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    Best Books Of 2016

The Rampart Guards

From the The Adventures of Jason Lex series , Vol. 1

A delightful novel that delivers a tightly plotted, character-driven story about a hero confronting wondrous creatures.

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This first installment of a projected paranormal fantasy series chronicles the adventures of a 14-year-old boy who, after dealing with the disappearance of his mother, moves to another state.

Shortly after his mother’s blood-stained jacket is found in the mountains of Colorado, Jason Lex’s life is irrevocably changed forever. The sheriff’s office presumes she’s dead, the victim of a mountain lion attack. Then Jason’s shaken father decides to uproot the family and transport himself and his three children to a small town in Idaho. With no friends or family nearby except his Grandma Lena, Jason is shocked when he discovers that the local crazy guy—who is obsessed with filming the sky—turns out to be his mother’s twin brother. The young protagonist finds his life upended yet again when Uncle Alexander shares a bombshell revelation: namely that Jason’s ancestors have been secret guards charged with sustaining an energy field that maintains the balance between humans and cryptids (beasts like Bigfoot and the Chupacabra, whose existences haven’t yet been proved). Could Jason’s mother still be alive?  Soon he is forced to unravel an outlandish mystery involving his mother, his seemingly insane uncle, and a family legacy that involves nothing less than saving the world from cryptids. Terrien’s narrative voice captures Jason’s teen angst perfectly. Insecurities involving forging a self-image and finding one’s place in the world and more serious issues, like losing a parent, are examined with compassion and insight. At one point, Jason muses about suicide: "But is that what kids do when their moms disappear? Or die? Or whatever? Wasn’t it enough to feel like you’re dragging a bag loaded with rocks? Like you’re always fighting to keep from crying?" The cast of authentic and endearing characters is one of the novel’s many strengths, along with the brisk pacing, action-packed narrative, and creation of the fascinating creatures known as Skyfish. The cryptozoological thread, which subtly blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, gives this volume a wonderfully strange undertone. In a subgenre laid low by clichéd characters and conventional storylines, this paranormal fantasy tale is not only wildly entertaining, but also undeniably unique. Both adult and YA audiences should find this book appealing.

A delightful novel that delivers a tightly plotted, character-driven story about a hero confronting wondrous creatures.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9969031-2-7

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Camashea Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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JUPITER STORM

In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

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A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.

Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.

In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943169-32-0

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Plum Street Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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