Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures (The Talisman Series: Volume 5) by Brett Salter


Date of Publication: February 25th, 2022

Series: The Talisman Series

The Search For Synergy—Book 1 (review here)

Riders of Fire and Ice—Book 2 (review here)

Windy City Ruins—Book 3 (review here)

The Battle for Verdana—Book 4 (review here)

Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures—Book 5

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Looks like our heroes can finally put an end to the nightmare that was Scarabadon, The Juggernaut. And it seems everyone’s favorite Synergist Knight and Master Dragon have fixed their Talisman issue too. Having thwarted every attack The Tyrant King has thrown at them to this point, The Alliance believes that they can endure any challenge as long as they remain together. Now, having the upper hand seems like the perfect opportunity to seek out more allies and even more of the realm’s mystical Talismans. Could this be a “happily ever after” for our ensemble of motley heroes? Or is this peace just a fool’s hope and just as temporary as the changing tides?

First Line:

Mr. Jones smiled widely as he saw his team reappearing before his eyes.

desperate tides, desperate measures by brett salter

Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures has been on my radar for a while (well, ever since December/January). So, when the author emailed me with the request, I jumped on it and planned on reading it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, life happens. I hurt my arm, and then medical stuff started happening with my 8-year-old. So this book, along with many other books, got pushed to the backburner. Instead of reading it in March, as I planned, I ended up reading it the first week of April. But, it didn’t affect how much I enjoyed this book. This book lived up to my internal hype!!

Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures begins almost immediately after the ending of The Battle for Verdana. Julian and Rome have not only performed The Great Synergy (the right way), but they have also brought along Mander, the Fire Elemental who lived in the Fire Talisman. But they don’t have long to rest because there is a villain who wears a familiar face and wants the Water Talisman. Who is the villain? Can they be defeated? Have Rome and company met their match?

Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures is the 5th book in The Talisman Series. Readers cannot read this book as a standalone. I strongly suggest that you read the books in order.

Rome and Julian are still my favorite characters in Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures. They were not afraid to tackle anything and would defend their friends with everything they got. Plus, they were good friends (even if Julian annoyed Rome at times).

The lore that the author has created for this series is impressive. I love that he has taken different myths/legends and incorporated them into the series. It made for some great reading.

I did guess what dragon was going to be introduced in this book, and I was pretty excited to see how the author would portray them. I wasn’t disappointed!! But, what I loved was that the author introduced hybrids. I wondered if hybrids were going to make an appearance and one did in this book. I wonder what other hybrids are out there and how the author will introduce them.

I guessed what was going on with Mr. Rider. I kept saying, “No one’s father is that big of a jerk.” Whelp, when the author dropped his mini bombshell, I said, “I knew it!!” Of course, I felt terrible for Julian and his sister. I also felt that Jericho let Mr. Rider off too quickly.

The introduction of The Elementals was massive. I wasn’t expecting to like them so much. The Water Elemental had me crying with his answer to the Alliance’s question. And the Air Elemental was precisely what I thought it would be like.

The end of Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures was excellent. The author didn’t wrap up the storylines. Instead, he added to them and made me wonder what would happen next.

I would recommend Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures to anyone over 13. There is mild violence, no language, and a clean book.

Blog Tour: The Counterclockwise Heart by Brian Farrey

Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Counterclockwise Heart!!! Pull up a chair and enjoy my review. Also, be on the lookout for any clocks going backward or strange onyx statues mysteriously appearing. There might be something happening!!

Book Cover

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Date of publication: February 1st, 2022

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy, Middle Grade

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .
Time is running out in the empire of Rheinvelt.
The sudden appearance of a strange and frightening statue foretells darkness. The Hierophants—magic users of the highest order—have fled the land. And the shadowy beasts of the nearby Hinterlands are gathering near the borders, preparing for an attack.
Young Prince Alphonsus is sent by his mother, the Empress Sabine, to reassure the people while she works to quell the threat of war. But Alphonsus has other problems on his mind, including a great secret: He has a clock in his chest where his heart should be—and it’s begun to run backward, counting down to his unknown fate.
Searching for answers about the clock, Alphonsus meets Esme, a Hierophant girl who has returned to the empire in search of a sorceress known as the Nachtfrau. When riddles from their shared past threaten the future of the empire, Alphonsus and Esme must learn to trust each other and work together to save it—or see the destruction of everything they both love.

First Line:

The empire of Rheinvelt when the people of Somber End awoke to fine the Onyx Maiden in their tiny village

the counterclockwise heart by brian farrey

When I returned from my hiatus in early 2021, I decided to do blog tours. When Algonquin Young Readers approached me to not only be on the blog tour for The Counterclockwise Heart but to read/review it, I almost turned it down. I didn’t (and still don’t) like being tied down to a specific time to have a review done. But, I decided to accept because I wanted to read the book, and if it meant doing a blog tour, I’d do it. I am glad that I accepted because I enjoyed reading this book so much that I went and bought it for my kids.

The Counterclockwise Heart is the story of Alphonsus, the young Prince of the empire of Rheinvelt. He is sent by his mother, Empress Sabine, to the village of Somber End. In Somber End, there is a giant onyx statue named the Onyx Maiden. There is also a young man, Guntram, who has been talking to the Onyx Maiden daily and is bitter about being replaced by Alphonsus. Things change when the Maiden moves when Alphonsus talks to it, and Guntram’s bitterness spirals into hatred and rage. While that is happening, a young Hierophant named Esme has just arrived in Rheinvelt. The Collective of Hierophants has sent her to find the Nachtfrau, who happens to be Esme’s mother. The Collective expects Esme to do is mind-boggling but what she does when she meets the Nachtfrau surprises her more. What will happen when Esme and Alphonsus meet up? Will Guntram get his way?

The Counterclockwise Heart had a fast-paced plotline, even with the 3 (and sometimes 4) different POVs‘. What surprised me more was that the author could keep the book’s flow going and avoid the lag that could happen. That made for a more enjoyable reading experience for me.

I will log a teeny tiny complaint before I go into the rest of my review. Before I get into it, I want to clarify that this had zero effect on my enjoyment of the book, but it did annoy me. The first line of every chapter was abbreviated (see my first line above). I had to guess who it was and what they were doing. As I said, it was annoying but didn’t affect my reading in any way. It seemed more like a formatting issue than an editing mistake.

The Counterclockwise Heart is rated as a middle-grade fantasy. For the most part, I agree, but I would highly recommend that parents read this book if they are planning on letting younger kids (under 10-11) read it. There are several scenes that I feel would scare the little one.

I did feel bad for Alphonsus, but I liked that he rose over all obstacles thrown in his way. I liked that he was written as your typical tween. He was down to earth, a little sheltered, and one of the sweetest characters that I have met. He was able to see through Guntram’s facade, and he did try to warn his mother/guards of what was going on. His connection with the Maiden was sweet, and I laughed when he was trying to teach her to talk. But it was his immediate connection with Esme that I liked. I also liked that he could absorb everything that life threw at him and seemed to come out the other end relatively unscathed. I mean, his whole world was turned upside down, and he processed everything with an understanding that went beyond his years.

I loved Esme, but I felt that she was a little too over the top with her hatred of the Nachtfrau. It did bother me that she refused to listen to her or let the Nachtfrau explain. But, it was meant to be in the grand scheme of things, whether I like it or not. I enjoyed Esme’s gradual awakening to the fact that maybe not everything The Collective had told her. I felt that it fleshed her character out.

I did find her use of magic fascinating. I also found it one of the better explanations of magic in any of the books I have read. Magic was a give-and-take balance. So if Esme were to cast an earth-based spell, she would be thirsty afterward. Using too much magic could kill a user at the worse or the best, making them very sick. It was fascinating, and I enjoyed reading about Esme using it.

I know that Guntram was the villain, but I couldn’t help feel bad for him at first. I understood why he felt betrayed by the Maiden. He spent ten years pouring his heart out to her, and she moved for Alphonsus. I would have been mad too. But to have his betrayal and anger morph into what it became? At that point, I stopped feeling bad for him and thought that he got what he deserved. The Maiden, later on in the book, put it best.

The secondary characters were just as vivid and fleshed out as the main characters. They made the book easier to read and added more depth to the plotline.

The end of The Counterclockwise Heart broke my heart and uplifted me simultaneously. I can’t get into it (spoilers), but every question asked in the book was answered. Nothing was left unanswered (even if it broke my heart). I hope there will be a second book because I would love to read more about Esme and Alphonsus’s adventures.

I would recommend The Counterclockwise Heart to anyone over 11. I would strongly suggest the parents read this book if they have younger kids reading it. There is violence. It is a clean book.

The Battle For Verdana (The Talisman Series: Book 4) by Brett Salter

Book Cover


Date of publication: July 19th, 2020

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Series: The Talisman Series

The Search for Synergy—Book 1 (review here)

Riders of Fire and Ice—Book 2 (review here)

Windy City Ruins—Book 3 (review here)

The Battle for Verdana—Book 4

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Goodreads Synopsis:

What’s REALLY hiding in the forests of the Pacific Northwest? Could it be The Tyrant King’s army of Darkbrands? Could it be more of Mr. Jones’s liaisons? Or could it be the solution to the problem vexing our favorite heroes? Whatever mystery it is, you can guarantee the boys from Georgia are sure to find themselves deep in the thick of it.

Could it really be possible that Rome found himself stuck in his human form, with his dragonic powers completely stripped of him, and trapped on another arduous airplane flight?

the battle for verdana by brett salter

I couldn’t wait to read The Battle for Verdana. I wasn’t disappointed!! With the way that Windy City Ruins ended, I needed to know what would happen to Rome and Julian.

The Battle For Verdana is the 4th book in The Talisman series. As with the other books in this series, readers cannot read this book as a standalone. It would be best if you read books 1-3 first. I can’t stress this enough. If you do decide to read this book as a standalone, be prepared to be confused. Trust me on this!!

The Battle For Verdana takes place immediately after the ending of Windy City Ruins. Rome, Julian, Jericho, and Clay are traveling to Chicago to meet with Beacon and Mrs. Case. They are looking for another talisman to replace the one that Julian had. While there, they get a clue where another talisman could be….in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Not sure what they will find, the boys set out there. Will they find what they are looking for? Or will the Darkbrands beat them to it?

Rome was still my favorite character, with Julian being a close second. I loved seeing how his character grew throughout the books and how that growth continued in The Battle For Verdana. He went from a hacky-sack-loving typical teenage boy to this young man wise beyond his years.

Julian did annoy me during parts of the book, but I could understand why he was acting the way he acted. Not only was he a teenager, but he wasn’t in control. I wish I could say more, but it would be giving away a considerable part of the plot. I did like how he handled his father (even though the old-fashioned speech did give me a headache). Their interactions pained me and made me laugh.

I liked that Jericho and Clay were a big part of this book. I was still a little iffy about them after Windy City Ruins but got over that. Jericho showed over and over that he was to be trusted. Plus, I liked how he could get rid of Nocturne throughout the book. That was a pretty handy spell to have (even though it did mess with the talisman).

I enjoyed the discovery of the forest dragons towards the middle of the book, and I empathized with them. I understood why Larkspur was so angry (of course, there was a twist to that which made sense afterward), and I also understood why the other dragons were on the fence.

Of course, the end of the book was the best part!! There was a huge battle sequence that the author amazingly wrote. I was holding my breath during several parts of the battle. I did think, at one point, that the Darkbrands would finally beat the group, but that was put to rest when a particular something happened.

I am looking forward to reading book 5 (yes, there will be a book 5). I can’t wait to see if my feelings about Julian’s father are true, what will happen now that “it” happened, and if there are other dragons that the boys will meet.

I would recommend Windy City Ruins to anyone over the age of 13. It is a clean book (no sex, no kissing). There is mild violence and very mild language.

Windy City Ruins (The Talisman Series: Book 3) by Brett Salter

First Line:

Rome could feel his stomach jumping around as the plane touched down at La Guardia airport in New York City.

windy city ruins by brett salter

Windy City Ruins is the 3rd book in The Talisman Series. While the author gives a quick rundown of the previous books at the beginning of this one, I would strongly recommend reading the previous books first.

Windy City Ruins takes place immediately after the events of Riders of Fire and Ice. Rome, Julian, and Mr. Jones are in New York City to meet with Mr. Jones’s mysterious friend, Beacon. Beacon has some intel, but they are not easy to find. Beacon tasks the boys (and Mrs. Case and Mr. Jones) with a riddle and a time to meet them. Their journey takes them to the closed-off torch of The Statue of Liberty and a big surprise. But, Beacon’s identity is the least of their problems. Something dangerous is stalking them, and it will take everyone (Beacon, Camela, Krysta, Mr. Jones, Mrs. Case, and the boys) to face the danger. Will they be able to beat that threat, and what will it cost them??

I was very excited to read Windy City Ruins. Why? Well, I have become invested in the series. I need to know what will happen to Rome, Julian, and their allies/friends. Plus, I find the worldbuilding and lore fascinating in this book. The author mixes different mythologies seamlessly.

Rome and Julian are still learning about their bonding. But, since they didn’t perform the Synergy correctly, they can’t use their bond to their advantage. I found that fascinating. Seeing Camela and Krysta’s bond (as well as the mark that it left on Krysta) made me wonder how the boys would be if/when they bond correctly.

As in the other books, dragons and talismans figure hugely in the plot. Wind dragons and earth dragons are discovered. I will admit that I wasn’t sure about the wind dragons. But as the book went on, they proved just how loyal and brave they were. The earth dragon scared me. Nothing could shake that thing. It was a freaking tank!

I liked that the author gave the Darkfiends more exposure in the book. I play ESO, and while I was reading this book, I was in Blackwood. One boss fight was a minotaur with firepower (it was more of a shaman, but still). That is how I imagined the minotaur from the main battle scene. I called my SO over to show/tell him about the minotaur that came out of the portal and how it looked like the one in my game. He could have cared less….lol.

I was a little irritated with Julian’s father. Especially when certain things came out at the end of the book (with the fight between the boys and Jericho/Clay). I was very frustrated with him. He caused too much harm that has reverberated throughout the book, and I feel that it will continue into the next one.

I was shocked at the events at the end of the book. Mainly by what happened with Nocturne and the boys. I was not expecting what happened to happen. But in a way, I was also happy that it did. It meant that the boys could do things right and hopefully take down the Tyrant King.

I would recommend Windy City Ruins to anyone over the age of 13. It is a clean book (no sex, no kissing). There is mild violence and very mild language.

Riders of Fire and Ice (The Talisman Series: Book 2) by Brett Salter

Book Cover


Date of publication: October 6th, 2017

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal

Series: The Talisman Series

The Search for Synergy—Book 1 (Review here)

Riders of Fire and Ice—Book 2

Windy City Ruins—Book 3

The Battle for Verdana—Book 4

Purchase Links: Amazon |B&N

Format Read: ARC

Received From: Author

Goodreads Synopsis:

Their back! Julian and Rome are taking their show on the road. This time it is to lovely old England in search of Camelot. While there the Knight and Dragon will be trying to solve the mystery of the Talismans, the mystery of their shadowy stalker and the mystery of sibling rivalry. Prepare to meet some new faces and, of course, some new Darkbrands as the two further their adventures across the pond.

Rome hadn’t even set foot on the plane and Julian was already making plenty of complaining comments

Riders of Fire and Ice by Brett Salter

I was pretty psyched to read Riders of Fire and Ice. I had enjoyed The Search for Synergy a lot and couldn’t wait to see what would occur with Rome and Julian in this book. Plus, the author introduced Julian’s younger sister, and I couldn’t wait to see how she was. I wasn’t disappointed at all by anything in this book!!

Riders of Fire and Ice is the second book in The Talisman series. Readers cannot read this book as a standalone. You need to read The Search for Synergy to understand everything that is going on. But, if you are a rebel and decide not to do it, the author did include a short recap of book one at the beginning of this book. But still, read book 1. It is worth it!!

Riders of Fire and Ice was a fast-paced book with a well-written storyline. There was zero lag, which I was surprised by and delighted in.

Rome is one of my favorite characters. He delights in hackeysack and is starting to get interested in girls (the whole I love you line to his crush had me in tears laughing). But, he is also brave and was willing to put his life on the line when he and Julian fought the Minotaur. And his view on Julian’s younger sister, Camela, was spot on.

Julian was my other favorite character in this book. He was focused on looking for portals and battling the Darkfiends that came out of them. He was also brave and delighted in each piece of armor that was revealed to him. I loved his relationship with Camela, though. I have two teenagers, close in age, and they fight similarly to how Camela and Julian did. Talk about true to life.

Again, the fight scenes were terrific. That whole battle with the Minotaur was incredible. I loved how allies were revealed, and I loved who they were. I wasn’t surprised at how came to Julian and Rome’s defense. Some hints were leading up to it that I caught onto. There was a lesser battle with Mr. Jones that was also fantastic. Mainly because it wasn’t about brawn. Instead, Mr. Jones got to show off his abilities.

The end of Riders of Fire and Ice was interesting. I am curious how things will be in book 3 with everything the author revealed about the talismans.

I would recommend Riders of Fire and Ice for anyone over the age of 10 (in the Tween range). There is mild violence.

The Search For Synergy (The Talisman Series: Book 1) by Brett Salter

Book Cover


Date of publication: May 31st, 2017

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Series: The Talisman Series

The Search for Synergy—Book 1

Riders of Ice and Fire—Book 2

Windy City Ruins—Book 3

The Battle For Verdana—Book 4

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Format Read: Published Book

Received From: Author

Goodreads Synopsis:

“The Search For Synergy” is the story of two young men who are brought together by design to help save the world from the evil that lurks in the void. Rome and Julian will have to join their fledgling powers and become a fighting duo as knight and dragon working to fulfill a primordial destiny. This will be especially hard for Rome, who up until now, thought he was merely human.

First Line:

School…yuck! School was not always yuck.

The Search for Synergy by Brett Salter

The Search For Synergy is the first book in The Talisman series. The book does start a little slow, but that only lasts for the first two chapters. Then it takes off and doesn’t slow down until the end. That made the book more enjoyable to read.

I liked Rome. His reactions to everything going on were realistic. He had every right not to believe Julian and Mr. Jones when they explained what was happening to him. Instead, he gave them a chance, and it ended up changing his life. I also loved the way he talked to Julian’s father. I know it was rude, but I was laughing my butt off during those interactions.

I liked Julian and connected with him. He was passionate about what he was training for, and he was willing to face ridicule from Rome to tell him the truth. Plus, the kid was beyond brave.

The fantasy angle of the book was well written. I loved that the author used the King Arthur myth and built a fantastic storyline around it. Plus, he dabbled a bit of Greek mythology in too. It made the book so much enjoyable to read.

The fights scenes in The Search For Synergy were terrific!! I did think it was funny that the first one took place in the school (as did Rome’s first transformation). I cheered (internally) when Julian and Rome sent the Garns back to where they came from. I also loved seeing Rome turn to his more animalistic side during the second fight. He saved Julian’s life.

The end of The Search For Synergy was interesting. I have a few questions that I hope will be answered in the next book. Plus, I can’t wait to see how Julian’s younger sister is (seeing that she will be going with the boys to England).

The Search For Synergy was a great middle-grade read. The characters were fleshed out, and the plotline was terrific.

I would recommend The Search For Synergy to anyone over the age of 13. Younger readers can read it, but I suggest that a parent read with them, as some of the fight scenes can be a little scary. There is mild violence.

Blog Tour: The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Book Cover

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Date of publication: October 1st, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Children’s Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received: Publisher

Trigger Warnings: None

Goodreads Synopsis:

The new face of big evil is a little . . . small.

Dastardly deeds aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one hears the name “Clementine,” but as the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor, twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous has been groomed since birth to be the best (worst?) Evil Overlord she can be. But everything changes the day the Dark Lord Elithor is cursed by a mysterious rival.

Now, Clementine must not only search for a way to break the curse, but also take on the full responsibilities of the Dark Lord. As Clementine forms her first friendships, discovers more about her own magic than she ever dared to explore, and is called upon to break her father’s code of good and evil, she starts to question the very life she’s been fighting for. What if the Dark Lord Clementine doesn’t want to be dark after all?


I am always on the lookout for books that my 13-year-old can read. My son is a voracious reader and will read anything that I give him. So, when I saw The Dark Lord Clementine’s blurb, the book caught my interest. I thought to myself: “My son would like this, but I need to read the book first.” I am glad that I did because The Dark Lord Clementine was a great read!!

The Dark Lord Clementine is a story about a girl named Clementine. She lives in a dilapidated castle with her Dark Lord father. One day, Clementine notices her father is missing his nose. That is when she finds out that the Whittle Witch has cursed him. Clementine takes it upon herself to try and find a cure for the curse. She also tries to assume the Dark Lord duties that her father cannot do. With the Whittle Witch waiting to take over the castle, Clementine is running out of time. Can she save her father?

The plotline for The Dark Lord Clementine was evenly paced. The flow of the book was perfect. It wasn’t too fast or too slow. There was no lag in the book or dropped plotlines either, which I enjoyed.

I loved Clementine. She was a timid little girl at the beginning of the book. But as the book went on, I could see her character growth. By the end of the book, she became this confident young woman. I loved it!!

I did feel bad for Clementine. She didn’t have any friends. Well, human friends. She did have the nightmares and the black sheep for company. But other than that, nothing. She longed for friends, even if she wouldn’t admit it to herself. Hiding in the shadows and watching the villagers play said so much. So, when Sebastian and then Darka befriended her, I was happy. Clementine needed it.

I didn’t care for Darka at the beginning of the book. I wouldn’t say I liked that she befriended Clementine to gain favor and hunt in the woods around the castle. I didn’t particularly appreciate that she was hunting unicorns. But I liked that her story had more depth to it. When it was revealed, I started to pity her. But it was Darka’s actions at the end of the book that made me love her!!!

I loved the humor in the book. The Gricken is the most notable one. When Clementine was younger, she tried to turn a frog into a chicken. Unfortunately (and hilariously), the spell backfired, and she turned her family grimoire into it. If she wants to learn a spell, she has to wait for the Gricken to lay an egg. There is a hilarious scene where Clementine pleads with the Gricken to lay an egg. I laughed so hard; I had tears in my eyes.

The end of The Dark Lord Clementine was perfect. I am not going to get into it because of major spoilers. I will say that what Clementine did was brave. The way the book ended made me wonder if there was going to be a book 2.

Jesse, Jake & The Return of Antheia (Jesse and Jake: Book 2) by Ken John

Jesse, Jake & The Return of Antheia (Jesse & Jake Book 2) by [John, Ken]

4 Stars


Date of publication: August 11th, 2019

Genre: Middle Grade

Series: Jesse Winkler

Jesse & The Thinkers—Book 1 (review here)

Jesse, Jake, & The Return of Antheia—Book 2

Where you can find Jesse, Jake & The Return of Antheia: Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

In this second instalment of the book series, Jake has earned his way onto the title, and rightly so. Jesse and Jake continue on their journey to save Thinkland from Zar’s invasion.

Some may wonder why they have taken it upon themselves to go up against Zar? But if they sit back and watch him invade Thinkland, Earthland will be next.

Will bravery be enough to take on the mighty Zar? Or will they fall deeper into his web?

The plot thickens as we follow Jesse and Jake on their extraordinary journey into the unknown.

First Line:

“My god, Mysterious, what have they done to you?”

Jesse, Jake, & The Return of Antheia by Ken John

My Review:

I was looking forward to reading Jesse, Jake, & The Return of Antheia. I wanted to read more about the adventures of Jake, Jesse, and the friends that they meet along the way. I was not disappointed in this book.

The plotline for Jesse, Jake, & The Return of Antheia was medium paced. There were some sections that I felt could have been trimmed (Zenden’s time with Ajahn is one). But overall, it was well written.

The characters in Jesse, Jake, & The Return of Antheia were well written. I loved seeing Jake get more attention in this book. I felt that Jake got pushed to the background in the first book. So, it was nice to see Jake made a focal point in this book. I got a better feel for his character and the decisions that he made. What I didn’t understand, and hopefully it will be explained in the next book is why Zar was so focused on him.

Speaking of Zar, I was torn about how I felt about him. I went into this book, thinking one thing. But, I came out on the other side, wondering how bad he was. He did make several good points about Thinkland and its issues (the highlanders and the lowlanders). And the way he treated Jake raised all sorts of questions. His interactions with Abyzou was interesting also. Again, it raised more questions than answers and hopefully will be answered in the next book.

There were some adult themes that the author did try to bring to a middle-grade level. Abyzou’s daughter’s death was a huge one. The author did a great job of explaining of how she died. My heart broke for Abyzou. Her world was shattered when her daughter was killed. There is a surprising connection between Abyzou, her daughter, and a friend of Jesse and Jake. I didn’t get it until Jesse relived Huli jing’s worst memory. Then it all made sense to me.

The plotline involving Antheia was woven into the plotline of Jesse and Jake searching for Zar. The author did take me by surprise at who Antheia was. I had a “Wait a minute” moment and had to reread that paragraph.

The end of Jesse, Jake, and the Return of Antheia was exciting. While Antheia’s plotline was ended, the main plotline was not. Instead, more questions were raised. I hope that they will be answered in Book 3!!

I would give Jesse, Jake, & the Return of Antheia a Tween rating. There is no sex. There is no language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 10 read this book.

I would reread Jesse, Jake, & the Return of Antheia. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Jesse & The Thinkers (Jesse & Jake: Book 1) by Ken John

Jesse & The Thinkers (Jesse & Jake Book 1) by [John, Ken]

4 Stars


Date of publication: August 11th, 2019

Genre: Middle Grade

Where you can find Jesse & The Thinkers: Amazon | BookBub

Original Review

Book Synopsis:

Jesse Winkler is one of the few who dare to stand out. A ‘weirdo’, the children at the adventure playground call him, and not because of his red bow tie. Strange things always seem to happen when Jesse is around.

No one can quite figure out what ‘Brave Jake’, who happens to be the most popular kid in the playground, sees in ‘Weirdo Jesse’. But Jake always knew. He could just tell. One person’s weirdo is another person’s hero.

Jesse and Jake’s journey turns into a deadly situation when an enemy from another world unleashes a weapon designed to destroy the minds of The Thinkers and anybody who comes across it. They find themselves caught up in a battle that was not meant for them. Or was it?

Jesse and The Thinkers is an action-packed, compulsively readable adventure story, leaving you emotionally involved in the extraordinary characters we meet along the way.

First Line:

It was the summer holidays in the small town of Langley.

Jesse & The Thinkers by Ken John

My Review:

This type of review is a first for me. I have never, in all of the books that I have read, have done a 2nd review. But, when the author approached me to rereview Jesse & The Thinkers, I figured why not. I am glad that I did because Jesse & The Thinkers was just as good as I remembered.

I enjoyed reading Jesse & The Thinkers as much as I did the first time.
Which I didn’t expect. Jesse and Jake’s adventures in Thinkland was action-packed and engaging. The plotline was medium paced and exciting. That made for an enjoyable read.

I enjoyed reading Jesse & The Thinkers as much as I did the first time, which I didn’t expect. Jesse and Jake’s adventures in Thinkland was action-packed and engaging. The plotline was medium paced and exciting. That made for an enjoyable read.

The characters in Jesse & The Thinkers were well written and fleshed out. What I liked about Jesse and Jake is that they didn’t care what other people thought about them, Jesse especially.

Zar was an enigma. There wasn’t a lot said about him except he was an evil general, intent on taking over planets. His brainwave, which caused fear and mayhem, was interesting too. I can’t wait to see what his character ends up being like in book 2.

The end of Jesse & The Thinkers was exciting. There was no end to the plotlines. Instead, the author ended the book on a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger has me pumped to read book 2. I can’t wait to see what Jesse and Jake run into in that book.

I would give Jesse & The Thinkers a Tween rating. There is no sex. There is no language. There is very mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 10 read this book.

I would reread Jesse & The Thinkers. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Small Spaces (Small Spaces: Book 1) by Katherine Arden

Small Spaces by [Arden, Katherine]

3 Stars

Publisher: Penguin Group, Penguin Young Readers Group, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Date of publication: September 25th, 2018

Genre: Horror, Middle Grade

Series: Small Spaces

Small Spaces—Book 1

Dead Voices—Book 2 (expected publication: August 27th, 2019)

Where you can find Small Spaces: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

Bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

First Line:

October in East Evansburg, and the last warm sun of the year, slanted red through the sugar maples.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

My Review:

When I saw that Katherine Arden wrote Small Spaces, I knew I had to read it. I was a massive fan of the Winternight Trilogy, and I had high expectations of Small Spaces. Unfortunately, it fell short for me.

Ollie is an eleven-year-old who suffered a tragic loss. Refusing to talk about what happened, Ollie shut herself from the world. Her only solace was reading. After defending a new student from bullies, Ollie goes to her secret reading area. There she meets a deranged woman about to throw a book in a stream. Stealing the book, Ollie reads a story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and the smiling man. The next day, Ollie takes a field trip to Smoke Hollow, where she notices something strange about the scarecrows. When the bus breaks down on the way home, Ollie’s teacher goes back to the farm to get help. The bus driver warns Ollie and her friends to start running. Then he says, “Avoid large places, keep to small.” After that, her watch, the last physical thing her mother was wearing the day she died, spells out the word “Run.” That’s when the adventure begins. What will happen to Ollie and her friends? Who is the smiling man? How is he connected to what was happening to Ollie? And what exactly does the bus driver mean?

I thought Small Spaces storyline was fantastic. It was creepy enough for upper elementary/middle school-aged children.

I did like the characters, but I felt that there was not a lot of depth to them. Ollie was the loner with a tragic past, Brian was the jock who had a hidden side to him, and Coco was the new girl who was trying too hard to fit in. The author did try to make them more fleshed out. Brian quoting Alice in Wonderland did surprise me. As did Coco revealing that she used to rock climb before she moved to Evansburg. But other than that, I didn’t get a connection with them.

Revealing Ollie’s tragic past sooner would have been an asset to the book. I did guess at what happened early on in the book, but it took forever for it come out. I wanted to reach into the book and hug her.

I did have an issue with the formatting what reading Small Spaces. I would be reading a paragraph, and then random numbers would appear (example: running in the 1. woods). It made it hard for me to read the book and did take away from my enjoyment of it. It also affected my rating.

I also thought that paranormal/horror angle of the book was almost too understated for me. I am an adult and used to more scares. But, as I said above, this would be a perfect book for middle-grade kids. But for adults, no.

The end of the book left me feeling unfulfilled. While I liked what Ollie did, I was left wanting more. There is a book 2, which I would like to read.

I would give Small Spaces a Tween rating. There is no sex. There is no language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 13 read this book.

I would reread Small Spaces. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**