Book Review: City Spies

So much fun. The best kind of adventure ride possible. You’ve got mystery, intrigue, picturesque settings, smart kids, what’s not to like? This is the first of a trilogy (or more!), and for your middle-grade readers, it is what “fun ” reading should be. This book is made for a day off on the sofa, slurping down tea and cookies while you fly through the story.

The story begins with Sara; she is both a foster kid and a hacker. She’s in court when instead of a public defender, someone else volunteers to represent her provided that she trusts him and plays along with whatever he says in court. It doesn’t take her long to agree, and soon she finds out that he isn’t even a real attorney and works for MI6 as a spy. Also, now she does too!

She joins a group of misfit teens from around the world on a secret team of spies. This story is full of all the twists and turns of an adult spy novel, and your kids will love it!

The teens work together to solve a mystery in Paris, and I’m hoping each book will center on a different worldwide city. You get to know each of the teens a bit, and I can’t wait to read more.

Release Date: March 10, 2020

Book Review: We Could Be Heroes

Oh, my heart. Even if you don’t usually read Middle-Grade novels, this one will yank your heartstrings in the best way. This is an unusual book as the characters are in fourth grade and act more like maybe seventh graders in their actions? In some ways, that will increase the readership range, and I think people on the autism spectrum will enjoy it any age. Although technically it is not a #ownvoices novel, the author does have a daughter with both autism and epilepsy, and both are featured in this story.

The story begins with Hank hating the World War II book that his teacher is reading his class. You can tell right away that he’s a kid filled with empathy, and those books where someone nearly always dies can be rough to navigate at any age. He steals the book, heads to the boys’ bathroom, and sets it on fire, which obviously, was not a great idea. He gets justifiably suspended. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Hank has loving, involved parents, and even with them, and plenty of support from his doctors and the school life is difficult for him.

When he heads back to school, Maisie (a classmate) takes him under her wing and befriends him. It seems like she is the first friend, and their friendship is bumpy as they both make some not wise decisions spurred on from good intentions.

I think the fact that neither Hank or Maisie is mean, or destructive tempers the fact there are a lot of actions in this book you won’t want your kids emulating. But, the love that they show their families and neighbor is both sweet and genuine. They are kids who think a little differently and jump to conclusions that maybe other kids wouldn’t. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and would recommend it up through eighth grade.

Release Date February 25, 2020

Book Review: On Snowden Mountain

Note to parents: We’re using it in our 8th grade Home Ed curriculum this year. I’ll write up a post over at GoodEnoughHomeschool.Com with a book list this weekend.

I adore historical fiction. I’ve based my entire home education program on intertwining great stories with factual spine books, so that my kids not only get the facts of history but the heart of how people were feeling and thinking at those times.
This World War 2 story set in the American Appalachian Mountains is a quiet, moving tale of families at home. Twelve-year-old Ellen knows enough to call for help after her Dad leaves for the War and her Mom won’t get out of bed. What she didn’t realize is that Aunt Pearl will insist on moving both of them from Baltimore to Snowden Mountain. She doesn’t want to move, and yet there is no alternative.
Ellen goes through a bit of culture shock. The mountain world is new and backward to her: outhouses, the one-room schoolhouse, and the lack of electricity are just the beginning. Nearly everything is different from her life so far.
This is a middle-grade book, but I’d lean towards the older end of that age range due to some of the heavy topics that are central parts of this story. Ellen’s new friend Russell has an alcoholic, violent father, and Ellen’s mother’s mental illness is pretty much unavoidable if you are reading this aloud.
I would hand it to a kid struggling with any of these issues at home as the kids and adults involved handle the situations creatively and thoughtfully. Ellen holds a genuine fear that she may inherit her mom’s mental illness, and even though the setting is long ago, that’s still a fear of kids today.

Publication date: October 2019

Book Review: Don’t Read The Comments

Don’t Read The Comments is a YA gaming centered novel. Most teens online game in some way or another, and they will relate to both the fun and hassles involved navigating both online friendships and harassment.

I liked both Divya and Aaron and loved the dynamics that each of them had with their families. The story is told in alternate POV chapters and you’d think that the author is female, because Eric captured the fear that women feel when being challenged online very well.

This was a quick read for me and I loved being entrenched in the gamer girl world. I think you could hand this to kids as young as thirteen with no problem. If they’ve gamed online there isn’t anything in this story that they don’t know.

It was super well done. I’m recommending it to my own gaming teen reader.

Publication date- January 28, 2020

Book Review: Keystone

This story should be a classified dystopia, but we’re on our way to it being our legit reality.
You’ve heard of “influencers,” well, imagine being accountable to your investors, every minute of every day of your life. Yeah. Ella’s Mom and Dad are full-time influencers after giving up acting for this new, more profitable career.

They adopt Ella in secret to boost their numbers and so she grows up in the spotlight. She wears a Life Stream device at all times. Now that Ella’s a teen, they expect her to pull her weight and increase her demand on the Social Stock Exchange. She hates it, and after an attempt on her life at her birthday party, (she wonders if her parents are behind it?) she joins a group called Keystone.

This is where it gets Black Mirrorish- and I am all there for that. A warning that you may need to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride.

Keystone changes her name to Elisa Dewitt. Because the people at Keystone are all Disconnected from the world. Meaning they intentionally cover and mark their faces so that facial recognition doesn’t catch them.

Their primary mission is to steal analog history to preserve the truth corporations and governments are trying to hide or alter forever. Ella/Elisa turns out to be a natural thief, and soon she’s entirely at home there. I loved the schoolish atmosphere and the way the book is like a journal. I definitely got Hogwarts vibes.

You’ll be happy to know that after the cliffhanger at the end, there will be two more books in this series. I’m a little late in posting January reviews, and this book is available now.

Book Review: Followers

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This novel shows us a world where our follower count and social standing is more important to us than our real friendships. Equal parts horrifying and entertaining the story is half Orla, a journalist in 2015, and Marlow, a 2051 “influencer” celebrity. Sometime between Orla’s and Marlow’s lives, an event was known only as “the Spill” caused the Internet as we know it today is gone, and Marlow lives in a completely different world. The government regulates all internet traffic, including entertainment, and Marlow has grown up in a Truman Show-like city called Constellation, which is an ongoing, immersive reality series. Both women yearn for more meaning in their lives, and each of their stories unfolds to show how they grow and change, while also revealing how they become connected over the years. If you liked Ready Player One and The Farm, you’ll like this one.

It’s much like a Black Mirror episode in that you’ll need to give it a little time to get going. I put it down twice because I could not figure out what it was getting at besides an- internet= lousy message.

Publication Date January 14, 2020

Book Review: Tweet Cute

This contemporary YA novel is also told in alternating points of view. It seems to be a 2020 trend. Anyway, I’m all there for it.

This cute story has the two main characters in a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks You’ve Got Mail type situation. The twist is that their parents each own a competing burger joint in NYC. They are chatting together on a school-based app, neither knowing the other IRL or that they are both in an Epic Twitter War of tweets and memes against each other at night while attending school together all day.

I’d be shocked if someone doesn’t option this for a movie, it’s so adorable.
I gave it five stars on Goodreads. Publication date: January 21, 2020