Book Review

Book Review: Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1) by Katherine Arden

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Middle Grade Horror
Length: 218 pages
Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

NO SCARECROWS FOR ME.

Wow this was SPOOKY for a middle grade read! Had me shivering a few times at the absolute creepiness of those scarecrows. Hard NOPE. I will not be hanging around a corn maze or pumpkin patch after dark, better believe that.

This was a good book though. A quick audio book read that kept me interested and worried for all involved. It was an interesting tale and strong characters. I enjoyed Ollie. She really fit the middle school narrative (in a good way). Ollie was coping with loss, friendships and finding a way to take on the fear in front of her.

It’s fast-paced and reminds me of why I love Arden’s writing [if you’re new here, The Winternight Trilogy is one of my favorite series EVER]. I will happily keep reading anything she publishes and this is no exception. An eerie atmosphere with budding friendships really brought this book home. I have definite plans to continue this series!

Overall audience notes:

  • Middle grade horror
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Content warnings: minor bullying, loss of a loved one, grief and depression

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Book Review

Book Review: Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) by Victoria Schwab

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Middle Grade Paranormal Horror
Length: 304 pages
Author: Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.

CREEPY AND QUICK.

These books are so fun! I love the light layer of spooky ghosts and that have definitely creepy moments, but also the friendships and growth in characters makes these even better.

I loved getting a deeper dive into Cassidy and Jacob’s friendship. I’ve had many a question about Jacob from the beginning and it was nice getting some of that information. They have some deep conflicts to encounter in future book(s) that my heart worries for, but also really can’t wait to read.

This setting was perfect for a paranormal read. I love that history is mixed into the plot. Learning about the Paris catacombs, getting a few ghosts stories, and much more. I was freaked out myself from even imagining being stuck in those tombs.

The ending left plenty open and has me wondering what the next book will hold in New Orleans. I love that these focus on friendship and solving mysteries. Cassidy and Jacob are such a pair.

Overall audience notes:

  • Middle grade paranormal contemporary mystery
  • Language: none
  • Violence: physical altercations, uncovering deathly pasts of ghosts

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Book Review

Book Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4) by Rick Riordan

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult fantasy (mythology)
Length: 394 pages
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release Date: March 6th, 2008
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

When demonic cheerleaders invade his high school, Percy Jackson hurries to Camp Half Blood, from whence he and his demigod friends set out on a quest through the Labyrinth, while the war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near.

JUST MOVING RIGHT ALONG THROUGH THESE BOOKS!

Another fun, quick read. I am loving the audio books! It’s amazing how quick they go by when you’re listening.

This one took a bit of a different turn with following Annabeth on a quest! I initially loved this idea and was here for it, but her teen jealousy streak with Rachel kinda annoyed me. I’m still confident that Annabeth & Percy are endgame so the addition of Rachel was a bit superfluous. I’m curious how this plays out in the last book.

I also thought Grover was over staying his welcome too. I LOVE his character, but since his story line is so different it might have been good as its own novella or something, I’m not sure.

I do love the friendships between everyone. Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Tyson (with occasional additions of Rachel and Nico) are who I want to cheer for and be friends with myself. They have such a tight bond and care deeply for one another. I love that this read has its focus there. It’s a nice change of pace from the romances I generally read.

The labyrinth was SO COOL. I thought it was fun and inventive and a great change of location. This book needed a better edge and the maze gave it. You never knew quite where they would end up and there were so many mini adventures along the way.

This build-up for the final battle has me on my toes. WHAT HAPPENS. I have a handful of thoughts and preferences to what happens, but no idea what is actually coming. I know this last book is going to be the best one.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult/middle-grade urban fantasy + mythology
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: some, but never very bloody/full of gore

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Book Review

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: Middle Grade/YA Mystery + Fantasy (paranormal)
Length: 381 pages
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: August 29th, 2013
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business. 

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day? 

Readers who enjoyed the action, suspense, and humor in Jonathan Stroud’s internationally best-selling Bartimaeus books will be delighted to find the same ingredients, combined with deliciously creepy scares, in his thrilling and chilling Lockwood & Co. series.

VERY SPOOKY INDEED.

I read this book based off of a recommendation from Bookstagram, and it did not disappoint.

I generally don’t read much middle-school books unless they come highly recommended, I had seen this enough from her to know I must have it (even better, if you’re a Prime member, the first book is free on Kindle!). While they’re some YA aspects, it generally leaned towards a younger audience, yet I can see how it captivates older groups. It’s a really underrated book.

This group: Lucy, Lockwood and George are a hoot to watch interact. They have funny banter, quiet moments and are a great team. Lucy and Lockwood especially made this book. It was narrated by Lucy (which I wasn’t expecting given it’s called Lockwood & Co.). I loved the world-building and how *just* enough was left out to keep me interested for further installments.

The Screaming Staircase is CREEPY. This is honestly the closest I’ll ever come to a horror book. They’re ghosts that can do all of these crazy things (including kill you). Blood coming off of ceilings, things jumping out, it was definitely intense at times.

I liked the addition of a mystery within the paranormal activity. It made me more invested as I am weary of reading paranormal books. It was another level of intrigue and wonderment as I flew through this.

Overall audience notes:

  • Middle school/YA Paranormal Fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: descriptions of murders, detailed hauntings, physical, swords, guns, explosions

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