‘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

‘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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‘A Dog’s Promise’ by W. Bruce Cameron is a promise kept; there’s nothing like a dog

dogs promise

With “A Dog’s Promise,” W. Bruce Cameron continues faithful uber-dog Bailey’s story. Bailey is the dog who helped “his” people in “A Dog’s Purpose” and “A Dog’s Journey” He’s the dog who made readers cry as he died over and over and each time was reborn as a different dog destined to help his person again. Often, Bailey would find his way back to Ethan in the first book and CJ, Ethan’s granddaughter, in the second. Continue reading

‘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

4 middle grade books about compassion and the two-legged underdogs among us (some with wings)

Middle grade novels are not just the next step for children in the reading process. From picture books to adult books, good writers try to imbue their stories with positive messages and important ideas to consider. These four pieces of fiction aimed at readers from fourth grade through middle school accomplish all that and more. Each deserves a special place in school libraries, on classroom bookshelves, and at home. Continue reading

‘Birdie and Me’ by J. M. M. Nuanez is a middle grade novel about loss, family, and identity

birdie

“Birdie and Me” by debut author J. M. M. Nuanez is about Jack and Birdie, named by their mother for her favorite presidential people, who must move in with their uncles after their mother dies. Jack, Birdie’s older sister, feels responsible for Birdie, a boy who loves dressing in bright colors, eyeshadow, wearing lots of jewelry and nail polish, and sparkly shoes.

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‘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

‘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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‘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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