Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa DeLaCruz


Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa DeLaCruz
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Length: 320 pages
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

The sequel to the #1 New York Times best seller The Isle of the Lost

Mal’s an expert at intimidating her enemies, but she’s broken the habit since leaving her villainous roots behind. So when she and her friends Evie, Carlos, and Jay all receive threatening messages demanding they return home, Mal can’t believe it. Sure, she’s King Ben’s girlfriend now, and she’s usually nice to her classmates, but she still didn’t think anyone would be silly enough to try to push her around.

The thing is, it kind of worked. Especially since she and her friends have a sneaking suspicion that their villainous parents are behind the messages. And when Evie looks into her Magic Mirror, what she sees only confirms their fears. Maleficent’s just a tiny lizard after her run-in with Mal at Ben’s Coronation, but she’s the worst villain in the land for a reason. Could she have found a way to escape? Whatever’s going on, Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay know they have to sneak back to the Isle and get to the bottom of it.

Without its infamous leader, the island’s even worse than when they left it, but the comforts of home-even a home as gloomy as the Isle of the Lost-can be hard to resist for recently reformed villains. Will the kids be able to beat the evil bubbling at the Isle’s wicked core, or will the plot to destroy Auradon succeed?

The Villains are back and they’ll play just as dirty as they have to to force their offspring back to the Isle of the Lost.

Mal and her friends have made a life, a good life, in Auradon, away from their parents and away from the world they were born into where they were expected to grow up to be just as awful as their parents. I thought the author did a good job of making a point in the story about how changing on the outside doesn’t mean anything if there isn’t a change on the inside.

That was my take away from the book. My daughter simply enjoyed the continued story of the four friends and the familiar Disney references. She saw the blurb for the new book coming out later this month and, as someone who wanted to meet more of the villains on our recent trip to Disney than princesses, she was super excited to see who all would likely make appearances for the third adventure for Mal, Jay, Evie and Carlos. My fingers are crossed that Gaston will sing his song!

Return to the Isle of the Lost picks up seamlessly from the first book. Mal and King Ben are still an item and the mean girls in town are still pretty mean, just not “Lost Isle” mean. The plot isn’t terribly complicated and it wasn’t difficult to figure out the direction the author would take to resolve the conflict. I did like that the gang, especially Mal and Evie, show personal growth in this book.

This is a good book for young readers who enjoy an adventure story that isn’t real heavy. Disney purist might have a problem with some of the license the author takes with the beloved characters but it isn’t anything I felt was unforgivable. Parents who like to read what their kids are reading will find it engaging as well. The dialogue is good, funny at times, and the story moves along smoothly to a satisfying end that should lead well into the next book. An easy recommend.

Stone and Spark by Sibella Giorello

Stone and Spark by Sibella Giorello
Stone and Spark : Book 1 The Raleigh Harmon Mystery Series by Sibella Giorello
Publisher: Running Girl Productions
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: Full Length (276 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

BoM LASR YA copy

During the worst week of her life, Raleigh Harmon discovers her destiny.

Her best friend is a smart-mouthed genius girl named Drew Levinson. But suddenly Drew is gone. Nowhere to be found. Everyone insists Drew ran away. But Raleigh suspects something worse.

Armed with her encyclopedic knowledge of city criminal codes, one rock hammer, and a stubborn streak that’s as wide as the Chesapeake Bay, Raleigh searches for clues.

Did Drew secretly meet somebody?
Did her loony parents finally push her over the edge?
Or is Raleigh’s hunch dead-on: Drew didn’t choose to leave….

The first book in the best-selling Raleigh Harmon mystery series, “Stone and Spark” introduces the girl who will grow up to become a forensic geologist and FBI agent—provided she survives her high school years.

Library Journal hailed this series as a top-ten read with “crisp writing, fast-paced action, and beautiful descriptions….” Don’t miss it.

In a world where her mom is just one step away from a mental ward and high school is as unforgiving as ever, 15 year old Raleigh Harmon depends on the consistency of her best friend, Drew. But Drew’s gone missing and following the clues will set Raleigh on a path that will take her so much farther outside the city limits of Richmond, Virginia than she could ever anticipate. This is the story of how it all began.

The Raleigh Harmon books have been in circulation for nearly a decade and the author, Sibella Giorello, has found a new way to entice readers by taking them back to the beginning. Back to Raleigh’s high school years and to the first time her geological knowledge is truly put to the test. Where failure means losing someone she cares about very deeply.

Told from the first person POV of Raleigh, this book took me back to the frustrating days of being a teenager when it seemed that adults caused just as much aggravation and stress as they accused teens of creating. Ms. Giorello has a very talented voice for putting into words exactly how a teen version of Raleigh would perceive her parents, teachers and other authority figures.

This book made me feel for Raleigh as she sincerely worried about the welfare of her friend. I hated that she had so much outside interference from people who could have made the search easier had they only considered that she might know her friend’s habits and patterns. The good news is she also has a teacher who cares. It was interesting to watch the process they go through to un-earth (no pun intended) the clues and solve the mystery.

Raleigh is very quick witted and doesn’t mind unleashing that wit on her peers or adults who treat her like she’s “naive”. She really hates that word! I enjoyed watching her interaction with her father and learning their story. He’s a pretty amazing man for how he watches out for Raleigh, while dealing with her mother with such care and compassion.

Along the way, and quite unexpectedly for Raleigh, there’s potential for a sweet romance. As someone who prefers romance over straight suspense, that made this clever read that much more enjoyable. I hope I see more of DeMott in the next book.

This book is both entertaining and educational. I liked how the author has Raleigh use what she knows, recall the lessons she’s both learned in school as well as in her father’s courtroom to methodically work through the clues. Drew was very fortunate to have a friend like Raleigh and I’m very glad I chose to read this series. Young readers who enjoy action and heroines who use their brains will surely appreciate these books.

If You Were Me and Lived In…Egypt : A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World by Carole P Roman

If You Were Me and Lived In...Egypt
If You Were Me and Lived In…Egypt : A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World by Carole P Roman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: 36 pages
Age Recommendations: 4+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

Join Carole P. Roman when she visits the stunning and exciting land of Egypt in the newest book of her informative series. Learn why this ancient land often called “the cradle of civilization.” Travel down the Nile to discover Egypt’s fascinating history. See the land through the eyes of a youngster like you and understand what life is like in this exotic place. Don’t forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair world traveler.

Jump aboard a felucca (sailboat) and sail down the Nile as we join these Egyptian children on a tour of their homeland.

Ms. Roman has a very clever way to teach children about life in other cultures without it seeming like study work. In this edition of If You Were Me and Lived In…I was transported to the “cradle of civilization” as well as a walking tour of the Pyramids of Giza.

I really like how the stories are told in a conversational manner but contain key words that children can relate to such as what they would call their parents or grandparents in other cultures.

As with the other books in this series, the illustrations are colorful and richly detailed to catch the reader’s eyes and help with understanding the context of the passage. The children depicted represent the African/Asian heritage of the Egyptian people.

Early readers, as well as experienced young readers, will enjoy this series because it speaks to several learning levels. There are words and places that are generally familiar but also customs that may surprise readers in how close they resemble American customs, such as coloring eggs.

There’s a handy pronunciation guide in the back of each book to review the new words presented throughout the short story.

This is a good series for parents to keep on hand and spend time learning while your child learns. So much of our modern life began in that region of the world, it’s important to understand this very old and influential culture.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Italy: A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World by Carole P Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in...Italy
If You Were Me and Lived in…Italy: A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World by Carole P Roman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: 30 pages
Age Recommendations: 4+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

Join Carole P. Roman as she visits the Republic of Italy. Learn what it is like to live in Rome, see the famous architecture, celebrate a favorite holiday and discover popular names for both boys and girls. Be fascinated with it’s diverse and rich history and colorful traditions. On the way, you might learn a word or two in Italian!

A delightfully illustrated walk through the Italian countryside.

Ms. Roman has created a kid friendly way to introduce children to other lands and cultures. The language is on a comfortable level for early readers without being too juvenile. This would be good books for older siblings to read to their younger counterparts.

I liked how Ms. Roman interspersed bits of the Italian language into words and phrases that would be familiar to most children such as titles for parents and grandparents. Also, she utilizes simple questions along with colorful illustrations to involve the reader in the journey.

In this walk through Italy, the reader is exposed to historical facts, local fare and ways other children spend their free time. Children will be impressed that while they may sound and look different, they really aren’t so different from children in other countries. It might even inspire a child to further their education to learn more of the language or to travel.

The illustrations are nicely done in this story. Real life depictions of the Rome are included along with the drawn figures. The children on the cover represent how the children of that region would look in skin color and clothing.

Parents who have inquisitive children asking questions about other cultures should give this series a try. It’s educational without being overwhelming.

Being a Captain is Hard Work by Carole P Roman

Being a Captain is Hard Work by Carole P Roman
Being a Captain is Hard Work by Carole P Roman
A Captain No Beard Story

Publisher: Red Feather Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: 31 pages
Age Recommendation: 4+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

BoM LASR YA copy

Captain No Beard is determined to travel to Dew Rite Volcano. He won’t listen when Mongo predicts a storm or Linus indicates they are headed in the wrong direction. He insists Polly cook in the galley even though the seas are getting rough. What’s a crew to do with a stubborn, know-it-all captain? Will they convince the captain he is barreling headlong into danger, or will Captain No Beard jeopardize both his safety and the crew’s with his single-minded determination to go where he wants?

It takes more than a captain to make a ship, well…ship shape and sea worthy, especially in the face of brewing storm. In this fast-paced high seas tale, Captain No Beard is working so hard to be sure all the jobs are getting done he misses some vital clues that could derail his trip to Dew Rite Volcano. As first mate Hallie reminds him, he has two ears and one mouth so he can listen twice as much as speaking. Children will quickly become engrossed in the story to see what all can go wrong before the Captain remembers that leading sometimes means following.

My children are all slightly older than the target audience for this one but even they were listening as we read it out loud. The story is easy to follow with some charming characters. The illustrations are brightly colored and eye catching. It would be easy to make this story extra engrossing by adding in wind, rain and thunder sounds as the ship gets tossed to and fro.

There’s a good lesson taught in this exciting tale and it’s put on a level that’s easily understood. It takes each of the individual talents of the crew doing their jobs to make a successful voyage and it takes a Captain willing to listen to his crew. He doesn’t have to know everything. That’s why he hired an experienced crew.

I liked how the crew shows respect to the Captain but also make a point of standing up for what was right. The Captain comes to his senses and they safely arrive at their destination.

The author included a handy and fun guide to the clouds at the end of the story. Kids of all ages often enjoy cloud watching and will enjoy learning the names of the different formations. A good book with a good conclusion.

A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash

A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash
A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash
Cave Kiddos Series
Publisher: Red Feather Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: 14 pages
Age Recommendation: 5+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

Cave Kiddos is a fun book about four Paleolithic children who share the experience of developing and learning important words and concepts. Join Alk, Haha, Lala, and Zee as they discover the world around them.

The best part of being a kid is discovery.

Alk, Haha, Lala and Zee are typical kiddos in that they love to learn. A Sunny Day is well illustrated and an easy read for new readers. It has a simple teaching concept of sounding out words and repetition.

While this book may seem too childish for children who have no trouble reading, it would work well for those who struggle. The children in the story are engaging and there’s no conflict to distract from the base of the story.

A good book for its target audience.

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Reckless by Cornelia Funke
Reckless by Cornelia Funke
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 394 pages
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

Ever since Jacob Reckless was a child, he has been escaping to a hidden world through a portal in his father’s abandoned study. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. He’s also made many enemies and allies—most important, Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting vixen whom Jacob cares for more than he lets on.

But life in this other world is about to change. Tragedy strikes when Jacob’s younger brother, Will, follows him through the portal. Brutally attacked, Will is infected with a curse that is quickly transforming him into a Goyl—a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone.

Jacob is prepared to fight to save his brother, but in a land built on trickery and lies, Jacob will need all the wit, courage, and reckless spirit he can summon to reverse the dark spell—before it’s too late.

How far would Jacob go to save his brother, to get back what once belonged to him alone? Deep underground, into the witch’s forest, back into the lair of the Red Fairy who trapped held him prisoner for more than a year. The price? Everything.

Similar to Alice, Jacob Reckless discovered a whole new world when he walked through the looking glass in his father’s study. This was his escape from reality. From a world where his father disappeared when he and his brother were so young and his mother never recovered from the grief.

Jacob is very aptly surnamed. He is reckless in a lot of ways but for so long it was only his neck on the line when he went off on one of his adventures into Mirrorworld. Then there was the time that his younger brother, Will, followed. It changed everything. Jacob also carries a lot of guilt on his shoulders and his coping mechanism for so long was to simply stay longer and longer periods of time in the land beyond the mirror. It may have felt like he was living one adventure after another but even I could see he was really just hiding.

Mirrorworld is an interesting new world by this very talented international storyteller. The stories that we all grew up hearing as bedtime stories are real beyond the mirror but they didn’t always have a happy ending. Prince Charming didn’t always show up to save the day. Child-eating witches still lived in the forest as well as all sorts of other evil to fuel your nightmares. Ms. Funke has a very vivid imagination.

I understood, for the sake of moving the story along, the story goes from Jacob entering the glass the first time to a more present day, many years and many adventures later where he’s in a race against time to save his brother’s life but, I feel like I missed a whole other book. I met people for the first time that Jacob has known for years. He has a stash of amazing relics that he acquired over time that I would have loved to have been able to witness him retrieving. There’s a war going on that I literally felt dumped into. Ms. Funke does a superb job of creating a feeling of tension and anxiety in the residence of Mirrorworld and the reader. The Goyl are on the move and want to destroy, change or posses those who live above ground. Where Jacob had only had himself and Fox to worry about, he now had responsibility in the form of his infected brother and Clara.

I could imagine Jacob felt very worldly and grown up because of what all he had done and see in Mirrorworld but he never had to truly grow up until he was suddenly faced with the prospect of losing his brother to the Goyl. He had to choose to put himself in the path of danger for someone else as opposed to the times he did it to acquire a new trinket or item for the Empress. Then’s there this whole side story where his father has left his influence all over Mirrorworld but know one knows where he’s gone to. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing him soon.

The story flows pretty fast. I was halfway through the book, and still anxious to see if he’d find the cure for Will, before I knew it. The secondary characters are all vividly depicted. I was intrigued by the relationship, if there was one, between Jacob and Fox. They seemed close but I couldn’t decide if they were best friend close or if it had potential to become more. Fox was a protective vixen shifter but she had the ability to transform back into a human as needed. If it didn’t happen in this book, I was hoping that she would be back with him in the next two books and then, who knows?

Reckless is the first book in the Reckless series with Fearless and The Golden Yarn rounding out the trilogy. If those books are as exciting and tension filled as the first, I know I’ll easily get sucked backed into Mirrorworld as Jacob did the first time he placed his hand on the mirror. I can’t wait to find out.

Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer

Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer
Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Length: Full (322 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

On his own

Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.

Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Frederick there had only been one other murder in twenty years.

The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her friend was the other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers….Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden.

The more they dig, the more it seems the only way they’ll hear the real story is from the source–the killer.

Not the kind of future plan a college recruiter likes to hear. But then, the better it works, the less likely either of them is going to have a future. . .

Family. Can’t live with them. Want to die without them. May get killed trying either way.

As the title alludes to, blood is thicker than water. Blood in this case does represent family but family isn’t always blood related as Thomas is about to find out.

It was a toss up for who managed to find trouble, or have trouble find them, the quickest. If Thomas wasn’t walking into a “wrong place, wrong time” situation then Charlotte was running headlong into dire straights, that usually resulted in Thomas going back to a holding cell. Bless them, it was a total star-crossed-lovers kind of theme, complete with overprotective brothers, and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to shake my head at their antics or just shake them. A little of both maybe.

The author has an excellent voice for bringing the reader right into the room. I could feel Thomas’s angst. Anger. Disappointment in himself. And his determination to find his mother’s killer. I tried to piece the case together and when the characters started describing the first murder, I tried to tie them together. I wanted to help Thomas and I wanted him and Charlotte to have a chance at being together.

I loved the interaction between Charlotte and her friend Nicole. Very typical teen dialogue. I also laughed out loud almost every time Charlotte brought up her grandmother.  My favorite line: “Grandma is knitting or crocheting or sitting around having judgmental thoughts.” Her grandmother really is a piece of work, but I could honestly tell that every member of Charlotte’s family really loves her and worried about the what ifs where she and Thomas were concerned. Having a teen daughter, I couldn’t say I blame them but I was really hoping to see them accept Thomas at some point.

There’s a mild form of paranormal experience in this that I wasn’t sure I understood. I mean, I could see that it impacted the events throughout the book but like Thomas, I kept feeling like I missed something important. As is I go back and read it again, it’ll be more clear. The overall story was really well written. I love the constant tension and attraction between Thomas and Charlotte. I couldn’t wait until their first kiss because the buildup was crazy. I appreciated that the author didn’t include them going too far as it was obvious that Charlotte was very sheltered and underage. Besides the kissing, there’s some heavy petting and innuendo, but not too much.

I really hope the author continues their story. There’s some unfinished business that could cause them all trouble later on and Thomas has some work to do. Plus, this author has experience writing series paranormal books so, I have hope to see Thomas and Charlotte again. Reader’s who want a YA story wrapped in tension and suspense should give Thicker Than Water a try.