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Murder at Manzanar 

Murder at Manzanar is an incredibly detailed and exciting story written by Steve Zimcosky. The gripping story follows a retired police officer who is also a talented private detective. Tom Sipowicz is contacted after a Buddhist statue is broken, revealing an old envelope addressed to Hideki Sakura, who no one knows who this is. Tom is employed to trace the owner of this mysterious envelope. Along the way, Tom interacts with several elders, who openly discuss their personal experiences of Japanese Internment camps. The eye-opening stories bring the reader’s attention to the atrocities many individuals faced during World war 2 at the hands of the US. This is an essential piece of history cleverly placed within this comprehensive book. The author describes in detail the process of finding the missing Hideki Sakura, speaking to many people with whom the protagonist may never have interacted otherwise.

I think this book is a fabulous read. It keeps the reader focused, and the author has an eye for details. I believe each character, from Tom to the elders he talks to throughout, is described in a way the reader can picture, which creates a good image of the story in the reader’s head.

Zimcosky creates a heartfelt story that discusses history in a remarkably well-written subtle way, which the reader can take away with them once the book is complete. The book’s pace is perfect for teen readers, keeping them engaged in the plotline. The addition of historical information is an added bonus that educators will appreciate. I think the writing style sets an excellent image for the reader and keeps them intrigued, allowing for an easy, relaxing read.

Murder at Manzanar is a captivating cozy mystery that draws on history and exceptional character development to keep readers interested. This short and fast-paced novel is perfect for picking up and reading on a lazy afternoon or when you need a clean intriguing mystery to solve.

Pages: 160 | ASIN : B0B3S7ZFHQ

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Dane Thorburn and Nature’s Revenge

After saving Princess Vanessa from the City of Lost Souls, Dane Thorburn has to deal with another problem, because, of course, there’s no opportunity for heroes to rest—dragons. A significant threat follows our character throughout their journey, and it’s enough to keep your eyes glued to the page.

Dane Thorburn and Nature’s Revenge by Matt Galanos is a fantastical and adventurous story that deals with mystery and mythical beings and is a story that challenges the norms of certain archetypes, such as the hero and the Princess. Accompanied by Lord Frederick, Will, and other memorable characters, Dane needs to figure out precisely what these mythical beasts are doing, how they came to be, and what they want with the Princess.

Within this exciting story, there. It isn’t a moment where adventure isn’t happening. Every chapter is full of questions and excitement, and by the end of every chapter, events are happening in ways that will make you want to read the next chapter and then the next—it’s a book I didn’t want to put down. Though there are grammatical errors here and there, it’s nothing too bad to the point where you can’t understand what is trying to be said.

A large cast was introduced, all by name, in the first few chapters. Each was diverse in personality and appearance, and the author did a great job of keeping everyone distinctive. Every character mentioned, whether they stay throughout the entire book or are only there for a moment, has a striking personality that sets them apart from one another. It’s extremely impressive, and it takes a great author to distinguish so many distinct personalities.

Dane Thorburn and Nature’s Revenge is a captivating young adult and teen fantasy novel. Though some moments can be confusing, the exploration, adventure, and memorable characters do an even greater job of making such a fantastic book come to life. If you’re looking for a fantasy adventure, I definitely recommend this book.

Pages: 314 | ASIN : B0B8K22HS4

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Heart of the Forest: Book 1 of the Cousin Friendship Series

Twelve-year-old Ilyria wants nothing more than to write an incredible fantasy novel…and outdo her perfect cousin Jerry. However, when Thanksgiving Day arrives, Ilyria finds herself sandwiched between her disapproving parents, her doting aunt, uncle, and the insufferable Jerry. Things are only made worse when both sets of parents insist the cousins should spend time together. So, heading out into the dark forest, the two teenagers soon find themselves at the beginning of a wondrous adventure, with only each other to rely on. Facing deadly obstacles and dangerous pathways in search of the mysterious force that called them forward, Jerry and Ilyria must learn more about each other and about themselves if they have any hope of survival.

Taking place partly in our world and partly in a magical realm, Heart of the Forest: Book 1 of the Cousin Friendship Series by Hermione Lee is a thrilling journey of discovery. While facing numerous threats and encountering endless wonders, Ilyria and Jerry must learn to overcome their prejudices in order to genuinely understand one another. I liked that this story is about cousins, which is relatively rare in the field. I loved that I never knew what was going to be around the next corner, and the nonstop action kept the pages turning. I was as angry as Ilyria at the parents in the story, finding them to be the most irritating family members I have encountered in literature outside of a Charles Dickens novel. However, I loved the interwoven nature of the story, where I felt that I was not only experiencing the adventures of Ilyria and Jerry but something of the author’s personal journey.

One way that the author helps readers to develop empathy and an emotional connection to their main characters is through their struggles. The teenagers encounter numerous enemies, perform multiple physically demanding escapes, and practically hike across half a continent, only stopping to eat and sleep once in the entire adventure. By the end of their journey, they have been so exhausted, hungry, and dehydrated. Recognizing this plight gives the characters an additional level of respect for their endurance.

Heart of the Forest: Book 1 of the Cousin Friendship Series is an excellent middle-grade fantasy novel, perfect for ages 10 and up. This story is about magic and wonder, overcoming prejudice, and finding the courage to let friendship enter a broken heart. It is a beautiful beginning to an up-and-coming fantasy novel series.

Pages: 210 | ASIN : B0B6L2ZX3N

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Boone and Jacque: Cytrus Moonlight

Boone and Jacque are back again in Boone and Jacque: Cytrus Moonlight! It has been 15 years, and they are living their best lives. Boone got married to Shammy, and they have two amazing children together. Boone and Shammy just want to live a life of peace and quiet. Jacque, on the other hand has become a detective and loves his job and his woman named Xantia, who happens to be a detective as well. Boone and Jacque still have a very strong friendship, but their lives turn upside down when a new mysterious murder happens. This throws Jacque and Boone into a new quest that they never wanted. They just want to live their simple lives.

The new book in the Boone and Jacque series is stupendous! Readers that have enjoyed prior books in this series will be blown away by the new characters and adventures. AG Flitcher takes readers on a magical and fantastical adventure that surpasses prior novels, going in a completely different direction and showcasing the growth of Boone and Jacque. In addition, this an inclusive novel. Jacque, Xantia, and Coralie are all part of the LGBTQI+ community.

Jacque and Xantia are a wonderful couple. Xantia was a great addition to the group and is a strong woman. Her character is well developed and fits perfectly into the story. Coralie is new as well, and I learned a bit about her, but I do hope to learn more about her in the next book. Reading about Boone and Shammy’s children is delightful; they add a new demension to the storyline. Boone’s character is still growing and figuring himself out, but I can say he is a loving father. It made me happy to see his character get some happiness after the childhood readers learned about in past books. Having Shammy to share his life with gives his story the joyful component he had been missing.

I still have some questions, but I imagine the next book will answer them. AG Flitcher seems to be very good at wrapping up loose ends. The story overall was well written. While I have my questions about Dr. Button and Jacque’s aunt and uncle, I am sure I will get my answers over time.

I give Boone and Jacque: Cytrus Moonlight 5 out of 5 stars. This novel felt very different from the others, but I can tell it is leading up to similar adventures with an extra twist. I look forward to the next book in this amazing series!

Pages: 350 | ASIN : B0B5SBNQ27

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Bringing Dark History Into the Light

Steve Zimcosky Author Interview

Hanging Cloud follows a PI that tries to find a missing man and ends up uncovering a multigenerational conspiracy that leads to threats on his own life. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

In the past I had read about the government’s attempt at assimilating Native Americans into a lot of the urban areas in the United States. When I did the research I found out what their real intent was and felt that it needed to be shared, so I created a way to use it as part of the plot in the story. Many people have no idea that this even took place back in the 1950s. As it states in the book the whole intent was to get the Native Americans off their reservations so they could sell the land and also the hope of having them intermarry so they could just eliminate all Native Americans. It’s a part of our history that is kind of kept in the dark.

Tom Sipowicz is a great detective that captures the interest of readers. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I wanted someone who had grown up with adversity in school but had a wonderful family life. He found his calling by being a Military Policeman and later a Cleveland Police Officer and then a detective. His martial arts training keeps him in shape and the character building that comes along with that training is invaluable to him both as a police detective and a private investigator. He’s the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back but not someone you would want to cross.

How did you decide on using the Native American Community as a focus for your novel?

A while back I had read an article about a man who grew up in a very loving family, had a great education and career. He later found out that he was adopted and that he was a Native American. For some reason, the article had popped into my head when I was looking to start another book and I thought that would be a great plot for a story.

What kind of research did you have to do to make sure you were accurately portraying the Native American culture?

My research involved checking out various websites and double-checking everything that I found to make sure it was as accurate as possible. A few years back I had met some Native Americans through another person and learned quite a bit from them as well. That helped me in writing the book and trying to keep it as close to reality as possible. The Native American Community has a lot to offer if people would just listen to them when they speak about their lives and what goes on in their communities. Their way of looking at the world makes sense.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Website

When the father of a local sports legend disappears the Polish Dragon P. I. and his partner Suzie are hired to find him. What they discover is the father’s true identity on his birth certificate and they also uncover a heinous crime that was perpetrated against the Native American Community.

Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London

Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London, by S. P. O’Farrell, is the second book of the Simone LaFray Mysteries. Simone is a twelve-year-old spy for the French Ministry. After finding fame at the Chocolatiers’ Ball, Simone tries to fade into the shadows. But while she is attending school, a mission comes up. She goes undercover in London to find a missing junior spy, the OmniKey and gets entangled with the notorious Red Wolves. Among doing schoolwork, she questions her loyalty and helps her father open a second patisserie shop in London. Add in that the most popular boy in school has noticed her, and Simone has a lot to contend with.

As the second book in the series, the story stands independently. O’Farrell excellently wove enough information from the first book into this one to help readers understand the world and the backstory. Like other children’s series, this one has links to previous books and hints at new books, but each book is its own complete story that can be enjoyed.

I like that Simone is the awkward neurodivergent girl who is suddenly thrust into being famous. In order to find out the information she needs to find the missing spy, she has to socialize with people she normally would not. While uncomfortable she finds a way to get through the situations, showing courage and growth along the way. Twelve is a challenging age to find yourself and deal with middle school. She goes through the normal ups and downs of any twelve-year-old, including homesickness. Being a spy makes this even more challenging as she has more secrets to keep than normal kids her age.

Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London is a middle-grade mystery that is well-written and entertaining. Staying true to a twelve-year-old’s life while adding in the mystery of the missing junior spy will make this an entertaining book and a favorite for children.

Pages: 248 | ISBN : 1953021360

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Hanging Cloud (Polish Dragon P. I.)

When a sports celebrity hires Tom Sipowicz, of Polish Dragon P.I., to find his missing father, the protagonist of author Steve Zimcosky’s Hanging Cloud commences an investigation that will see him working to uncover a wide-ranging conspiracy against the Native American population of Cleveland. As the American government, the Catholic church, and a local medical practice are all revealed to be colluding together, Sipowicz finds himself embroiled in a cruel scheme that stretches back to the mid-nineteen hundreds and ripples through generations to the modern-day. Facing threats from old friends, Sipowicz learns about American history, and about his own family.

Hanging Cloud by Steve Zimcosky can be described as short, sweet, and simple. This mystery novel is written for middle-grade readers and up. From very early on in the story, the reader can quickly work out what has happened, the greater question that Tom Sipowicz must solve is how it has happened. In this respect, Zimcosky does an excellent job providing the necessary information required to solve the intriguing mystery, while withholding the vital links to put the pieces of the puzzle together into a whole that can be understood. Just like Tom Sipowicz, the reader quickly becomes aware that someone is lying, and they join Sipowicz on his investigation to discover exactly what, or who is amiss.

The mystery is straightforward and the author does not make it too challenging to follow the clues, which makes this crime fiction story perfect for young adults that are just getting into the mystery genre. The pacing is done well and keeps the storyline moving without too much extra information, allowing the reader to focus on facts and not get overwhelmed.

Hanging Cloud is a creative mystery novel that combines elements of historical fiction and Native American culture into the plot. This well-written novel writes about the Native American community with respect for their culture and beliefs, using facts to enhance the story. Middle-grade and young adult fans will enjoy this light-hearted mystery that takes readers on a stimulating journey to reveal the truth.

Pages: 202 | ASIN : B09MC5CH2P

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Peeps in Bloom

Isaac is in a new school, making new friends, and carrying an old secret. As he is trying to settle into his role as the boy trying to get noticed on the first day, he makes a couple of discoveries. First, there could actually be a witch living in his new neighborhood, second, he just might have made friends with the school activist. Meg, intent on saving the school’s courtyard, has enlisted the help of her friends, including Issac, and is determined to preserve her favorite part of their school environment. Isaac, willing to help but fighting his own battle, must figure out what is going on with himself before he can help anyone else.

Peeps in Bloom, by J.D. Suhre, is the story of two friends both facing their own very different obstacles but simultaneously solving their own little mystery. Suhre has included several parallel plot lines to capture young readers’ attention and keep them guessing throughout the book. Told in chapters that alternate between the first-person points of view of the two main characters, Suhre’s story offers two unique perspectives of the same plot.

Isaac’s problem is a tricky one. While it is difficult as a parent to watch him face his own health issue virtually alone, I am sure this is a dilemma experienced by many children daily, especially at this upper elementary/middle school age. In fact, his apprehension in telling anyone about his strange episodes reminds me of the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. There is a great lesson to be learned from both stories, and Suhre touches on a hard reality with Isaac’s storyline.

I was pleasantly surprised at the turn the story takes when it comes to rumors of the witch in the neighborhood. There are so many ways a plot like this one can take; it was refreshing to see the way Suhre incorporated Mrs. Peekers into Meg and Isaac’s stories. As an adult reader, if I had an aha moment, young readers are sure to experience a thrill when they realize the truth.

Peeps in Bloom is a short creative novel geared for upper elementary and tweens. It carries within its pages some difficult lessons and wonderful examples of what strength, determination, and courage can do. Young readers will benefit from taking this journey with Issac and Meg.

Pages: 126 | ASIN : B09R1ZDN46

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