‘S.T.A.G.S.’ by M. A. Bennett Is a Thrilling Young Adult That Will Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats

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In “S.T.A.G.S.” by M. A. Bennett, the reader is introduced to the life of the rich and elite through the eyes of a scholarship student who attends a posh British boarding school.

Greer MacDonald, a middle-class girl, is the one token scholarship student attending the $50,000 a year private school attended by Britain’s ultra-wealthy, ultra-upper-class teens. Also attending the school are others who don’t quite fit in with the snobbish students,  especially the group of power students, the Medievals, who practically run the school.

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‘The Demon Crown: A Sigma Force Novel’ by James Rollins Delivers Action

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James Rollins fans will not be disappointed with “The Demon Crown,” his latest “Sigma Force” novel detailing yet one more way the world as we know it might end. This thriller is filled with action, adventure, science, and a roller-coaster of plot twists and turns.

One of Rollins’ many talents in writing a series is his ability to make each novel as much a stand-alone book as possible given that the characters reappear in most of the “Sigma Force” novels. Sigma Force is the shadowy, secret arm of the government agency DARPA, run by Painter Crowe and his able team. Rollins manages to give new readers a real sense of the characters while not boring those who have read other books in the series — it’s a talent.

In this story, the team is fighting an enemy who has unleashed what are clearly wasps from hell. These huge creatures are truly nightmarish, and even worse is what results after they sting someone. Let’s just say they leave behind more than only a stinger. And Rollins describes it all in excruciating detail — really. Some readers may not want to be eating a meal while reading about the effect of the wasps’ attacks.

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‘The Piper’s Apprentice’ Is the Last Novel in ‘The Secrets of the Pied Piper’ series by Matthew Cody

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Matthew Cody’s books are much beloved by middle grade readers and with good cause. Like his latest trilogy, “The Secrets of the Pied Piper,” all his books feature fabulous characters, thrilling plots, and some really good writing.

In “The Piper’s Apprentice,” the last book in the series, Cody does what is all-too-often missing from last books in a series, he manages to include enough information about what has happened that the reader isn’t lost by reading this book without having just reread the first two books. And if the reader is reading all three books in a row (lucky reader!), he or she will not even notice that bit of extra information that keeps someone who read the second book in the series a year ago from feeling lost.

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‘Unearthed’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner Is a Thrilling Young Adult SciFi Ride

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It’s being billed as a cross between Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and “Unearthed” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner comes close. It’s the story of a future Earth when climate change has destroyed much of our planet. Scientists on Earth find a message from an extinct alien race that explains how to build a portal to Gaia, another planet, where the astronauts find a piece of technology that powers a clean water supply for all of Los Angeles. Then the astronauts are killed while exploring one of the temples there.

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‘A Place in the Wind’ by Suzanne Chazin Is a Timely, Action-Packed Mystery

 

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With “A Place in the Wind,” Suzanne Chazin writes a mystery that is disturbingly timely as well as engrossing and fascinating because of the crime(s), the characters, and the plot. Although this book is the fourth in the series about Detective Jimmy Vega, reading this one without having read the previous novels did not leave this reader wondering much. In fact, as a stand-alone novel, it works amazingly well. The reader will not feel a need to read the previous novels, only, perhaps, a desire to learn more of the backstory on the main characters and a desire to read the other mysteries that Jimmy Vega has solved.

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‘Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead’ by Rick Riordan is the Third Book in this Wild Fantasy Adventure Series

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Rick Riordan knows his Greek gods, as has been proved with the “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” series. He also does an amazing job writing a series about Norse gods and Valhalla, the place where those related to the gods go if they die a noble death. Kind of like Camp Half Blood but with different rules.

The main character in this series is Magnus Chase, the son of Frey, the god of healing. In this story, Magnus and his friends must journey to Jotunheim and Niflheim to reach the evil god Loki’s ship before he can leave with his warriors and start Ragnarok, the end of the world.

Over the course of the story, the reader learns that Samirah, the Muslim Valkyrie, is fasting during the day because of Ramadan. Magnus’ good friends Hearth and Blitz must travel on their own adventure, and Hearth must face his very evil father, whom he finally vanquishes with Magnus’ help. Magnus also learns more about Alex, his gender fluid friend. In the last book, “The Hammer of Thor,”  Riordan had hinted that Magnus felt more than friendship toward Alex, about whom Magnus seems to instinctively know which pronoun (he or she) is appropriate to use at what time. In this book, that hint is resolved so there are no uncertainties left.

In the end, of course, Magnus and his team save the world from the end of the world, but the fun is in watching how he does it. Jack, his magic singing sword, is ever-present and ever humorous; Samirah continues to reflect well on the Muslim community; and Magnus, with his self-deprecating narration, continues to enchant and charm readers of all ages. Riordan should be given much credit for his inclusion of many diverse characters and lifestyles in this series.

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy fantasy, adventure, and humor. Readers should have read the first two books in the series prior to beginning this voyage. Begin with “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer.”

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for review purposes.

‘The Trust’ by Ronald H. Balson Is a Thrilling, Action-Filled Suspense Novel

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In “The Trust,” Ronald H. Balson, takes his readers to Northern Ireland on a whirlwind tour of Ireland and its troubles — both current and past. Liam Taggert, the Chicago detective who, with his lawyer wife Catherine, are the main characters in all Balson’s books, must deal with the past when it comes back to haunt him in this touching, thoughtfully-written story.

When Liam’s uncle Fergus dies, he leaves his property in a secret trust with Liam as the trustee. Liam is reluctant to return to Northern Ireland for the funeral, but Catherine urges Liam to go and reconcile with the family he hasn’t seen in years. Liam, who has been estranged from his Irish relatives for almost two decades, is thrust into the middle of a maelstrom. After Fergus is murdered, other Taggerts are targeted and some are killed. Liam must use his detective skills to try to find the murderer before everyone in the family is killed.

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‘Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan’ by Jonathan W. Stokes is a Humorous and Thrilling Middle Grade Adventure

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“Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan” is a superb sequel to “Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas” by Jonathan W. Stokes. The series is aimed at middle grade readers who love action and adventure — especially when the main characters are quirky and clever.

Stokes also includes plenty of diversity in his cast of characters. Addison and his sister Molly are joined on their adventure by friends Eddie Chang and Raj Bhandari. The story begins when Addison invites his friends to accompany him, his sister, and their aunt and uncle to China to explore a Song dynasty fortress in the Gobi desert.

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‘Monster: A Gone Novel’ Is Just as Gritty, Just as Horrifying and Just as Action-Packed as the Original Series

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With the release of “Monster,” the first in a trilogy sequel, Michael Grant has brought readers back to the world of “Gone” and some of its characters. It’s four years after the dome came down in the last book in the first series, and those who had been trapped in the #FAYZ were able to leave. In fact, the prologue shares a story about that event from a new character’s point of view.

Readers will learn that some of the kids who suffered under the dome had severe mental problems after leaving; some committed suicide and others had PTSD. Few returned to normal. Dekka, one of the escapees from the FAYZ, is one of the main characters in this novel. The mother of a new character, Shade Darby, was killed at the same time the dome disappeared. Because Shade feels responsible for her mother’s being right where she was when she was killed by Gaia, the monster from the FAYZ, Shade’s life has been irrevocably changed.

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‘Warcross’ by Marie Lu Is a Fast-Paced Scifi Thriller

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“Warcross” by Marie Lu features a young girl who is a bounty hunter in a world where virtual reality has eclipsed real life. Hooked yet? Read the first chapter and you’ll be drawn into the life and struggle for survival along with Emika Chen, whose ability to hack into the virtual world and fight in the real world have helped her survive — barely — in New York.

Emika’s mother bailed on Em and her father when Em was young, and her father died before Em was a teenager. She’s a loner who has had to rely on herself and only herself. She hasn’t paid her rent for months, and the eviction notice is on the door. If she can just bring down one big bounty, she’ll be set. But things don’t work out, and Em doesn’t know what to do.

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‘Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race’ by Chris Grabenstein Is a Worthy Third Book in the Series

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Can author Chris Grabenstein keep on writing “Mr. Lemoncello” books that will have new plots and  new twists and will keep kids (and adults) entertained? From the looks of “Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race,” it appears to be a certainty.

In this third book in the series, Kyle Keeley is once again determined to win a game sponsored by Mr. Luigi Lemoncello, his idol, the famous game maker and inventor extraordinaire. Lemoncello is to libraries what Willy Wonka was to candy in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

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