‘Catalyst’ by Sarah Beth Durst is just the middle grade summer fantasy adventure your kids need

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Sarah Beth Durst loves fantasy, and she loves cats. In “Catalyst,” she combines those loves to create a kitten that grows and grows and grows. When almost twelve-year-old Zoe finds the tiny kitten, she knows her mother won’t let her keep it. She knows because she wasn’t able to keep any of the other animals she rescued, including the last one, a skunk.

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‘Devoted’ by Dean Koontz brings back — in spirit — a genius dog from decades ago.

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The Dean Koontz book that got me hooked on him was “The Watchers,” and the dog in that book, a brilliant golden retriever, thoroughly enchanted me. In “Devoted,” Koontz creates a dog, and then a network of dogs who — maybe, he hints — descend from that highly intelligent dog. And Kipp, the loyal golden, is the kind of dog every dog lover dreams of having — a dog who understands us completely and can communicate with us freely. Continue reading

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

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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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‘Highfire’ is indeed a dragon; adult fantasy by Eoin Colfer

 

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Folks who worry about a personal lack of imagination need no longer be concerned; they can simply absorb and digest “Highfire” by Eoin Colfer and the gobs of creative delights he offers.

Colfer’s latest novel is a shining example of those delights. Each of the characters is hilarious and sympathetic. The hero, for example, is fifteen-year-old “Cajun-blood” kid Everett (Squib) Moreau, who is impish, sly, and funny; a bad boy and a good person. But he’s not the first character we meet. That’s Vern. He’s a dragon who loves human beings. That is, he loves to eat them. Humans, you see, have destroyed almost the entire universe of dragons. Vern seeks revenge.

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‘Ember (Rescue Dogs #1)’ is an inspiring novel about an “unadoptable” rescue dog who performs feats of heroism

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There are many dogs in shelters who are adopted and then returned over and over again. They bark too much. They are too active. They are too playful. In “Ember: Rescue Dogs #1” by Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines-Stephens, we learn that those kinds of dogs often make the best working dogs.

This story is the first in what will be a series about rescue dogs who earn that title by then rescuing others — in effect showing the readers that just because a dog is in a shelter, unwanted, that dog, like all dogs, has a place where it can shine. Ember, who in the story pushes all her young siblings out from their hidden place when a fire threatens their home, a hole under a house, is rescued last. The firefighter who pulls her out resuscitates her and cradles her in his hand. Before leaving her with the animal control workers, he gifts her with one of his gloves. That turns out to be her most prized possession as poor Ember goes from one family to another, each time returned to the shelter for various reasons.

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‘Aurora Rising’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a thrilling and entertaining YA scifi adventure

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In “Aurora Rising,” authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff take readers into the future, the year 2380, and into an adventure that spans centuries. From the first chapter, readers know that Tyler, one of the main characters, is a worthy leader. He rescues Aurora from a ship that has lain rotting for two centuries and takes her to safety. Unfortunately, by doing so, he has jeopardized his number one standing as a cadet and forfeited his first draft choice for his team. Instead, he gets the leftovers whom nobody wanted in addition to his twin sister Scarlett and their best friend, Cat.

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‘Stay’ by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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How important are the decisions we make almost thoughtlessly on a day-to-day basis? Sometimes they can have life-altering implications, and in this carefully crafted story about flawed characters, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows that sometimes, heroism isn’t made up of bold, brave actions but rather of listening and sharing small moments.

The story is about fourteen-year-old Lucas Painter. He explains, from some point in the future, that during the summer of 1969, his brother was in Viet Nam, and he was trying to help his best friend, Connor. Both Connor and Lucas have less-than-ideal family lives.

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‘An Elephant in My Kitchen: What the Herd Taught Me About Love, Courage and Survival’ by Françoise Malby-Anthony

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While this memoir, “An Elephant in My Kitchen: What the Herd Taught Me About Love, Courage and Survival” is, in a way, a sequel to “The Elephant Whisperer,” it’s a different story with a different writer. Françoise Malby-Anthony is a fabulous narrator, and her story brings readers to tears at times, but her strength and her determination shine through, as do her compassion and her inner goodness.

Both books are about Thula Thula, the game reserve that Françoise and her late husband, Lawrence, built together. He was the animal guy, and she took care of the lodges, booking guests and running the marketing. He was out in the field, solving elephant problems and issues with poachers, while she dealt with bad Tripadvisor reviews.

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‘The Speed of Falling Objects’ by Nancy Richardson Fischer is a survival story filled with thoughtful perspective on who we really are

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“The Speed of Falling Objects” by Nancy Richardson Fischer first caught my eye because it’s a young adult survival story about a girl who must survive in the Amazon after a plane crash. But while this is a thrilling story of adventure and the dangers of navigating the rainforest in Peru, it’s also much more.  Continue reading