Book Review: From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks


Publication Date: January 14, 2020

Genre: Family, Mystery, Realistic Fiction

Age Category: Middle Grade (MG)

Pages: 304

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books


Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance.


I’m a huge fan of baking shows on the Food Network, and while I wouldn’t consider baking one of my main hobbies, I do like to get in the kitchen every once in a while. Therefore, I really enjoyed how the protagonist, Zoe, had an interest in baking and entering a kids baking competition as a sub-plot of the novel. But in reality, this realistic fiction story was about much more than baking.

The main conflict was when Zoe found a letter in the mail on her twelfth birthday . . . and it was from her father, Marcus, who she’s never met due to him going to prison when she was a baby. Although she’s skeptical about writing back to her father at first, she begins to build a relationship with Marcus through their back and fourth written conversations. He even gave Zoe a new R&B song for her to listen to in each of his letters, which Zoe dubbed “Little’s Tomato’s Playlist” after Marcus’ nickname for her. Cute, right?

I truly enjoyed Zoe and Marcus’ relationship throughout the entire novel, and it was really refreshing to have a book that contains representation of the many fatherless daughters (and sons) that are around the world, specifically so among members of the Black community.

Other topics like systemic racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other examples of racial inequality were addressed in a conversation between Zoe and her grandmother. But I admire Janae Marks’ ability to address these topics which can be hard to swallow in a tasteful yet informative way, making this book a great option for kids of all races to learn about the ins and outs of racism and its effect on people of color.

Throughout the story, Zoe had to keep her letters a secret from most of her family–except for her grandmother, whom she has a very close relationship with, and her best friend Trevor–in order to continue to get to know her father. I was rooting for Zoe throughout the entire novel to prove her father innocent of his crime. And while her actions of sneaking out to do so ended up coming back to bite her towards the end, when both her and her blended family’s secrets are revealed, the revolution of this inspiring tale was like the icing on the cake.

Overall, if you’re looking for a book that will tear your heart into pieces and glue it back together again, From the Desk of Zoe Washington is the perfect middle-grade novel for you. From the likeable characters, to the well-delivered hard topics, to the African-American author and protagonist, this heartwarming novel is an appetizing choice that most kids in their pre-teens and teens will happily relate to, while learning important lessons along the way!

Rating: ★★★★✯ (4.5/5 stars)

Recommended Age: for readers 11/12+

Although this novel happened to be a book that I stumbled upon during a trip to a book store, I’m so thankful to God that I gave it a chance! If anyone else has added this to their TBR list, or is contemplating doing so, I highly recommend that you give this novel a try, as well. But if you have already read this literature masterpiece, please tell me some of your thoughts on it–or some other book recommendations–down below!

Have a beautiful and blessed day everyone! God bless you all and I’ll catch you later! Bye, for now! ♡

Book Review #6: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullay Hunt


Publication Date: February 5th, 2015

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Category: Middle Grade (MG)

Pages: 320

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books


“Fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts.” —Kirkus Reviews

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label.

New York Times Bestseller! 


With her father deployed in the Army, Ally Nickerson has transferred to seven schools within the past seven years, and each time its the same story: her teacher asks her to read aloud to the class, she creates a distraction, and she gets sent to the principal’s office. Little does everyone know, Ally’s antics are only a method to cover up the fact that she doesn’t know how to read. But when Ally gains a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, who sees the super smart kid hidden behind her explosions, she begins to embrace the things that make her–and her classmates–unique.

The protagonist, Ally, could not be more relatable and realistic. Although she’s super creative and intelligent, which was put on display in the first-person POV, she started off lacking the vision of how awesome she really is. I think that most, if not all, kids have felt out of place at least once in their life, and Ally is a great representation of what it means to come from a place of wanting to be like everyone else to embracing not fitting in. Which in her case, is dyslexia.

"One thing's for sure. We're not gonna fit in, but we're gonna stand out. All three of us. You wait and see. You're going to be a famous artist and Albert is going to cure cancer or invent talking fish or something."

But I can’t go without mentioning the best friends that Ally makes on her journey to self esteem. Introverted Albert, who is basically a human encyclopedia who gets teased for being “nerdy”, and fun-loving Keisha, a girl with a passion for baking who happens to be the only black person in her class, form a bond with Ally because of their differences. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love Ally as a character. . . but Albert and Keisha stole the show, for me.

They were both involved in little sub-plots of the book, but I really liked how they all related to a common theme. And honestly, the entire novel wouldn’t be the same without the trio’s wholesome friendship. I could see both Keisha and Albert being the main character of their own novel.

Ally also faces bullying throughout the course of the novel by a girl named Shay, and I will give the author props that she did a great job with making her unlikeable. Let’s just say that Shay will probably remind you of a girl or two that we’ve all had in our class. But I really appreciate how Ally learns to rise above the bullying by holding her an olive branch. It was almost like when Ally learned how to love herself, she began to embrace other people–even those who did her wrong–that much more. And that was a sweet addition to this novel that I couldn’t help but appreciate.

“You know, a wise person once said, ‘Everyone is smart in their own way, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking that its stupid.'”

If you’ve been here for a while, you already know how I’d been raving about the book Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. And while that book is great, and all . . . I think I may officially have a new favorite! I would agree that for tweens and teens who are fans of classic stories like Wonder, Out of My Mind, or any other story about “the underdogs” learning to love what makes them unique, Fish in a Tree is an absolute must-read!

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars, and if I was able to give it 6 stars, I would!)

Recommended Age: for readers 11+

So that was my review of Fish in a Tree, and I’ve got to say that it was such a great read! I may even have to read it again, in the near future! If you’ve already read this masterpiece, I’d love to hear some of your takeaways and thoughts on it! But if not, I highly encourage you to give it a shot!

Thanks so much for stopping by! God bless you all, and I will catch you later! Peace in! ♡

Graphic Novel Review: Guts by Raina Telgemeier


Publication Date: September 17, 2019

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Category: Middle Grade (MG)

Pages: 224

Publisher: Graphix


A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York Times bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of SmileSistersDrama, and Ghosts!

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on? Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.


I remember the moment I got the first two editions of this triology, Smile and Sisters, when I was nine years old. To make a long story short, I fell in love immediately, and I still re-read them every now and then to this day. On a recent trip to Barnes & Nobles, I finally got my hands on Guts, a highly-anticipated graphic novel for all of Telgemeier’s loyal fans–and let me tell you, it was all worth the wait! Guts is an absolute masterpiece!

At the beginning of this gem for tweens and teens, Raina (who is the author when she was in 4th grade), catches the stomach flu that had been spreading in her family. And when her stomach problems continue, she develops the fear of getting sick and throwing up (emetophobia) to the point where she is worried about catching something from her family and classmates. Eventually, her family signs her up to see a children’a therapist, and she progresses throughout the story learning how to face her fear while making new friends along the way.

Raina is such a quirky, fun, and relatable protagonist, so its not hard to take a liking to her character within the first few pages of the story. She seems like someone that I would’ve liked to be around back in elementary school. And believe me, having the protagonist be someone who I actually like as a person is critical to me when I read a novel for the first time.

While I thank God that I’m not a victim of anxiety, there are so many young people who struggle with their mental health, even if they fear something small like the dark or going to the doctor. Stories like Guts are not only relatable to a large range of audiences, but they also teach us that while fear is a normal feeling, we shouldn’t let the things that scare us take over our lives. And like any trial, fears can be conquered.

Like always, the vibrant illustrations on each page of this masterpiece illuminated the story, making it that much more entertaining for readers of all ages. Even though the topic of mental health among youth was discussed throughout the course of this story, the funny, light-hearted moments within the book didn’t fail to put a smile on my face.

Overall, Guts is a must-read for bookworms–and even non-bookworms–of all ages! I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it!

Rating: ★★★★✯ (4.5/5 stars, 5 being the best of the best)

Recommended Age: for readers 9+

I’ve got to admit that I am very pleased with Guts. It was one of the three books that I got for my birthday, earlier this week, and I’ve got to admit that I made some pretty good choices. Be on the look out for the book reviews for the other two novels of my choice; they’re coming soon!

If you haven’t read this book already, I hope my opinion will encourage you to give it a try! However, if you already have this book in your collection, tell me your thoughts on it in the comments!

Have a wonderful rest of your day/night, everybody! God bless you all and I’ll catch you later! Peace in! ♡

Book Review #4: Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega


Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Genre: Fantasy

Age Category: Middle Grade (MG), roughly for kids between 10 to 14 years old

Pages: 352

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.


Every year, in the magical town of Ravenskill, Witchlings who participate in the Black Moon Ceremony are placed into covens and come into their powers as full-fledged witches.

And twelve-year-old Seven Salazar can’t wait to be placed in the most powerful coven with her best friend! But on the night of the ceremony, in front of the entire town, Seven isn’t placed in one of the five covens. She’s a Spare!

Spare covens have fewer witches, are less powerful, and are looked down on by everyone. Even worse, when Seven and the other two Spares perform the magic circle to seal their coven and cement themselves as sisters, it doesn’t work! They’re stuck as Witchlings―and will lose their magic.

Seven invokes her only option: the impossible task. The three Spares will be assigned an impossible task: If they work together and succeed at it, their coven will be sealed and they’ll gain their full powers. If they fail… Well, the last coven to make the attempt ended up being turned into toads. Forever.

But maybe friendship can be the most powerful magic of all…


The purchase of this middle grade novel during a long-awaited visit to my favorite book store (see that post HERE) was very impulsive and based on three factors; I loved the cover art, I loved the synopsis, and I saw the stellar reviews. But it was a quick decision that I’m very grateful I made.

I honestly loved Witchlings a lot more than I expected to. A story filled with important lessons, tons of funny moments to keep readers laughing, and wholesome, well-developed characters, I think many more bookworms of all ages will find this a very rewarding read.

While I loved so much about this book, I have to admit that after the character introduction and Seven, Thorn, and Valley (the Spare coven) were assigned with their impossible task, the plot was a little uneventful and flat for a while–maybe the first 100 pages or so. Even so, I really wanted to keep going to see if the plot would enfold. And I wasn’t disappointed, as the fantasy adventure soon got off the ground.

There are a few epic magic duels, but I like how the author kept them family appropriate and fairly brief—even while using them to keep the novel action-packed and exciting.

After Seven and Valley–who was once her bully–decided to put their differences aside and work together, the entire story seemed to take flight through its many surprises, cliffhangers, and plot twists that kept me at the edge of my seat. Literally though, I was unable to put it down towards the end and read the final 150 pages—if not a little more—in one sitting. At this point in the journey I really came to an understanding of the meaning of each noted character and event–everything begins to click to create an impactful (yet heartfelt) ending.

The amount of character development among each of the main characters was a really great element of the story. As Seven’s bond with Thorn and Valley gets stronger, she seems to drift away from her former best friend Poppy, who stopped talking to her since she got into House Hyacinth, the coven of Seven’s dreams. It really proved that we can form the strongest bonds with the most unlikely (or different) people, and other times, friends go onto different paths. And that’s okay! If and when that happens, we should move on in love.

Me and the characters alike learned the importance of selflessness, never giving up (even through fear), facing intolerance head-on, forgiving and learning to love those who have hurt you, speaking up when you see someone you love being mistreated, and to cherish every moment as if its your last. I would agree that the protagonist, her friends, and her family serve as great role models to kids.

As my conclusion, Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega is a humorous, exciting, and magical adventure that kids and adults alike can enjoy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am praying that a sequel will come out in the next couple years. If you are a fan of the show The Owl House, the Harry Potter series or other teen prodigy magic-filled adventures, this one is for you.

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5, 5 being the best of the best)

Recommended Age: for readers 10 or 11+

Thank you so much for reading, my fellow bookish friends! God bless you all, and peace in! ♡

Book Review #3 – The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

How are y’all doing, beautiful people? Fantabulous, I hope. Well, this might be old news to some of you, but a couple of weeks ago I listed a few books–both from my personal collection and borrowed from the library–that I’d started but just hadn’t finished yet. This story, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, happened to be one of them. But today, I was able to read the remaining 83 pages and finish it up. And WOW, I have a lot to talk about. So, let’s get started!

This book is all about 12-year-old Lucy Callahan, a girl who transferred to homeschooling when she was struck by lightning at the age of 8. The strike ended up destroying a small portion of her brain, then turning her into a total math genius. Despite her young age, she is a master of all things mathematics–so much so that she could already go to college. But, there’s one problem; her Nana, also her guardian, forces her to spend one year in middle school.

And all Nana asks is that Lucy does 1 year of public school, makes 1 friend, joins 1 activity, and reads 1 book. Ever since she was diagnosed with savant syndrome, she’s solved just about every problem that she’s faced with numbers. She was struck by lightning for goodness sakes! This should be nothing but a piece of cake, right? Wrong.

First of all, let me just say that this book is the epitome of a roller coaster. One minute, it has you laughing ’till your sides hurt and the next it has you on the verge of tears.

What really made this book almost impossible to put down was the realistic protagonist. Although Lucy is germaphobe with OCD who has to sit-stand 3 times every time she takes a seat–you’ll get it if you check out the book ;)–she is also a fantastic representation of how a lot of kids feel in school, whether elementary, middle or high. She feels like she doesn’t fit in. Like she’s out of step. When she first arrives to Hamlin Middle, she even purposefully gets test answers wrong so she can seem more “normal smart” rather than “genius smart.”

As Lucy faces her battles, or as the title implies, miscalculations, she goes on a journey of self-discovery and begins to find that life is more than numbers.

Self-confidence, peer pressure, bullying, animals in shelters who never get adopted, the power of friendship and family, as well as girl power are all topics hinted in the book, which I appreciate since a couple of those can seem a little bit overlooked in middle grade and YA literature.

In many ways, I saw myself in Lucy. We’re both super smart straight A students in middle school who have been homeschooled since 3rd grade and live with our grandmothers. To me, when a character is realistic and raw, not living in a fantasy world where trials and tribulations are nonexistent, I am automatically sucked into the story and I can connect with the protagonist much more.

Overall, if you are someone who loves animals and enjoys reading clean books with just enough humor to make you laugh but just enough emotion to pull your heartstrings, with a strong female lead, then this is definitely the book for you.

Age Recommendation: 9 or 10+

Overall Rating: 9/10 ★★★★★★★★★☆

This is a great read that I recommend for readers of most ages. If you’ve read or would like to read The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl or you have some (family-friendly) book recommendations, please feel free to comment them down below.

Thank you so much for reading, book lovers! Peace in! <33

Book Review 2 – Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

by Eleanor Coerr

Today, I will be doing a second book review. This time, it will be discussing the short story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.

This is a true story about a 10-year-old Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was diagnosed with luekemia as a result of an atom bomb that the U.S. dropped on a town called Hiroshima in an attempt to end a World War. After discovering her sickness, Sadako is determined to make 1000 paper cranes, which, in Japanese tradition, will heal her so that she can be on the running team, as she has always wanted.

I will admit, the story was very bittersweet. I really love Sadako’s courage and determination, as well as her effort to remain optomistic during such a tough time.

Her family and friends are very supportive of Sadako, her best friend, Mitsue, being the one who told her about the paper cranes, a good luck charm, even though she didn’t believe in them, herself. In the story, Sadako never made all 1000 cranes, but her friends from school came through, in the end.

Sadako even has her own monument to honor all those who died from luekemia as a result of the atom bomb.

Overall, I think that this story is very short-and-sweet. I enjoyed how the book can teach you a little more about Japanese culture, including learning how to create paper cranes (a community service project that I am participating in for book club.)

These were the first paper cranes, and pieces of origami, that I’ve ever made. I think that I did a pretty good job!

Me, other club members, and my school plans to send the cranes to homeless or less-fortunate children to let them know that we care! I haven’t participated in many community service projects, but I’m glad that we’re using our knowledge and hobbies to help those in need.

I hope you all enjoyed this book review! Every 1 to 3 months, I will likely be making a new one, so be on the lookout!

Have a beautiful day everyone! ✨

Book Review 1 – Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Out of My Mind

by Sharon M. Draper

Hey y’all! Today, I’m going to do something that I’ve never done on my blog before…a book review of the amazing book, Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper!

So, if you’re wondering what this book is about, it centers around a 10-year-old girl named Melody, who has cerebral palsy. In 5th grade, her class of special needs students move into school with kids without special needs. Melody struggles to communicate with and be accepted among her peers, and she gets into some conflict when she gets included into her class’ team for the spelling bee.

This story was really inspirational. The most intriguing part was probably the fact that it was from Melody’s point of view. Despite the fact that she cannot verbally talk, she is such an intelligent character, and, for a large amount of the story, people underestimated how smart she really was.

It’s extremely family-oriented, and it includes many unexpected plot twists that can really mess with your emotions. I loved every second of reading this. I would go so far to say that this is one of the best novels that I’ve read so far, and trust me, I read a lot!

So, overall, I really hope you enjoyed this book review! If you are interested in buying this book for yourself, you may do so at a lot of common online stores, or on Apple Books, which is where I purchased it.

As well, the wonderful author, Sharon M. Draper, just published the sequel to this book, Out of my Heart, which I haven’t had the opportunity to read, yet. If you have read it, please tell me what you think about the book overall. Just no spoilers, please! :>

Have a fantastic day everyone! ✨