Tag: Middle Grade

BOOK REVIEW: Once Upon a Legend by Mary Ting

BOOK REVIEW: Once Upon a Legend by Mary TingOnce Upon a Legend by Mary Ting
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads


A story of love and a power that echoes through time.

A prophecy foretold by the Council.
A sword forged by the Ladies of the Lake.
A child born from love and the hope of thousands.

Seventeen-year-old Idrisa is a student from Dumont Orphan School. When the Emperor of Dumonia invites all citizens to a birthday gala for Prince Merrick, she attends and becomes entangled in a world beyond belief. At the party, Idrisa begins to hear strange voices that urge her to go to the lake. A student from school follows and tries to kill her, but in the fight for her survival, Idrisa gains possession of an eternal sword—gifted by the Ladies of the Lake.

The Emperor demands it, but only Idrisa can wield the sword, so he imprisons her. Her only hope is Prince Merrick, but he is grieving the death of his mother and doesn’t care about anything happening around him. While held captive, Idrisa uncovers secrets that challenge everything she thought she knew about Dumonia. Enemies and allies emerge when they hear news of the sword, and she must unlock the mystery of the weapon before darkness descends on the empire forever.


Retribution was a powerful weapon.

Once Upon a Legend was an enchanting tale that was woven together beautifully. It was impossible not to be fascinated with this magical world.  With a retelling involving the Ladies of the Lake, it made me feel like I was watching a movie play out in my head.  One that at first glance may seem like a Disney tale, YET as this story unfolds you see just how much darker, grittier and so much deeper this story goes.  There was murder and so much unknown laced in the pages, it felt as though plans were in place for something bigger than them.  So if you adore young adult stories that feature lore, magic, sword fighting, traitors, friendship, and the sparks of something more, then this is definitely the book for you!

I shivered, an icy blast of wind sprayed over my face. The white light from the blade, like a thousand diamonds blessed with inner fire, beckoned me to reach out for it.

Idrisa was fierce, determined and brave. She was raised in the Dumont Orphan School and the friendships she created meant the world to her.  They had been with her since the beginning.  So as we watched her train and go through the motions of being at school, I loved that she learned from her mistakes and pushed herself to be better.  Idrisa was someone we could definitely look up to.  When her school was invited to a birthday gala for Prince Merrick, Idrisa’s whole world was going to change forever.  At the gala, the goddesses of the lake gave Idrisa the sword.  The one the King desperately wanted.  And with that fear in my bones, I had no clue where this story would go.

“Do not fear when the time comes. If you risk everything, you will gain what you seek.”

Prince Merrick seemed to radiate pain and sorrow.  He missed his mother with his whole heart and soul.  Yet life continued and surrounding him were his brothers, father and the expectations for all of them. As we watched Prince Merrick, the tests he was put through seemed unfathomable. He showed us he was honorable, true and someone we could trust….or so I hoped. Especially when his father, the King, imprisoned Idrisa after she obtained the sword. I hoped those chain of events would be the fire that would light him to live again.  Because he had so much potential, and I loved the spark between him and Idrisa!

“Family is not only created by blood, but within the heart. Forever may our bond be strong. And like the stars, may our light never die.”

The side characters in this book filled the pages with their passion.  Rocco was one I was unsure of.  He was so protective of Idrisa and I was beyond grateful for that. But his words weren’t for me.  That’s because I had already fallen for the prince so easily. Yet I have a lot of guesses for his future!  And Knox, who helped the prince, was someone I adored.  But on the other side, I hated the evil characters!  They felt like sociopaths who had no moral ground to stand on. What they would do in the name of what they thought was right or what they wanted *shudders*, there was no line for them that they wouldn’t cross.  So hold on, because not everyone we care for will end up safe.

One of us had to die, and it wasn’t going to be me.

Magic, sword fighting, darkness, betrayal, truths, and a slow burn romance filled Once Upon a Legend.  The twists in this book were fabulously done!  The why and also who someone was, my mind was blown. I didn’t see those coming.  And I loved that alliances were made with those that were unlikely, it left me so excited to see how that will pan out!  This story was skillfully crafted and I loved that we even got a chapter or two from characters I didn’t even think we would. The way it added to the depths of this story were magical! This story closed with leaving us at a good stopping point, but I’m excited to see what happens next. And I just have to say that even though this story is young adult, I think it would be a great read for middle graders to pick up too!

I am worthy. I am deserving. You can’t take away who I am.
Out of anger, and to prove to myself that I could, I nocked an arrow and released, straight to the target dead on.

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

BOOK REVIEW – Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

BOOK REVIEW – Echo by Pam Muñoz RyanEcho by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads


Winner of a 2016 Newbery Honor, ECHO pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation.

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, this impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.

For a few hours, Echo healed my cynical heart with pure hope. Beautifully written and compelling, what I will call an historical fairytale – with all the hardships that come with it – enchanted me from the very first page, and my interest never wavered : Friedrich, Mike, Frankie, Ivy… They all earned a little place in my heart.

One might say that these stories are not free of some kind of simplistic resolution (and I agree), but in my opinion the novel’s worth lies elsewhere : in the heartwarming and hopeful messages that music can bring people together and that we all can find the place where we belong, no matter how different we think we are, no matter how intolerant our contemporaries are being, no matter how idiotic and selfish people can be.

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried about the age target. If I could see straight away that the story was aimed at children, I think that there’s a reason we adults come back to fairytales sometimes. As much as I love my Dark Fantasy novels, as much as I complain about the stupid and intolerant comments I see every day on the social medias, there’s a part of me that needs to believe. I wouldn’t be a teacher if I didn’t hope for the future to be more open-minded, more accepting, less scared of differences.

Everyone needs to believe in a better world once in a while, to let a bright day overtake the clouds of ignorance.

Now I’ll patiently wait for someone to translate Echo in French to throw it into my pupils’ hands.

PS. I’m rating this book according to its age rank.

BOOK REVIEW – Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

BOOK REVIEW – Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtOkay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Purchase on: Amazon
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In this stunning novel, Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.

There is something to be said for a book which manages to make me tear out on page 3 over a jacket, don’t you think?

Indeed Okay for Now is a beautiful coming of age story which is every bit as powerful as what I expect from my favorite authors in the YA realistic genre, such as A.S. King, Melina Marchetta or Hannah Moskowitz.

What you need to know is that every character, even the weirdest of all, rings true, and above that, evolves throughout the story. Be prepared for this uncomfortable moment when you realize that no matter what you thought you knew, you were wrong. That no matter what you thought you felt, you’d change your mind. And let me tell you, here lies the absolute beauty of this novel, because isn’t it often the same in real life? How many times did you presume something only to readjust your opinion after?

“Shut up. It’s not like you – ”
“Like I what? Like I what, Douggo? Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be so angry that you… And then something happens, and after that, everyone figures that’s what you’re like, and that’s what you’re always going to be, and so you just decide to be it? But the whole time you’re thinking, Am I going to be like him? Or am I already like him?”

How to emancipate from our family? How to express ourselves? How to break the cycle of abuse?

By no means there’s a right answer to these questions, and I really appreciated that Gary D. Schmidt never attempted to drown the readers in pompous speeches and oh-so-meaningful conversations that always scream fake to me. In the contrary, Doug’s family’s journey is a long one, sometimes desperate, sometimes hopeful, and it was perfect as it was.

“But in The Dump, Angry Quiet was an old friend, and he moved in again. No one talked because we all wanted to scream.”

As for Doug, his way of dealing with his issues is not something I would have expected to enjoy. I mean, birds. Can you see me frowning? I won’t lie, I was skeptical at first : a teenager who draws birds to escape his shitty life? *in a hight pitched voice* Yeah, riiight. However, I am not one who doesn’t know when to acknowledge her defeat, and defeat it is. I was WRONG. Yes, this kind of storyline can interest me, and even more, pull at my heart strings – wow. Now that was completely unexpected.

And do you know what was even more unexpected? Me going back to the drawings introducing every chapter to look at them closely, to try to analyze how Doug was forming that wing, that beak, even if I can’t draw for the life of me (really, my students make fun of me when I sketch a man on the board. I’m that bad). But you know what? Doug made me care. About birds.

In all honesty, I thought that the way Doug’s story was written, dismissing graphic descriptions in favor of suggestions, gave it so much more power. So much more emotion. Glued to the pages, I couldn’t breathe at times, I have to admit. As Doug, I felt suffocated, stuck in the spirals of abuse. Not to mention these little sentences repeated along the way that either broke my heart or made me smile so, so big.

“You know what that feels like?”

Do you? Doug’s voice felt so real that my heart was in my throat at the first sign of heartbreak. And oh boy. Does it contains heartbreak. I’m warning you here, the whole story can be read as a shout at the readers, as SOS calls nobody’s been listening to. It hurts. I won’t lie. I broke out in tears. Several times.

However, I wouldn’t want you to think that the sadness overtakes everything – it doesn’t. Clear the layers of hopelessness, and you’ll be amazed to see how much life can surprise you. Beyond the reality of how hard it is to live when trapped in a cycle of spite and anger, Okay for Now offers us so much hope – it’s truly beautiful.

“Maybe the Snowy Heron is going to come off pretty badly when the planes come together. Maybe. But he’s still proud and beautiful. His head is high, and he’s got this sharp beak that’s facing out to the world.
He’s okay for now.”

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