“The forgotten girl” India Hill Brown

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Scholastic. 250 p. (Includes Author’s Note.)

The Forgotten girlIn the small town of Easaw North Carolina, Iris hates that everyone in her middle school seems to forget about her accomplishments as Captain of the Step Team. Several times she wasn’t invited to important school events, leading her to believe the administration was purposely leaving her out of things.

Determined to make everyone notice her, Iris and her best friend Daniel take on the task of researching abandoned cemeteries after they stumble upon several hidden graves, including one of an 11-year-old named Avery Moore. They were surprised to find out that cemeteries used to be segregated, with black cemeteries falling into disrepair during the Great Migration. Iris and Daniel decided they wanted to have this abandoned cemetery restored.

Soon after their discovery of her grave, Avery began to make herself known in different ways to a very terrified Iris. Avery doesn’t like being forgotten, and wants to make sure she is remembered. Iris is key, and Avery plans to make sure the two of them become forever friends – forever remembered – together.

I liked this book. Its short chapters, with cliffhanger endings, will keep even reluctant readers glued to the pages.

Recommended for ages 10-15.

“Taken” by Norah McClintock

Rated 4 stars **** Orca Book Publishers. 2009. 165 p.

TakenStephanie’s father was killed in a car accident, and she hates that her mother found a boyfriend just a few months after the accident. She hates the new boyfriend, feeling as if he’s mooching off her mom. A serial killer kidnapped two girls who look very similar to her in nearby towns, but she’s sure her town is safe. So, late one evening she declines her best friend’s advice to accompany her home, and sets out on her own. While taking a shortcut across a dark, abandoned field she’s attacked.

When Stephanie wakes she finds herself tied up in an abandoned cabin. She manages to get herself free and sets off into the woods that surround the cabin, desperate to put distance between herself and the serial killer who’d kidnapped her. With no food, water or shelter readily available she dredges up every bit of survival advice she’d learned from her grandfather on past hiking and camping trips. The days pass with no hope of rescue, and Stephanie’s situation is worsened when she steps into a hole and severely twists her ankle.

I liked reading about the things Stephanie learned about survival from her grandfather, and it seemed as if she was an exceptional learner. I also thought the ending was predictable and it felt rushed. Though it felt like I already knew how the story would play out before I even got to the end, I’ll recommend it for reluctant teen readers because it’s interesting and is a quick read.

Recommended for teens ages 13-16, especially reluctant readers.

“Green Lantern: Legacy” by Minh Le. Illustrated by Andie Tong

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. DC Zoom. To be published January 21, 2020.

Green lantern legacyThirteen-year-old Vietnamese-American Tai Pham lives with his parents and grandmother above the Jade Market, her Vietnamese grocery store. Though someone keeps spitefully breaking the store windows, and his parents want her to sell because the neighborhood has changed, she refuses. After her death, Tai inherits her jade ring and soon finds out that owning it automatically makes him a Green Lantern – Guardian of the Planet.

Though he’s been warned about the dark side of power the more Tai learns about the powerful things he can do as a Green Lantern the more he starts to let everything get to his head – especially when Xander Griffin, a local billionaire, takes him under his wing. Tai will have to decide what kind of Green Lantern he wants to be, and will need to come to that decision very quickly.

Tai’s adventures, and the richly colored, detailed illustrations, make for quick page turning. It will keep even the most reluctant reader glued to its pages. I enjoyed reading about the first Vietnamese-American Green Lantern, and love that DC superheroes are being diversified – allowing even more readers to see themselves in its pages.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“I escaped the world’s deadliest shark attack: The sinking of the USS Indianapolis, WW2” by Ellie Crowe & Scott Peters

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2019. Best Day Books for Young Readers. I escaped #3. Includes period photographs, “Survivor quotes,” “Did you know?,” “Shark facts & study guide,” and “How a 12-year-old cleared the captain’s name.” 

I escaped the world's deadliest shark attackSixteen-year-old Josh had joined the Navy for revenge against the Japanese after his father was killed in the Pearl Harbor attacks. He never expected the USS Indianapolis, a Navy warship with over 1100 men, to be torpedoed and that it would sink with over 300 men on board. It left him, and almost 900 other sailors, struggling to survive at sea while brazen sharks attacked them relentlessly.

Before reading this, I had never heard of the torpedoing and subsequent sinking of the USS Indianapolis by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea on July 30, 1945. The story of the brave survivors (now down to 316) who endured 5 days of shark attacks, hunger, thirst, injuries and hopelessness is told in this well written book. Interspersed with Josh’s story are period photographs, which lend authenticity to an already authentic story.

I couldn’t pull myself away, and read this in one sitting, as the fast paced chapters kept me eagerly turning pages to learn the fate of these brave men. Reluctant readers will find the same eagerness to keep reading.

Highly recommended for ages 15 and older.

An electronic copy of the book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.


“Wedgie & Gizmo” by Suzanne Selfors

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2017. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollns). Wedgie & Gizmo #1.

Wedgie & GizmoIn this laugh out loud book, young readers are introduced to Wedgie, a superhero dog, and Gizmo, a guinea pig evil genius. Gizmo is not happy his loyal servant Elliott took him to a new place and abandoned him to Jasmine, who is not a good servant. He is not happy because he has to live in a very pink Barbie dollhouse, and he’s REALLY not happy that Jasmine dresses him up in pink tutus. All these things are interfering with his evil genius plans for an Evil Lair and world domination. He’s also not happy with the dumb canine.

Wedgie knows he has superpowers because Jasmine gave him a red cape. Now he’s Super Wedgie! When he runs in circles around and around near the door, it opens and he takes someone for a walk. Only wearing his super cape lets this happen! He loves taking Elliot’s mom, sister and dad for a walk. They’re his pack and he loves them. He loves his stick and loves Squirrel Tree. He ESPECIALLY loves the Furry Potato who just came to live in Jasmine’s pink dollhouse. He’s sure the Furry Potato loves him too. He really, really loves the Furry Potato.

In alternating voices Gizmo and Super Wedgie tell readers their views of the world and each other. Their conversations and actions are especially funny, with Wedgie being my favorite. Young readers, especially reluctant readers, will enjoy following their antics and will look forward to future books in the series.

Highly recommended for ages 8-12.



“The inexplicable logic of my life” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 452 p.

The inexplicable logic of my lifeWho am I? The year he turned 17, Salvador’s mind was full of unanswered questions. He had always been able to tell his best friend Samantha anything, as she was like a sister to him, but he felt he couldn’t tell her he didn’t want his wonderful and supportive gay father, who adopted him and who he dearly loved, to know he was thinking of his real father. He’d been getting into lots of fights; leaving him wondering if the anger he felt came from his real dad. Was he an offshoot of his dad? Did he inherit his dad’s anger issues? Who is he really? Sal doesn’t know.

Sal knows he doesn’t want to go to college, doesn’t want to write his admission essay, and doesn’t want his beloved grandmother Mima to leave him. He loves his family but has lots of questions about his place in the world. While Sal tries to figure out some answers to the craziness going on in his head, stuff keeps happening. Death, sadness, grief, anger and sorrow keep entering his life; along with the love that comes from a close knit family and good friends. Why does his life feel so messed up? Who is he really?

Many of Sal’s questions will ring true with teen readers, along with his emotional ups and downs. I was moved to tears by Mima and Sal’s friend Fito’s problems, and loved the strong friendship between Sal and Sammy. The strong and powerful love given to Sal by his dad is an example for all dads to follow. Once again Sáenz pens a winner.

Highly recommended for readers age 14 and older.

“I escaped the California Camp Fire: California’s deadliest wildfire” by S.D. Brown & Scott Peters

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. 2019. I escaped book #2. Best Day Books for Young Readers. (Includes Facts about the Paradise fire, Study guide, Timeline, Q & A’s, Books about fires, and a Red Cross resource.)

I escaped the California camp fireWhen his parents planned a trip and left him in charge of his little sister Emma for the night, fourteen-year-old Troy expected to pig out on junk food, and binge watch TV. What he didn’t expect was to be rudely awakened by his dog. Though it was just 9:15 in the morning, everything was smoky dark due to an oncoming fire.

Troy knew their only route of escape was for him to drive his father’s Bronco, even though he didn’t have a license. He manages to get his sister, dog and cat on the road, however, traffic is barely moving and the fire is coming fast. With split second timing Troy will have to figure out the safest and quickest route to freedom if he wants them all to survive.

This book was a very quick read, with short, cliffhanger chapters. It’s a good choice for reluctant readers, especially boys. There are some references to God, faith and prayer, but they’re not enough to turn this into a “Christian” book. I see it as an adventure/survival story, not a “Christian” adventure/survival story. This “I escaped” series seems very similar to the “I survived” series, written by Lauren Tarshis.

Recommended for ages 11-15.

I received an e-copy of this book from the Publisher in return for an honest review.

“The golden tower” Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

The golden towerRated 5 stars ***** 2018. Magisterium book #5. Scholastic 239 p.

When Call got into a chaos fight with Alex Strike back in book #4, Aaron helped keep him from dying. He returned the piece of Call’s soul that he’d been lent, so now Aaron is inside Call’s head. They both know Aaron needs a new body, but aren’t sure where to get him one.

Meanwhile Alex has risen from the void to become a Devoured of Chaos. Now Alex is stronger than ever, and is challenging the Mage world to a fight. As the only Maker left, Call is the only one who can stop him. He, Aaron, Jasper and Tamara unite once more to figure out how to rid the Mage world of Alex, and how to get Aaron a body so he can live once again.

Action, adventure, humor and suspense fill this last book of the series, along with a big error. On page 229 of book #4 Havoc had the chaos knocked out of him by the alkahest. It said his eyes are “…a deep, steady gold.” On page 2 of book #5 it says “It was still weird to see Havoc with regular green wolf eyes…” Why did Havoc’s eyes go from gold to green? An editor should have caught that mistake.

This was supposed to be the last book of the Magisterium series, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing these characters again. The authors dropped some pretty solid hints about this on page 239 when they wrote, “Aaron smiled and there was something in his gaze, something odd in those eyes that hadn’t always belonged to him.” There’s something “odd” in his eyes? Hmmmm… Another hint is when Call looks at Aaron and promises they’ll never steal a body. “He smiled at Aaron, pushing down his flicker of doubt. He was a good person now. They were both good people now. They just had to stay that way.” Why is he having doubts? HINTS!

Recommended for ages 12-15.



“The silver mask” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Magisterium book #4. Scholastic 232 p.

The Silver MaskWe last saw Callum in a magical prison, where Mages had placed him after traitorous Alex killed Aaron. While imprisoned Anastasia Tarquin promised to find a way to release him, believing Call is her dead son Constantine.

Call has spent 6 months in prison, enduring daily interrogations and wondering what was happening with his father, Havoc and Tamara. He’s sure everyone hates him, and doesn’t know what the Assembly plans to do to him. On the day Jasper surprises him by coming to visit, the prison catches fire. Outside everything is chaos. They’re rescued by Anastasia, bundled into a van, and taken to a secret location. Upon arrival Call discovers that Tamara was the driver and had orchestrated the prison escape with Anastasia.

Now imprisoned in Master Joseph’s fortress, he insists Call must raise Aaron from the dead for them to be freed, and teach Alex how to do it. To do so would mean they could be free and he’d have his best friend back, but it would also mean he’d be practicing an evil form of magic and playing into Master Joseph’s plans to go to war against the Magisterium. Everything is at stake.

Though the theme of war on the Mages is serious business, “The silver mask” still manages to throw humor into the mix. Jasper is his usual annoying self, but his and Call’s reactions to each other causes me to laugh out loud.

I felt that earlier books in the series were fine for 10 year olds, as there was lots of adventure and humor; however, this book seems geared towards older readers. Call and his friends are older, about 15 years old, and Call is thinking and acting on his romantic tendencies towards Tamara. Thus I find this book to be more for middle and high school readers.

Highly recommended for ages 11 to 16.

“The bronze key” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Magisterium. Book #3. Scholastic. 249 p.

The bronze keyCallum is back at school in the Magisterium for his Bronze year after his encounter with Master Joseph in “The copper gauntlet.” All his classmates and the Masters think he and his friends are heroes for killing Constantine, not realizing Constantine has been dead for years but his soul lives in Call.

The Masters believe there is a spy in the Magisterium and, soon, a series of accidents proves someone is trying to kill him. Despite warnings from Master Rufus not to attempt any actions on their own, Call, Aaron, Tamara and Jasper start plotting ways to catch the spy. Unfortunately events take a terrible turn, and Call finds himself in the middle of his worst nightmare.

I could not put this book down, and know my students will be just as enthralled. If it weren’t already 12:25 in the morning I’d be starting book #4 “The silver mask” right now! I’ll have to wait until the real morning to start reading. Don’t wait! Go grab this series ASAP, and start reading. You won’t be sorry.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.