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Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Island Idol

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Island Idol (Skylar Robbins mysteries Book 5) by [Carrie Cross]

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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The Chronicles of the Virago

The Chronicles of the Virago: The Novus by Michael Bialys is a thrilling paranormal fantasy novel about a twelve-year-old girl named Makenna Grace Gold who lives in Southern California. She becomes a big sister when her twin brother and sister, Noah and Emilyne, are born. But these babies are special–they are The Gift that can save humanity. Makenna learns she is The Protector, tasked with guarding her newborn brother and sister and their parents from harm. But even with the help of the Ancient Weapon and three fairies guiding her, she doubts herself. How can a twelve-year-old girl protect her family from Evil and his minions?

Author Michael Bialys has written a spellbinding action adventure story that’s filled with middle school drama, but remains deeply compelling. One thing that strikes me about this novel is how fun it was to read. It was an adventure novel following an underdog that you liked to root for. I liked the main Protagonist, Makenna. She was spunky, and I loved that she was a skateboarder, which is much more commonly seen for male characters in stories. As Makenna tried to take on this huge responsibility of keeping her family safe, she makes mistakes, but it was believable because she’s still just a kid herself. I really felt like her character was authentic, although she rarely used words I thought were outside a kids vocabulary. I liked the three fairies in the story, cousins Bree and Dee, and Marigold, who worked together to mentor and train Makenna, and I liked the form that the Ancient Weapon took for Makenna, it was all imaginative and entertaining. I also enjoyed the addition of Makenna’s new friend at school, Stephen, who jumped in to help her despite the danger. Readers will be excited to discover Makenna’s continuing adventures to protect Noah and Emi in Book Two of The Chronicles of the Virgao: The Apprentus.

While I loved the overall story and arc of the novel, I didn’t think the inclusion of the Bible story about David and Goliath fit in a children’s fantasy novel with fairies and a talking earthworm. There was so much fantastic imagination that went into developing this world and I didn’t think that religion fit with the mythology in the book. Also I would have liked to see Makenna involved in more physical training before she was able to go head to head with such powerful adversaries and succeed against them. But this desire comes from the story being so grounded to begin with, and author Michael Bialys does a great job of providing good reasoning for things happening already.

The Chronicles of the Virago: The Novus is an urban fantasy novel that I would heartily recommend to young readers, and even adults, who are looking for a fun fantasy adventure that is easy to follow and is thoroughly entertaining.

Pages: 126 | ASIN: B07BN5T8CY

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Jam Sessions: Sometimes in Middle School, the best you can do is survive

Jam Sessions: Sometimes in Middle School, the best you can do is survive. by [Jerry Harwood, Myles Richardson, Timothy Sisemore]

Jam Sessions follows a middle school boy named Phillip who has to forge a new path for himself through a new school that he’s transferred to in the middle of the school year. Phillip struggles with bullies, but finds a creative outlet in Mr. Filter’s class where he starts the day with a writing prompt that sends Phillips imagination soaring. Now, if only he could apply that creativity and passion in his real life.

Jerry Harwood has created a cast of characters that are both easy to dislike and easy to empathize with. Chuck and his friends are easily unlikable and I loved Ashley, Daniel and Jaylan. I really liked all the teachers too, especially the language arts and P.E. teachers. I did feel like Phillips mom should have played a bigger part in the story, but it didn’t hurt the story in any way. From the first time we meet Chuck I thought that he was just a pain in the butt kid who likes to be a bully and embarrass people. Chuck and his gang of hooligans didn’t really evolve much but that honestly worked for the story because they continue to be the fundamental antagonists.

Jerry Harwood does a great job detailing what a panic/anxiety attack feels like, I could almost feel and see Phillip having his attacks. It was great that he found a way to cope with his attacks. Even at the beginning when the author is describing Phillip and his mom running away from home, everything is perfectly detailed. When Phillip is standing in the back of the room on the first day of school, you could feel him praying that he is invisible and then realizing that he really had been during that class because not one person had cared about him being there or noticed his presence. It was sort of sad.

The story flowed easily and was well written. I enjoyed the small cartoon characters at the beginning of each chapter and I liked how short the chapters were. I read the book in one sitting, because it was an enjoyable read and I loved that Phillip was able to turn things around which gave the book a feel good ending.

Pages: 214 | ASIN: B0868XNSH9

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Really Real

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Mylee in the Mirror explores young romance and school drama with an infusion of Greek Mythology. What were some themes you wanted to continue from your first book and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore?

Well, in Daisy, Bold & Beautiful I wanted to create a situation for my main character that would demonstrate the same moral of the story that I find within Persephone’s story – it is important to stand up for yourself. The story in Mylee In The Mirror is very different, but I arrived at it in the same manner – I wanted a story that would demonstrate the moral of the story I find in Aphrodite’s story – you can’t force someone to love someone else. I hope to do that with all the books in this series – decide on a moral of the story for each god/goddess featured in the book and create a story that demonstrates that moral.

I enjoyed Ty and My’s characters and interactions. What was the inspiration for their relationship?

Hmmm… well, I didn’t really have a specific relationship in mind when I was writing it. I developed each character (for instance, Ty is loose combination of my [real life] Trampoline & Tumbling teammate, Ty, my dad, and my brother, Will), then had them interact the way I imagined those characters would interact with each other. I have a friend, Peter, who I joke around with, kinda like Mylee and Ty joked around together, but My & Ty were friends longer than Pete and I have been and they’re closer than Pete and I are.

How has your writing developed and changed from book one in your Greek Mythology Fantasy Series?

I don’t know exactly how my writing developed and changed from Daisy to Mylee, but this book was really different to write because Daisy was all about 6th graders and I was a 6th grader when I was writing it, so I could really relate to what they were doing and how they were acting. Mylee is about ninth graders AND Ty was my first male main character. Obviously, I don’t know anything about being a boy, and certainly not a 9th grade boy, so I had to talk with my brother quite a bit to decide what Ty would do and how he would act. I also talked quite a bit with my mom about the two moms in the story and Grammy Jean. Grammy Jean was based on my real-life great grandmother, who passed away last winter. The character wasn’t exactly like my Grammy Jean, but pretty close. So, I guess I can say I worked more and worked harder this time trying to understand motivations to make the characters feel really real, know what I mean?

What are you currently writing and when will it be published?

I’m just starting work on book 3. This will feature my first god (instead of a goddess), and the main character will be a boy this time. I hope to be done with it sometime this spring, so hopefully it’ll be published sometime in the summer. I’ve been busy, though, because this is competition season for both my gymnastics team and my tramp & tumble team. Last weekend we traveled down to Oregon for a meet and this weekend we fly to Reno, Nevada for another one. Between all that and school there isn’t a ton of time for writing, but I’m really anxious to share this next story, so I’ll find the time! 😊

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Facebook | Website

Mylee in the Mirror (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 2) by [Collins, Ellie]

Freshman year is just starting, and already Mylee fears her family is falling apart. She’s not interested in dating or any of the high-school drama it brings, but that’s just what she gets when Sam, the most popular guy at school, invites her to the Homecoming dance. Mylee needs advice, so she summons Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, her secret confidant.

Tyler is worried about Mylee, his best friend and teammate. Already sad about her family woes, he’s livid that Slimeball Sam is trying to ooze his way into her life. And she seems to be falling for Sam’s act! Worse, Ty is worried all this attention from such a popular guy will place Mylee officially out of his league.

What does an ancient Greek goddess know about modern teenage romance? Can My and Ty save their friendship and discover what matters most?

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A New Beginning

A New Beginning: A Jenny Dewberry Series by [Olsen, J.J.]

In the pages of A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series), J.J. Olson weaves together a world of whimsy, magic, and the otherwise normal life of a 13-year-old girl. The story opens to Jenny Dewberry attending her grandmother, Alinore Grayson’s bedside. It is then that she receives the first clue that she may not be a normal 13-year-old girl. Alinore gives Jenny a key that opens a trunk of secrets and unlocks a part of herself that she never knew existed. Jenny discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, and she’s given a mission to restore white magic to the world.

This book is perfect for the young and old, alike but I think that middle-schoolers and up will enjoy this read the most. The story is vivid and descriptive and the writing is simple without being boring. Olson paints a world that is easily imagined. The book delves into some fairly complex situations, spells, and worlds a reader could easily get lost in, but I didn’t have a problem as everything is explained well.

I enjoyed the idea of the journals that Alinore left for Jenny to read. We get to know Alinore without her being a present character in the story through her first person narratives. We also get to know Alinore through her colorful sister, Agatha and her adventurous spirit. Alinore was a mastermind. She leaves Jenny everything she needs to send Jenny on a magical scavenger hunt of sorts.

The characters are well developed and enough background information is given to fill in gaps. This is a story that stands alone while at the same time leaving the reader begging for more. It is part of a series, but is easily digestible as a singular story.

I like the good vs. evil aspect of the story. Madiva and her minions represent the dark side, while fresh-faced Jenny is the bright spot. She is hope. That being said, I like the redemption of Kurthanyo Eastman that we get to witness. At first, I assumed Kurthanyo leaned more toward the domineering, evil side. By the end, we are given another piece of the story that lets Kurthanyo explains some of his actions when he was young. We’ve all done something we regretted in a fit of rage. Kurthanyo gives us a reminder that those fits are often not easily undone.

I’m giving A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series) by J.J. Olson 5 out of 5 stars. Apart from a few minor errors, the book is very well-written. The characters are relatable. It seems like it’s Jenny against the world, and at times she is. Readers will enjoy the protagonist as an underdog. I’d love to read more by this author, and particularly more in this specific series. I need to know what happens next!

Pages: 288 | ASIN: B07934BMGL

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Daisy, Bold & Beautiful

Daisy, Bold & Beautiful by [Collins, Ellie]

Daisy Jane, affectionately known as D.J. by family and friends, has experienced great loss and faces the challenge of attending a new school. With the support of her loving father, D.J. heads into the daunting situation with strength and a resolve to make friends and succeed academically. D.J. has another source of strength–her fern. Unlike many girls her age, D.J. opts for outdoor activities instead of games, stuffed animals, and make-up. Having inherited her mother’s love and great skills for gardening, D.J. strives to introduce her new friends to her interests as she learns from a unique acquaintance of her own that friendships involve compromise.

Ellie Collins book, Daisy, Bold and Beautiful, is a highly engaging tale woven with bits of mythology. Collins has managed to take some of the more complex elements of Greek mythology and finesse them into verbiage that is relatable and entertaining for tween readers. Most middle school students would not choose to read about gods and goddesses in the formats with which we are all familiar. Collins is providing her readers with a sure-fire hit that will involve readers, teach them the basic outline of the story of Persephone and Hades, and never let them realize how much they are learning. That, my friends, is the true hallmark of a successful writer.

Collins hits the mark with her dialogue, her main character’s emotions, and the dynamic between two very different friend groups. Young readers will be able to find themselves easily in one or more of the characters. The mere mention of popular video game titles is a huge draw for gaming fans, but Collins is thorough with descriptions, the exchanges between the characters as they excitedly discuss scenarios, and the way they are wrapped in the world of the game itself to the exclusion of all else. The author, without a doubt, knows her stuff.

As I read, I became increasingly amazed at Collins’s stunning ability to pull out the most relevant parts of Persephone’s story and meld them into modern day scenarios. Nowhere else have I read such perfectly revamped story lines. It takes quite the imagination and a firm grip on the mentality of today’s youth to manage a task like this. If I am being completely honest, I have to say I learned a great deal myself regarding Hades and Persephone’s relationship. Collins nails it. I would not hesitate to read this story to and with fifth graders in my after school tutoring group and recommend it to any teacher or parent seeking to spice up a reading list.

As a teacher, I am thrilled to see such highly relatable text for middle schools students. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Collins follows this exceptionally well-written piece with many more. Her ability to teach young readers Greek mythology on the sly is to be envied!

Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07BKRVGDX

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