YA & MG BOOK REVIEWS
^ Great for guys!
* Contains violence, strong language and/or sexual references.
A Flash of Romance by Sharon René
A Mixed Bag of God’s Grace by Sharon René
A Nancy Drew Christmas by Carolyn Keene
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas*^
Courier’s Daughter series by C.J. Redwine
Court of Swans by Melanie Dickerson
Elleson by Misha McCorkle^
Good Girls Stay Quiet by Jo Cassidy
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson
Mele Kalikimaka by Taylor Bennett
Porch Swing Girl by Taylor Bennett
Quest for Celestia by Steven James
Remarkables by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins*^
The Deception by Laura Gallier
The Delusion by Laura Gallier
The Door by Lorilyn Roberts
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas*^
The Kingdom Come series by Cecelia Earl
The Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman*
The Ripper of Monkshood Manor by Mary Gray
The Serafina series by Robert Beatty
Tinsel in a Tangle by Laurie Germaine
Trinity Row by Kelly Martin
Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker^
Escape from the Island of Aquarius by Frank Peretti^
Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred by Frank Peretti^
Nightmare Academy by Frank Peretti^
Sandcastle Dreams by Taylor Bennett
Soprano Trouble by Victoria Kimble
Sour Lemon and Sweet Tea by Julane Fisher
Sour Lemon Strikes Out by Julane Fisher
The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey by Frank Peretti^
The Door in the Dragon’s Throat by Frank Peretti^
The Legend of Annie Murphy by Frank Peretti^
The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal^
The Main Dish by Victoria Kimble
The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia Toney^
The Secret of the Desert Stone by Frank Peretti^
The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer
The Tombs of Anak by Frank Peretti^
Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea by Frank Peretti^
The Other Side of Freedom
by: Cynthia T. Toney
When thirteen-year-old Sal learns the mob is leaning on his father and uncle to help commit crimes, he must make some adult decisions to protect his Italian immigrant family. After the local grocer is killed, Sal’s father asks him to keep the secret; but this request goes against everything his father has taught him. Set in the southern farming community of Freedom in 1925, this action-packed story follows Sal’s battles with bigotry, racism toward his African American friend, police corruption, and mob intimidation. I’ve never read a mob story from a young adult’s perspective. I found it both frightening and heart-rending. It’s marketed to young adults, but I believe it’s better suited to middle graders. Adults also will appreciate the historical value of the mob’s impact on poor communities during prohibition.
Quest For Celestia
by: Steven James
This is the best book I’ve read in awhile, and that’s saying something because I read a ton. Great for teens and adults, this stand-alone fantasy novel is a reimagining of The Pilgrim’s Progress. When 16-year-old Kadin’s health deteriorates after an encounter with a strange man, he embarks on an epic journey to determine the cause of his frightening condition. The dangerous quest opens his eyes to the truth that could heal both his body and his mind. Kadin’s best friend agrees to accompany him, but turns around at the first threat. Later, Kadin makes another friend, Leira. Together, they follow their hearts through a fantastical world of witches, dragons, and giants. They’re tracked by an evil lord who has made it his mission to do anything to keep them from reaching Celestia. This is an amazing read with mind-blowing twists and turns. Steven James is a master storyteller.
Court of Swans
by: Melanie Dickerson
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of romance novels, but my Storyteller Squad peeps encouraged me to read this one. So glad I listened to them. Court of Swans turned out to be so entrancing that I couldn’t put it down. The novel has a definite fairy tale flavor with . . . spoiler alert . . . a happy ending. Great for female teens who need a break from real life.
Set in the harsh English society of 1381, this Christian story revolves around Delia, her seven stalwart brothers—three older and four younger—and a generous knight, Sir Geoffrey, who is forced to arrest the brothers for treason. When Sir Geoffrey realizes he’s made a mistake, he works to set them free. Delia, also determined to rescue her brothers, leaves her recently widowed stepmother in her palatial childhood home to secure a job as a seamstress for the queen. She hopes to find the perfect moment to present her brothers’ unfair situation to someone in power who can set them free. Poor Delia suffers one devastating setback after another until she crosses paths with Sir Geoffrey. Together, they hatch an escape plan for Delia’s brothers. From that point on, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I learned tons about fourteenth century life in England, the Tower of London, and the child-king Richard II. I can’t wait for its sequel, Castle of Refuge, due out in June.
by: Angie Thomas
By the author of the best-selling The Hate You Give, Concrete Rose opens readers eyes to poverty, gangs, and guns. It’s set in the same neighborhood seventeen years before The Hate. If anything, it’s more hard-hitting than The Hate. Told from the point of view of an African American male teen, the story contains ripe language in realistic dialect. I believe this book is more important for teens to read than The Hate because it focuses on unwise decisions the main character, 17-year-old Maverick, makes and how he chooses to live with the consequences. In The Hate, Starr witnesses a shooting and must deal with her emotions. Only toward the end of the story does she have to make life-altering decisions. Maverick, on the other hand, keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into a mess of repercussions that he must overcome to have any kind of future. He grows up fast in this story, learning about babies, budgets, and blossoms. Honestly? I liked Concrete Rose better than The Hate and highly recommend it to adults and older teens.
The Lost Property Office
by: James R. Hannibal
The author wove such a rip-roaring tale that I found myself trying to hold down an imaginary bowler hat. It’s an extraordinary work of middle grade fantasy set in London and its underground netherworlds. Thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles and his younger sister make an unusual friend, Gwen, who guides them on a dangerous quest to locate the Ember, which has been hidden since London’s great fire. The nefarious Clockmaker, also seeking the Ember, will stop at nothing to acquire it, including harming anyone in his way. Gwen must help Jack harness his gift of finding things to locate the Ember AND his missing father. This story is full of fantastical images, unique characters and grounded moral lessons. I highly recommend it for middle graders. It’s the first in a three-book series.
The Milk of Birds
by: Sylvia Whitman
Never have I read a book that has taken me on such of roller coaster of emotions. In one chapter, I’m giggling over K.C.’s crazy schemes, and in the next chapter, I’m holding my hand over my mouth, gasping in disbelief at Nawra’s everyday life. Some scenes are so horrific that I had to Google certain phrases to double check the author’s credibility. I found her not only credible, but that she’d likely downplayed some of the atrocities. This work of historical fiction follows the lives of two 14-year-old girls: K.C. in Richmond, Va., and Nawra in Darfur, Sudan, through their Save The Girls pen pal letters to each other. Though they live on different continents, they discover similar longings and heartaches. As they write, they become more honest and open with each other. They share advice and sayings. Some of Nawra’s sayings are so profound, I jotted them down. My favorite is “When a tree leans, it will rest on its sister.” I recommend this book for older teens and their parents.
by: Misha McCorkle
It’s such a thrill to see a manuscript I helped critique transform into a beautiful novel. I have to admit that its content and grammar didn’t need much polishing when I proofed it. Misha is a master with words and gifted with an incredible imagination for realm building.
Elleson follows the story of two teens, Daisy and Brogan, who build a unique friendship after they meet in a small Colorado town. Brogan, hailing from New York City, loved his life until his father transferred to Seoul and sent him to live with his grandparents. Even with his city slicker ways, Brogan adapts better to Layton High School than Daisy, who suffers from a painful hip injury and facial scarring caused by a car accident.
Daisy hates daytime and longs for the night when she can go to bed and dream. As long as she can remember, her dreams have taken her to another world—one in which she’s healthy and beautiful. In her dreams, she scales walls and recovers magical daggers. But each morning, the sun rises and she’s the same old Daisy who buries herself in books.
Shortly after Daisy and Brogan meet at church, strange occurrences unsettle them. Brogan observes Daisy almost merge into a museum painting. Later the same day, they fall into a dark room full of frightening whispers. The next morning, Daisy disappears. Brogan is certain that whatever tried to hold them captive in the dark room has taken Daisy, and he sets out to find her.
At this point, Misha’s imagination soars. Readers are taken into another world, Elleson, packed with amazing settings, ethereal characters, and wild plot twists. Throughout it all, she weaves in lessons from the Eternal One. I love how she offers a Christian message without being overt. I recommend this fantasy to males and females ages 13-17. It’s available in paperback and digitally on Amazon.
by: Lorilyn Roberts
Seeking a Christian novel for young teens? Check out The Door. Not only is it a clean read, but its main character witnesses Jesus’ ministry.
Lorilyn Roberts independently published The Door, the first book of six in her Seventh Dimension fantasy series, using Vellum and Amazon. Kudos to Ms. Roberts for taking the courageous step of indie publishing. I imagine the main reason she chose that route is because most traditional publishers steer away from overtly Christian books. And this book is overtly Christian.
Ironically, the publishing industry has recognized The Doorwith the following awards:
- 2013 International Book Awards Finalist
- 2013 Grace Awards Finalist
- 2013 Selah Awards Finalist
- 2013 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
- 2014 Book Goodies Best Cover Contest Winner, YA Category
A cross between C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this novel drops the main character, Shale Snyder, into the King’s garden after she passes through a strange door. Shale soon learns that she has the ability to speak with animals and befriends a donkey (Baruch), a bunny (Cherios), and a dog (Much-Afraid). When evil beings invade the garden and chase the friends into the past—to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry—Shale must choose to help those around her or return to her time period, 2012.
She stays . . . and meets Daniel, a Jew from 2015. Together, they witness Jesus’ miracles and teachings. Both learn valuable lessons of forgiveness, judgement, and using gifts wisely. It’s interesting to read familiar stories from the Bible through the eyes of teenagers.
Shale records her journey on a scroll that serves as her diary. To confuse her stepmother, she writes to “Dog,” which is “God” spelled backward. There are some funny parts to the story that only adults might appreciate, like what happened in politics between 2012 and 2015.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the author’s writing style. The first half of the book is a little disjointed and there are some typos, so don’t give up. Trust me, she finds her rhythm, and the ending has a nice twist. I look forward to reading other books in the series. The books are earmarked for young adults, but I recommend them more for middle graders.
Reviewed November 13, 2020
by: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Margaret Peterson Haddix has done it again. I don’t know how she manages to combine mystery, adventure, and science fiction into one middle grade novel that even parents like to read (check out my blog on crossover fiction), but she does it with hard-hitting sub-plots. The Remarkables addresses bullying, guilt, and depression without any in-your-face lectures or scenes that make readers want to close the book because it makes them sad.
Eleven-year-old Marin (love the name) is forced to move from Illinois the summer before her first year in middle school because her mom snagged an awesome job in Pennsylvania. Soon after arrival, Marin climbs a backyard tree and spies a group of teens on the patio of the house behind hers. The teens are having a great time until . . . they disappear. Marin almost falls out of the tree.
She later meets her next-door neighbor, Charley, who has witnessed the same disappearing act over the past two years. With this in common, she thinks it’ll be easy to befriend him. But it’s not. He’s harboring lots of secrets that she needs to unravel to gain his trust. The only problem is that he doesn’t want to be around her, or anyone for that matter.
The reader soon learns that Marin has secrets of her own—ones that revolve around her best friends from her old school. And while her parents are putting on a brave front, the fact remains that her father still hasn’t found a job. Add a new baby brother to the mix, and poor Marin is beyond discombobulated.
Nevertheless, she’s determined to figure out the mystery of the vanishing teens. When Marin discovers that one girl is a dead ringer for a sixteen year old who didn’t survive a fire in the house behind hers, she’s able to enlist Charley’s help. They launch a full-scale investigation into the teen friends, whom they’ve dubbed the “Remarkables.”
The plot twist at the end blew my mind. And, I have to admit, I may or may not have cried a little. MPH is brilliant. I’ve devoured her books for years. If you’re looking for more mysteries to keep you up past your bedtime, check out MPH’s Greystone Secrets series.
Reviewed September 17, 2020
The Serafina Series
by: Robert Beatty
Check out Robert Beatty’s four-book Serafina series, set at the turn of the 20th century at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. I bought the first book, Serafina and the Black Cloak, in Asheville’s trendy bookstore, Malaprop’s, in 2015. I’ve grabbed each subsequent book shortly after publication. They’re that good. The story follows Serafina, daughter of the estate’s mechanic, as she discovers and develops her special powers (and they’re freaky amazing). Biltmore’s owner, George Vanderbilt, names Serafina guardian of the estate after she saves his family from certain death. Beatty weaves a tale about her friendship with Mr. Vanderbilt’s nephew, their mission to keep evil spirits at bay, and Serafina’s unusual bond with forest creatures. The fourth series installment, Serafina and the Seven Stars, is a true nail biter. I highly recommend it for young teens with a thirst for adventure. I also recommend a visit to the grand Biltmore Estate. A candlelight tour during the Christmas season will put you in a perfect spine-tingling mood to read this series.
Reviewed September 9, 2020
The Courier’s Daughter series
by: C.J. Redwine
C.J. Redwine delivered the concluding keynote speech at the virtual Realm Makers Conference last month. She left me stunned. Never have I been so impacted by a speaker’s backstory and her drive to follow God’s calling. The obstacles she overcame would have flattened me.
This fantasy YA series is told in first person from the perspectives of two main characters, Rachel Adams and Logan McEntire. They live in postapocolyptic Baalboden, so far into the future that the characters have no memories of ferris wheels or cell phones. They get around on horses and wagons. When Baalboden falls to the horrifying creatures that live beneath it, Rachel and Logan must find a way to destroy them and save nearby cities from the same fate. In addition, they must rid the world of Baalboden’s vicious surviving commander, battle against a rival city, and locate Rachel’s father. Through non-stop action, the author excels at fight scenes, showing emotions such as grief and guilt, and slipping in lessons about loyalty, patience and love.
The initial trilogy includes Defiance, Deception, and Deliverance. The author added a prequel, Outcast, about a memorable “Tree Village” character, Quinn. Amazon is currently offering this 72-page novella for 99¢. I recommend this series for older teens for its violent scenes.
Reviewed August 18, 2020
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
by: Suzanne Collins
As a huge fan of the Hunger Games trilogy, I didn’t open this prequel with high expectations. How does one top those riveting books that were made into movies? Well, Collins did.
Told in third person, unlike The Games first person point of view, The Ballad provides the backstory of Coriolanus Snow, The Games antagonist and this dystopian novel’s main character. I could not put it down. This hefty (528 pages) story traces the beginning of the Games and Snow’s live-or-die role in it. He’s pushed into an impossible task of mentoring a strange female tribute in one of the early games established after the colonies’ rebellion and subsequent ruin. He must overcome his own poverty and push aside his selfish ambitions to help her.
I now understand what drove his actions in his later years as president of Panem. I recommend this novel for ages twelve and older. Please be aware of the violence and haunting sadness that weaves throughout this tale.
Reviewed August 5, 2020
The Kingdom Come series
by: Cecelia Earl
Free books, y’all. Right now. Move fast because that’s in the budget. All three of Cecelia Earl’s Kingdom Come novels are listed for $0 through Amazon Kindle. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re not high quality.
The author weaves a tale about how Julia, a hard-working teenage girl who’s lost her father, ends up fighting against the evil in her community. She battles for the lives of her friends and family, all while trying to earn money to help her mom pay the bills. She’s also on a mission to find her father. The novels cast new light on heaven and hell, angels and demons. Be prepared for some serious spiritual warfare. I recommend the series for ages 14 and older. Titles include (1) When Ash Rains Down, (2) When Smoke Rains Down, and (3) When Fire Rains Down.
Reviewed June 17, 2020
The Hate U Give
by: Angie Thomas
Tough book to read. Not because of the extreme profanity, but because of the slap in the face it gives us privileged white readers. My eyes are now wide open. During this time of racial unrest, I recommend this book to those who don’t understand the distrust the African American community has of law enforcement. This story can answer a lot of questions.
Thomas’ main character, 16-year-old Starr, describes in very plain language of how she witnessed a police officer shoot her unarmed childhood friend, Khalil. When his death makes national headlines, the protests launch. The local police and a drug lord soon begin to intimidate Starr, the only eyewitness to his murder, and her family. How she responds is what makes this book so powerful.
Reviewed June 3, 2020
The Story That Cannot Be Told
by: J. Kasper Kramer
Before beginning this book, I recommend you do a little research on Romania’s 1989 revolution. At least read the prologue. It’ll help set the stage for the true and fictional stories the main character, Ileana, shares with the reader.
She’s named after a character, cunning Ileana, in a Romanian folktale that her father begins each night at bedtime. She always falls asleep before the end. This tale is woven throughout the book from her perspective after her parents send her to her grandparents’ house for safety.
At first she hates the new environment, a farm in a small village, instead of her Bucharest apartment. Then, she makes a new friend, Gabi, and learns that the village may soon be overtaken by the Romanian Army. She and Gabi make a plan to save the townspeople’s property.
The book progresses into scary realism about that period in world history. Her uncle is captured and tortured. Her family is threatened. They must choose to fight or give up their property and belongings to the Communist regime. Ileana does her best to channel the main trait of the character for whom she was named.
I learned a lot about the 40,000 displaced Romanians who fell into poverty and despair during this revolution. This web of stories also offers the reader a snapshot of Romanian life in winter, dozens of unique superstitions, and pretty leaf patterns on all the pages. I recommend this book to middle schoolers.
Reviewed May 7, 2020
by: Sadie Robertson
This YA topic is timely during this freaky shelter-in-place coronavirus pandemic. For one so young, this Christian author is wise. She admits how much fear she’s bottled up over the years, from appearances on Duck Dynasty to the grand finale of Dancing with the Stars. Each chapter features a fear-filled experience she’s overcome. Then, she lists questions for readers to ask themselves, challenges for them to take, and short prayers to memorize.
I loved Chapter 4. She starts out, “At least you’re not a plankton.” Say what? She elaborates on how plankton are the lowest of the low food source. When ridiculed by her brother, she Googled plankton and discovered their importance. She learned that they rise to the ocean’s surface each day to receive the sun’s energy that, in turn, fuels the fish that eat them.
Then, she compares plankton to believers, urging them to rise to the light each day to absorb God’s energy and spread it to others. I like this philosophy, especially during this scary time of self-isolation. Instead of losing ourselves in endless Netflix series, we could be doing small acts of kindness to help others. We could sew face masks, create encouraging sidewalk chalk art, and help with online tutoring.
If you have an extra six minutes, I recommend you check out Sadie’s Crazy Train video on YouTube. She and a friend discuss how miscommunication can put you on a crazy train full of cars that build fear and anxiety. It’s pretty cute . . . and true.
Throughout the book, Sadie talks about “working the word.” This means that we should memorize scripture so that it’s already in our minds when we need it. She even provides pages of scripture addressing fear at the end of the book.
Reviewed April 8, 2020
Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred (Cooper Kids #8)
by: Frank Peretti
Originally published as Flying Blind, this story spotlights the worst day of Jay’s life. Very different from the first seven books, Mayday is set in one location—a small airplane, piloted by Jay’s Uncle Rex. Jay is his co-pilot and the only other person in the plane. Lila makes brief appearances via radio. When air turbulence from a low-flying 757 causes the plane to flip and knock Uncle Rex unconscious, Jay must take over the controls. But, there’s a problem, Jay is concussed and can’t see. The entire book follows Jay’s blind quest to return the plane to the ground with Dr. Cooper instructing him from a nearby plane. While full of exciting, heart-stopping moments, this book is my least favorite of the series. MG and teen guys with a love for adventure and anything aeronautical might disagree with me.
Reviewed February 17, 2020
The Legend of Annie Murphy (Cooper Kids #7)
by: Frank Peretti
If you like to read about ghosts, time travel and mysterious murders, this book’s for you. Set in the ruins of Bodine, Arizona, an old mining town, the story begins with four boys camping in a cemetery. After they see a gigantic woman in a cliff’s face AND a ghost, their parents prompt an investigation. The Coopers are summoned because of their experience with archaeology. They’re expected to uncover clues in the western town’s ruins. Within hours of exploring the ghost town with their professor friend, a slight earthquake slings Jay and Lila a hundred years into the past. At the same time, the town’s sheriff from 1885 appears in the present. And he’s trying to find Annie Murphy, who escaped from jail. This is my second favorite book in the series. Great for ghost hunters of all ages.
Reviewed February 16, 2020
The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey (Cooper Kids #6)
by: Frank Peretti
I’ll never look at dust the same again. In fact, after finishing the book, I vacuumed the entire house. And the freaky flying slugs ensured that I’ll never touch another snail. Where does Peretti come up with this stuff? Dr. Cooper is once again tasked with an archeological-based mission, this time to mine the treasure of the Toco-Rey ruins in Mexico. When he and his children arrive in the jungle, they learn their predecessors have perished from a deadly curse. It’s up to them to not only locate the treasure, but to determine how the deaths occurred. They’re faced with a mad scientist, angry villagers and a terrifying green man. Middle graders and teens will love this non-stop page turner.
Reviewed February 15, 2020
The Secret of the Desert Stone (Cooper Kids #5)
by: Frank Peretti
When a sleek, rectangular stone appears in the desert, the Coopers are stumped by its mass. It’s more than two miles high and now divides two societies—one ruled by a brutal dictator and the other governed by a god-fearing chief. The Coopers soon figure out that the very-real stone is a metaphor for Jesus. But what is it trying to teach those living on either side of it? The siblings befriend the chief’s son, who has invented an alphabet that allows Jay to share the Bible with him. As in previous books, the family faces danger and witnesses God’s miracles. Older teens and adults will appreciate the theology in this story.
Reviewed February 11, 2020
Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea (Cooper Kids #4)
by: Frank Peretti
This story tugged on my heartstrings. Peretti delves into the death of Jay and Lila’s mother. He reveals Dr. Cooper’s deep sadness and how it has impacted his children. The book begins with a disagreement between Lila and him in Japan. It escalates, and she elects to return to America to live with her aunt. In an emotional twist, the plane crashes into the ocean. Lila may never see her family again. While she tries to escape and come to terms with her impending death, Dr. Cooper faces his own demons with help from a new character, Meaghan Flaherty, also widowed. I can’t wait to see if a romance blossoms! Perfect for middle grades and young teens.
Reviewed February 8, 2020
The Tombs of Anak (Cooper Kids #3)
by: Frank Peretti
Before opening this book, I recommend you access your favorite Bible app and search for Anak and Anakim. Then check out II Samuel 21:20 and learn about a huge man with six fingers and six toes. Interesting stuff. Fourteen-year-old Jay and 13-year-old Lila accompany their archaeologist father, Dr. Cooper, to a dig in Israel after a worker disappears into a mysterious pit. The site could be the ancient royal city of Gath, where treasure may be hidden. They soon find themselves ensnared in pagan rituals dating back to biblical times. And before long a false god becomes very, very real, and they’re running for their lives. A clean action-packed adventure for male and female middle schoolers and young adults. So far, this is my favorite Cooper Kids story.
Reviewed February 6, 2020
Escape from the Island of Aquarius (Cooper Kids #2)
by: Frank Peretti
When Jay and Lila Cooper agree to help their father track down the story behind a deceased missionary, they didn’t realize they’d put themselves in such extreme danger. As soon as they set foot on the shore of a South Sea island, they are confronted with a cult-like colony, a mysterious death, and eerie sounds. The author doesn’t give readers time to catch a breath with this fast-paced story. I sprinted from the beginning to end in one day with my heart in my throat. Middle schoolers and young adults will both love the Christian-based action and adventure.
Reviewed February 3, 2020
The Main Dish
by: Victoria Kimble
The author created two sisters who love each other dearly and want the best for each other. When both receive news that their dreams have been fulfilled, they’re thrilled . . . until they realize that one must make a heart-wrenching sacrifice to allow the other to shine. Their parents deliver the hard news, and the siblings spend the summer learning the importance of humility, good sportsmanship, and keeping secrets. The older sister, Scarlet, also gains an understanding of the makings of true friendship. This rollercoaster of a book had me wanting to shake sense into Scarlet in one chapter, then hug her in the next. I recommend this clean read for teenage girls.
Reviewed January 5, 2020
A Nancy Drew Christmas (Nancy Drew Diaries #18)
by: Carolyn Keene
Who knew the much-beloved Nancy Drew stories had been continued? Certainly not me. Imagine my surprise this holiday season when I Googled “Christmas books” and up popped a promo for a new mystery starring the teen sleuth. My excitement mounted when I discovered A Nancy Drew Christmas was #18 in a fresh series published by Aladdin. I’ve never downloaded a book faster. It didn’t disappoint. Carolyn Keene’s current ghostwriter had put a modern twist on the classic mysteries. The tale included cell phones, modern language and near-death misses. Much edgier than the original series. Throw-back characters from the yellow books make guest appearances halfway through. Middle grade and young adult girls will love this twisting, turning there’s-no-way-you’ll-guess-the-culprit mystery.
Reviewed December 31, 2019
Mele Kalikimaka (Tradewinds #2.5)
by: Taylor Bennett
Olive and her best friend, Jazz, are faced with navigating their first Christmas without their mothers. Then, their other buddy, Brander, is called away on a Christian music tour. This beautiful story, set in Hawaii, weaves their bitter emotions into a heart-warming novella of acceptance and hope. There’s even a sweet recipe at the end.
Reviewed December 9, 2019
The Deception (The Delusion #2)
by: Laura Gallier
Owen’s quest for answers continues. Masonville High still isn’t safe. Abductions and disappearances are keeping the high school’s student body on edge. He realizes the forces upsetting his town are demonic, but is at loss on how to fight them. When a long-lost figurehead enters his life and offers guidance, he jumps at the chance for direction. He even snaps at his best friend, Ray Anne, when she suggests deceit. What a hard lesson Owen must learn about spiritual warfare. Darker than the first book, The Deception is a must read for older teens.
Reviewed October 11, 2019
The Ripper of Monkshood Manor
by: Mary Gray
Cate Hellstrom is clumsy, naive and somewhat stubborn. When she follows the hot guy of her dreams into his dilapidated old mansion, she has no idea that she’ll soon be running for her life. With each twist and turn of the plot, she learns whom she can trust and who is out to steal her soul. She encounters exploding aquariums, mysterious stains, and a bipolar dog. Terrific book for older teens with a quirky sense of humor.
Reviewed October 4, 2019
by: Frank Perretti
I loved everything about this book, except for the Kindle formatting. It needs updating. The story, however, didn’t disappoint in this second book of The Veritas Project. The Christian twins are once more faced with a dilemma posed by non believers. This time, it’s about truth—many levels of it. They’re separated from their parents and must rely on their spiritual foundation to survive. They face bullies, deceitful adults and government cover-ups. I highly recommend this book (maybe the paperback version) to older young adults.
Reviewed August 23, 2019
by: Laura Gallier
This amazing work of Christian fiction—on par with Frank Peretti’s YA nail biters—stretches the imagination while painting a visual of burdened people. Owen Edmonds, a high school senior, receives a supernatural dose of reality after drinking a cup of well water. He now can see the emotional weight people carry and feels compelled to help them. After all, eleven students have already committed suicide. The story moves into an epic battle between angels and demons, leaving the reader with biblical lessons on trusting God, loving others and withholding judgement.
Reviewed July 20, 2019
by: Kelly Martin
The artist who designed the creepy cover did a magnificent job capturing the eeriness inside. Ivy Black initially embraces the whole renovate-the-haunted-house challenge, but the more she spends time within Trinity Row, the more she questions her sanity. Who’s alive? Who isn’t? Who wants to kill her? Who doesn’t? I recommend this book to older teens who can handle the adroit plot twists and violence—who like to read with their hearts in their throats.
Reviewed June 5, 2019
Sandcastle Dreams (Tradewinds #2)
by: Taylor Bennett
Life sure is complicated if you’re a teen. Layer on a deceased mom, self home-schooling and a rambunctious puppy, and you have one overwhelmed girl. Olive does her best to stay strong for her little sister and for her new bestie, Jazz, but is frustrated at every turn, especially when she learns her friend is hiding a secret. When her other friend, Brander, is offered an opportunity on the other side of the country, she’s left with yet another loss. I can’t wait for the next book!
Reviewed May 31, 2019
Good Girls Stay Quiet
by: Jo Cassidy
Like so many children around the world, Cora is stuck in an abusive parental relationship that she thinks is normal. I’ve never been exposed to anyone in that type of situation, but Jo Cassidy made Cora’s character so credible that I wanted to jump into the pages and scream, “Help yourself!” I highly recommend it to all young adults.
Reviewed April 5, 2019
Sour Lemon Strikes Out
by: Julane Fisher
The story continues with the “sour lemon” twin, Lillie Mae, frustrated that her best friend is spending too much time with the new girl in town. Before long, she learns a secret about the new girl. By the end of the book, Lillie Mae has learned more than that secret—she’s also learned that loyal friendship and close family relations can conquer any problem. This is a terrific book for middle schoolers with its strong anti-bullying and peer pressure messages.
Reviewed March 28, 2019
Porch Swing Girl (Tradewinds #1)
by: Taylor Bennett
I, like the main character, Olive, was jerked out of my comfort zone and moved to another city halfway through my teens. Olive not only is forced to relocate, but she also has to deal with the grief of losing her mother. She’s much braver than I was at that age. She sets out on a mission to earn money to fly home, then turns her fundraising campaign into an endeavor to help a new friend. I highly recommend this Christ-centered book about loss, friendship and the importance of family.
Reviewed June 28, 2018
A Mixed Bag of God’s Grace
by: Sharon René
This terrific book of middle-school devotions offers short stories featuring kids from Biblical times through current day. Each story is followed by a lesson, scripture and prayer. There’s also a section on life in the Middle Ages and during Biblical times. The book ends with background on each story. My favorite was “Sleeping in the Lion’s Den.” René did a fabulous job writing from the perspective of a lion in the den where Daniel had been thrown. An imaginative twist on that popular Bible story.
I heard through the grapevine that René is wrapping up a three-book young adult series named “Defying Destiny.” Stay tuned…
Reviewed June 22, 2018
Code of Silence
by: Tim Shoemaker
If you ever have a chance to meet the author at a book signing, go! You’ll find him to be friendly, witty and full of wisdom. I attended one of his classes at this year’s Blue Ridge Mountain Writer’s Conference, where I hung around afterwards to chat. He was only too happy to let me pick his brain.
This middle-grade novel is the first in a three-part series about a group of friends who are at the wrong place at the right time. They witness a murder in this book, extract a “code of silence” from each other to protect themselves and wind up in a huge mess as a result of the deceit they must create. I found myself trembling as I read some of the harrowing scenes. Can’t wait to read his next two.
Reviewed June 1, 2018
Sour Lemon and Sweet Tea
by: Julane Fisher
This is Fisher’s debut novel—an amazing launch to her writing career. It’s a terrific clean southern read for middle schoolers about family, friends and overcoming obstacles. Set in Triple Gap, Georgia during the Carter era, the story centers around a set of female twins. The sour lemon twin embarks on a journey of self-discovery, learning the hard lessons of rejection and forgiveness. The sweet tea twin keeps her straight. Fisher slips in humorous dialogue and realistic settings that remind me of summertime life on my grandparents’ farm in south Georgia. I can’t wait for her next book, which I understand is close to completion.
Reviewed April 24, 2018
A Flash of Romance
by: Sharon René
This talented author has made her mark on the young adult romance genre. Loved this collection, inspired by the classics. What imagination. I appreciate the clean romance and look forward to reading more of her work.
Reviewed January 11, 2018
by: Victoria Kimble
Seventh grade is hard enough without adding peer pressure. With misplaced encouragement from her group of choir friends, Summer pranks the new girl. Her actions are soon discovered and now she must work in the church nursery as payback . . . with the new girl, a humbling experience. Over the next few weeks, Summer learns that first appearances are deceiving and that old friends aren’t always the best ones.
Soprano Trouble is the first in the three-part Choir Girl series. I promise—they all end on high notes. I happen to know the author is an expert on girl drama. She has three beautiful daughters. Check out her website.
Reviewed October 29, 2017
Tinsel in a Tangle
by: Laurie Germaine
Roasted chestnuts! Germaine has lit up the Christmas season with this darling young adult book—an uplifting story about Tinsel, a clumsy elf in search of her talent and, ultimately, acceptance by her peers. Poor Tinsel, tallest of them all, must right her wrong to save Christmas and win the eye of Santa’s handsome grandson. I read this straight through, then passed it to my 14-year-old niece, who did the same. Such a fun read! Hold onto your stockings! Germaine’s writing a sequel to this hilarious festive page-turner. Can’t wait!
Reviewed October 10, 2017
The Door in the Dragon’s Throat
by: Frank Peretti
If you’re sick of reading about vampires and princesses, check out this exciting work of Christian fiction. Biblical archaeologist, Dr. Cooper, and his children, 14-year-old Jay and 13-year-old Lila, travel to Nepur to excavate the contents of an ancient cavern called the Dragon’s Throat. The risk is high—everyone before them has died trying to access the forbidden door inside the cavern. When the Coopers plunge into the Dragon’s Throat, they are confronted with supernatural twists and turns in the ongoing battle between good and evil. Perfect for MG and young teens.
Reviewed June 16, 2017
Keturah and Lord Death
by: Martine Leavitt
Kudos to the National Book Award judges. This gothic tale of romance, generosity and friendship certainly deserved to be a finalist. Set in Medieval England, the book contained both the language pertinent to the time period and the poor village setting.
After losing her way in the forest, the beautiful Keturah, famous for her storytelling ability, must weave an entrancing tale to keep Lord Death at bay. We discover Lord Death is real, not a metaphor for the afterlife. Lord Death challenges her to find love. If she does, he’ll save her. Keturah’s mission is two-fold: she must find love and she must intensify her tale forcing him to extend her deadline.
The author did an excellent job developing the characters. Keturah’s relationship with her friends reminded me of several buddies who’ve stuck with me through gossip and challenging times. I loved how the author used job descriptions as names—Cook, Choirmaster and Tailor—to keep the readers from forgetting them. I easily envisioned the icy Lord Death, the frightening Soor Lily, and the amiable John Temsland. I did not predict the ending, so was pleasantly surprised. The author and Keturah both wove delightful tales.
Reviewed Feb. 16, 2017