Bite-Sized Reviews of The Woods Are Always Watching, Pie in the Sky, Shatter the Sky, and How to Find What You’re Not Looking For

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Today, I have a YA horror novel, a MG contemporary, a YA fantasy, and a MG historical fiction book. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!

The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on August 31, 2021
Genres: Horror, Young Adult
Pages: 224
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: YA (Violence)
My rating:

A companion to There’s Someone Inside Your House.

Bears aren’t the only predators in these woods.

Best friends Neena and Josie spent high school as outsiders, but at least they had each other. Now, with college and a two-thousand-mile separation looming on the horizon, they have one last chance to be together—a three-day hike deep into the woods of the Pisgah National Forest.

Simmering tensions lead to a detour off the trail and straight into a waking nightmare; and then into something far worse. Something that will test them in horrifying ways.


This book definitely has a slow start, but once it got going I honestly couldn’t put it down (I stayed up way too late reading it), and I’ve really needed a book like that lately. The premise is that Neena and Josie decide to go on a 3-day camping trip as their last hurrah before Neena goes away to college, leaving Josie behind. The first half of the book is Neena and Josie showing their complete ineptitude at camping (why did they choose this trip?) and bickering over little things until they get to a big blowout that they both worry will ruin their friendship forever. And then in the second half of the book, things go VERY wrong. Basically, once I got to the second half, I absolutely had to keep reading to find out what insane, horrific, possibly gory thing was going to happen next. Honestly, I’m surprised I felt that way, since I don’t like horror movies at all, but books give you all the suspense with none of the crazy jump scares or having to actually see the gore, so I guess I like them better. Here’s the thing: I had to suspend disbelief. A lot. The things that happen in this book are often preposterous–but I really wasn’t going in expecting realism. I also wasn’t sure how I felt about the head-hopping (the book is told from both Neena’s and Josie’s perspectives and jumps between them randomly in the first and third sections of the book), but once I got to the second section and realized it was an authorial choice based on head-hopping when the girls were together so that the reader would feel more of a sense of isolation when they were alone, I could definitely respect that choice. In the end, I enjoyed reading this book, especially the second half. And I am now convinced that I need to pick up There’s Someone Inside Your House, so I guess Perkins must have done her job!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai
Illustrator: Remy Lai
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on May 14, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 384
Source: Purchased
My content rating: MG (Deals with death of a parent)
My rating:

A poignant, laugh-out-loud illustrated middle-grade novel about an eleven-year-old boy’s immigration experience, his annoying little brother, and their cake-baking hijinks!

Sometimes life isn’t a piece of cake . . .

When Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao.

To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.

In her hilarious, emotional middle-grade debut, Remy Lai delivers a scrumptious combination of vibrant graphic art and pitch-perfect writing that will appeal to fans of Real Friends.


Pie in the Sky is utterly heartwarming, but also humorous. The story follows Jingwen and his family as they immigrate to Australia. Jingwen feels like he’s been transferred to another planet inhabited by aliens but soon starts to imagine that he might be the alien. Nothing in this new place is right, especially without his father, who died before they made the trip. The one solace that Jingwen finds is in baking his father’s recipes. Jingwen’s mother doesn’t approve of him using the oven, so he and his little brother have to bake in secret. Soon, it becomes something of an obsession, a lifeline. Jingwen starts to believe that these recipes are the key to a successful life in this new world—like he needs to finish the recipes in order to fix the problems he’s encountering. The story is heartbreaking in some parts, but the humor helps keep the book from feeling sad overall. The style is a seamless blend of chapter book and graphic novel, which is really fun to read. Sometimes the illustrations go along with the text, but at other times, the action takes place only in the art panels, like you would expect in a true graphic novel. The result makes for a unique read!

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
Series: ,
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on July 30, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: YA (Some violence)
My rating:

A determined young woman sets out to rescue her kidnapped girlfriend by stealing a dragon from the corrupt emperor in this stunning fantasy debut that’s perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?


An immersive fantasy involving dragons! (And who doesn’t love dragons?) Maren has let her life and plans revolve around her girlfriend Kaia. She sees Kaia as the stronger, more vibrant of the two of them. But when Kaia is taken away by the emperor’s prophets, Maren takes it upon herself to rescue her—suddenly she has no one else to rely upon. My favorite aspect of this book is how Maren learns to trust in her own strengths and abilities. I also appreciated the bi representation (though I’m not 100% sure how I felt about the love triangle setup—or the idea that’s hinted at that Maren could possibly end up with both of them? I guess I will have to see how things come together in the next book). Overall, I would say this book felt a bit like setup, but I really enjoyed the worldbuilding and learning about the way that Maren is connected to the dragons. I was also a fan of Sev and his passion for rescuing the dragons from the emperor’s harsh treatment. I’m eager to see what the next book has in store!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani
Published by Kokila on September 14, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 384
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: MG (Discussions of racial tensions)
My rating:

New historical fiction from a Newbery Honor-winning author about how middle schooler Ariel Goldberg’s life changes when her big sister elopes following the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision, and she’s forced to grapple with both her family’s prejudice and the antisemitism she experiences, as she defines her own beliefs.

Twelve-year-old Ariel Goldberg’s life feels like the moment after the final guest leaves the party. Her family’s Jewish bakery runs into financial trouble, and her older sister has eloped with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage. As change becomes Ariel’s only constant, she’s left to hone something that will be with her always–her own voice.


This book takes us back to the turmoil of the 1960’s. When Ariel’s older sister runs off to marry an Indian immigrant it tears her family and her world apart. Her parents refuse to speak to her sister—they always imagined their daughter would marry a Jewish boy and carry on their family’s rich and hard-earned history. The story takes places just after the Loving vs. Virginia decision and during the Civil Rights movement and the conflict over the Vietnam War. Ariel is just starting to understand the injustices of the world and form her own opinions as she sees the conflicting views of people around her. Ariel is also dealing with dysgraphia and the repercussions of that and she experiences anti-Semitism as well. It’s a lot for one girl to deal with! But as her life is spiraling out of control, she is determined to at least set things right with her sister, a task that may be out of her own control. The story is told in second person, a POV you don’t read very often, but I thought it worked well for this story. I loved that the title and chapter titles give the feel of a self-help instructional manual as Ariel navigates her new reality.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think? I wanna know!

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