Tag Archives: middle grade book reviews

ARC Review – Chasing the Milky Way by Erin E. Moulton

18371361Title:  Chasing the Milky Way

Author: Erin E. Moulton

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Lucy Peevy has a dream–to get out of the trailer park she lives in and become a famous scientist. And she’s already figured out how to do that: Build a robot that will win a cash prize at the BotBlock competition and save it for college. But when you’ve got a mama who doesn’t always take her meds, it’s not easy to achieve those goals. Especially when Lucy’s mama takes her, her baby sister Izzy, and their neighbor Cam away in her convertible, bound for parts unknown. But Lucy, Izzy and Cam are good at sticking together, and even better at solving problems. But not all problems have the best solutions, and Lucy and Izzy must face the one thing they’re scared of even more than Mama’s moods: living without her at all.

Huge thank you to Razorbill CA/Philomel for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Chasing the Milky Way may be one of the best stories I’ve read that deals with mental illness as a prime focus. The book follows Lucy, a budding scientist at the age of twelve, who has to grow up a little faster than the other kids because her Mama isn’t quite all there. Refusing to take her meds, and being… all out frustrating, Lucy questions what it means to dream, when her reality is something she is struggling to change where and now.

I loved reading about the relationship between Lucy, Mama and Grammie. Throughout the books you’d get these italicized bits that really looked deeper into how these three woman all co-existed, especially Grammie and Mama in the treatment and raising of Lucy. There’s so much emotion within these sections, especially the fighting and aggression. Lucy functions as an observer throughout the text, and she’s watching her Mama come a part at the seams. It’s heartbreaking and raw, and I think many of us understand and have been in this kind of situation — sometimes you just never know how you should respond.

I think what I equally loved about this book is the maturity aspect. This is a middle grade novel, but it’s one that feels light-years ahead in terms of the overall themes and concepts. Lucy is very intelligent and mature for her age, yet she responds in the way any twelve year old might when encountering mental illness — she attempts to rationalize it. But coming to terms with mental illness is never that simple, and I love how Lucy tries to find logic in her situation when there’s no easy way to respond to it. All her feelings are so real and that made the connection is.

And then there’s Mama. So frustrating and aggravating, and even hateful at times. There were moments where I should have hated her — hated the treatment of her daughter and mother, and yet I couldn’t. I just couldn’t hate this woman with good conscience because of her desperation — her need for help but her lack of acceptance and will to find it. There are so many people like this, and you always want to hope that they do get the help they rightfully need, but it’s not as simple as we think it is, and the book does an amazing job illustrating that point.

I was captured by Chasing the Milky Way from the very first page. Erin E. Moulton has crafted some wonderfully real characters who feel so human in how they respond to the world around them. Lucy is the kind of dreamer where you want all the good to happen to her, and the ending is so bitter sweet that when you get there, there’s almost this sigh of relief. This is one emotionally little book and one middle grade read that definitely should be on your radar.

Also Lucy wants to build robots. BEST CHILD EVER.

ARC Review – Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

18332010Title:  Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times
Author:  Emma Trevayne
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack.

Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes. Or it did, before it was broken. Before it was killed.

But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for this advance reader copy.

When it comes to Middle Grade fiction, I have a strong love for the ones that incorporate parallel universes or cities for the sake of providing strong character growth. Emma Trevayne’s Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times falls perfectly into my favourite type of middle grade novel, as she uses an alternate London (Londinium) to provide the backdrop and growth for her protagonist, Jack, a young boy who simply wants people to accept him for who he is.

This novel is very easy to gravitate towards. It has the right amount of action, two strong antagonist (if you can call Lorcan an antagonist, he’s a tricky fellow to pin-point), and a main character who is easily likable and you understand his decisions. Jack’s behaviour is so idealistic and innocent, but when he is forced to face reality, he learns his harsh lessons and attempts to grow from them rather than throw a fit. He’s lucky too, he gets a clockwork dragon as a companion, which I am horrifically jealous of!

There’s a lot to love about this alternate London that Trevayne has crafted. It’s a vibrant and vivid world, so it’s easy to imagine. Middle Grade often can have this problem that if the world isn’t easy to imagine or participate in, it can be difficult to keep interest, and I feel like Trevayne just makes everything feel so effortless — she knows her audience and creates an engaging world, one that is insanely active and easy to just fall into. When we follow Jack, we aren’t just seeing the world through his eyes, and when we are, it’s truly a joyous experience.

I really adored all the characters in this story. Beth made me smile because although she is a character who has had a lot of suffering, she doesn’t let it destroy her. I LOVED Lorcan, even if a few times I wanted to punch him in his book balls for hurting Jack. His motivations were fabulous, a bit cheeky, and he was easy to engage with. I especially loved how subservient he was to The Lady. I could go on and on about these characters, but then I’d be spoiling the novel.

This is my first book by Emma Trevayne, and it definitely will not be my last. While I’m disappointed my digital ARC did not have the illustrations, I can only image how perfect they probably are when coupled with the story. It’s a shame this novel isn’t releasing until May of next year, because it’s hands down one of the best Middle Grade adventure novels I’ve read in awhile, and it’s a book I know I’ll be buying for everyone. Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times asks for so little of its reader, but packs such a meaty punch in its storytelling, that it’ll be perfect for even the pickest reader.

Seriously, pre-order this book now. You will not be disappointed.

River’s Review: 

Coming Soon.