Beeton, the small town where Stuart’s father grew up so Mrs. Horten can be closer to her new job. Mrs. Horten is a doctor, and as Stuart puts it: “not the sort who stitches up bleeding wounds but the sort who peers down a microscope”.  Mr. Horten is a writer, again in Stuarts words: “not of films or of bestselling books, but of difficult crosswords”.  One day, Stuart and his father go for a walk around Beeton and Stuart discovers his family’s old business, and through this discovery, he find’s a note his uncle Tony left.

This note the beginning of Stuart’s adventure. With the help (wanted or not) of the triplet neighbor girls, Stuart unlocks the key to his uncles mysterious puzzle and goes on the adventure of a lifetime!

Remember I said there were a few things to be wary of. Here they are…from what I can find this book is only available in hardcover and e-format in the U.S. The hardcover is $14.95, a little pricey for a middle grade book. My local Barnes and Noble did find a new paperback in their system but they were not able to order it for me, and it was still $13.25. The other small thing is there is a second book “Horten’s Incredible Illusions” (stay tuned for my review next week!) which is equally mysterious and amazing but after that, the adventure stops. I’m not going to lie, I was frustrated when I started researching the series only to discover nothing new appeared to be in the works. I love Horten and I recommend it to a lot of readers and their parents but I want MORE! I did stalk Lissa Evan’s website and it has been updated this year (2016) and she did have an adult book come out in 2014 (Crooked Heart)so she is writing, maybe there is hope for new Horten yet!

Even with the steep price, I still recommend this one. It is available for download and it should be available from your library. I couldn’t imagine missing out on this adventure!

I’ll be reviewing the sequel Horten’s Incredible Illusions next week so stay tuned!