Design a site like this with
Get started

Cinders & Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann

Genre: Middle Grade

Pub Date: Oct 13, 2020

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was a really fun middle grade read with witches, magic, a dark castle, curses and ghosts!

It was a very well-written story, with a great cast of characters. Zita reminded me of a young Cinderella but with the powers of a witch, and Mrs. Cantanker was like Lady Tremaine with the ability to summon unearthly things.

It was a slow journey with the bulk of the action happening within the last 5 chapters, but something was always happening along the way to keep the reader entertained.

Would definitely recommend it for a witchin good time!

Twelve-year-old Zita, an orphan and a housemaid, has resigned herself to a life of drudgery when a strange letter arrives, naming her the only living heir to the Brydgeborn fortune. Now the mistress of the castle, Zita soon realizes foul play led to the death of her family. And as she is guided through lessons in the art of witchcraft by the somewhat mysterious Mrs. Cantanker, Zita begins to wonder who is friend and who is foe.

The Stitchers: Fright Watch 1 by Lorien Lawrence

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Horror

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

If you like:

– Goosebumps & Nancy Drew

I was a Fear Street reader back in the day. I was too old for Goosebumps by the time they released, but I did start reading some with my 8 year old son recently.

This was a slow burn read with a bit of repetitiveness, but the author does a nice job of leaving you with a trail of bread crumbs to follow.

Things don’t really start picking up till the halfway mark, and I was curious to find out more about the Oldies, which was what kept me going in the first place. Otherwise, I’m not sure I would have continued to be honest.

Overall, it was a good set up for the next book and an age appropriate story for a younger audience.

What are you currently reading??

Something strange is happening on Goodie Lane . . .

Thirteen-year-old Quinn Parker knows that there’s something off about her neighbors. She calls them “the Oldies” because they’ve lived on Goodie Lane for as long as anyone can remember, but they never seem to age. Are they vampires? Or aliens? Or getting secret experimental surgeries? Or is Quinn’s imagination just running wild again?

If her dad were still around, he’d believe her. When he was alive, they’d come up with all sorts of theories about the Oldies. Now, Quinn’s determined to keep the investigation going with the help of Mike, her neighbor and maybe-crush. They’ll have to search for clues and follow the mystery wherever it leads—even if it’s to the eerie pond at the end of the street that’s said to have its own sinister secrets. But the Oldies are on to them. And the closer Quinn and Mike get to uncovering the answers, the more they realize just how terrifying the truth may be.

The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

On this week’s episode of My Burn Book, I present…

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

My Rating: ⭐⭐ – DNF @ chapter 10

I haven’t read any middle grade horror since I was a kid, so I was really looking forward to reading this with Jonny from Jaunts & Haunts.

It’s always a blast chatting with Jonny, but we both agreed that this book was a dud.

Here’s how our convo went down:

Jonny: So, that book just happened. *cringe* Thanks for chatting it up with me on Insta and making me feel less crazy when I started not liking it. I had to really push to finish this one.

Gigi: Jonny (side note: do you prefer Jonny?), you were way nicer than I was. I’ll be honest, since it was our first time reading together. I was treading lightly at first. But let’s be real. The book was boring! Hats off to you for seeing it through. I only made it to chapter 10 before DNF-ing. Womp womp.

Jonny: Yeah, I go by Jonny. Only my mom calls me Jonathan, and that’s usually when she’s upset with me.

I try to see the best in the books I read, but sometimes even that’s a stretch. This is definitely one of those times.
I can’t agree with you more. Through the whole thing, I never really felt anything. Usually, certain things in a book will move me, will inspire some kind of emotion, but I was just flatlined the whole time. Do not resuscitate! I don’t blame you for DNF’ing, I almost did several times, like where is this all going?

Is there anything that worked for you despite dropping it?

Gigi: Actually, there were a few things I liked a out the book:

– Loved the setting! The cemetery, the skeletons, that’s a winner right there.

-The characters. Irrelle & Miss Vesper were great characters in the making. Just the actual storytelling fell flat.

-The premise. I loved the whole idea of Irrelle being created from bone dust. The synopsis made it sound like Irrelle becomes defiant and destroys Miss Vesper’s new creation on purpose. But that’s not what actually happened. Or did I miss something?

*sigh* this one had so much potential.

Jonny: Good points. I really enjoyed the ambience too. Anything spooky is right up my alley, and the magic aspect was interesting. Bone magic? Very cool! Unfortunately it really didn’t pan out well. Setting and concept can only get you so far if it isn’t cohesive and executed well.
Oh, Irreele kind of ‘tried’ to be defiant, but she was really meek and rarely followed through on her thoughts. While she was abused and that was definitely a deterrent for her to lash out, in much of the book there’s nothing really stopping her from acting out, just her cowardice. I wasn’t buying it.

What character would you say was most believable?

I liked Guy because his personality stood out. He was emotional, didn’t like Miss Vesper, and didn’t hide it in his actions either. I wish Irreele would’ve taken bravery from him as well as Lass and step up for herself.

Gigi: Because I DNF’d, I never really had a chance to meet Guy or Lass. I completely agree on following through on Irreele’s thoughts. I kept wanting her to grow some balls so to speak.

I actually thought Miss Vesper’s character was done very well. For me, she was very believable and a good villain in my opinion.

Jonny: Oh, that’s right. I forgot exactly how slow the beginning was. Goodness!

I agree with you. For the most part, Miss Vesper’s character was stable throughout. Cold, merciless, two-faced. Definitely a good villain, though in spots later she did betray her character a bit (trying to keep it spoiler free is so hard!).

Well, I’m sorry this one didn’t pan out as we’d hoped, but there’s plenty of books out there, and I’m excited about the next ones we’re considering. Thanks so much for being my reading buddy. We have a lot of great stories ahead of us!

Gigi: I know. I had high hopes walking into this one! Too bad it didn’t work out. Oh well… there will be others and I’m looking forward to reading more books with you!! Xo.

InvestiGATORS by John Patrick Green @MacKidsBooks @johngreenart

Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel

Munchkin Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read this with my kids for our usual story time, and my 8 year old son loved it so much, he was hungover.

If you enjoy:

– Captain Underpants & Dogman

– fun & silly puns

sewer-loving agents of S.U.I.T.* and scourge of supervillains everywhere!

With their Very Exciting Spy Technology and their tried-and-true, toilet-based travel techniques, the InvestiGators are undercover and on the case! And on their first mission together, they have not one but two mysteries to solve! Can Mango and Brash uncover the clues, crack their cases, and corral the crooks—or will the criminals wriggle out of their grasp?

[#middlegrademonday] Book Haul

QOTD: Are you into horror? Or like scary stories?

I can’t believe I got mail on a Sunday! It feels likes Christmas in June 😜.

Here’s my latest haul from Book Outlet:


I’ve never read anything by Paul Tremblay, so I’m very excited to read this one & Survivor Song next month.


A chilling anthology featuring nineteen pieces of short fiction from the multiple award-winning author of the national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts..

In The Teacher, a Bram Stoker Award nominee for best short story, a student is forced to watch a disturbing video that will haunt and torment her and her classmates’ lives.

Four men rob a pawn shop at gunpoint only to vanish, one-by-one, as they speed away from the crime scene in The Getaway.

In Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks, a meth addict kidnaps her daughter from her estranged mother as their town is terrorized by a giant monster . . . or not.

Joining these haunting works are stories linked to Tremblay’s previous novels. The tour de force metafictional novella Notes from the Dog Walkers deconstructs horror and publishing, possibly bringing in a character from A Head Full of Ghosts, all while serving as a prequel to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. “The Thirteenth Temple” follows another character from A Head Full of Ghosts—Merry, who has published a tell-all memoir written years after the events of the novel. And the title story, Growing Things, a shivery tale loosely shared between the sisters in A Head Full of Ghosts, is told here in full.


I’m going to be participating in my first middle grade buddy read with Jaunts & Haunts (Jonathan Pongratz) next month! I can’t wait!!


Remember, my dear, you do not really and truly exist.”

Made of dust and bone and imagination, Irréelle fears she’s not quite real. Only the finest magical thread tethers her to life—and to Miss Vesper. But for all her efforts to please her cruel creator, the thread is unraveling. Irréelle is forgetful as she gathers bone dust. She is slow returning from the dark passages beneath the cemetery. Worst of all, she is unmindful of her crooked bones.

When Irréelle makes one final, unforgivable mistake by destroying a frightful creature just brought to life, Miss Vesper threatens to imagine her away once and for all. Defying her creator for the very first time, Irréelle flees to the underside of the graveyard and embarks on an adventure to unearth the mysterious magic that breathes bones to life, even if it means she will return to dust and be no more.


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.


Oscar Grimstone is a normal kid–aside from his secret Curse. Whenever he touches something living, like a flower or his classroom goldfish, they always seem to die. But then Oscar discovers an even bigger secret: even though he is very much alive, he has the ability to transform into a ghost.

Just when he thinks things can’t get any stranger two ghosts show up at his home in a skeleton carriage and he winds up joining them on a journey beyond the real world to a place he never knew existed–the city of ghosts. There Oscar will discover a place where people go once they die, before they aboard a ship to the The Other Side. But will he find out who he really is?


Deep within the enchanted woods in the town of Watch Hollow stands the once-grand Blackford House, whose halls hold a magical secret: a giant cuckoo clock that does much more than tell time. But when the clock’s gears cease to turn, an evil presence lurking among the trees begins to come out of the shadows.

When Lucy and Oliver Tinker arrive in Watch Hollow, they have no idea that anything is wrong. A mysterious stranger has made their father an offer that’s too good for him to refuse. All Mr. Tinker needs to do is fix the clock at Blackford House and fistfuls of gold coins are his to keep.

It doesn’t take long, however, for the children to realize that there is more to Blackford House than meets the eye. And before they can entirely understand the strange world they’ve stumbled into, Lucy and Oliver must join forces with a host of magical clock animals to defeat the Garr—a vicious monster that not only wants Blackford House for itself, but also seeks to destroy everything the Tinkers hold dear.

Have you read any of these?

[Cover Reveal & Excerpt] The Startup Squad Returns!! @thestartupsquad @MacKidsBooks

Genre: Middle Grade

I had the pleasure of reading The Startup Squad last year, and boy! What a pleasant surprise! It was a super fun and great story, especially for young girls. GIRL POWER!!

And now, the squad has returned with a second installment called Face The music, which I’m very excited for! Here’s a sneak peek at what’s to come:


Jumbo marshmallows.

Where were the jumbo marshmallows?

Harriet knelt on her kitchen floor, peering into the depths of the snack cupboard. Her long, dark pigtails grazed the floor as she squinted into the back of the shelves. No marshmallows.

“If I were a jumbo marshmallow, where would I be?” she said to herself as she closed the cabinet and got to her feet. She dusted off the knees of her emerald-green leggings. These always reminded her of The Wizard of Oz, which is why she’d paired the leggings with her red gingham farm-girl shirt and a denim miniskirt.

When picking out clothes, most people try to match colors or patterns. Harriet preferred to match themes. On some days, like today, the theme was subtle; on other days, it was so obvious, her outfits resembled costumes. Harriet liked it this way. Clothes should add drama and excitement. Otherwise, what was the point?

“Marshmallows!” she called. “Come out, come out wherever you are!”

Harriet hated silence; whenever she encountered quiet, she broke it. Luckily, her home was rarely quiet—and rarely empty. With a mom whose hair salon was in the basement, an artist dad whose studio was in the garage, and three older brothers—members of a rock band—someone was always around. Today, though, her parents were grocery shopping, her brothers were at a horror movie, and Harriet had stayed home since neither activity held any interest for her. Marshmallows, on the other hand, were of great interest.

Harriet opened the cabinet that held the pots and pans—no luck—and then the one with all the plates and bowls. She did find something wonderful there, but it wasn’t the bag of marshmallows. Curled into a salad bowl was her brothers’ pet skink, Zappa, sleeping soundly. The pink stretchy headband Harriet had placed over the reptile’s head had slipped and was covering her eyes like a sleeping mask.

“Zappa bo bappa,” Harriet cooed. She lifted the reptile out of the bowl and cradled her in her arms. Zappa opened her eyes and clambered onto Harriet’s shoulder. She clamped her tiny claws onto Harriet’s shirt and promptly resumed sleeping.

Harriet was just adjusting the headband on Zappa’s head when she heard a knock at the door. She was thrilled. If there was one thing Harriet liked more than visitors, it was surprise visitors.

Coming!” she bellowed, and skipped to the door, clutching Zappa so the skink didn’t fall. She looked through the peephole and found her friends Amelia, Didi, and Resa standing on the front steps.

“Hiiiiii!” she cried, flinging open the door.

Resa and Amelia were facing each other, in the middle of a heated debate.

“You’re joking, right?” Resa was saying. “The carbon fiber racket is so much better than the aluminum! End of discussion.”

Amelia shook her head in wonder. “I don’t know why I thought taking tennis lessons with you might be stressful.”

“Come in!” Harriet squealed. “I’m so glad to seeeeeeeee you!”

She clapped her hands, which made Zappa pick up her head and look around before deciding it was nothing worth waking up for. Didi, who’d been standing on the top step, startled at the sight of Zappa’s moving, and she would have bolted if Harriet hadn’t grabbed her hand just then.

“Don’t worry, Didi,” said Harriet as she pulled her inside. “I’ll keep Zappa out of your hair.” She raised her eyebrows way up and nodded quickly. “Get it? Out of your … hair? Because of how Zappa got tangled in your hair last time?”

“Uh, yeah, I remember,” said Didi nervously. Her long, wavy hair, the color of chestnuts, hung loose around her shoulders and down her back. She gathered it together and shoved it inside her sweatshirt, then pulled the hood up and cinched it closed.

Harriet knew Didi didn’t like skinks. Not just skinks, actually, but all reptiles. Not just reptiles, actually, but most animals. Harriet could not fathom this. It was like not liking ice cream or birthdays. Harriet adored animals. Especially the scaly little sucker attached to her shoulder.

“I’m so glad you all are here!” Harriet exclaimed as she led the girls into the small, bright kitchen. “I have been bored out of my gourd! And I can’t find the jumbo marshmallows anywhere!” She opened the fridge and peered inside.

“You keep your marshmallows in the fridge?” asked Amelia. She tucked her pale blond hair behind her ears in a gesture that had become such a force of habit she didn’t even realize she was doing it.

“No,” said Harriet, “but things end up in weird places in this house. Once, I found my hairbrush in here, in the fruit drawer.” She closed the fridge and began to search the broom closet.

Resa followed behind her. “We come with exciting news! Harriet, you are not going to believe what we just read in the newspaper.”

“Was it a headline that said, ‘Marshmallow thief arrested’?” asked Harriet, closing the closet door.

“Uh, no,” replied Resa. “It’s about your favorite—Harriet, watch out!”

Harriet had clambered onto the kitchen counter and was pulling herself up to standing so she could peek over the top of the cabinets.

Instinctively, Resa put her hands up behind Harriet, spotting her. “You’re gonna fall!”

Harriet raised herself up on tiptoe and peeked over the top of the cabinet. “Aha!” Something was there, though it was hard to tell what from a quick glimpse. Steadying herself with one hand, she reached out with the other and closed her fingers around … something.

“Bingo!” she exclaimed as she pulled it down. It wasn’t the bag of marshmallows, but it was something she’d been looking for.

“Oh, curling iron, how I’ve missed you!” Harriet said.

She turned to show the girls the treasure she’d uncovered, but the sudden movement threw her off balance. She took a step back and would have fallen off the counter if Resa’s hands hadn’t been there to shove her back into place. In the hubbub, the curling iron flew out of her hands, hitting Amelia in the arm. Amelia’s shriek startled Zappa, and the skink made a run for it, darting down Harriet’s body, then down Resa’s body, and then onto the kitchen floor.

“Nooooo!” Didi screamed. “Not again!”

She scrambled onto the kitchen table, knocking off books and papers and cereal boxes. She crossed her arms in an X in front of her face, as if she were warding off vampires.

But Zappa wasn’t interested in Didi. Instead, she darted over to the thirsty-looking ficus in the corner and dragged something out from behind it with her mouth.

Resa walked over to investigate.

“Looks like Zappa solved the mystery of the missing marshmallows.” Resa pulled the bag of jumbo confections from Zappa’s mouth. The skink paused for a moment, considering her next move, then padded out of the kitchen.

“Hallelujah!” Harriet exclaimed. She jumped down from the counter with a thud.

For more info on The Startup SquadThe Startup SquadWebsiteMacmillan Children’s PublishingWebsite

[#MiddleGrade] The Monster Catchers by George Brewington @MacKidsBooks

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🎶 If there’s something strange, in the neighborhood. Who you gonna call?! 🎶

As soon as I started reading, I got total Ghostbuster and Scooby Doo vibes. But instead of catching ghosts and solving mysteries, this is about a father-son duo chasing after monsters, goblins and dangerous faeries.Being an only child, I connected with Bailey and loved his character. He was smart, kind and brave.

This was such a fun and adventurous story! One that I could picture being turned into a graphic novel or illustrated series. I would highly recommend it for the classroom or if you enjoy middle grade. 🙂

Were you a fan of Scooby Doo or The Ghostbusters?Whether it’s a goblin in the garden or a fairy in the attic, Bailey Buckleby and his dad can rid your home of whatever monster is troubling you—for the right price. But when Bailey discovers that his dad has been lying—their pet troll Henry is actually a kidnapped baby sea giant—he begins to question the family business.Enter Axel Pazuzu, criminal mastermind, who will stop at nothing to make a buck. With everyone and everything he loves in peril, it’s up to Bailey to save his family and set things right in this funny, fantastical adventure.

[#MiddleGrade] Maybe A Mermaid by Josephine Cameron @MacKidsBooks @josephinewrites @fsgbooks

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It doesn’t matter if you feel brave. It matters if you act brave.

Summer always gives me all beachy mermaid feels, and this was the perfect summer read.

Carrie is a single mom trying to make ends meet by selling bee cosmetics. With all the moving around, Anthoni hasn’t had a BFF since kindergarten and is hoping to meet her True Blue friend this summer at Thunder Lake.

During their stay at the magical Showboat Resort, Anthoni learns some hard truths about their current situation and friendship.

This was a fun and very well-written story with a touch of mermaid magic and a great cast of characters. I loved DJ and quirky Charlotte. The mother-daughter relationship gave me Lorelai and Rory vibes from Gilmore Girls.

I highly recommend this one for those who enjoy middle grade fiction. I think it sends a great message to young readers about friendship, having a positive attitude and never giving up, even when things go wrong.

**Thank you Macmillan Kids Books for my ARC **

Eleven-year-old Anthoni Gillis is not the kind of kid who believes in fairies, unicorns, or even the word “maybe.” She’s more of a comic-books girl. So when her mom brings her to Thunder Lake for a summer at the Showboat Resort, she doesn’t believe the local rumors about the Boulay Mermaid.

Anthoni has bigger fish to fry. She’s always wanted a True Blue Friend. But it’s been hard to find one, since for the past five years she’s been bouncing from town to town, helping her mother sell Beauty & the Bee cosmetic products to keep them both afloat. This summer will be different, though. Anthoni has a plan―a foolproof checklist for making lifelong friends! There won’t be any maybes this time.

But as she grows entangled in local gossip, and her mother stretches the truth, Anthoni must decide if she’ll “stick to the plan,” like always, or dive into a summer full of extraordinary possibilities.

[#MiddleGrade] The Startup Squad by Brian Weisfeld & Nicole C.Kear @MacKidsBooks @ImprintReads @thestartupsquad #GirlsMeanBusiness #KidLit

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

This was a fun read! Perfect for the classroom and suitable for grades 3-6. It brought me back to my Babysitters Club loving days.Theresa’s (aka Resa) classroom competition is a lemonade stand. The winning group will score VIP tickets to Adventure Central which include no line-ups to go on the rides. For once, Resa wants to beat Val (her nemesis). The only problem is, she is stuck with Harriet who she deems is unreliable, and the new girl Amelia, who’s a weirdo.It was a great book with a terrific message for young girls. One that will inspire entrepreneurship and the importance of team work.I only wish there were pictures! 😜

Who In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? By Rebecca Tinker #bookreview #middlegradebooks @RaincoastBooks @HMHKids

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

** Thank you Raincoast Books & HMH Kids for my copy **

Mischief could have been my middle name.

I have absolutely no shame when it comes to reading middle grade. It keeps me young!

I grew up playing the computer game and watching the show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? back in the 80’s, so I was uber excited to receive a copy of this.

To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect. I find middle grade books can be hit or miss, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one and loved very moment of it! It didn’t read like a middle grade book in my opinion, making it suitable for an adult who’s a kid at heart like myself! This certainly did the Carmen Sandiego I remember, justice!

I loved that “Player” was from Ontario, Canada! My neck of the woods! Woot woot!

I’ve only seen a couple of episodes on Netflix, but it seems to compliment each other well.

Whether you’ve had any previous knowledge of Carmen Sandiego or not, this is an adventurous tale for all to enjoy.

Based on the Netflix original series with a foreword by Gina Rodriguez. For decades, people have asked the question: Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? But just who is this infamous and elusive globe-trotting criminal?

A skilled thief on a mysterious mission, Carmen Sandiego is endlessly pursued by ACME and Interpol. But the woman in the red fedora is always one step ahead! In this novelization, based on the Netflix animated series, Carmen shares her own backstory for the first time ever. Now, it’s time to find out…. Who in the world is Carmen Sandiego.

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑