If you’re looking for a cozy thriller that has a team of young women with Charlie’s Angels vibes, tech that even James Bond would be jealous of, and with just a sprinkling of sweet romance, then “Spies Never Quit” may just be for you. In the first book of the series (each book following a different woman in the group) follows Mari, a brand-new college freshman, as she attempts to rescue her mother. Mari’s mother is a brilliant scientist working on nano-bot technology who has been kidnapped in order to force her to give up her specialized codes for evil gains. Mari would do anything to save her mother, and, lucky for her, retrieving her mother’s work just so happens to be the Banana Girls mission, too. Normally, I am all for a spy thriller with a predominately female cast of characters, but something always felt just a tad off to me throughout the story.
First of all, I cannot recommend the audiobook narrated by the full cast nearly enough. It’s like one of those classic radio dramas and I am here for it! And now, for the book itself. “The Graveyard Book” is, I think, a book meant for children. But it starts with the murder of the main characters entire family when he’s just an infant, but he’s too excited by an open door and an awaiting adventure to notice. He ends up in the local graveyard where the resident ghosts and vampire (though I think it’s wonderful that Gaiman never uses that word, but we all know what he is) decide to protect and raise the child as their own. Each chapter is a little window into a year of Nobody Owens life as he grows and is taught by the different ghosts and the lessons he learns along the way. Because of this format, the adventure eventually ends before everything is wrapped up. Which is by design as we get the story mainly from a child, after all, but it could be a little frustrating at times.
“The Urban Boys” follows five friends in high school who, after one night in a preserve their families have forbidden them from going into, are gifted with heightened senses in order to protect a luminous supernatural race, and by proxy, all of mankind. But for such high stakes, the boys thankfully can save mankind by simply protecting their idyllic town from the evil-doers that have taken over a neighboring town. Stuck in a conflict that has been simmering for twenty years, it’s up to these five friends to keep strong, and save their town when no one else is capable of doing so. This is a story that attempts to cover a lot, especially with such a large cast of characters, and it’s a book I think is far better suited for middle-grade book lovers. If you go into it with that mindset, I think you’ll enjoy the “Urban Boys” a great deal.
“Candlewick 13: Curse of the McRavens” is the whimsical story of Valor McRaven, a Sorcerer in hiding on an island nation full of “normal” witches. These witches despise Sorcerers, mainly due to the fact that the Grim Warlock has placed a spell over the nation to ensure that the Knight of Night can’t undue the dastardly plans that he’s trying to enact. Early in the story, Valor and his entire family are tossed into a sanatorium-like prison, where dark forces are constantly trying to get rid of Valor, all ahead of the unwinnable tournament that Valor has been selected to partake in. With the help of his adopted sister, Doomsy Gloomsy, and a group of misfits, Valor must accept his role as the leader of their coven, and stop the Grim Warlock before he can enact his plan for the terrible Thirteenth Hour. But first, Valor has to survive this tournament. It’s an exciting Middle Grade fantasy adventure for sure, but I struggled with the story.
I honestly didn’t know that Middle Grade science fiction thrillers were a thing until I started “Frozen Secrets”, which follows young Max in a futuristic setting where the nations of the world are colonizing space. Max has a knack for trouble as any burgeoning teenager would, especially as Max really loves adventure and really wants to be a super-spy. He’s often the ring-leader with his friends, getting them to go along with his exploits, because if Max smells something even vaguely like a conspiracy or a new place to explore, this young man is going to insert himself into it, consequences be damned! It’s a very endearing story, and I think MOST actual middle grade readers will enjoy it.
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