The Skylar Robbins Detective Agency isn’t quite turning into what its creator hoped. Skylar is beginning a new semester and had hoped her budding career as a private detective would have taken off by now. After all, she solved one of the biggest cases around when the pros couldn’t. But Xandra Collins is missing. She’s an heiress, and her case just might be what Skylar needs to push her career in the right direction. There’s only one problem–the only clue Skylar has is a message that seems almost impossible to decipher. With her best friend, Alexa’s help, Skylar is going to give this case everything she’s got.
Skylar Robbins and the Mystery of the Missing Heiress, by Carrie Cross, is a fantastic young adult novel centered around the title character, Skylar Robbins. She’s your average seventh grader with all the headaches of growing up. She has a best friend she would do anything for, and she has a crush on the most popular boy in the school. What sets Skylar apart is her innate ability to solve mysteries. She outsmarts most every adult around and has made a name for herself. Being asked to join ACE (Accelerated Courses and Experiments) has given her an edge over her classmates, but she isn’t so sure about being a part of this exclusive group of high achievers.
As a mother and teacher, I love that Cross has incorporated a key character with a learning disability. The author accurately portrays Alexa, Skylar’s best friend with dyslexia. Each school day is a struggle for Alexa, and Skylar has been a huge force in her life since second grade–the two are inseparable. Skylar’s move to ACE classes leaves a hole in Alexa’s life. Facing her most difficult classes without Skylar to lean on, Alexa dreads each day. She is a relatable character and one readers will remember long after they finish the last chapter.
The mystery of Xandra’s whereabouts makes for a great storyline, and Skylar’s determination to find answers and still live a seventh grader’s life give Cross’s book an interesting element. She is a modern day Nancy Drew with all the technology to keep young readers engaged and invested in seeing her succeed.
I can’t recommend Cross’s work enough to young mystery fans. Skylar and the crew will draw readers in with their daily teen drama, but their ability to reason through situations when adults can’t will keep them hooked. I can see Skylar Robbins playing a huge part in young adult literature for years to come.
Pages: 315 | ASIN: B076GSJ95X
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Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Island Idol follows a teen sleuth who uses her gadgets and wits to face a dangerous enemy and solve an enigmatic mystery. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
At the end of every Skylar Robbins mystery, I try to set up her next adventure. I love exploring tropical islands and foreign cultures. After visiting Bali, Costa Rica, and Barbados, I thought a tropical paradise with a hint of danger and threatening natives would make a wonderful back drop for a mystery.
Skylar is a fun and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?
When I decided to create a teen detective series, I wanted to start a new trend: that the smartest kid in class can also be the coolest. The one kids look up to and want to follow. So I created Skylar Robbins: a rational 13-year-old sleuth who methodically pieces together clues until she finally solves each challenging mystery. Very often smart kids in books, television shows, and movies are portrayed as nerdy. I wanted to create a protagonist who kids could relate to, empathize with, and look up to. One who was quick-thinking, courageous, and determined, while also funny, cute, and cool.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
One major theme is based on the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And in the case of The Mystery of the Island Idol, this refers to the characters. While cute and quirky teen sleuth Skylar Robbins is super intelligent and apparently fearless, deep down she’s somewhat shy and insecure—and admits her fears to the reader. Homeless youth Morgan Michaels teaches Skylar what is really important in life through the use of the valuables box they are given in their hut on Koma island. Skylar begins to fall in love with bespectacled Daniel Gannon due to his brilliant mind. Another theme concerns my protagonist: Skylar Robbins. For young readers, I wanted to create a strong role model who promotes intelligence over looks, strength over weakness, confident leadership, and the courage to face your fears and do the right thing.
This is book 5 in your Skylar Robbins mystery series. What can readers expect in book 6?
In book 6, The Mystery of the Clues Cruise, Skylar Robbins plans a trip with her Assistant Detective, Alexa, and several members of her Accelerated Courses and Experiments class, ACE. Impressed with her detective skills and ability to bring down a deadly gang during the Mystery of the Island Idol, the FBI contacts Skylar and asks her to go undercover to help them solve a new mystery. As usual, things don’t turn out as planned, and Skylar quickly realizes that there is something nefarious going on behind the scenes on the cruise ship. Stuck at sea with a dangerous cast of characters, Skylar and her friends soon realize they are in for much more than they bargained for.
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Skylar Robbins has been preparing for this for months. Daniel made a promise to be her partner in the next ACE adventure, and she believes he meant what he said. As part of the elite group of students who take part in the Accelerated Courses and Experiments program, Skylar and Daniel are no strangers to adventure and mystery. The only mystery right now, however, is how Hannah Hilton made it into the program and why Daniel seems to have forgotten that Skylar exists. What promised to be a fantastic summer is now looking like a huge disappointment. Will the trip to Koma Island turn things around for Skylar or will it be more than they all bargained for?
Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Island Idol, by Carrie Cross, is centered around young Skylar Robbins–gifted and talented and a member of ACE. With all the angst and stresses of late middle and early high school years, she is the perfect protagonist for today’s young readers. It is refreshing to still see writers placing an intelligent and forward-thinking female lead in their stories, and Skylar rivals and surpasses the budding detectives many of us are used to–Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Kudos to Cross for putting motivated and capable young women at the forefront of her series. Our middle school readers need to see this more regularly.
Mysteries need to pop. They need to move quickly and hold the reader’s interest, especially when younger readers are the group toward which a series is aimed. Cross is a master at this. Skylar thinks quickly on her feet, and her friendship with Alexa provides a nice sounding board for her ideas. There lies within Cross’s work an amazing little cast of characters that provides readers with plenty of opportunities to visualize a vast array of personality types. It’s nice to see such a well-drawn cast of characters–all having wonderful quirks and offering their own contributions to Skylar’s role in the story.
Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Island Idol, by Carrie Cross is a rip-roaring young adult adventure/romance story that will keep readers on their toes. Centered around current technology and full of references younger readers will appreciate, this book has everything needed to engage readers and keep them coming back for more from Skylar and her gifted cohort.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B08P5VXBQ5
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Prepare for magical delights and dark creatures in The Fae Princess by Ektaa Bali! The second book of The Pacific Princesses series follows 10-year-old faery princess Vidya. She resides deep within the Bushlands of Australia in a hidden faery realm that oversees and communicates with plants. Everything is fine until the first day of Spring. Their annual feast is put to a sudden halt when a mysterious darkness begins to overtake the land and puts the adult faeries to sleep. The fate of the kingdom is on Vidya’s shoulders. Can she save her kingdom?
Author Ektaa Bali has created a fun and imaginative children’s fantasy story. Her ability to craft a story that both meaningful and easy to read is something I greatly appreciated. From the imaginative world-building to the intriguing characters, Bali has set a high bar for indie middle-grade authors.
Bali introduces us to a majority of the ideas and concepts of the fae kingdom within the first three chapters. We see her describe who the fae are, where they are from, and what they do within the confines of only 43 pages.
I also enjoyed her magical descriptions of both real and mythical plants. She did not go into overt detail but gave you just enough to be satisfied and understand what you were reading – which is a great writing style for younger readers.
Watching Vidya come into her own as she has to save her kingdom added a beautiful message to an already magical story! We see her become braver, use her intelligence, and rise to the occasion. Young girls everywhere will find a wonderful role model within Vidya. Although I thought Vidya is a rousing character that I loved following, I felt that she sometimes sounded mature for her age.
The Fae Princess by Ektaa Bali is a story infused with adventure and creativity. This is an exceptional book for young girls everywhere, but any young reader will surely get swept away in the story. This is a fantasy story that is empowering as well as entertaining.
Pages: 236 | ASIN: B08X3YPZL4
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Thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins is about to take on her most dangerous case yet. The challenge: braving a savage enemy while solving the mystery of a strangely frightening idol.
Skylar’s new high-tech detective gadgets give her intelligence an extra edge. A canister of Invisi-powder is vital when she and her assistant detective, Alexa, suddenly need to disappear. Earbuds and a small high-powered microphone make up a Soundtrap: perfect for eavesdropping on her crush while he plays My Secret Kiss, or on the boys in the next hut while they devise a terribly risky plan. Her Supalight, visible from half a mile away, enables Skylar’s crew to message her during a midnight attack. Night vision goggles might save her life when she’s chased through a dark jungle with her brilliant partner, Daniel Gannon.
Fierce island natives will stop at nothing to prevent the teens from discovering the true meaning of the idols. Will Skylar’s team survive to return to middle school? Or will this field trip be their last adventure?
Skylar Robbins mysteries have won multiple awards, and more than one have been Amazon #1 Bestsellers in Children’s Detective Books. Accolades include being voted Book-of-the-Month by LASR readers, three 5-star Reader’s Favorite awards, and one was a Top Ten Finalist for an Author Academy Award in the YA/Middle Grade category.
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Every abandoned building holds a bit of mystery. At one time or another, all of us have had that moment when we imagine the life that used to inhabit the old homes and businesses in our communities–it’s just part of their charm. On the other hand, those same buildings can be homes to some truly sinister activities. When Nate and his friend, Zachary, notice something amiss with the abandoned building in their neighborhood, they make it their mission to discover the truth. What begins as an innocent exercise in eavesdropping quickly turns into an adventure neither of the boys will soon forget.
Unlikely, by Wynsome Peters, is the realistic urban fiction story centered around two middle schoolers making their way into high school and finding adventure along the way. Nate and Zachary, curious and eager to prove themselves, begin their own investigation after seeing shadows and overhearing a disturbing conversation behind the walls of a dilapidated building. The young boys make it their mission to solve the mystery and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Peters has managed to create an engaging story which will appeal to adolescent readers who enjoy mystery plots with relatable characters. The move from middle school to high school is one that causes mixed emotions and a host of opportunities to meet new people. The author has given young readers two main characters who both feel and act like them and have their own unique families full of quirks. Readers will find themselves just as invested in Nate and Zachary as they are the mystery unfolding before them.
While I enjoyed this adventurous romp, I noticed a few grammatical errors which affect the flow of the story. With a bit of proofreading, and an editor to keep the story focused, this could easily be an exceptionally fun novel.
Unlikely is an intriguing middle school adventure story that builds up and unravels a mystery in entertaining fashion. The author’s choice of characters and storyline work well and provide a relatable and engaging story for younger readers.
Pages: 137 | ASIN: B07MRF18HH
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Fetch follows a toy that acquires artificial intelligence and goes on a journey where he learns of loyalty, laughter, and love. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I was inspired by my grandchildren’s interest in gaming and the characters and stories these games engaged them with. I thought the concept of developing a real-life toy which could enter a game and communicate with children was a unique and interesting perspective to take.
The characters in your book are interesting and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
I wanted children and young adults to feel like they could get to know the characters and therefore support and engage with them.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I looked at the issue of sibling rivalry. On one hand, Victor and Victoria Nerdie were competitive because they strived for personal dominance over each other, beyond the material world they had grown up in. On the other hand, Sam and Samantha Perret, whose worlds had been handed many tough calls, were not competitive. It paints an interesting contrast between the privileged and non-privileged of society.
Also, the theme of Artificial Intelligence is one that children of today will live with in its many potential forms. The humanisation of Fetch is a likelihood which children who read the story will inevitably face.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on an adult fiction story to complete my trilogy of adventure stories set in Papua New Guinea. I am also at the editing stage of a joint project with co -author Dion Mayne. The book is the historical fiction novel, Masquerade Gold, and is the companion novel to Boomerang Gold.
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