Louisiana’s Way Home

LouisianaAuthor: Kate DiCamillo

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale will love this continuation of Louisiana’s story!

Louisiana’s granny has always been eccentric, if not a little crazy. So, when she wakes her up in the middle of the night to leave home immediately, Louisiana is not all that worried.  That is, until they cross the state line from Florida into Georgia and granny keeps driving.  Realizing that granny actually intends never to return home, Louisiana starts to sulk as she realizes that she may never see her friends again.  This apparently has something to do with the curse that granny always said was on their head, which also inflicts a massive toothache in granny that causes them to stop in a small Georgia town.  As they stay in the town, Louisiana’s life becomes entangles with several of the townsfolk including a young boy, a pastor, organ player, and surly hotel owner.  Louisiana begins to learn the truth about her life and it may shake her entire foundation.

DiCamillo’s writing never disappoints and this book is no exception. She has a way of making the reader relate to her characters and yearn to walk alongside them.  Louisiana first appeared in the 2016 release of Raymie Nightingale and readers immediately fell in love with the three main characters.  They will be happy to find some of them returning in this spin off that focuses on Louisiana Elefante.  I love to find YA and children’s books that have a good clean story that always focuses on tough times for today’s kids.  Louisiana is definitely a wayward soul that is looking for guidance from multiple people and finally realizes that she can’t do it all by herself.  With wit, wisdom, laughter, and tears, this book is destined to become a classic that people will love for years to come.

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

The Royal Order of the Fighting Dragons

Fighting DragonsAuthor: Dan Elish

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Release Date: August 7, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With a sprinkle of humor and a double dose of action, The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons is sure to be a hit with kids and even their parents. 

When Ike Rupert Hollingsberry starts getting strange messages about how his father died on the set of The Fighting Dragons, he starts to question what really happened all those years ago. Things get even more interesting when a giant locust attacks outside of his school.  That was exactly how his father was killed on the show.  Ike works together with Elmira Hand, who is in his class and keeps a blog about the show.  After Ike kills the locusts, he is taken to a secret location to become the next in line to lead the Royal Order of the Fighting Dragons.  What everyone thought was just a TV show turns out to be real, the locusts, the dragons and those fighting to keep the world safe.

With a diverse group of characters and a magical story, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, the storyline flowed and there were just enough twists and turns to keep things very interesting.  Ike is unsure of himself just enough to make him the right lead character, he’s not cocky or whiny because of the blows life has dealt him.  He is able to rise to the occasion and see the potential in his team and use that to carry on and not be set back.  Having Elmira find the bylaws and use that as a way to bring his friends into the story when they weren’t part of the order was a great way to move the story along and keep it believable.  The ending and how a few of the characters played out didn’t fit just right for me, thought they could have used a little more fleshing out before doing a one eighty on attitudes.  I feel that this is just the first in a series and am looking forward to where the next will go.  This was written very appropriately for the age group it is intended for with no language and the violence kept to a minimum.  I really appreciate when an author stays true to whom they are writing to and keeps it age appropriate.  It has become so common to see harsh language and themes suggested that are not appropriate for little eyes to read.  I recommend this for kids who enjoy a good magical action story with a little bit of history and humor sprinkled in for good measure.

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

Hope in the Holler

Hope in the HollerAuthor: Lisa Lewis Tyre

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica  Higgins

A young girl who is stronger than she knows must now face the scheming family she has never known to survive living in the Holler. Another outstanding book by Lisa Lewis Tyre that is perfect for young readers!

It has always been Wavie and her mom; they didn’t need anybody else and they both liked it that way. When Wavie’s mom gets sick and knows she is about to die, she gives Wavie a list of instructions for her life. The one she is trying the hardest to live by is Be Brave.  It’s hard, especially now that she is having to go and live with an aunt she has never known that seems intent on taking anything she can get from Wavie.  Now that Wavie is back in the town her mother tried so hard to leave and never return, she starts to learn more about her mother than she thought possible.  With the help of a few new friends, Wavie works to improve her situation and solve one of the oldest mysteries in town.

I absolutely loved this book. Lisa Lewis Tyre has figured out the perfect formula for writing a book that middle grade children will love.  There is mystery, friendships, life lessons and strength throughout every page.  Wavie and her friends have so much spunk and perseverance that it will be difficult for any reader to not relate to them and want to root for them to succeed.  Even though it is a serious subject matter, it never gets more than the intended audience will be able to handle.  Wavie may have had a lot of harsh blows handed to her in her short life, but the strength and grace in which she handles them can be a lesson to all of us.  The wit Tyre brings to the story helps counter the heavy subject matter bringing the reader right into the story with no desire to leave.  The short chapters are great to keep young readers turning the page and engaged in the story.  I really can’t find anything negative to say about this book and sincerely hope Lisa Lewis Tyre continues to write books for young readers with a message. I recommend this book to all young readers, parents and teachers for a starting point of conversations that will help all involved.

New Andi Adventures

Andi Lassos TroubleTitle: Andi Lassos Trouble

Series: Circle C Stepping Stones #3

Author: Susan K. Marlow

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A substitute teacher, a kidnapping, and mysterious men make the newest Circle C an adventure not to be missed.

Andi thinks her worst nightmare has come true when her teacher, Miss Hall, gets hurt and can’t teach for a while. It is worse than she could have imagined when Andi’s mother becomes the substitute teacher. Andi is afraid the other kids will tease her, but her worries disappear when she and her mother are kidnapped and taken far away to a man who was looking for Miss Hall to teach him how to read. Her mother is adamant they not tell of the mistaken identity and risk angering their kidnappers.  While Andi tries to be good and stay out of trouble, her mother teachers their captor to read and  she finds interesting facts about his past and why it is so important he learn to read. As time runs out for them to be rescued, Andi must summon her courage and escape to try and save her mother before it is too late.

The newest adventure in the Circle C series takes the reader on an entirely new path from what we are used to seeing with Andi. In the previous Circle C books, Andi has fun being a kid; here things are much more serious and there is no time for fun and games. Andi has to show how brave she can be when faced with her most frightening situation yet. This story is very much about being brave, trusting those who we love and also staying true to your faith in God. Young readers that are looking for an adventure that is a little more of a challenge will enjoy Andi to the Rescue without having to worry about being scared from the content.  I recommend this book to those readers and even parents looking for a good book to read together with their kids.

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

Andi to the RescueTitle: Andi to the Rescue

Series: Circle C Stepping Stones #4

Author: Susan K. Marlow

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A substitute teacher, a kidnapping, and mysterious men make the newest Circle C an adventure not to be missed.

Andi thinks her worst nightmare has come true when her teacher, Miss Hall, gets hurt and can’t teach for a while. It is worse than she could have imagined when Andi’s mother becomes the substitute teacher. Andi is afraid the other kids will tease her, but her worries disappear when she and her mother are kidnapped and taken far away to a man who was looking for Miss Hall to teach him how to read. Her mother is adamant they not tell of the mistaken identity and risk angering their kidnappers.  While Andi tries to be good and stay out of trouble, her mother teachers their captor to read and  she finds interesting facts about his past and why it is so important he learn to read. As time runs out for them to be rescued, Andi must summon her courage and escape to try and save her mother before it is too late.

The newest adventure in the Circle C series takes the reader on an entirely new path from what we are used to seeing with Andi. In the previous Circle C books, Andi has fun being a kid; here things are much more serious and there is no time for fun and games. Andi has to show how brave she can be when faced with her most frightening situation yet. This story is very much about being brave, trusting those who we love and also staying true to your faith in God. Young readers that are looking for an adventure that is a little more of a challenge will enjoy Andi to the Rescue without having to worry about being scared from the content.  I recommend this book to those readers and even parents looking for a good book to read together with their kids.

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

Jorie and the Magic Stone

JorieAuthor: A. H. Richardson

Publisher: Serano Press

Release Date: December 26, 2014

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A magical tale with dragons, hidden stones, treasures, and, of course, evil forces trying to stop Jorie at every turn.

Marjorie, who prefers to be called Jorie, has gone to live with her aunt. She has a vivid imagination and lets it run wild at her new country home.  With her fire-red hair flowing behind her, she runs around the estate and quickly meets a new friend, Rufus, who lives next door.  Together they find a mysterious land beneath the Tarn that is full of enchantment, danger and adventure.  They meet a good dragon, the Great Grootmonya who sends them on a quest to find the three Stones of Maalog and return them.  Jorie is in possession of the first stone, which will lead them to the next.  Along the way, they have to deal with evil dragons and even worse creatures to accomplish their mission.

Jorie and the Magic Stones is a fun story that will be a good edition for young readers.  This isn’t one that everyone will love, but for those that enjoy fantasy novels, this is going to be one to add to their list.  I liked the characters, especially the kids, they had spunk.  I had a few points that I got confused on, but it was probably because I was reading The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia), at the same time and there are several similarities between the two books.  The target audience of young readers will enjoy the short chapters and fun characters.  The travel between worlds made me feel like I was in the story and couldn’t wait to see what they would find.  I recommend this book to young readers looking for adventure in an entertaining story.

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

Toward a Secret Sky

Secret Sky

Author: Heather Maclean

Publisher: Blink

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A deliciously intriguing story that can’t help but be devoured. An adventure that needs to be read again and again just to let it all sink in.  There better be another book to follow because I want more.

Maren Hamilton is seventeen and has just watched her mother be buried. She is now left all alone and is sent to live with her grandparents in Scotland.  That wouldn’t be so bad except she had never met them.  It is hard enough fitting in at a new school, let alone one in a new country.  Just when Maren thinks she is starting to relax and feel like it could be home, she receives some of her mother’s things from her work, including an encrypted journal that makes her realize she never really knew her mother or others around her.  Now, she is in danger along with anyone she gets close to.  One by one, she pieces together the clues left by her mother but not before her small town becomes the victim of something evil.  Maren needs the help of Gavin, her newly appointed guardian angel, who she has quickly fallen in love with even though it is against all rules.  He may be her angel but they are also dealing with demons and forces of evil the likes of which she could never have imagined.  Before all is said and done, Maren will learn some of the hardest life lessons and hopefully come out the other side alive and better for it, or maybe not.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this book. There was just the right amount of action, romance, suspense, drama and even supernatural to keep me hooked throughout.  All of those together can sometimes be a difficult combination but it worked here flawlessly.  Maclean did an excellent job of bringing these characters, and the different settings, to life in a dramatic and beautiful way.  The main setting in Scotland is set up mostly by Gavin, which I liked.  This is the kind of story that I can see fans of the Twilight series falling in love with.  There is a lot of push and pull between the characters, especially Maren and Gavin; they want to be together but know it isn’t permitted.  When you have characters in this kind of situation it can become tiresome with the back and forth, but for some strange reason it worked here.  Maybe it was because nothing felt forced.  The characters did what they would naturally do and it showed with the way it came across on the pages.  All I must say is there better be another book to follow because I want more.  The ending wrapped things up nicely but also left it open easily for another to come.  I highly recommend this to young adults looking for a thrilling supernatural read that will leave them wanting more well past the last page.

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

Andi Under the Big Top

4431 cover 2.inddAuthor: Susan K. Marlow

Series: Circle C Stepping Stones #2

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another fun adventure for young readers that is just the right combination of excitement and life lessons we can all use.

Andi Carter is excited for summer! She is finally healed from the broken arm she got trying to do a trick on her horse and now the circus has come to town.  She has seen the circus once before, but was too young to fully remember anything, except for being scared of the clowns.  The most exciting thing for Andi is getting to see the champion bareback rider.  During the show, Andi and her family meet Henry Jackson, a young boy working in the circus.  Andi is a little jealous of Henry at first, working and hanging out with all the circus performers and traveling to new places.  That quickly changes after she learns that he ran away from home to join the circus and now he can’t leave.  Andi feels led to help him get free, but doing so might cost her more than she is willing to pay.

The second book in the Circle C series is another fun adventure for young readers. However, I don’t think I would say it is as good as the first.  I have a problem with the way it ended.  For me it didn’t take care of a few of the loose ends.  I don’t want to give anything away, but it was too quick without the explanations I would have liked to have seen.  The target audience of 7-10 year old children probably won’t notice, or if they do, they might not care, but it bothered me.  I liked the way Andi saw a wrong being committed and wanted to do something about it and help.  This is a good reminder for the readers to always try and do what is right.  The length of these books is just perfect for young readers to get a good story but not be overwhelmed by the amount to read.  I recommend this to kids starting out with chapter books that enjoy stories with animals and have some history to them.

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