The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn for the opportunity to read and review The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead. This story is told in four points of view beginning with Clementine, and telling the story of Kit and how he died, which is a mystery. The target audience is right on as described by the publisher – 12 to 15 years. Clementine, Jake and Ellie are part of the group who last saw Kit, who has special needs. Ellie is blackmailing Clementine for favors, such as lying to her parents so Ellie doesn’t get in trouble when she’s doing something she knows she shouldn’t be. The blackmail has ruined their friendship and Clementine finally decides to tell Ellie it’s over. Holding in and denying their secrets is tearing each of them apart and destroying their relationships. When the truth finally comes out, the community can finally heal. Aimed towards young teens with a passion for mystery and realistic fiction, 3.5 stars.

The Last Shadow Gate by Michael W. Garza

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to YA Bound Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review The Last Shadow Gate by Michael W. Garza! Gavin and Naomi are staying with their great grandmother (Mama Walker) for the summer and they are not sure what to expect. They have heard strange tales of shadow gates from Mama Walker. Their great grandfather has been missing for years and Gavin and Naomi search the woods where he disappeared. They end up in another world and the creatures that reside their know of Papa Walker, their great grandfather. Tiberius, half spider/half human, helps them search for Sir Walker, as he is known in this world. The siblings are told that just trying to return home is not a worthy quest. They are told to bring freedom to the world they are now in and to restore Alandra’s rightful heir because that is a worthy quest and Sir Walker’s dream. They make friends in unlikely places and see strange creatures on their journey. There is so much more to come of this story and I am looking forward to it! 4 stars for this fantastical adventure!

Journey Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Clarion Books for the opportunity to read and review Journey Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst! Ji-Lin and Seika are sisters and best friends. Their father is the Emperor and both daughters have been sent on their own Emperor’s Journey. Seika is all about tradition, whereas Ji-Lin struggles with focus. The two sisters are sent on their journeys together. Seika is following the traditional journey that takes place every generation, to speak with the dragon and renew their bargain of protection. Ji-Lin will be Seika’s protector and they will be riding on the winged lion, Alejan, Ji-Lin’s companion. They will travel for five days to converse with the dragon and then the following morning they will meet the Emperor and Guardians to celebrate the end of the ritual. The author describes the scenery and creatures beautifully by painting pictures with her descriptive words and the mythological tales are entertaining and interesting. The sisters work through their insecurities together and come to relate to each other better as they discover the truth behind the ritual. This adventure fantasy is wonderful for tweens – 4 stars!

 

The Lost Property Office

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“Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.”

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal! This book is interesting from the dedication and onward. Steampunk genre with the iridescent clockwork beetles add to the fantasy feel. The main character, thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles, lives with his mom and eight-year-old sister, Sadie. Sadie believes she sees their dad and when Jack looks down to talk to her, she has disappeared. Jack catches up with Sadie and they both end up in The Lost Property Office. They discover that their dad belongs to the Ministry of Trackers. A clerk, Gwen, becomes Jack’s guide and they follow clues to the man in black (the Clockmaker) who seems to know what happened to Jack’s father and Gwen’s uncle, who worked with Jack’s father. He tells them to find the Ember and meet him at the Great Clock Tower at midnight to find Jack’s father. I enjoy the mix of English and American characters, cultures and humor! Steampunk and fantasy combine for a fun tale of mysterious secrets, intrigue and surprises – 4 stars!

Brainwalker

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I received a free copy of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Benard lives with his dad and their dog, Milo. His mother passed away the day after she got the dog to look out for them. Bernard wants to do his required science project on wormholes, but no one is impressed. He gets in trouble at school, so his dad takes him to his work office. Bernard runs because he thinks he’s in trouble and inadvertently ends up in a scientific machine. His brain enters a wormhole and is transported inside his father’s brain where everything is dying because his father needs something called Energeia to rejuvenate. Energeia is produced when a person is happy, content and functioning well. Bernard’s dad has been depressed because of losing his wife and he and his son struggle to get along with each other. Therefore, his Energeia is low and is causing his brain to slow down. Brainwalker is like a science fiction version of Never Ending Story or a Magic School Bus Episode. An adventure full of learning opportunities with creativity- 3.5 stars!

Orphan Trains

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Actual rating: 3.5 stars. Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone for the arc of Orphan Trains: Taking the Rails to a New Life by Rebecca Langston-George! This book tells the true story of the origin of orphanages, the Children’s Aid Society and orphan trains. The opening of the New York Foundling Hospital, founded by Sister Irene and her order, the Sisters of Charity is described. Individual stories are shared, an orphan train timeline is included, as well as a glossary, additional resources and discussion questions. Bibliography and source notes will help anyone wanting to find more information on the topic of orphan trains and their origins. Definitely for younger readers with simple information and photographs.

Tales from the Haunted Mansion: Volume I: The Fearsome Foursome

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My husband and I returned recently from one of our favorite vacation spots, Disneyland!  I read Tales from the Haunted Mantion Volume I: The Fearsome Foursome before we left and it was just the right book to enthuse me for my husband’s favorite ride, The Haunted Mansion.

A big thanks to NetGalley and Disney Press for the advanced reading copy of Tales from the Haunted Mansion: Volume I: The Fearsome Foursome by Amicus Arcane (a perfectly mysterious author’s name)!

The story begins with four friends, Tim, Noah, Steve and Willa. They each love horror stories and create a horror club where they share scary stories with each other. On a club day, they find their regular meeting spot destroyed and each of the members receives an invitation to a new meeting place, The Haunted Mansion. Amicus Arcane, the host, takes them to the library where spooky stories are shared and each friend takes a turn as the main character. This book is middle school appropriate and good, clean, spooky fun!

 

The War of Words

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Thanks to NetGalley and Fog Ink Publishing for the arc of The War of Words by Amy Neftzger! This fantasy read contains a book that no one can read, words being transformed, people being confused, an interesting headmaster, an eccentric teacher and a talking gargoyle. The story begins with Kelsey fighting faceless shadows for the King. A fellow soldier, Eric, admires Kelsey and asks her questions to the point of annoying her. A book is mentioned that can win the war, according to legend. The only solid answer Kelsey can get about this book is from the “Sisters” who are all-wise. Kelsey also witnesses a cloaked man burning what she thinks looks like words. Other characters are introduced; Nicholas (a student), Newton (the talking gargoyle), Taro the headmaster and several others all come together to make this a fun, entertaining read. The War of Words is quickly paced and a fast read for fantasy lovers.

In the Forest

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In the Forest by Art Collins is written for young readers and reminds me a bit of the Tucket Adventures series by Gary Paulsen because of the loyalty between the characters. In the Forest is a short book full of adventure and just the beginning of a series. I felt like the synopsis described the entire book to the point of making it almost unnecessary to read. That discouraged me and made it difficult to read through because there wasn’t really any unknown factor.

The Janitors Series

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The Janitors series by Tyler Whitesides reminds me of the Bailey School Kids Monster series by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones; only a bit more mature. The series is more sophisticated than I thought it would be before I began reading Janitors. Each book in this series is a fun, easy read brimming with adventure and a few twists thrown in. This is a lighthearted series for readers who just want a quick book to get through or a book fun enough to sit down and enjoy!