Readers who followed the paranormal romances in Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series, Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy, or Alisa Valdes’ The Temptation will likely find Sangu Mandanna’s debut novel, The Lost Girl, thrilling.  Besides the interesting love triangle to fuel the plot, however, Mandanna adds adventure, mystery, and a twist on New Zealand folklore.  With a science fiction “what if” style, the novel also poses some provocative questions about creating life through processes that parallel cell regeneration or even cloning.  Given these features, the book transcends the typical romance novel to become deeply philosophical. Despite her name, which means immortal one, Amarra knows life’s limitations.  Created withoutRead More →

Young readers looking for a good ghost story with adventure and history stirred in will find it in Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab.  In this third volume in the City of Ghosts series, Schwab features twelve-year-old Cassidy Blake whose parents are the Inspecters: World-traveling, ghost-hunting, paranormal investigators. As they travel the world to produce film accounts of their findings, Cassidy tags along from Paris to Edinburgh and beyond.  This episode has the family filming in New Orleans, a place where color, style, and sound collide; a place of contradictions. Although Cassidy has always had a brain that doodles, helping to show her things thatRead More →

When Alder Madigan and Oak Carson first meet as next door neighbors in a Los Angeles, California, neighborhood, the two fifth graders decide they don’t like one another. Complicating any chance at a friendship is the mystery of their mothers’ dislike for one another. However, as time and coincidences transpire, the two accept that change is hard and that sometimes, one thing—like anger or a tree—has to end to make room for something else. Furthermore, the universe appears to have other plans. Those realizations—in the midst of a kitten coincidence, an apparition of a house that isn’t there inhabited by Mort the opossum, and theRead More →

A descendent of the Sun god, twelve-year-old Cecelia Rios grew up hearing the legends of the criaturas. Of all the legends, she likes Coyote’s the best. How was she to know that some day their stories would intertwine? Cece has soft eyes and a compassionate heart, but in the desert of Tierra del Sol, criaturas are dangerous and must be destroyed. In order to survive, according to Mamá, weakness invites death, so she tells her daughter: “You cannot let your tears make you more water than fire” (9). But Cece has a soul of water, not of fire—so she rescues Tzizimitl, a criatura the townspeopleRead More →

In the kingdom of Nothing, every time peace between the volken and the human races seems imminent, something happens to fuel the conflict with fear or lies and then prevent the two factions from achieving peaceful coexistence. What or who is behind this perpetual warring? Targeting middle-grade readers, the graphic novel Fantastic Tales of Nothing by Alejandra Green and Fanny Rodriguez is an adventure featuring an unlikely quartet: Nathan Cadwell, Sina, Bardou, and Haven, who form an unexpected bond. Nathan is a human boy who simply wants a quiet and peaceful life, with maybe a little money to gamble now and then. Sina Crowe is a volken,Read More →

With Cinders & Sparrows, Stefan Bachmann has written a gothic novel for middle grade readers. Given the genre, his book incorporates ghosts, spirits, hauntings, misty woods, gloomy environs, enchanted chambers and staircases, talking trees and a marble bust who claims to be a prince. The novel’s plot revolves around twelve-year-old Zita Brydgeborn and her discovery that she is not an orphan after all but a member of the Brydgeborn family of witches and the heiress to Blackbird Castle. With Mrs. Cantanker as her teacher, Zita receives all sorts of training—some of it oddly questionable. Still, according to Mrs. Cantanker, “A true Blackbird is graced withRead More →

Although Cynthia Voigt’s newest book, Little Bird, has a target audience of middle-grade readers, with its anthropomorphism, it joins beast fables like Monkey Wars by Richard Kurti and Watership Down by Richard Adams, adding its own brand of commentary on human societies and behaviors. The title character, Little Bird belongs to a small flock of crows who forage, guard against danger, and live out their short lives near Old Davis Farm. However, Little Bird doesn’t have the sharp-beaked, sharp-clawed, and sharp-spoken way of other crows. She discovers additional differences between herself and other crows, when the flock loses a good luck charm called Our Luck,Read More →

Believing that humor is often more honest than being serious and that laughter contributes to resilience, author John Cusick writes books laden with laughter and bordering on the absurd. When Lola Ray and Phineas Fogg find themselves in a precarious situation where the fate of the universe is at stake, Phin must keep Lola from falling into the hands of the evil Goro Bolus and the Temporal Transit Authority who will turn her over to the Phan. The young duo must both get out of New Jersey, off the planet, and as far away from Earth’s solar system as they can. In their attempt atRead More →

Wrecked by her parents’ divorce and then her brother’s disappearance three years ago, Andrea Murphy’s life has grown awful. The empty seat at the table, her unrelenting guilt that her brother’s disappearance is somehow her fault, and his ghost in the boxes stacked in the garage all haunt her. “I’m fine” is the lie she tells to hide the cracks and holes in her heart. As a reminder of his memory, she carries a missing piece of her brother in her pocket. When the pain grows too intense to bear, she rides her bike far and fast, letting the breeze whip through her hair whileRead More →