Thoughts on Books (#26): A SECRET SHARED • BURIED IN A GOOD BOOK • THE SHADOW HOUSE

Hello! The school year is wrapping up this week, so hopefully I’ll have more time to post and blog hop very soon. I know I’ve missed a lot, and I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone! Do you have your summer reading list ready?


A Secret Shared
A Secret Shared
by Patricia MacLachlan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A SECRET SHARED is a sweet middle grade story about adoption and the meaning of family. Twins Nora and Ben discover that their little sister Birdy has different ancestry than they do from a secret DNA test. If Birdy isn’t their biological sister, then where did she come from, and why are their parents hiding the truth?

I liked the message that family goes beyond DNA, and it’s best to be upfront about things because the truth has a way of coming to light. I wish there had been more character development and more emotion given the situation. I also thought the parent/child dynamic was a little odd. I just can’t believe Gen Alpha kids would interact with their parents like they do in this book. They seemed rather old-fashioned? This book would probably be best for the youngest middle grade readers as it’s written pretty simply and straightforward. Nice message but felt lacking in depth.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.


Buried in a Good Book (By the Book #1)
Buried in a Good Book
by Tamara Berry
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

After a messy divorce, successful thriller writer Tess brings her teen daughter Gertie to a cabin in the woods that she inherited from her grandfather. Tess is hoping some rustic living — no internet, electricity, or running water — will get Gertie’s mind off the fact that her dad doesn’t seem to want her in his life anymore. Instead of peace and quiet, they find themselves wrapped up in a murder investigation when body parts are found in the pond behind the cabin.

I enjoyed the dynamics between characters, especially with Tess and Sheriff Boyd, who reminds her very much of her own fictional character Detective Gonzales from her hit thriller series. There were parts of the book I found silly (Bigfoot?) and the culprit was a big surprise, didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Overall though, BURIED IN A BOOK is a fun start this new cozy series.


The Shadow House
The Shadow House
by Anna Downes
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Ultimately I liked how the mystery played out, but it took a long time to get there. The eco-village was an odd setting to me. For some reason it took away from the creep-factor. Surprising twists toward the end, but I struggled to stay interested for a lot of the book. Borrowed from the library.

☆ Click on the book title to read the synopsis on Goodreads ☆

WHAT LIVES IN THE WOODS by Lindsay Currie

For fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine comes a chilling ghost story about a girl living in the decrepit and creepy mansion, who discovers something in the woods is after her.

All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to sleep in, attend a mystery writing workshop, and spend time with her best friend. But when Ginny’s father ― a respected restoration expert in Chicago ― surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren’t staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they’re staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.

But unfortunately, the mansion has more problems than a little peeling wallpaper. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures with glowing eyes. And some say campers routinely disappear in the woods, never to be seen again.

As terrifying as it sounds, Ginny can’t shake the feeling that there’s something darker… another story she hasn’t been told. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: There’s more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren’t after campers.

It’s after her.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers
Release Date: September 14, 2021
Source: Borrowed from the library

★★★¾

Main character Ginny Anderson is a Chicago tween obsessed with Agatha Christie novels, and she dreams of publishing her own mysteries someday. She feels her summer has been ruined when her dad gets a job renovating a spooky old mansion in Michigan. Instead of attending a fun summer writing class with her bestie, she has to spend a month stuck at Woodmoor Manor. When some creepy unexplained occurrences start happening in the house, Ginny finds herself immersed in her own mystery to solve.

What lives in the woods? I’m not sure, because the title & blurb of this book are a bit misleading. I enjoyed the mystery and the creepy atmosphere of Woodmoor Manor. If I were Ginny, I would’ve loved to spend the summer exploring an old mansion with Agatha Christie vibes, but she was focused on a way to get back to Chicago. She’s a clever and brave character who wouldn’t let ghosts get in her way. This book is a great pick for fans of middle grade horror.

SECOND SLEEP by Diane Stanley


Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release Date: November 2, 2021

★ Middle Grade Magical Realism ★

“The time by the lake is everything perfect about a childhood summer. And maybe, these nights also hold the answers Max is looking for…”

SECOND SLEEP is a very sweet middle grade book with an original magical premise that I enjoyed. When Max’s mother disappears, his grandmother takes him and younger sister Rosie to the family’s cabin by the lake, a special place where their mom spent her childhood summers. There Max and Rosie find themselves in an alternate dream world filled with kids who share a unique connection. Max soon realizes that his new friends may help him solve the mystery of his missing mother.

I think middle grade readers will have fun with the magical realism in this book. The dream world is never explained, it just is. I loved the friendships that were formed there, between kids that wouldn’t even know each other in the real world (you’ll find out why!).

There were two things that bothered me in this book. One was how formal the dialogue seemed, even with the younger characters. This may be in part because I listened to a synthetic voice galley, and the delivery made it seem stiff. Second was the story behind the mystery and a certain character’s decisions that made me so mad, though a young reader would probably see it differently. I’m glad Max was ultimately able to express his feelings about the situation.

SECOND SLEEP is a lovely story of friendship, dealing with unavoidable change, and holding onto childhood magic for as long as possible. It will leave readers with a lot to think about. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke


Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 18, 2021

Bittersweet & funny. AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY is about two teens and their father dealing with loss, and just because one member is ready to move on, the others might not be.

Can a disastrous road trip help the Ripley family face their grief after the loss of their mom? Not only is camping at Big Bend National Park the last place Theo and his sister Laura want to spend their summer vacation, their dad has a doozy of a surprise: meeting his new girlfriend.

This book made me teary eyed, and kept me laughing out loud at the witty dialogue. The characters were realistic and I could empathize with each one. The humorous banter and misadventures helped balance the seriousness in the story. Enjoyed! (Borrowed from the library.)

THE STARS OF WHISTLING RIDGE by Cindy Baldwin


Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release Date: June 15, 2021

✦ Middle Grade Magical Realism ✦

“Ivy Mae Bloom is almost thirteen years old, her name is almost a complete sentence, and her family’s RV is almost a home.”

THE STARS OF WHISTLING RIDGE is a magical middle grade story of a girl desperate for a forever home, and ultimately learning that “home” means more than just a stationary building. Ivy Mae Bloom’s mother and two aunts are fallen stars in human form, and they control the magic in different parts of the country. Ivy’s family is constantly on the move, traveling from place to place so her mother can help people by granting wishes.

Even though her mom warned her that sometimes wishes were unpredictable, Ivy steals the wish jars and dreams of a permeant home like her Aunt Agatha has in Whistling Ridge, North Carolina. Not long after, the family ends up stranded in Whistling Ridge, and they learn that the town is plagued by a sinister force destroying its magic. Ivy is then faced with a dilemma, since saving the town will mean having to move on again.

Ivy is a relatable character as she faces conflicts with her parents & siblings, the challenge of making new friends, and doing the right thing even if it means not getting what she wants. I enjoyed the mystery of Whistling Ridge’s curse, and how clever Ivy was to research the town’s history and try to fit the puzzle pieces together. The ending was satisfying with Ivy learning a lot about herself, her family, and what “home” truly means. Recommended to fans of magical realism and mystery. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.