About the Book
Eleven-year-old Casey is stubbornly friendly, but he’s eternally the new kid at Vintage Woods Middle School. Students look right through him—and they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible, but when he scales a colossal oak, he discovers a fortress in its branches. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a fierce frontier.
Casey and his little sister Gloria infiltrate Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to ancient, wild things. Sky-high footpaths. Survival sewing. Monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see Casey—but being seen isn’t enough. He wants to belong.
Keeping his identity hidden–while struggling to prove he fits–is hard enough, but Butcher Beasts have returned to Sylvan Woods after a hundred years. Trickery is under siege. As the monsters close in, and the fearsome Sylvan Watch hunts Casey down, he and his newfound friends must unearth abandoned magic, buried at the forest’s roots…or be devoured along with everyone else, Sylvans and civilians alike.
A fast-paced middle grade fantasy/adventure book with all the monsters kids could ever hope for.
About the Author
AJ Vanderhorst has had many jobs, including journalist, paramedic, escape artist, and baby whisperer. One time in fifth grade, he built a traffic-stopping fort in a huge oak tree, using only branches and imagination, and slept there for a week.
Now he and his wife live in a woodsy house with their proteges and a ridiculous number of pets, including a turtle with a taste for human toes. This makes AJ an expert on wild, dangerous things—invisibility spells, butcher beasts, hungry kids, you get the idea.
He is the only author in the world who enjoys pickup basketball and enormous bonfires, preferably not at the same time. He and his family have drawn up several blueprints for their future tree castle. Visit AJ online at ajvanderhorst.com.
(Bio via Goodreads)
What I Thought
This was a very interesting book, almost like a cross between The Magic Faraway Tree and Bridge to Terabithia (but without the same level of heartbreak as the latter!).
The tone it sets is surreal and you aren’t always sure if we are in a world of imagination or magic. The Monsters are creepy but the threat level is right for the intended audience.
There was one occasion I wasn’t quite sure if the POV slipped but otherwise we remain along on this wild ride with Casey.
The characters are Alice in Wonderlandesque in their oddity and this would make an amazing cartoon film. I loved the relationship between Casey and his younger sister Gloria and it’s great to see Gloria with some agency too.
The book has a satisfying ending but is open for a sequel and – yay for me – it’s already out. A school is going to be the setting so right up my book nook. We got glimpses of it in this book and I’m certain with AJ Vanderhorst we’ll be in for another thrilling adventure.
This reminds me of the magic of watching The Neverending Story as a child and I liked the slightly unique take on the chosen one trope.
Thanks to Dave at The Write Reads and the author for an e-copy of the book for the purposes of this honest review – just off to buy book 2.
So pleased to be one of the bloggers kicking off the blog tour for – the next big MG series – which releases on 21.1.2021.
About the Book
“Sharp, funny and brightly imaginative – a big adventure filled with magic and heart”
Jessica Townsend, New York Times bestselling author of the Nevermoor series
An epic middle grade supernatural adventure series, soon to be a major movie starring Marsai Martin. Perfect for readers aged 8+ and fans of Percy Jackson, Nevermoor and Men in Black!
Amari Peters knows three things.
Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.
No one will talk about it.
His mysterious job holds the secret . . .
So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.
Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.
With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton . . .
About the Author
B. B. Alston lives in Lexington, SC. Amari and the Night Brothers is his debut middle grade novel. When not writing, he can be found eating too many sweets and exploring country roads to see where they lead.
Cover artwork/illustrations from rising star artist Brittany Jackson
What I Thought
When a book is blurbed by a favourite author you go in with high expectations and I was not disappointed.
The Men in Black vibes are strong with this one but with the added familial drama the stakes are personally high and that makes for a gripping read.
For me this was like reading a total mash up of Skulduggery Pleasant, Nevermoor, Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter with a dash of lots of other things. It is at once familiar and original.
In this hidden world, magic and technology collide. For everyone who was confused about why the wizarding world didn’t embrace muggle technology this one is for you, and I have a feeling we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to both of these elements.
The cast of characters is strong, although you are never quite sure who to trust. The Night brothers of the title are not the only challenge our heroine has to face.
New roommate and best friend Elsie is the trainee Q to Amari’s trainee Bond. And there are plenty of punerific names for the side characters. Love a good pun so found myself highly amused on a number of occasions.
Amari Peters herself is one determined girl and her pre supernatural world experience sets her up well for what she faces at the Bureau. There were more than a few moments where she describes her experience, without naming it as such, as akin to facing racism and I felt my throat hitch. And how she chooses to prove everyone wrong about her is just Amari-Amazing. I really enjoyed Marsai Martin’s performance in Little and I think she’ll make an awesome Amari and depicting this moment needs that quiet surety she has. This has the potential to be a huge movie franchise with big budget special effects, a thrilling plot and moments of tenderness.
The ending opens up a greater crossover between her two worlds and I can’t wait for book two. In the meantime I’m trying to find a signed mega fancy first edition because this is one I’ll be re-reading and adding to my list of MG (and all time) favourites. It’s also got me itching to get back to editing my first NaNoWriMo novel – though I’ve promised some friends I’ll finish a more recent one first. It’s got to be a good book when it has me itching to pick up my writing pen again.
Thank you to Dave at TheWriteReads and the publishers for the gifted copy for the purposes of an honest review. I loved the shiny ARC and there was no way I was sending it back unread. Great marketing btw! Do check out the rest of the stops for features and other reviews. The blog tour runs from today until 3rd Jan with multiple stops a day.
Happy Book Birthday to The White Phoenix. This is Catherine Randall’s debut novel, a historical middle grade story.
About the Book
London, 1666. After the sudden death of her father, thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hopper and her mother must take over THE WHITE PHOENIX – the family bookshop in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral. But England is at war with France and dire prophecies abound. As rumours of invasion and plague spread, Lizzie battles prejudice, blackmail and mob violence to protect the bookshop she loves. When the Great Fire of London breaks out, Lizzie must rescue more than just the bookshop. Can she now save the friend she wasn’t supposed to have? CAN THE WHITE PHOENIX RISE FROM THE ASHES?
About the Author
Catherine Randall was brought up in Shropshire but has lived in London since graduating from St Catherine’s College, Oxford with a degree in Modern History. Catherine worked as an editor in book publishing before taking a break to bring up her family. She took a Master’s in Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton, writing a novella for teens as part of her dissertation. Now living in southwest London, she is known in her local area as the writer of two history plays (The Teddington Review and Letters from the Front) performed in 2017 and 2018. As a result of her research for The White Phoenix, Catherine takes workshops about the Great Fire of London into primary schools. She is passionate about encouraging reading and volunteers with the charity Prisoners’ Reading Groups. She is currently working on her second novel.
What I Thought
If you know anything about me you will know that I love books about books and book lovers so when I realised The White Phoenix was a story about a bookshop I was immediately sold.
Our protagonist Lizzie and her mother take over the family bookshop – The White Phoenix and they have to fend off prejudice, sinister suitors, plague and The Great Fire of London!
This book transported me to my childhood and it gave me the same feeling I had reading or watching stories like The Railway Children, The Sound of Music, Pollyanna, Heidi, Little Women, and the early scenes in Great Expectations. There is a strong cast of characters from headstrong Lizzie to *makes me shudder* Mr Pedley.
I loved the detail included about the book binding process and oddly enough I know an artist – who also uses Phoenix in their shop name – who binds/rebinds books. The love that this process shows for the books makes me feel warm inside and I’m certainly glad that publishers and sellers are making more effort with their books bindings. Of course the front cover of The White Phoenix has to include some gold foiling to make it extra special.
There is human drama a plenty that starts for poor Lizzie straight away and there are ominous threats both seemingly far away and much closer to home. The constant mentions of the Plague feel very apt with our current situation. St Paul’s is there too, looming and an omen if you know anything about 1666.
So will Lizzie and the books survive the great fire? You will have to read to find out.
I want to know which book would you save in a fire? You can choose only one.
I was gifted a copy via Kaleidoscopic Tours for the purposes of an honest review.