The Barren Grounds Book Tour: Review, 15 Thoughts While Reading, and Fan-Art

The Barren Grounds Book Tour: Review, 15 Thoughts While Reading, and Fan-Art

By David Alexander Robertson

Publisher: Puffin Canada

Print Length: 256 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.25

Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and always be sure to check your local library/Libby)

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Aski, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them. (Goodreads)

Special thanks to Puffin Canada and Hear Our Voices Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

I don’t often read middle-grade for no particular reason. There are a number of books on my TBR that actually happen to be middle-grade but for whatever reason, I’ve continually put off reading them. The Barren Grounds quickly reminded me how great these books can be, even if they’re intended for an audience much younger than myself. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am going to get the negative out of the way by saying there is none. This is an amazing book, with amazing character development and world-building. It also serves as an introduction to indigenous culture for those who may not as familiar with it. This book had me in tears at one point, and I was so invested in the world. The books does have some similarities to the classic Chronicles of Narnia, but I personally found this much more interesting and engaging.  

I learned some new things about indigenous culture from this book that sparked an internet deep-dive into the history of many First Nations people, their beliefs and cultural practices. I found my eyes opened to a culture, that I was aware of but never truly saw. This book opens the readers to a fantasy world, yes, but it also opens a part of our world so often forgotten or overlooked. I want everyone to read this book, be moved by the story, and be inspired to learn more. I recommend reading this book, and then going out and finding out more about the beautiful stories that inspired this one. 

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

15 Thoughts While Reading

  1. I was glad to find that Morgan and Eli seem to have been placed in a truly caring foster home. I understand that that is not always the case, but this particular home has great potential. I also realized how much more meaning this had to me as an adult who is old enough to have children. 
  2. I learned about some First Nations dishes, which lead me to research more about the culture, particularly cuisine. 
  3. It was easy to draw immediate parallels between The Chronicles of Narnia and The Barren Grounds; which the portal to Misewa being opened through a drawing and one of the portals to Narnia being opened through a painting. 
  4. I learned about fishers. Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of such an animal. 
  5. I found myself often relating to Morgan in her feelings of disconnection to her heritage and the anger that made her feel. 
  6. I found myself contemplating the ethical conundrum that Ochek was faced with when he and the children came across Arik. And wondered what I would do in such a situation. 
  7. I noticed the allegory against colonizers in the description of the antagonist. It reminded me how truly wasteful modern society is, and how we take advantage of nature. 
  8. Robertson does a good job setting up a mystery surrounding Morgan’s origin, as well as Eli’s in a sense. I want to know more about how they got in the foster care system, and if it had to do with legitimate concerns or one’s based on discrimination and ignorance. 
  9. I was very interested in the character of Mahihkan, and wanted to know more about him. Especially whether or not his presence held more weight that I may have noticed. 
  10. With the mentions of North and South country, I became more curious about the stories that could be set in this world. So much was set up, with things only mentioned hopefully with the intent to more fully explore. 
  11. I was reminded of how beautiful the indigenous languages are with the book’s inclusion of Cree words. It makes me want to cry knowing that these languages are in danger of dying out. 
  12. Learning one of the stories behind what we call the Big Dipper was a beautiful experience and during this scene in the book, I cried quite a bit. 
  13. Morgan truly grew in this book, that was a beautiful thing to see. She and Eli found a home not only in Misewa but in each other.
  14. The way time worked in this story fascinated me, especially in the final conversation between the kids and Arik. Could they have sat there and talked for a literal eternity?
  15.  The final poem was so beautiful. I read it more than once. 

Fan Art

Portrait of character Arik

Miss Meteor Review, Theme Analysis & TV Recommendations + Fan Art

Miss Meteor Review, Theme Analysis & TV Recommendations + Fan Art

By Tehlor Kay Mejia, Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher: Harper Teen

Print Length: 320 pg

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT

Release Date September 22, 2020

Buy this book at Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to HarperTeen and HearOurVoices Tours for providing me with an ARC and allowing me to participate in this book tour.

There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. (Goodreads)

Lita Fanart

Miss Meteor proves to be a top of the line coming-of-age story with plenty of drama and laughs for everyone. Exceptionally inclusive with a hint of magic, we follow a group of friends who learn probably the most important lesson of them all: about being yourself. The book goes to great lengths to illustrate this common lesson in a way that shows the wide variety of acceptance someone can come to, whether it be on there own or with the help of those around them. Miss Meteor is a feel-good read for anyone who has ever felt other, and for me, one of the very few books I felt represented as a queer Latinx woman. 

I loved this book and felt truly blessed when I realized this is a five-star read (the second of this month!) I related deeply to a lot of the story and found myself rooting for the characters and crying alongside them. This is one of those books you read when you’re not having the best time; cosy up with it under the covers with a cup of warm tea and escape into Meija and McLemore’s version of Meteor(ite), New Mexico. 

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

As mentioned above, Miss Meteor is full of a lot of important lessons and themes. I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of the themes explored in this book. All of which are important, and represented masterfully:

Stand-Up for Others (and Yourself) is one of the smaller themes explored in this book with the character of Cole (who, let’s just be honest, is my new book boyfriend). Throughout the book, he stands-up for those being bullied by his sister’s boyfriend, but when it comes to himself he stays considerably silent. As the book continues we see him realize that if he’s going to stand up for his friends, he also needs to stand up for himself. And, in doing so, he puts the book’s bullies in their place in a triumphant scene that had me cheering out loud for him as I read it. 

The Value of Friendship is heavily featured in this book, as we see old friends come together, friendships grow stronger, and relationships metamorphosis. The character of Chicky is probably the one who learns the most from this lesson, as she realizes how much she needs her friends and how important they are to her. We watch as she overcomes personal struggles to preserve her friendships as she realizes that her friends are much too important to lose. 

Self-acceptance is the explicit theme heavily woven throughout this story. Every character has something holding them back, and as the story progresses we follow them as they come out of their shells and learn one of live’s most important lesson. While the focus is mostly on Lita and Chicky, it’s hard to miss the personal growth in Cole and Junior as well. This definitely gave the book a sense of depth that I’m truly amazed the authors managed to put in so few pages.

I don’t want to let go of this book yet. I could re-read it right now if it wasn’t for the fact that I have other things to read. If you share these feelings with me, I hope you enjoy a short list of series I’ve included below that embody some aspect of this book in some way (in order of least related to most related):

Switched

This series is the most different from Miss Meteor, but I wanted to include it because there are definitely parallels in the lessons of this show to that of the book. 

Switched follows a depressed and bullied young woman who decides her only option is to commit suicide. After a series of unexpected events she switches bodies with a popular classmate, the young woman is forced to more closely examine the reasons that lead her to want to end her life.

I Am Not Okay With This

I’ve reviewed this series in the past, and while it is tonally very different from Miss Meteor, it heavily includes themes of friendship and otherness. 

I Am Not Okay With This is a coming of age story following a young woman as she develops telepathic powers. 

Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty shares a lot of themes with Miss Meteor, including those listed above as well as some not mentioned, such as Latinx-culture and queer culture. 

Ugly Betty follows a young woman who, despite a chronic lack of style, lands a job at a fashion magazine.

The Inheritance Games Review (Book Tour)

The Inheritance Games Review (Book Tour)

By Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Print Length: 384

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Release Date September 1, 2020

This book is currently available on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to Little, Brown Books and TheWriteReads for providing me with an ARC and allowing me to participate in this book tour.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive. (Goodreads)

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of mysteries. As of late, I’m wondering if that’s simply because I haven’t read enough of them. After all, a year ago I would have said the same thing about fantasy, but that’s now one of my most favourite genres. The Inheritance Games, in a way, maybe a wake-up call for me to pick up more mysteries. 

The Inheritance Games is honorarily the first YA mystery I’ve read and I have to say: I thoroughly enjoyed it. If it weren’t for certain life-responsibilities I would have read this book in one sitting, my attention was utterly rapt. Barnes shows an exceptional understanding of how to properly create suspense, making every little detail seeming like a possible clue. It’s hard to put down a book when you’ve convinced yourself you can solve part of the mystery in the next chapter; the desire to continue and know more seemingly endless. (And the book ends on a cliffhanger! Boy, isn’t that frustrating!) 

This book follows a young woman, Avery, as she discovers she has been left an immense fortune by an eccentric billionaire; all to the chagrin of his family. She soon finds out she may be a piece in yet another one of his puzzles, and as she falls into the spirals of this mystery we are treated with a fair amount of thrills and romance. There are so many questions, and the answers are in sight, but just out of grasp. 

I enjoyed following along with Avery and the Hawthorne brothers as they worked through puzzle after puzzle, finding some easier than others as I’m sure they did. The book was predictable enough to be a chill read, but with enough unpredictability to keep you turning the page. For romance lovers, the book definitely did not fall short on its romance, with a heart-pounding love-triangle that had you anticipating what came next almost as much as the mystery. The characters are charismatic and charming, it was easy to fall into their world. 

From what I understand this book and it’s upcoming sequel have been picked up to be adapted into a television series, or streaming series rather. While reading the book I was acutely aware of how well this book would translate into a serial television romance, and if the production follows through, trust I will be an early viewer.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating