Kingston and the Magician’s Lost & Found

Authors: Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Release Date: February 16, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fun, magical adventure for young readers that I can highly recommend to my ten-year-old and enjoy watching him continue to discover the magic of reading.

Kingston Preston has moved back home after being away from Echo City, Brooklyn for the past four years. When he was eight and his magician father disappeared during one of his tricks, his mother took them both away. Being in a place so full of magic and reminders was too much for her to take. Now that they are back home, Kingston is ready to find out what happened to his father. When King disappeared, magic in Echo City went with him. Magic is frowned upon now in the city and Kingston finds a magic box left behind that gives him clues as to what happened to his father. He can’t tell his mother about his find and so he works with his cousin, Veronica, and old childhood friend, Too Tall Eddie, to find out the mystery of what happened to his father.

Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found was a breath of fresh air. I read this so I would know if it would be a good fit for my ten-year-old to read. I have to say that not only will I let my son read it, but I really enjoyed reading it! The story was good, fast-paced, and entertaining. The characters were engaging and kept me interested in the story and what they were going through. There is magic, code breaking, a family torn apart and a battle against good and evil. Kingston and his mom have had a good relationship but they both have missed his dad since he disappeared and being back where it happened is hard on them both. I love the secondary characters and how they brought a little extra humor to the tense situations. Too Tall Eddie was probably one of my favorite characters.

The story wrapped up nicely but has been left open solidly for more to come. I’m not sure if this is planned as a series and if so, how many, but there is definitely more story to be told here. One of the best things about this book was that it was fast paced, suspenseful but also clean. I don’t have to worry about harsh language or mature themes that would not be appropriate when my son reads it. I recommend this to middle grade readers and even parents for a fun family read with good family values, good vs. evil and to just enjoy the magic of reading.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Beirut Protocol

Author: Joel C. Rosenberg

Series: Marcus Ryker #4

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: March 9, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Good overall story, but a little different than what I expected.

Marcus Ryker has had his fair share of action and adventure coupled with loss and heartache.  He’s been a marine, secret service agent, CIA liaison, and diplomatic security special agent who has traveled to Russia, Korea, Israel, and all parts of the middle east.  He’s frustrated attacks on the president and Israeli prime minister, participated in an assassination of a global world lead, and thwarted terroristic agendas.  So, when he and his partner Kailea are out making rounds to prepare for the Secretary of State’s arrival and are ambushed the last thing you expect to happen is that he is captured by Hezbollah agents.   If they figure out who they’ve captured, there is no way they will be ransomed or returned.  They will be taken to Beirut and sold to the highest bidder of Ryker’s enemies!  Can he pull off yet another escape and save his team?  Or is this the end of Marcus Ryker?

This series has been loaded with action since the first book and this one kicks it off in the same style.  Until they are captured?  What????  How did this happen?  Marcus always gets out with a narrow miss, but not this time.  What ensues is torture, deprivation, and a less than expected storyline dealing with Hezbollah, Iran, and the Kairos terrorist organization.  It’s really not what I expected to for this series or these characters.  Plus, none of the characters really progress in development in this book.  Everybody pretty much stays the same with a fast pace and short chapters to keep the story line moving.  Overall, it just didn’t have the same feel to it that the previous books did and the faith element that readers have seen with Marcus becomes stagnant as well.  Had this been the first book, I would have had a different opinion and could have seen the characters grow from there, but this one just fell a little flat.  I’m not sure if this is the last book in the series, but I hope that there is one more mission to really hit the nail on the head.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Millie Maven and the White Sword

Authors: Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker

Series: Millie Maven #3

Publisher: Scriptuor Publishing

Release Year: 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The final book in the Millie Maven trilogy wraps up in the best possible way leaving readers with all the right feelings and completely satisfied with the story. A must read for middle graders and really anyone that wants a faith filled, action packed story.

Millie Maven has grown over the few weeks she has been at FIGS, the mysterious school for the gifted she has arrived at after living with her “Mother,” the aunt who raised her after her parents were in a car accident. Her mother never treated her well and Millie now must bring her mother back to FIGS in order to save the school and her new friends. Her hardest battle is in front of her and if she can’t find the truth and believe in herself.

Finishing this series was both sad and satisfying. Sad because it is over and satisfying because of the way it played out. I loved everything about this series. Being a Dekker fan for many years, I always enjoy the way Ted puts little pieces from other novels into new ones he writes tying them together. That was the case here with Millie being from Paradise and several other little tidbits sprinkled throughout, don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

This series really is a great one for middle grade readers to dive into. So much adventure but with content you don’t have to worry about what your kids are reading. Many young adult books today are still written with questionable language and content that make it unsuitable for that age group in my opinion. Not the case with Millie Maven; parents can give these books to their children confident that what they find within the pages will be the right kind of material and not the immoral points that so easily find their way in nowadays. I highly recommend this series to all Dekker fans, young and old, especially new young readers ready to dive deep and enjoy reading a fantastic series.

Millie Maven and the Golden Vial

Authors: Ted Dekker & Rachelle Dekker

Series: Millie Maven #2

Publisher: Scriptuor Publishing

Release Year: 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Millie Maven is back and continuing her adventure with more action, drama, and tension that will leave readers glued to the pages.

Millie Maven and The Golden Vial picks up right where the first in the series left off. Readers see Millie still trying to find her place at FIGS while not finding her power and feeling like she doesn’t belong. With friends by her side, she knows that where she is at is must be better than where she has been. In a world where love and truth win above all, you just need believe in yourself and the Great Teacher who loves you most of all.

This second installment in the Millie Maven series picks up right where the first left off and will draw readers even further into the world created and closer to Millie herself. Everything about Millie Maven screams for you to want to see her succeed and come out better than where she started. So much hardship has already occurred in her short life at the hands of her “Mother” and to see her happy for the first time can’t help but bring a smile to your face. The themes of love, forgiveness, friendship, hope and faith resonate throughout the pages and are written at just the right level for young readers. There is a little more danger Millie faces but it never gets dark enough that I would say it isn’t suitable for middle grade readers. Fans of Dekker will notice ties to his other works and enjoy the fast-paced writing and relatable characters.

Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion

Authors: Ted Dekker & Rachelle Dekker

Series: Millie Maven #1

Publisher: Scriptuor Publishing

Release Date: 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A perfect book for middle grade readers that is filled with action, adventure, faith and so much more.

Millie Maven is twelve years old and lives with her aunt and uncle after her parents were killed in an accident. They treat her horribly by making her clean the house and sleep in the attic with only a suitcase that holds her clothes and all her possessions. On the night of her twelfth birthday, she is taken on a grand adventure to a land far away with a mysterious school for Gifted students called FIGS. While she is there, she discovers more to life than she has been told and the truth is far more wonderful than she could have imagined.

The first book in the Millie Maven series starts off with action, adventure and empathy for Millie. It is clear from the start she has had an incredibly difficult life and nothing she does is ever good enough. When she meets Aggie and is taken on the greatest adventure of her life, nothing will ever be the same. Millie is the perfect protagonist for middle grade readers. The book reads quickly and is easy to follow all the way through. I got these for my 10-year-old son but wanted to read them first since I have been a Ted Dekker fan for many years. If you have read any Dekker before, especially the circle series and paradise novels, you will see references to those in these books. One thing about Dekker is he ties little pieces of other novels in together. It won’t take away from the current story if you haven’t read the others, but it will add something to it when you put them together. I know this was written with his daughter but to me it is just another Ted Dekker novel with his voice and his writing style. Fans of his and young readers will thoroughly enjoy reading this book. 

Spin

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Series: Captain Chase Novel #2

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A little bit sci-fi, a little bit mystery, and a whole lotta personal issues make up this Captain Chase novel.

Captain Calli Chase is back in a new adventure that kicks off with murder!  Shortly after a murder is discovered, a rocket launch is hacked and NASA is forced to destroy the rocket carrying necessary supplies to a space station.  As an investigator, Calli has been at the heard of it and is discouraged to find her twin sister is apparently involved.  But when her truck is hacked, likely by her sister Carme, she follows the GPS coordinates to a location where she indeed finds her.  But not everything is as it seems.  Calli finds herself agreeing to be upgraded in the program that she and her sister have been a part of only to wake up a few days later with new skills that she will have to master in her sister’s destructive wake of acting as Calli while she was out.  As the investigation heats up, she realizes that she is in for more than she bargained for as it takes her to not only the White House to brief the president, but even outside of earth’s atmosphere!

Let me start off by saying that I haven’t read the first book in this series and I think I am missing quite a bit of backstory.  From what I can tell, this one pretty much picks up where the first one left off, so most of the character development for Calli, Carme, and many of the supporting characters had already happened.  That said, the story line is pretty intriguing.  Being NASA, there are a lot of acronyms thrown around.  They are all explained, but with so many, readers may continually have to backtrack to remember what they meant throughout the book or just give up and continue the story line.  One thing is certain, Calli is insecure compared to her twin sister and she likes to eat.  There was so much description of food from different fast food restaurants that I started to want to go pick up an order or two.  The book is pretty clean for the most part and I feel that fans of science fiction will probably enjoy this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Chasing Helicity: Through the Storm

Through the storm

Author: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #3

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 21, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Ginger Zee hits it out of the park with the third installment in her Chasing Helicity series! Young readers will once again fall in love with Helicity Dunlap and her adventurous spirit.

After finding shelter in a Lighthouse on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas during a hurricane, Helicity Dunlap is found alive with a dog she somehow managed to rescue during the storm. When she is released from the hospital, she and her mom, along with her friend Sam, make the drive back to Michigan while her dad stays to help her brother, Andy, get the support he needs for addiction. Once again, Helicity finds herself in the spotlight after the dog she rescued is on the news with its owner thanking Helicity for saving him. A local reporter wants to interview her about all she has been through and survived and the owner of the rescued dog wants to thank Helicity by bringing her to Albuquerque for the international Hot Air Balloon Festival. While at the festival, Helicity once again finds herself at the mercy of mother nature.

With all of her knowledge of science and weather, Ginger Zee is able to craft a wonderful story that young readers will find both entertaining and enlightening. Helicity is a fun, spunky kid that has a knack for finding herself in precarious situations. Most of the time it is her curiosity that gets her into trouble, but it is also what saves her. There is a great relationship between Helicity, her family, and friends that we see grow and mature as these books have progressed. There is something about Helicity that makes her the perfect protagonist as she is smart, creative, emotional, devoted to those she cares about, and not afraid to go out on an adventure to learn. She shows that it is cool to be into science and things most young kids might not be into.

I loved reading this series with my young son. I read the book before him just so we can discuss it after he has read it. He enjoyed all the weather information and the way the story played out. This is the perfect middle grade book that will have readers invested in the characters and what they are going through but also leaves out all the inappropriate material that is thrown into so many books today. I am thankful there are fun, entertaining and informative books out there that I can get to enjoy with my son and not worry about inappropriate material. I recommend this book to young readers that are interested in STEM and want a great read that will take them on an adventure.

Into the Wind

Into the WindAuthor: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #2

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 23, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In the follow up to Chasing Helicity, Ginger Zee brings more action, adventure, and even a little romance that readers will not want to miss.

After the crazy adventures Helicity Dunlap has gone through, her parents think a change of scenery to recuperate from the turmoil. Helicity’s best friend Mia has gone to be with her Aunt in Texas and help with her bed and breakfast. Mia invites Helicity to come spend some time at the beach with her. Helicity enjoys roaming the beach, spending time with her friend, and trying her best to get past the trauma of the last few months. When her brother, Andy, shows up to surprise her she knows something is going on with him but doesn’t want to upset him by accusing him of something she can’t be sure of. After the tornado at home that injured Andy, he hasn’t been the same and Helicity feels responsible. She wanted to escape all of that by coming to Texas but that doesn’t seem possible. When she and her friends go out sailing and get caught in intense weather, Helicity once again finds herself in the eye of the storm.

Ginger Zee has done it again. I was very impressed with the first Chasing Helicity book and the second is just as good, if not better. I love the character of Helicity, she is strong but also willing to admit her faults and learn from her shortcomings. This book picks up pretty quick where the first left off and we see the trauma each of the characters has gone through and how it affects the actions they take moving forward. There are a lot of difficult issues tackled here and readers will be pleased with the way each is handled. The tension was tight with each chapter making the reading quick and enjoyable. I love when an author makes a story that is both enjoyable and something that will make engage young readers. I read a lot of young adult novels and so many of them are short on tension and full of fluff, but not this series. These novels will keep young readers turning the page and aching to learn more about the weather and what they need to know to stay safe when forces of nature come their way. I highly recommend this novel to young readers that love science, adventure, and maybe a smidge of romance sprinkled in.

Chasing Helicity

Chasing HelicityAuthor: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #1

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

From Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee comes a whirlwind of a tale from which young readers will love and learn. 

For as long as she can remember, Helicity has been in awe of the weather. Her name came from her grandmother who passed down her love for all things meteorological. With her brother about to leave for college and her own school work giving her problems, she tries to escape reality by focusing on the weather. One day Helicity is out riding her horse when a tornado hits her town. Her own family, along with most of the community, is devastated by the force of nature. Her father doesn’t understand how she can be fascinated by something so deadly, but Helicity only sees the beauty and knows the more she studies the weather the more help she can be to everyone by being prepared when the next natural disaster strikes.

When it comes to writing is it good to have a good knowledge of the material you are writing about. Ginger Zee comes in full steam ahead with Chasing Helicity and shows she truly is an expert in the field but can also make it interesting and entertaining for young readers. I walked away from reading this with a newfound interest in weather patterns and how to tell what the bad weather might bring. For her first YA novel Ginger Zee did a fantastic job of creating young characters that readers will fall in love with in a story that is thoroughly entertaining. I loved all the characters and the predicaments they found themselves in. Helicity is a strong female lead that isn’t scared to show she’s afraid but also wants to move beyond that fear to help those she cares about. Her family and her friends mean the world to her and when they all find themselves in trouble, Helicity feels her world spinning out of control and is at a loss for what to do until she turns to the one thing she knows, weather. Using her knowledge, she is able to help. I love how Ginger Zee uses Helicity to show it can be cool for young kids to know and have a love for science. The writing is quick without much to slow readers down. I honestly don’t think young readers will have any trouble following along with the science terminology, they might walk away having learned a few things about weather patterns and safety. While there is a slight bit of language I don’t believe it is anything worth staying away from for young readers. I highly recommend this book to young readers that are looking for a fun, entertaining adventure with characters they will easily fall in love with.