The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright; Adapted for Young Readers Edition

Based on a miraculous true story!

A young boy, Chellamathu, lives with his family amongst Indian poverty. He has many siblings and it’s difficult for his family to take care of everyone. He’s kidnapped and taken to an orphanage for sale. He’s kidnapped along with a few other children and they ride for three hours before they reach the orphanage. While there, he helps the other children with fear, loneliness and sickness. He’s eventually sold to an American family and moves away. Little by little, he forgets his past and that he was kidnapped. He did tell his American family that he was kidnapped when they first received him but they didn’t speak his language. He learns to participate in school and activities but never truly feels like he belongs anywhere. He can’t understand why he feels that way. His family kept photos, records and a voice recording from when they adopted him and named him Taj. In the recording, he states that he’s been kidnapped. When he’s college age, he meets an Indian family and they hear the recording and tell him what he said. After that, Taj starts on a mission to find his Indian home and family. Through acquaintances, luck and perseverance, he finds them and has a heartwarming reunion! Great story. Even though the writing is dry, the story is touching and miraculous! 4 stars!

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Shea is a receptionist in a doctor’s office and makes a crime podcast in the evenings. She wants to interview a woman accused of but acquitted of murdering two men forty years ago, Beth Greer. Beth is a rich heiress who lives alone in the family mansion after her father was shot and her mother died in a car accident. Mystery surrounds Beth. She reaches out to Shea to talk about what happened forty years ago. Little by little, Shea is exposed to Beth’s life and secrets and the further she digs the more dangerous it all becomes. 5 stars for this well-written haunted mystery!

Master of Iron by Tricia Levenseller

Suspense, action and humor!

The story opens as the group travels to the healer that will hopefully save Temra after she was injured and received a nick in her lung. The group consists of the captured warlord Kymora, Ziva, Temra, Kellyn and Petrik. Kymora happens to be Petrik’s mother and his father is the deceased king. They’re all on their way to get help from Petrik’s half brother, Prince Skiro. Soon after they arrive at their destination, they’re informed that the healer has been kidnapped by Prince Ravis, Skiro’s oldest and war hungry sibling. Petrik shows Kellyn and Ziva the portals to the siblings’ connected kingdoms. They use the portrait portal to quickly get to Ravis’ kingdom and rescue the healer by Kellyn causing a distraction. Ziva sends Petrik and the healer back to Skiro’s kingdom then she destroys the portrait and goes back for Kellyn. She’s captured along with him and forced to create magical weapons to conquer the other kingdoms. Ziva vows never to create magical weapons again after seeing what Kymora and Ravis do with them. The group moves from one conflict to another after Ziva escapes with Kellyn and goes back to Skiro’s castle. Ravis soon attacks and Skiro uses the imprisoned Kymora against the attack. She’s loose and still wants to conquer the world. Ziva has tough decisions to make involving her magical abilities, Temra, Kellyn and their future. She also works at overcoming her anxiety and undergoes tremendous character development. The suspense and action made the reading go by quickly and I like the snippets of humor woven through the duology, 5 stars!

Trigger by N. Griffin

Disturbing fictional neglect and abuse!

Small town, USA is where Didi attends school but she lives with her father in a secluded area. He’s abusive and neglects to give Didi everything she needs. Didi is terrified and on edge always, even when she’s not around her father because she’s worried she’ll do something wrong and he’ll find out somehow. Her father makes her run laps around the property so she can become as quick as possible but she doesn’t know why he cares about that. He also forces her to learn and play chess and compete in tournaments and she has to be the best. Eventually Didi understands the reason her father has made her do these things but it might be too late for her to save herself.

Likes/dislikes:
The story is disturbing because of the neglect and abuse. The effects on the child’s physical and mental well-being are portrayed through the coping skills the main character develops over time to deal with her life; they were heartbreaking at times. The timeline jumps around and that was difficult to follow. The ending was the best part.
Language: R for 67 swears and 22 f-bombs.
Mature Content: R for physical abuse and severe neglect.
Violence: R for child abuse and hunting child with a gun.
Ethnicity: Didi has brown hair but other characters’ ethnicities aren’t described.

Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The intensity builds to the extreme!

Red is traveling in an RV to Florida with her friends to spend a week celebrating spring break together. They lose cell service and GPS capabilities then end up down a dead end road getting a flat tire. After replacing the flat tire with the spare, Red sees a red dot hovering around the RV and yells at the others to notice. They ignore her until they hear the gunshots that take out all four tires. The group runs into the RV for protection. The shooter leaves a walkie talkie for communication and tells them that one of them has a secret they need to share. The secret is going to be revealed, one way or another!

Likes/dislikes:
Oliver is annoying because he’s a know-it-all with a superiority complex. The mystery is interesting to try to unravel when a few characters allude to having secrets. The suspense builds intensely, which makes a riveting read.

Mature Content:
PG-13 for drinking

Language:
R for 20 swears and 105 f-bombs.

Violence:
PG-13 for Someone shoots at the RV and holds the travelers hostage inside. The sniper fatally shoots an elderly couple that stop to help. Bloody shootings. Attack with a knife.

Ethnicity:
Mixed, Korean, Mexican, white, African American

A Consuming Fire by Laura Weymouth

A deadly fantasy!

In an imaginary Britain, Anya sends her sister off to give a sacrifice to the god but when Ilva returns she has sacrificed everything and soon dies. Anya vows to kill the god so no one else will ever have to sacrifice to him again. She travels under the guise of a willing sacrifice while learning everything possible to kill the god. Along the way, she learns a great deal about herself, what it means to be a family, loyalty, dedication and love. She meets wanderers and befriends them as they teach her and protect her. She also meets the mysterious thief Tieran who is an enigma to everyone he spends time with.

Likes/dislikes:
I love Anya and her determination. I enjoyed uncovering Tieran’s mysterious nature while reading the story. I like how the story ended and all that was revealed throughout the book.
Language: G for no swears, bitches is used once to describe female dog.
Mature Content: PG for kissing
Violence: PG for mutilations and death

Dead End Girls by Wendy Heard

Fast-paced mystery!

Maude has a plan to completely leave her current life. She’s not wanted at her Dad’s or her Mom’s and they tend to forget when it’s their custody week. Maude has saved and planned for years to make this work and she seizes the opportunity to leave when her Mom’s in-laws book a Hawaiian vacation. She hasn’t planned on her step-cousin to discover her passports or want to join her because her life is miserable too, but Frankie goes along with the plan. They fake their drowning and run. Things become chaotic, dangerous and crazy after that. Their lives are endangered, they’re chased by the authorities and they discover more about their families than they wanted to know. A fast-paced mystery, 4 stars!

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Political intrigue in 1930’s Orient with a mix of historical fiction and fantasy!

The prologue tells of a painful scientific experiment on a person that has been strapped down. Then the story starts as Rosalind is trapping a criminal who is a member of the group responsible for the death of her cousin Juliette during a past act gone awry. She’s exacting revenge on those who were part of it. Political intrigue, spies, agents, Communists and Nationalists describe the characters in this book. Her handler pairs her with another agent, Orion, who has family issues as well. The two of them have to pretend to be married so they can infiltrate the newspaper company and try to discover information on the serial killer murdering people with a toxic liquid in syringes. What they discover turns their lives around and, unbeknownst to Orion and Rosalind, the reader is given the true identity of a mysterious agent, Priest. The author’s notes on Oriental history during the 1930’s are fascinating. Well-written, complex, beloved characters build a fun historical fiction fantasy. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I enjoyed learning about the history of 1930’s Orient. The author’s notes give readers a glimpse into her research and what’s based on facts and what’s completely fiction in this story. Rosalind and Orion are characters with depth and I had fun getting to know them.
Swearing: PG for three swears, no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for lgbtq transgender character mentioned
Violence: PG-13 for killing by poison, shooting, bloody shooting, stabbing, bloody stabbing

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.

Likes/dislikes:
I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Mature content: PG-13
Underage drinking, marijuana use
Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region)
Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend)
Violence: PG-13
Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires.
Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

A supernatural mystery!

Luminaries are hunters of nightmares. Winnie, sixteen, is about to start the trials that lead to becoming a hunter. She lives with her mother and brother. After her father was exposed as a spy, their family lost everything, including him. Now they struggle to make ends meet. Winnie is bullied by classmates that call her traitor because of her father. She is excited to become a hunter and draws every creature she sees with her wonderful artistic skills. On her first trial, Winnie accidentally stumbles onto a banshee that’s immediately beheaded by someone or something else. She carries the banshee head back to headquarters, completely in shock the whole time. As soon as other hunters see her holding the banshee head, they assume she hunted and killed it. Super impressed, the hunters don’t let Winnie get a word in and she’s finding it hard to speak anyway. After that, she and her family are celebrated and treated much better. Winnie is able to attend hunter school and her brother Darian is promoted. In the meantime, Winnie asks Jay to train her because she feels extremely behind since she hasn’t had access to teaching or coaching for the last four years. Jay agrees but Winnie has difficulty reading him. He’s aloof, strong, and oblivious to the attention and flirting of Winnie’s peers. Jay’s training helps Winnie with the trials but she keeps seeing the Whisperer that no other hunter has seen. As Winnie builds her skills, she discovers a coded message from her father and the book ends with the shocking deciphered note he left for her. A sequel to look forward to! Supernatural mystery, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I like the following:
-The quote from Grandpa Frank, “That’s why we’re called the Luminaries, Winnie, we are lanterns the forest can never snuff out”.
-The mystery of the Whisperer and the discovery of another mystery that leads into a sequel.
-I enjoyed the writing and that Winnie is an artist.
-I like Jay and the mystery surrounding his life.
Language Content: PG-13 for 16 swears, no f-bombs
Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, mentions marijuana; LGBT side character
Violence: PG-13 for dead, ripped apart bodies, beheading