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.

Easy Target

Author: Tim Shoemaker

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: March 9, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A perfect, high-paced read for young adults dealing with bullying and the difficulties they face in school and the complications of social media.

When Hudson Sutton must attend public school after being homeschooled all his life, his parents worry how he will fit in, but Hudson just wants to survive. It doesn’t take him long to figure out how things work and a school project on creating change puts him in the crosshairs of the school bullies. He does make two friends and together they try to take on the bullies to change things at their school. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t work out exactly like he hoped and he quickly finds himself becoming what he was trying to stop, a bully. Together the friends work to help each other and those around them who don’t even know are being bullied. Will their plan work? Or will it make things worse?

Easy Target starts out nice and slow, but in the best way, there isn’t too much action right away and for a YA/middle grade audience it has a nice pace. The story is right on point with issues that need to be addressed in the world we live in today. The bullying in schools and on social media is an issue that seems to never go away. I loved the way Shoemaker wrote Hudson as he comes in not knowing the dynamics of how a school goes with social parameters and such and thinks he can quickly make changes. As he goes, he learns that none of that is going to be as easy as he hoped it would be. People get hurt and along the way he realizes that making these kinds of changes isn’t going to happen overnight and he can’t go over the heads of others.

As sad as it is, this is a problem that has affects generation after generation and we need to prepare our children for it. One thing I loved about this book was how it showed that even bullies can be hurting inside. Not everything is as it seems on the surface and trying to fit in and be accepted will be something that many kids and adults strive for no matter the cost. A lot of times, people lose themselves in the way they change to fit what others think they should act like, look like, or be. When we focus on what is inside and stop trying to please them, we find ourselves to be so much happier. I read this before letting my ten-year-old read it just to make sure it was appropriate for him. I feel it is a book that all young adults, and those getting ready for middle school where the pressure to fit in can be the greatest, should read and keep their eyes out for those around them that are hurting and figure out how they can stay true to themselves and help those around them at the same time. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Crush

Author: Tracy Wolff

Series: Crave #2

Publisher: Entangled Teen Publishing

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic follow up to the smash hit Crave. Crush is even better with so much drama, adventure, excitement and much more. Don’t miss out!

Grace thought she was getting used to life at Katmere Academy; that is, until she is turned into a Gargoyle for months trying to protect Jaxon, her mate from Hudson, from his brother everyone thought was dead. When she returns, she has no memory of her time frozen as a gargoyle. One thing she didn’t expect when returning is she is not alone. Hudson is now living inside her mind and nothing is as it seems. All along she has been told how horrible Hudson was and he had to be stopped, but none of that lines up with the voice in her head. The biggest trials are just ahead and not only is Grace’s life at stake, but also the lives of all that she has come to care about so much in such a short time since arriving at Katmere and discovering that the creatures she read about in fairy tales are actually real and all around her.

Wow! That’s all I can say about this book. For a sequel to come out blazing at page one and not stop is a hard feat to accomplish but Tracy Wolff has nailed it with Crush. So much tension, drama, suspense, action, and oh so much more on every single page! For an almost 700-page book, the action did not slow down which very rare. As I read through this story, I was enchanted to say the least by Grace and all she was going through. The way Wolff brought about the character of Hudson, which readers heard about in book one but to now have him really be a part of the story, and in such a way that is so different than expected, shows how very talented Tracy Wolff is as an author.

Not once throughout the 700 pages did I feel the action slow down, and the ending has left me aching for more. The last several chapters and what Grace had to go through were absolutely worth the buildup and played out beautifully. This was one of those novels that as I’m reading, I can actually see it playing out in my mind as a movie which I love. My one complaint, as with the first book, is that the books is targeted to a young adult audience but has far too much harsh language for my liking when that is the target audience. I know that a lot of people won’t have a problem with that, but for me, especially with a young adult audience, I wish it could have been toned down some. I will say though that the writing had me so captivated that I could glaze over the harsh language and not let it bother me, which showed the writing has to be incredibly good as it was here. Even so, I still am going to recommend this to an older audience for the adult themes. Those that love a great paranormal romance will not want to miss out on this one.

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

Crave

Author: Tracy Wolff

Series: Crave #1

Publisher: Entangled Teen Publishing

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fans of Twilight will not want to miss this series that is fun, engrossing, and a swoon worthy read. Like Twilight but oh so different and oh so fun to read.

Grace’s world turned upside down when her parents died and she is sent to live with her only other family in Alaska, a complete opposite environment from her home in California. When she steps foot inside the academy where her uncle is headmaster of the boarding school, she feels as lost as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The place is filled with monsters of all kind and the one thing they have in common is their hatred for her. Upon her arrival, Jaxon Vega gives her a warning that if she won’t leave, she better watch her back. It doesn’t take long though for him to follow her every move and vow to do all he can to protect her.

There are several aspects of this series that have totally hooked me. I was a huge fan of Twilight when it came out and looking back now, I can say it isn’t the best writing, but the story is engaging and the characters pull you in. Same thing can be said for Crave, the story is very intriguing, and I love the references to Twilight. Wolff doesn’t just play it off like no one here has ever heard of the series, instead she very cleverly adds nods to the other famous YA Vampire series.

Grace comes into the scene with lots of baggage and trying to figure out how to move on with her life with her parents gone. The last thing she expects to find is all the fantastical things the academy holds within. The way it leads up to revealing who and what all is around her is done beautifully. The story slowly unfolds but at just the right speed to keep the reader’s attention. There is a lot to unpack here and one of the best aspects of the story is the ending with the three chapters from Jaxon’s point of view. This gave so much more to the story than having to only rely on the single point of view, but it also was a tease with only three chapters of the story done this way.  Readers are left with a perfect cliffhanger ending that left me thirsty for more,

I am really happy I already have book two in hand and can start it right away and don’t have to wait for it come out, that would be torture. My only problem with the book is all the harsh language, especially with a target audience of teens and young adults I have a hard time with seeing some of those words. The story itself is good enough that I can overlook most of that and recommend to those that loved Twilight and enjoy a great read full of characters of all kinds.

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

The Way to Rio Luna

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fantastic, fun adventure for middle grade readers that will let them travel across the world as they fly through the pages.

Danny Monteverde has always believed in magic and even as he ages, he still believes. The books and stories he read with his sister, Pili, helped show him how amazing pixie dust and rabbit holes can be. Pili disappeared two years ago, and Danny has searched for her. He now believes she is waiting for him in Rio Luna, the enchanted land from their favorite fairy tales. Danny has spent most of his life in foster homes and knows there must be someone that wants him, his sister. Years pass and Danny starts to doubt she will come for him and he’s been silly to believe in fairy tales all these years. When he finds his favorite book in a library, he also finds a map to Rio Luna and hopefully his sister. The map takes him all around the world and he will stop at nothing to find his sister.

The Way to Rio Luna is a fun magical adventure for middle grade readers. Danny is a great main character that you can’t help but want to root for and see succeed in his quest to find his sister. Each day he must stay with the foster family, and you see how harsh they treat him, which makes it even more important that he finds his sister, the one person that actually cares for him. Even when he is at his lowest, he knows that Pili is out there and he will find a way to get to her. The story moved quickly and was full of adventure, action, suspense and all written at the appropriate level for its intended readers. My only complaint would be a few mature themes, toward the end with one character I felt could have been left out. Most likely younger readers won’t realize what is being said but as a mother I felt it didn’t need to be included. Other than that, I highly recommend this to middle grade readers for a fun adventure they will breeze through and enjoy from beginning to end.

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. 

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.

Pudge and Prejudice

Author: A. K. Pittman

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Set in fictitious Northfield, Texas during 1984, this story takes readers on a journey similar to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice!

Elyse Nebbitt and her family have just moved to Northfield, Texas and she is faced with finding her place in a new school. Elyse has always had trouble fitting in, being overweight hasn’t helped either. Her beautiful older sister Jayne quickly fits in and starts dating Charlie Bingley, one of the stars of the football team.  While Elyse can’t help but being attracted to Charlie’s best friend, Billy Fitz, Elyse is too insecure in her own body to believe anything could develop in that relationship.  Her new friend, Lottie, helps Elyse to accept herself for who she is and what she can become.

Pudge and Prejudice was just a fun read. I enjoyed the way the characters were laid out with different personalities. There is someone in this book for everyone to relate to in one way or the other. Pudge is bigger, a little insecure at times, but overall a fun character to read about. The rest of her family and friends she meets in her new town make for a well-rounded cast of characters that will leave readers smiling and nodding their heads at the different antics they get into. Her sisters are very different than her in size and attitude at times and the romance aspects of the book progress at a rate that is very relatable for teen angst and drama, although I will say that the end relationships did make me wonder if it was something that would really happen or just playing out well for the sake of the story.

Charlie and Billy are brought into the story to meet the girls by helping the family move in and one thing leads to another as our story progresses. The pace of the story was perfect for teens and anyone wanting a quick read that doesn’t require a lot of deep thought. Overall, this was a fun enjoyable read that I recommend to young readers, probably more suited for girls than boys, but the sports aspect of the story would appeal to male readers.

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

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