WHAT LIVES IN THE WOODS by Lindsay Currie


Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers
Release Date: September 14, 2021
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★¾


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.


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.

RULE OF THREES by Marcy Campbell


Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: May 11, 2021

RULE OF THREES is an absorbing middle grade family drama that tackles some serious issues, including drug addiction, Alzheimer’s, and infidelity. While these heavy subjects are presented realistically, the ending will leave readers hopeful.

Maggie is a sixth grader, just starting middle school, and she’s already feeling stress from an uneasy shift in her friend group from elementary. It’s a time when relationships change, and new people come into your life, but Maggie never dreamed one of them would be a half-brother she knew nothing about!

Tony is a year older than Maggie, and with his mother struggling with drug addiction, he has no choice but to live with his father who may as well be a stranger. I adored Tony and Maggie, and my heart went out to them. Their reactions to this situation beyond their control were so genuine, and I loved seeing the growth in their characters over time.

This is a thoughtful coming of age story with compelling, imperfect characters dealing with relatable struggles, and it was a delight to read. Highly recommended! — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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