‘City Spies’ by James Ponti is a fast-paced thriller for middle grade readers that’s a perfect adventure to escape into

city spies“City Spies” by James Ponti is an action story that kids (and adults) will love. A group of underdog kids as young as twelve live in an old manor home in Scotland and work with a British spy nicknamed “Mother” as a team foiling international villains.

First we meet Sara, from whose perspective the story is mostly told. She is in custody after hacking into the New York City computers to expose her cheating, horrible foster parents. But when a debonair man offers to represent her, she quickly chooses him as her lawyer rather than the public defender who was going to agree to her serving time in a juvenile detention home. After she quickly hacks into the State of New York court computers to substitute in the new lawyer, the change of attorneys looks legitimate . By that evening, she’s on a plane to Scotland and a new life. Continue reading

‘Golden in Death’ by J.D. Robb is the 50th novel in this fabulous futuristic detective series

golden in death

It’s proof of J.D. Robb’s talent that “Golden in Death” is the 50th novel in this popular series featuring New York Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas, yet one could just as easily  pick it up and read it as a stand alone mystery — and enjoy it just as much as a fan who’s read all the previous 49 novels.

In this mystery, a well-liked pediatrician is found murdered by a mysterious substance that killed him in minutes, evaporated almost immediately, and is unknown to the authorities. Soon after, there is another, similar murder. In each case, a package had been delivered to the murdered person with a fake return address. When each victim opened the outer shipping box, there was another box inside — a cheap wooden box — and inside that box was a plastic egg painted gold. When the clasp was unhinged, allowing the egg to open, the murderous substance was released. Continue reading

‘After Sundown’ by Linda Howard and Linda Jones is a story of survival, solitude, and two lonely people who find each other

after sundown

While the publicity for “After Sundown” by Linda Howard and Linda Jones emphasizes that it’s a love story, it’s also quite a tale of survival — how appropriate for right now. In this novel, there is a huge CME, or coronal mass ejection, that hits Earth, causing a massive disruption of the electrical grid. Sela Gordon and Ben Jernigan live in rural Tennessee, and have met infrequently at her gas station/general store when Ben has purchased gas. And while there was a mutual interest, neither of them actually did anything about it. Continue reading

‘The Life Below’ is the sequel to “The Final Six,” both dystopian YA scifi novels you’ll love

life below

If you like a quick read that will keep you in suspense until the last page, pick up “The Life Below” by Alexandra Monir. If you haven’t read the previous book, “The Final Six,” be sure to pick it up and read it first. You’ll find both books are hard to put down, as the protagonists struggle, first to make the cut to participate in an important space mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and in the second novel, to actually get there alive.

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‘The Light in Hidden Places’ by Sharon Cameron is an inspiring and unforgettable YA novel based on a real story that must be shared

light in hidden

Sharon Cameron’s genius is clearly demonstrated by the careful and masterful text she has created in “The Light in Hidden Places.” This is a real story of heroism and courage brilliantly re-crafted into a novel that takes readers directly into the heart of the darkest days of WWII Poland.

Stefania Podgórska has grown up on a large farm with her parents and many siblings. When she turns 13, she wants to escape the farm, so she travels to the larger city of Przemyśl, where she finds work with the Daimants, a Jewish family that owns a grocery store. Continue reading

‘Efrén Divided’ by Ernesto Cisneros is a middle grade story of family, friendship, and finding one’s voice

efren

On one hand, “Efrén Divided” by Ernesto Cisneros is the story of a middle school boy whose undocumented mother is deported and the effect of that terrible event on his life. But as important as that part of the story is — and it is central to what happens — “Efrén Divided” is also about family and friends, because when Efrén’s mother is deported, he and his family must find out whom they can trust and who really cares for them. And finally, Efrén also discovers that to truly help others, he needs a voice to speak for them and a platform from which to do so. Continue reading

‘A Flicker of Courage’ by Deb Caletti is a farcical fantasy for middle grade readers

flicker of courage

“A Flicker of Courage” by Deb Caletti is a book that will appeal to children who love extremely fantastic books — fantastic in the sense that everything that happens in this story is either the best or the worst in the world, and Henry Every, the main character, and his four friends will have to vanquish evil and do heroic deeds without being caught or killed themselves. Continue reading

‘Alone in the Wild’ by Kelley Armstrong is the newest in the mystery series about Rockton, the mysterious town for people who want to disappear

alone in the wild

“Alone in the Wild” by Kelley Armstrong, like all the novels in this series, begins with a bang; it involves an infant and a corpse. Casey and Eric, Rockton’s sheriff and detective, a couple who are getting away for a one-night vacation camping in the wild, find a dead woman with a live infant hidden in her clothing. That sets off the mystery of whom the infant belongs to and why the baby was left with a woman who clearly wasn’t the child’s mother.

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‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins; review of the audiobook

americandirt

When I received the audiobook of “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins, I was not aware of the controversy surrounding it. All I saw was a story about Lydia, a Mexican woman, the owner of a bookstore in Acapulco, whose entire family is slaughtered by narcotraficantes (drug dealers) after her journalist husband publishes an exposé of the local drug cartel king. It’s about her journey with her 8-year-old son north to America with other migrants trying to hide and escape the killers’ search for the two of them.

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‘The Last Sister’ by Kendra Elliot is a nail-biting mystery that pushes all the right buttons

last sister

Kendra Elliot has sold over seven million books, and after reading “The Last Sister,” this first book in a new series, “Columbia River,” her success is understandable. And this is a perfect opportunity to jump into a Kendra Elliot series at the beginning. Main character FBI special agent Zander Wells was introduced in a previous series, but readers “meeting” him for the first time will be charmed and touched by his story.

In this mystery, a man and his wife are brutally murdered in a small Oregon logging town. Emily, who is the first to find the murders, is horrified, especially when she sees that the husband was hanged just like her father when he was killed decades earlier. She also notices a racist symbol carved into the hanging man’s forehead, so when the sheriff declares it a murder-suicide, Emily calls the local FBI office and won’t get off the phone until they agree to send an agent to the scene to investigate it as a hate crime.

Zander and his partner Ava arrive and realize that they may have more than just one crime to figure out. Is there a connection between the current stabbing/hanging and what happened to Emily’s father all those years before? When there is another murder, it seems that everything has to be examined, including where Emily’s older sister went immediately after her father’s murder.

Elliot’s omniscient narrator works superbly in terms of letting us know what the characters are thinking and feeling. We are able to see the night of their father’s murder from both Emily’s point of view and that of her younger sister, Madison. So we know more than they do about what each sister is hiding from the other.

Slowly, clue after clue is uncovered and revealed, allowing us to try to connect the different threads at the same time as the characters in the novel try to put the puzzle pieces in place. We are thinking about the clues, and we are also feeling a genuine camaraderie with Emily as she struggles to keep their decrepit old mansion home in one piece while someone is slashing her tires and harassing Emily and her three sweet great-aunts. Their only source of income is their diner, because the logging operation that financed the opulence that Emily’s ancestor’s enjoyed was long closed.

Readers will find they enjoy meeting the three aunts, who all dress alike, and each of whom is a character worthy of admiration in her own right. When a mystery is certainly thrilling but also a character study of the people inhabiting the pages, readers know that the author got it right. And when the mystery is finally solved, and very satisfactorily, readers will be happy to remember that this is just the start of a series in which Zander, Ava, and maybe Emily will return to entertain us and amaze us.

This review was originally posted on Bookreporter.com.

‘What I Want You to See’ by Catherine Linka is a stunning story of talent and loss and imperfection

what I want you to see

“What I Want You to See” by Catherine Linka is a story about Sabine, an art student whose life has been anything but ordinary and privileged — and is about to get a lot more difficult. Sabine had lost her mother the previous year, and while she lived with her best friend for a while, she was also homeless for part of that time.

Now she’s won the Zoich scholarship for merit, so she’s able to attend CALINVA, the California Institute for the Visual Arts, but she works part time jobs to pay for her rent and food and art supplies.

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