Middle-Grade Books Review Round-Up

It’s been a long time since we editors of Hope By the Book have been middle-graders, so when we wanted to know what some of the best middle grade books were right now we turned to someone in this age bracket :) Felicity Younts is the daughter of author Elizabeth Byler Younts, and we’re thrilled to have her on board the HBTB team. Today, she rounds up a few of her favorite reads to share with us…

Bookmarked Review

Middle Grade Fiction
Lois Lowry

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An unforgettable story with the most unconventional plot! The Willoughbys introduces the reader to parents who don’t particularly like their children and children who don’t particularly like their parents and do what they can to get rid of each other—but don’t let that scare you off! In the midst of the hilarity there is a message of hope laced throughout that will make this book a family favorite. While the plot is outlandish it offers readers sibling loyalty and perseverance through hardships. The Willoughby children and the adults that eventually love them create the kind of unconventional family that could even bring a tear to Lemony Snicket’s Count Olaf’s eye. A special story by beloved and award-winning author Lois Lowry is a perfect read-aloud for the whole family. (HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY, Mar 2008, 176 pp., $6.29)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts


Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
Lloyd Alexander

From Award winning Lloyd Alexander comes one of his lesser-known books, The Gawgon and the Boy, a coming of age story about an eleven-year-old boy who must be tutored by his unusual great aunt who he calls The Gawgon (referring to a mythological monster). The Boy learns more than dry academics and the two comrades travel to places near and far and even in other times through their imaginations. They form a friendship no one would’ve expected. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You will love The Gawgon and the Boy. It makes for a wonderful read aloud, too! (DUTTON JUVENILE, May 2001, 256 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts


Middle-Grade Historical Fiction

Thanhha Lai

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The protagonist’s distinctive voice offers the reader a profoundly important perspective from a little girl who finds herself as a Vietnam refugee. The Hà family flees their homeland during the Vietnam war only to find that arriving to America brings them an entirely new set of unexpected challenges. This award-winning book is masterfully written in free verse—which moves the story along uniquely and quickly. Readers will cherish the family love and perseverance. (HARPER COLLINS, Jan 2013, 288 pp., $8.99 )

Reviewer: Felicity Younts


Bookmarked Review

Middle-Grade Contemporary Fiction
R.J. Palacio


Wonder is a thought-provoking and realistic story about the hardships of a boy, Auggie, born with birth defects that greatly affect his facial features. He’s been generally protected from the all-seeing-eyes of the public until he attends middle school. The reader will hear the unvarnished thoughts and feelings not only from Auggie but his older sister and a few of his friends. Wonder is a story about the strengths and weaknesses of the human heart and friendships when put to the test. (KNOPF BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS, Feb 2012, 320 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts


Middle-Grade Contemporary Fiction
Linda Sue Park

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This gut-wrenching story, based on actual events, takes the reader deeply into Sudan. The dual timeline story joins the physical walks for water and refuge with the mental walks of sorrows and burdens in the young lives of two children during different times in Sudan’s tumultuous history. One thread is about a boy who must run from everything he knows because war is at his doorstep—he’s faced with soldiers, alligators, and even lions. The second is about a girl who must walk eight hours a day just so her family can have clean water. This NYT Bestseller is a take-your-breath-away story. (HMH Books for Young Readers, Oct 2011, 128 pp., $7.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts


Bookmarked Review

Middle-Grade Fantasy
Natalie Babbitt

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This fairytale-like story will bring readers on a timeless journey. While Tuck Everlasting is placed in a realistic and historical setting it is laced with the magic of eternal youth. Young Winnie is ripped from her quiet, boring life by a rogue family with an over 100 year old secret. Her adventure, the fountain of youth, a jail-break scheme, a little romance, and perhaps the luckiest toad in the world all together form a fantastical tale. Like a tall glass of cold water on a summer’s day—the reader will be left wanting more and yet will be fully satisfied at the same time. A wonderful read alone or read aloud. (SQUARE FISH, Aug 2007, 160 pp., $7.30)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts


Middle-Grade Fantasy
Maryrose Wood
SERIES: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1

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This hilarious and mysterious story, noted to be worthy of the Lemony-Snicket fans, will soon be a family favorite. When Penelope, new governess and graduate from Swanburne Academy for Bright Females, arrives to Ashton Place she learns that her three charges are children who were found in the woods—aptly named Alexander, Cassiopeia, and Beowulf. Their academics become secondary to learning to eat and speak properly, and—for goodness-sakes—to stop chasing squirrels! This first installment of the series offers laugh-out-loud and tender moments—and a lot of howling. The hefty amount of intrigue about other characters also helps to keep the pages turning and a quick click to buy book 2. (BALZER & BRAY, Apr 2015, 288 pp., $6.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts


Upcoming Historical Fiction Releases to be Thankful For


Make sure you add these titles to your TBR

There are so many new books coming out that I am so excited for. And even the most dedicated and vigilant reader will miss when a good book is released. Until recently, I was exclusively a Historical reader. I have finally broaden my tastes, however I will always lean towards the stories set in the past. Today, I wanted to give you a few Historical Fiction titles that I am excited to see releasing soon. If you know me, you know that I have a very low level of patience. Especially when it comes to new books. When I find out my favorite author is working on a new story, it’s all I can do to wait for the book to release. The books listed below are among those books that I am LONGING to read! Thankfully, their relese dates are right around the corner now! Add them to Goodreads and/or to your Wishlist on Amazon so you don’t miss out!

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Jody Hedlund
Series: Orphan Train #3
Release Date: December 4, 2018

Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Buy on Amazon

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Laura Frantz
Release Date: January 1. 2019

Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning--together.

Buy on Amazon

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Jen Turano
Series: American Heiresses #1
Release Date: January 1, 2019

Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she's always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Buy on Amazon

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Pepper Basham
Release Date: January 1, 2019

Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?

Buy on Amazon

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Tamera Alexander
Series: Carnton #1
Release Date: January 8, 2019

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Clouston's quietly held principles oppose those of the Southern Cause--but when forty thousand soldiers converge on the fields of Franklin, Tennessee, the war demands an answer. The Carnton home, where she is governess, is converted into a Confederate hospital, and Lizzie is called upon to assist the military doctor with surgeries that determine life or death. Faced with the unimaginable, she must summon fortitude, even as she fears for the life of Towny, her fiancé and lifelong friend.

Buy on Amazon

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Abigail Wilson
Release Date: January 15, 2019

Croft Towers holds more than its share of secrets . . . and Sybil is determined to uncover them all.

When Sybil Delafield’s coach to Croft Towers was robbed by highwaymen, she should have realized that her new position as companion to old Mrs. Chalcroft would be no ordinary job. Upon Sybil’s arrival, Mrs. Chalcroft sneaks into her room in the dark of night, imploring her to relay messages to town that are to stay hidden from the rest of the family. Who exactly is she working for and what do the messages contain?

Buy on Amazon

Rachel enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at www.bookwormmama.org. She's a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

Food and Words, Together

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

“When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.”

– Desiderius Erasmus


Books and food, hard decision?

Fortunately for booklovers, we don’t have to choose! We can get both in the form of a cookbook. (At least for October!) Why? October is National Cookbook Month.  *Wink wink.

If you’ve followed my blog, Just Commonly, you’ll know that I’m a foodie or rather a cookbook lover myself. I love trying different recipes and improving my (rather lacking) culinary skills.  Today, I share with you a couple of cookbooks I’ve tried which are still on my keeper shelf in my kitchen.

 Eat at Home Tonight by Tiffany King:

  • This one is a keeper with its simple and basic recipes for those times when excuses to not eat at home are too easy.

The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook by Toby Amidor

  • Five ingredients are all you need, AND it’s healthy. Need I say more?

Amish Cooking Class Cookbook by Wanda Brunstetter

  • This cookbook includes all the recipes you’ll read in the author’s Amish Cooking Class series. So it makes it fun to read along and know you can whip it up yourself!

Daisy Cakes Bakes by Kim Nelson

  • I don’t have a big sweet tooth, but when I do I like to make something from this one. My favorite? Vanilla wafer cookies with melted dark chocolate drizzle.

Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan & The editors of Lucky Peach

  • Being of Chinese descent, I love to check out some of the traditional recipes I’m familiar with, plus the ones I’ve tried while traveling to East Asia. There’s a bit of nostalgia for me when it comes to these classics.

Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook by Pearl Barrett & Serene Allison

  • I’m all for anti-inflammatory foods, especially when we start getting up in age. (note from Carrie: as the oldest person on this staff…. I object to that distinction! LOL) This cookbook has many options for gluten free, vegetarian and vegan recipes. I don’t always follow it diligently, but I do substitute without taking away its original intention too much.

Gather Around the Amish Table by Lucy Leid

  • This Amish cooking cookbook is the one I use more often with its pictures and easy instructions.

The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer,  Marion Rombauer Becker & Ethan Becker (75th Anniversary Edition)

  • This is probably a staple in most, if not all, kitchens. Many times, going back to the classics gives me the comfort I need.

Quite the variation, but I think the main objective for me in keeping with a cookbook is the ease of use, and flavor.  As Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt once said, “Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” When we prepare food, there’s a transference of love to those who will taste it. 

Do you have a cookbook you recommend?

“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.”

– Alan D. Wolfelt

Annie is an associate editor of Hope by the Book and the mind behind Just Commonly blog, sharing what she loves most – Jesus & all things book and bookish. She is also the co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours.

Cozy Up With These Bookish Cozy Mysteries!


Cozy Mysteries are hugely popular for readers right now, and I personally (Carrie) love this genre known for quaint small towns, quirky characters, loyal pets, and amateur sleuths (usually women). Granted, there is a bit of a formula to these books but that’s part of what makes them so charming. (For a great tongue-in-cheek post about this, check out Top Ten Things I’ve Learned From Cozy Mysteries over at I Wish I Lived In a Library!)

When they are set in a bookstore or library, they become even more charming!

Since October is a great month for mysteries, I thought I’d give you the breakdown on some of the best ‘bookish’ cozy mystery series to start with (and some new ones we’re looking forward to).

Bookstore Mysteries

Might as well go with the most obvious one first, right? ;) This is a brand new series from Kensington and debut cozy author Lauren Elliott. The main character - rare book expert Addison (Addie) Greyborne, has recently moved from Boston back to her quaint New England seaside village hometown where she lives in an inherited Victorian mansion and owns a rare & used bookstore called Beyond the Page. The first installment, Murder By the Book, releases October 30, 2018 with the second book coming up in April 2019 and the third next October. I can’t wait to read this one ASAP!

Tourist Trap Mysteries

Lynn Cahoon’s popular Tourist Trap series is set all around the charming coastal town of South Cove, California, but the heroine Jill Gardner owns a delightful bookstore/coffee shop so a lot of the scenes take place there. This is one of my go-to cozy mystery series, bookish or not, and I’m always eager to get my hands on the next book!

Library Lover’s Mysteries

One can’t talk about bookish cozy mysteries without mentioning Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lover’s Mystery series from the Penguin Group/Berkley. Heroine Lindsey Norris is settling in as library director in her cozy hometown of Briar Creek, Connecticut - which isn’t as sleepy as it first appears!

Bibliophile Mysteries

A cozy mystery list also isn’t complete without the Bibliophile Mysteries from Kate Carlisle, published first by Obsidian and now by Berkley. The latest book in the series - Buried in Books - has a 5 star rating on Amazon with 100 reviews. Brooklyn Wainwright is a skilled surgeon… of books, and her book restoration jobs keep leading to mysteries!

Pen and Ink Mysteries

This new series from Krista Davis & Kensington is so unique! Not only does the heroine manage the Color Me Read bookstore in DC and create coloring books for adults, the book comes with a front & back cover that you yourself can color. The first book released in February 2018 and the new installment will be out in November

Check these out too!

There are so many other great ‘bookish’ cozy mystery series that I should mention. Make sure you add these to your TBR lists as well!

And if that’s not enough (lol) check out these lists here and here from Cozy Mystery List :)

Do you love cozy mysteries too? What’s your fave series?