The Garden and the Serpent

Authors: Ted Dekker & Kara Dekker

Series: Dream Traveler’s Quest #3

Release Date: January 1, 2018

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The third installment in The Dream Traveler’s Quest is a must read as the stakes are higher than ever and evil is determined to win!

Theo has achieved the first to Seals of Truth and now must figure out what his next quest will be and how he is going to accomplish it with the help of his school friend that is blind. Once they get to “Other Earth,” Denny has his eyesight restored and can use his other senses that are heightened from years of being blind and together they work to find the third Seal of Truth.

This third book got a little darker but not so much that it was inappropriate for younger readers. Theo is learning lots of valuable lessons about life but also about love and how much God loves us even when we can’t see it. The way Theo and Denny worked together was a great lesson for kids. These books are a great start to the Dekker universe as they get older and can read more advanced books. I recommend these to young readers looking for adventure and fun reads.

The Curse of the Shadowman

Authors: Ted Dekker & Kara Dekker

Series: Dream Traveler’s Quest #2

Release Date: January 1, 2018

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The second book in Dekker’s children’s book picks up right where the first one left off and is full of fun and adventure for all ages.

Theo Dunnery is back in his world after finding the first Seal of Truth. In order to return to “Other Earth,” as he calls it, he is going to have to bring someone with him to find the next Seal of Truth.

Full of the same adventure, action, and perfect storyline for young readers to grab their attention and help them fall in love with reading. I loved the progression of these books and how Theo had to rely on others to help him in both worlds showing him that no matter how alone he felt he was never truly alone. This will be a fun book for young readers to get started in the world of Ted Dekker’s writing, so many fun moments that kids and adults can enjoy.

Into the Book of Light

Authors: Ted Dekker & Kara Dekker

Series: Dream Traveler’s Quest #1

Release Date: January 1, 2018

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first book in The Dream Traveler’s Quest sets up the world any fan of Dekker’s work will know and love. A great series for young readers.

Young Theo Dunnery tries to follow his dad’s advice about staying invisible to avoid the bullies as much as he can. As he is trying to avoid Asher, the one boy out to get him, he hides in the library and stumbles upon a book that takes him to another world. In this new world, he must complete a quest to find the Five Seals of Truth to conquer his fears. He is helped along the way to discover he is the true son of Elyon.

The first book in this new series for kids will be very familiar for anyone who has read The Circle Series by Ted Dekker. I have come to the conclusion that if there is a way for him to write a book and tie it back to the Circle Series in some form, he is going to do it. This was a fun story with lots of action and adventure to keep the attention of young readers. I liked the length of the books, just right for young readers to read and not be overwhelmed by a large book with a lot of content they aren’t ready for yet. Tackling the issues of bullying in school can be a difficult subject and using Theo’s bullying coupled with the other world he escapes into as a way to overcome the obstacles is a good story for kids but one to keep in mind that it is fiction. This isn’t going to work for dealing with bullies in real life. Some of the lessons in the book were not handled the way I, as a parent, would handle them but they did move well with the story and kids will enjoy the action and adventure. I recommend this to young readers that are starting out looking for some adventure but not a story that is too difficult for them.

Lost Island

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Hollow Dolls #2

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Release Date: October 5, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The follow up to Hollow Dolls picks up where the story left off and takes readers on a magical adventure full of surprises complete with all the magical adventures kids love in books.

After learning the truth about her mother, Simone is in a frenzy trying to keep her friends safe from Maeve and her powers. Now, Simone is in search for others with power to keep her Mother from taking their powers and using them for evil. An old legend leads her on a hunt for the Island she used to call home. Together with Sebastian and help from the librarians they set off to save others before it is too late. The closer they get to the island the more Simone sees that Maeve will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

MarcyKate Connolly has crafted a fun and magical adventure for young readers. With lots of suspense, action, drama, and adventure, readers will fly through the pages of this book. Most of the characters from the first book are back and we see a deeper depth with Simone and several of the characters. I really connected with Simone and the way she cares for her friends and wants to do all that she can to keep them safe. Her attitude and the way she was written really kept the story moving forward at a great pace for me. My only complaint would be the end and the last few chapters. Things were wrapped up a little too conveniently and felt rushed to me. I wish there would have been more development instead of it all ending so abruptly. Overall, it was still a good story that I enjoyed reading and would recommend to young readers that want a fantasy adventure.

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

Hollow Dolls

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Hollow Dolls #1

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An intriguing tale of magic, powers, and the lengths some will go to get the powers others have.

Simone is one of the few with powers, she is a mind-reader. With her power she knows many things, but the one thing she can’t remember is her own past. She is on a mission to find her family and the home she was taken from. Helping her search is Sebastian, another child taken with powers, the ability to take memories from people and was used against her while they were held captive. They come across a man that has been taken over by a body walker; Simone wants nothing more than to leave the life of magic behind her. But the more she looks into the history of where she came from and how to get back home, the more evil she sees around her. Before it is too late, Simone must dig deep into herself and find the courage to stop the evil around her before those she cares about get hurt.

Hollow Dolls is a fun, entertaining magical story that will keep young readers engaged with the characters and following along on their journey. Simone is a very real protagonist, even though she has magical powers, it is easy to connect with her and the passion she has to find her family and get back all that was taken from her. The dynamic between her and Sebastian moves the story forward during their scenes and all they have had to work through together. Several points throughout the story I started to feel as if I knew what was going on and what would happen next, some of my thoughts proved true and some not so much. The story wraps up with a solid cliff-hanger ending that will leave readers aching to find out the rest of the story in the follow up. While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as others I have read by Connolly, it was still an enjoyable read that I would recommend to other young readers looking for a magical adventure.

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

Wolf Soldier

Author: James R. Hannibal

Series: Lightraider Academy Volume 1

Publisher: Enclave Escape Publishing

Release Date: October 26, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A perfect fantasy for young adults to read that will send them on a fantastical adventure full of magic, dragons, and an all-knowing Rescuer.

It’s been nearly two generations since the Knights of the Lightraider order disappeared and now the Keledan have gone behind the barriers and the Dragon Lands are taken over with darkness. The Rescuer freed them long ago, but the people forgot what the Rescuer did for them and turned their backs on him. Connor Enarian works on his family’s farm as a shepherd until he and three other young initiates are called to the Lightraider Order to cross mountains into Tanelethar and stop the dark invasion. Connor and his friends make it into the Dragon Lands and find a missing Lightraider and a talking silver wolf that is the key to saving them all.

James Hannibal has crafted a fabulous journey full of magic, adventure, dragons and so much more. A lot of fantasy novels can be hard to follow because of the world building that happens to make the story the way it needs to be set up. Hannibal did a fantastic job of creating this world, but not bogging down the pages with information that isn’t needed. I must admit, I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, (I’ve never read any of the Lord of the Rings books and have no desire to). But something about this book and the way James Hannibal writes appealed to me. Hannibal has a way with words and crafts a story that is entertaining and engaging all while being unique to others out there. This isn’t the type of story that can be read quickly or not paying attention to all the little details, if you do, there will probably have to be some rereading. I encourage other readers to give him a try if you are looking for something new, either this new fantasy series or even his suspense novels, you won’t be disappointed.

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

Raising Dragons

Author: Bryan Davis

Series: Dragons in our Midst #1

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: October 5, 2021 (Rerelease)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first book in The Dragon in Our Midst Series is a fun fantasy novel I can’t wait to let my son read. Clean, entertaining, and magical; a great combination for young readers!

Billy is called Dragon Breathe by kids at school after a science experiment gone wrong. He’s been dealing with abnormally hot breath as he has gotten older and when his breath accidentally sets off the fire sprinklers, his parents finally tell him the secret they have kept all his life, he is half dragon. Once he knows the truth, a lot of things make more sense about his life. When a new girl at school arrives hiding her own secret, Billy becomes the only one she can trust. Bonnie and Billy discover they are part of a legend leading back to Arthur and Excalibur. Together they find more faith and courage they didn’t know they had to deal with an evil slayer determined to exterminate the dragons forever.

I took this book with me to the hospital while my mom had a procedure and ended up reading the entire thing in one day. It was a fun, exciting, entertaining, and clean read. I love finding a great book that I can recommend to my son to read without any worry that the material will not be appropriate. Books on dragons and mythology aren’t my normal go-to reads but I am so happy I gave this one a try. As the start of a series, this book brings all the right stuff, magical legends, drama, tension, evil and so much more. Bonnie and Billy make a great team to move the story along and keep readers entranced in the story. The writing is perfect for young readers and their parents. I wanted to read it and see if my son would like it and if it would be appropriate for him. Even though it is a story about dragons and legends of Arthur, it still has an element of faith. I recommend this to readers that enjoy mythical, magical, and fun stories.

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

Heartless Heirs

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Twin Daggers #2

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 10, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic follow up to one of my favorite books from last year. So much action, drama, tension, and character connection to love.

After rescuing her sister from the dungeons and technocrats, Aissa and her friend Remy flee to the woods for safety. At one time, Aissa and her twin, Zandria were closer than two sisters could hope to be. After being trapped in the steel helmet and tortured, Zandria is having a hard time understanding how Aissa could fall in love with Aro, a Techno prince when they are the very enemy they are trying to take down. Remy still sides with his father, a Magi leader who refuses to believe his spymaster is a traitor. Their mission is now to find the secrets of the Alchemist Alliance and the key to healing the divide between the Technos and the Magi after centuries at war. The bond between Aro and Aissa grows with each day, and if they don’t find the answers, all they hold dear will be threatened.

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this since I turned the last page on Twin Daggers. I quickly fell in love Aissa, Aro, Zandria and the rest of the characters. The connection between Aissa and her twin and then Aissa and Aro was the driving force to the page turning story. With the bond between the twins strained, the story took a different yet interesting turn, would they be able to regain their trust in one another or would the torture they both endured turn them against one another? Being able to establish the connection between the characters the way Connolly did kept me engaged with the story and what would happen to the characters. That relationship is more important to me than a strong plot. When I find characters, I love, I enjoy the story even more which is what happened with these books. Every conversation, fight and tense look was enough to make me nervous for what would happen and keep me envisioning myself in the room with the characters. This was a perfect two book series with just the right amount of character development, world building and magic. I recommend this book to those that love a good YA fantasy with characters that are easy to cheer for to succeed.

Ember of Night

Author: Molly E. Lee

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Great world building with a heroine you can’t help but root for in a story that takes readers on a wild ride.

Harley feels completely alone and unloved in this world, except for her baby sister, who she tries desperately to protect from their abusive father. About to turn 18, Harley has saved all she can from her job at a dinner to be able to get her own place and take her sister with you. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, a stranger shows up and tells her she is the key in a war against Heaven and Hell. Not what she wanted to hear and definitely not something she has the time or energy to deal with. Draven has shown up at the dinner and is working with her to fight the war that is coming. With more at stake than she has ever had to deal with, Harley feels more alone than ever in a battle that will take all she has to give and maybe more.

I want to start with the positives on Ember of Night: the world building was great and the characters are very well put together. Harley has such a passion for helping protect her sister that I couldn’t help but feel invested in her story and the outcome. Those points of the book were really great for me; unfortunately, the rest fell flat. The story was slow at times, I didn’t connect with some of the other characters, and the way the twists came about at the end, especially the very last page, did not sit right for me. Sometimes YA books just go a little too predictable and it just didn’t work for me. I also have a problem with books marketed to young adults that have a large amount of language and mature themes throughout. It’s much more acceptable if it is marketed to adults with those themes, these are just problems I have, may not be a problem for others. I do think readers that enjoy Twilight and other fantasy type novels will enjoy this one.

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

A Sky in the Storm

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Series: Ember in the Ashes #4

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: December 1, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The final edition to the Ember in the Ashes series delivers all the feels! Fans of the series will not want to miss out on this one.

Back for one more adventure, Laia of Serra, Helene, the Blood Shrike, and Elias Veturia who is now the Soul Catcher, battle together to stop Commandant Keris Veturia and the Nightbringer from ruining what is left of the empire. After years of battling each other, Laia and the Blood Shrike work together to stop the upcoming apocalypse and destruction of their people. Thinking that her love, Elias, is gone and doomed to a life as the Soul Catcher, Laia loses hope that she will be alone forever. Elias stays in the Waiting Place helping the souls that come to pass on and find peace. It will take all of them working together to keep the Nightbringer from destroying their world and all they hold dear.

As with any series, the last installment is highly anticipated. A Sky Beyond the Storm is no different. As I started reading, I found myself holding my breathe through several chapters, asking what was going to happen? Would my favorite characters make it out alive? Each new chapter brought a new intensity and had me invested deeper in the story. With multiple viewpoints, readers can see much of the story than if only a single viewpoint had been provided. The connection between the different characters and the way they changed over the course of the four books was beautifully done. Enemies became friends, families are torn apart, and nothing is as it seems. The short chapters make it a quick easy read even at over five hundred pages.

Several moments/characters I will take away as my favorite from the series, one such is the saving, “Emifal Firdaant.” Once you read it, you will understand that one just resonated with me and every time I read it my heart fluttered. Of all the characters, I really felt a connection with Helene and Harper, something about the way the characters were written really struck a chord with me and even as secondary characters part of the time they really carried the story. Overall, this was a fantastic conclusion to a wonderful series. So many great moments and creativity that many novels lack. This world that was built will draw readers in and give them a great escape they may need in the crazy world we live in. I recommend this for older YA audiences as the themes get a little heavy and mature at times.