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Jack Mathias and the Boonetown Bandits

Seventh-grader Jack Mathias is an adventurer at heart. Mercilessly pranking all those around him and always eager to find the next mountain to climb, life is full of endless possibilities. But when a harsh reality check enters Jack’s carefree world, he and his best friend Gene seek to find a way to enjoy the last few days of freedom before the dreaded Summer School begins. After discovering a mysterious message from the olden days of Boonetown, the two boys and their friend Edgar embark on a dangerous journey. With high hopes of finding a life-changing secret, the Boonetown Bandits begin an adventure like no other, with endless twists and turns along the way.

Jack Mathias and the Boonetown Bandits by G.M. Savage is a high-stakes adventure story with plenty of action to go around. Each step of the boys’ journey is fraught with peril, as unexpected dangers lurk around every corner. The characters are real and memorable, growing and developing their friendship as the quest continues. Jack, the lovable rogue; Gene, the scholar; and Edgar, the gentle giant, all learn more about each other and themselves as they travel into the wilds near the raging Gauley River.

This action story is engaging and has a lot of positive energy. The author perfectly portrays the mind and behavior of middle school kids making this a relatable read for young readers. This thrilling read about Jack’s journey involves many adventures, from camping in the wild to whitewater rafting on rapids allowing young readers to dare to be adventurous. I found myself daydreaming of these adventures as I was reading.

A good romp about friendship and the joy of the journey, Jack Mathias and the Boonetown Bandits is a middle-grade action adventure novel that will entertain preteens and teens alike. This is an exciting story about three friends and their quest for hidden secrets; this captivating narrative is perfect for a lazy afternoon of reading fun.

Pages: 203 | ASIN : B0BCM56KBV

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Odriel’s Heirs

Odriel’s Heirs by Hayley Reese Chow follows a young girl named Kaia. As the first Born of her siblings, she inherited the fire of the dragon. She has three siblings, her twin Bram, younger brother Layf and younger sister Elani. She lives somewhat of a sheltered life because the surrounding villagers believe they are evil. As she starts exploring society, she comes close to some dangerous obstacles. Her father is away fighting a war that she believes she can assist in. Once she realizes that a necromancer has unleashed lost souls onto the humans, she believes it is her duty as the dragon heir to help keep the humans safe. She wants nothing more than to prove that she is strong and a good person to her family and the outside world.

Odriel’s Heirs is a gripping epic fantasy novel from start to finish. The flow of the story was both entertaining and exciting; I was hooked throughout the entire story. The characters are well thought through, and they bring the story alive. The main character is strong-willed and brave, someone a teen girl can look up to and admire. Kaia’s character is one reader can’t help but feel bad about at times because of how she is treated by others for the gift she inherited. However, despite her obstacles, she never losses sight of her goals and always looks for a way to persevere. The secondary characters are written just as well and add additional layers to this fantastic story.

Hayley Reese Chow has combined paranormal and fantasy genres in this adventure for young adults in Odriel’s Heirs. The journey that the author takes readers on is creative and unique. It was definitely one of those books that take you out of the real world and into a new fantasy and amazing dystopian world that you can’t help but get lost in.

Pages: 198 | ASIN : B0838R4DTB

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The Vending Portal

Seventh-grader Mel and her sister Sage begin an average walk home from school. Taking a detour through Old Town and out into the rice paddy fields, Mel and Sage discover an old vending machine that is much more than it seems. Suddenly thrust into an alternate world, the sisters find a strange world where everything seems utopian…or is it? With high technology, free food, and smiling faces, the world Mel and Sage have entered looks a little too perfect. Encountering new friends and enemies and discovering their own unique connection to this strange parallel world, Mel and Sage must use their wits to survive. And as the cracks in utopia widen to reveal the ugly secrets beneath the surface, the sisters fight for the world’s fate as they struggle to find a way back home.

The Vending Portal by Judy Liu is the chilling tale of two sisters entering a terrifying dystopian universe. I loved the culture in the story and the beautiful descriptions of the rice fields. Clear-headed Mel and spontaneous Sage are as different as night and day, and I love the interplay between the sisters as the plot progresses.

Enigmatic Romilda and savvy Lewis add depth to the increasingly complex story, which has as many intricate layers as a chef’s prized recipe. The setting is so well-thought-out and immersive that it is easy to lose time in the parallel world alongside Mel and Sage. With twists and turns, and a deadly threat more perilous than anyone could have imagined, this intense story of heroism in spite of tyranny is one of the best I have had the pleasure of reading.

The Vending Portal is a through-provoking coming-of-age science fiction novel that young adults and teens will be whisked away into. The gripping story will have readers questioning what the perfect society is and what the cost of such a society means to those that live in it. This fascinating story is ideal for opening up the discussion with teenagers about how they want to impact their own society and community.

Pages: 234 | ASIN : B0BCH7FL9S

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Hold Fast

Joseph Carlo agrees to join his younger cousin on a daring late-night expedition, but he has no inkling of the life-changing consequences it will bring. It is 1761. Italy. The boys are members of a sea-fearing family with a respectable name, so when it is discovered that they took an unthinkable risk, their uncle Honore has no choice. They must be punished. That punishment takes the two teens down a rabbit hole of adventure and adversity, crossing leagues of water and landing halfway across the world. Who could have imagined how the fortune-teller’s words would be fulfilled? 

Hold Fast takes us way back to the 18th century, far from the comforts of home. The richly detailed descriptions of Highet and Jones evoke the world of seamen and the British Navy at war. It is not an easy world, and all the senses are engaged. There is quite a ride for the emotions, too – joy, pain, thrill, fear, anger, and stress. Here we meet historical figures and are present for recorded events. We read bits in Italian, French, and even Latin. There is so much to learn.

Hold Fast is an action novel with a cast of men – some feared, some admired, and a few loved. They impact us through the young boys Suchet and Joseph Carlo. Seeing it all through his eyes makes this novel an excellent read for teenagers. The story is inspired by real events, and readers may want to look up the Siege of Havana or the longitude watchmaker. They will learn more about the importance of physically holding fast to the mast of a sailing ship and standing firm in life’s figurative storms.

Hold Fast is a historical fiction young adult novel about the adventures of two teenagers who wind up on a British Navy ship and must learn the hard lessons of life at sea. This exciting novel gives readers a real life of the hardships of being a sailor in the 1700s. Readers will be captivated by the journey these two cousins go on and their story of survival.

Pages: 233 | ASIN : B07R5445VJ

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The Lost Siren

The Lost Siren by Hermione Lee starts out with one of the most beautiful settings I have read in a book so far! Aquila is a young, beautiful, and enchanting Siren of the sea. Unfortunately, she wakes up on an iceberg alone, scared, and without a memory of her past. She’s bruised and cut up but finds her way to an island, where she is rescued by a young sorcerer named Everard.

Everard and Aquila fall in love with each other quickly. He takes care of her and answers any questions she has. He doesn’t like it when she has questions about the palace or the royal family. Everard, however, is not the knight in shining armor we all thought at first. He hurts and abandons Aquila, and she is rescued by a handsome king. Aquila quickly falls in love with the king’s kind spirit, but as she starts to regain her memory of her past, she isn’t proud of who she used to be. Finally, war comes to the palace, and Aquila must write all her wrongs to end the war.

I really did enjoy the creative aspect of the book. The world that was created by the author was unique and painted a good picture in my mind. It was well written with great detail. I loved the characters and their development throughout the story. I enjoyed reading about the magical powers they had in this world. An island full of magic creates such a beautiful picture. What I didn’t like about the book was how the relationships developed when it came to love; there was no build-up. I like falling in love with the characters; in this case, readers are not given much to build on.

The Lost Siren is a captivating teen and young adult novel with elements of romance. While there is a love interest, the story focuses on how Aquila deals with her emotions and the realization of who she is. It is perfect for teen girls struggling with who they are and want fantasy novels that focus on more than battles and wizards.

Pages: 158 | ASIN : B0BGPV6LWN

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New America Awakenings

In an America divided by race and religion, Colton Jenkins must simultaneously navigate the new war-like world as a young adult and a victim of oppression. He and his family found themselves in a community ruled by a heavy hand, where every form of treason, with or without evidence, leads to another head cut from a body stuck on a pike. With no one to trust and turn to, may it be the government, the religious, and even your neighbors, Colton must find a way to keep himself and his loved ones alive, all while finding ways to regain freedom and liberty for everyone.

New America Awakenings, by Tyler Davis, is a gripping story that depicts what our future might look like without democracy and the role the youth play in societal changes. From the beginning of the novel, the author makes sure to spare no details about the apocalyptic setting, from its origin and history to its ongoing severe, sadistic practices. With every page, readers anticipate and dread what is coming, for there seem to be no limits regarding the horrifying reality the characters experience, regardless of race, religion, and age. Yet, in the doom of it all, there are moments where one can see hope, whether in the scenes focused on family, the camaraderie between friends, and even times when authorities are defied and challenged. Because of these, readers are inspired to continue despite the cruelty to see if these moments can lead to somewhere positive. 

Personally, the book was a page-turner due to the constant presence of crisis, intriguing me to wait and see if there is anything that will happen that is more cynical than the previous. Unfortunately, the book did not disappoint in that area, and I was left hanging by its ending because I was expecting more to happen. Still, the ending placement was clever, for it keeps readers on their toes and hungry for the sequel to come out. I have always been interested in dystopian novels, and this one earned its rightful place in my top ten. As for the characters, each one’s contribution to the story was highlighted, making it easier to remember them and either love or hate them. The author also made sure to keep all characters real, in the sense that they are all flawed, one way or another, which is integral to point out in a dystopian setting that calls people to act based on survival rather than morals.

New America Awakenings will keep its readers interested with the constant action, all while compelling them to reflect on what they are reading in terms of their ethics. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in books such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, which are famous for their young adult heroines and post-apocalyptic setting. I also recommend this to anyone who would like to ponder on the humanities, for the novel shows a different take on culture and society as we know it.

Pages: 322 | ASIN : B0BDBLJ9JZ

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Smuggled by Angela Karanja is the story of Tuliana, a fourteen-year-old orphan from Kenya, who finds herself trapped in a world of human trafficking. Barely remembering her mother from childhood, Tuliana grew up never having a home of her own or a sense of stability. Then, one morning, she finds herself on a plane with a group of kids and has no idea where she’s going. When they arrive in London, Tuliana is separated from the kids and whisked away in a stranger’s car, which marks the beginning of her new life.

Terrified of her new life and unaware of her fate, Tuliana hangs on to what she remembers: Jonathan, a friend she made on the plane. He becomes her anchor in a way she would have never imagined and vows to find her. As she moves from one home to another, she is treated differently in each setting, though she is always a servant (slave). She later realizes that she’s a victim of human trafficking. Jonathan realized Tuliana was a victim of something uncanny as soon as she was snatched and began to investigate her whereabouts, concerned for his friend.

This emotional book does a fantastic job of diving into the bleak and often invisible lives of children and people who are victims of human trafficking. It’s a tragic reality that we often don’t associate with the modern world. The author brings the real story of one girl, who represents many children globally who fall prey to smuggling and slavery. Karanja carefully explores children’s different perspectives and trauma experiences during this process. Tuliana is a great character who displays great strength, intelligence, and resilience in her life.

I highly recommend Smuggled by Angela Karanja for the humanity it gives victims and survivors of human trafficking. It’s a great story about an important topic that deserves more attention on a local and global scale.

Pages: 189 | ASIN : B0BB1VZ4JG

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Antunites Unite

Antunites Unite by Terry Birdgenaw is the third book in the Antunite Chronicles. This series is a great starting point for budding lovers of high science fiction. Warrior Cats meet Ender’s Game, and the characters are regular AND cyborg insects.

In Antunites Unite, we follow several different ant characters as they fight to keep and restore order among their colonies. Not only does the reader have to keep track of different characters and their plot threads, but those are also not necessarily chronological. The chapters jump in time often whenever current events need explaining, which is when we jump back in time to the events that caused the current situation. Luckily, the book starts with a helpful list of characters in chronological order and a quick recap of the story so far, and each chapter starts with the name of the ANT or BEE ruler at the time.

The story is great for younger readers, as it is fairly easy to follow despite the time jumps and different characters. I can see it inspire many new lifelong readers and lovers of complex science fiction to the likes of Dune. It is a pretty light-hearted read, and those that are mature readers should remember the target audience is young adults and teens. The series is filled to the brim with writing conveniences like paragraphs of exposition starting with a variation on the line: “As you know…”, always spoken by a wise character to a young character who is new to the job and has a new perspective on the world around them.

Antunites Unite (The Antunite Chronicles Book 3) is a young adult science fiction novel with a dystopian theme. The story is rich and complex while still keeping the story accessible to readers not as well-versed in the depth of sci-fi.

Pages: 373 | ASIN : B0BCT1SFJY

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