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The Sphinx’s Secret by Gwenda Bond & Christopher Rowe

Continuing our summer trend of reading books by “friends of the blog” (i.e. authors I have been reading for some time and who I have interacted with as a result of this website), we turn to Gwenda Bond & Christopher Rowe’s middle grade series The Supernormal Sleuthing Service.

I enjoyed The Lost Legacy enough to look forward to reading book #2 and The Sphinx’s Secret did not disappoint.  The focus remains on Stephan and his friends, and how they work together to face the challenge, but this book had a little more tension and action than the first.  Both the introduction of the mysterious wizard and Sphinx kind added another element to the already fun cast of characters.  There was a real sense that something was at risk; which is not something you always get with books in this category.

This is a fun, creative middle grade series with a focus on friendship and solving mysteries.

 

The Lost Legacy (The Supernormal Sleuthing Service #1) by Gwenda Bond & Christpher Rowe

Sooo … long time no blog.  Thanks to Jeff for keeping the place alive in my absence.  I may have finally found my motivation for blogging so here’s hoping May is the start of something.

Friend of the blog (Can I say that? I guess I just did) Gwenda Bond posted on Facebook that the first book in the Supernormal Sleuthing Service Series, The Lost Legacy, is now out in paperback.  Book two, The Sphinx’s Secret, is expected later this month.  This series is co-written by Gwenda and her husband Christopher Rowe.  I figured this would be a good time to offer a review since I failed to do so when I read it last year.

I found The Lost Legacy to be a clever and imaginative start to what should be a fun series. A unique twist on a common plot hook, magical creatures secretly hiding out in the modern world, and a menagerie of interesting characters and personalities. Backstory and mysteries are slowly revealed as the tension picks up. The ending reveals but also sets up future adventures.

Library Journal captures what makes this first book enjoyable:

Character development is quite satisfying, as the children start out whiny and distrustful but become brave and resourceful. The authors artfully meld the supernatural with the modern. In one scene, the children use their cell phone ringers to scare a ghoul. Black-and-white, cartoon-style line drawings by Thomas establish just the right mood for the quirky setting and characterization.

If  you are looking for non-stop movie like action, this is not that kind of book.  Some of the reviews seemed frustrated with the lack of action but I enjoyed the characters and the setting so didn’t mind the pace or t is a fun, lighthearted read and who doesn’t need that these days?  Can’t wait to read the next book.

 

Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond

Photo Source: Berkshire Museum

When I reviewed Gwenda Bond’s first novel, Blackwood, in 2012 I began with my standard “I try to read books written by people I know even we just interact online” spiel. Today, I feel like I know Gwenda a bit better having recently read another of her books (The Woken Gods), have continued to interact with her on social media, and even met her in “real life” at a book reading.

So I was excited when her third book, Girl On A Wire, was announced.  And I was even more excited when it was a Kindle First choice which meant I got to read it on my Kindle a couple of weeks early.

Girl On A WireSixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies.

Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque.

As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall.

And in many ways like Blackwood, I enjoyed it despite not really being in the target audience. Most of my YA reading is from the fantasy adventure world whereas GOAW is a blend of mystery and romance (albeit light).

Gwenda Bond

Gwenda Bond

As is typical of Gwenda, the central character, in this case Jules, is once again the strength of the story.  Gwenda really takes you inside the circus world and inside a particular family from that world, the Maroni’s.  Jules unique perspective (how she sees the world, how she views herself and her family, what she likes and dislikes, her style and personality, what and who she wants to be, etc.) shine and make for a strong character. A girl with ambition and verve but also with doubts and struggles as she seeks to navigate relationships and challenges.

The circus and its history is also a character of sorts. The entertainers and their suspicions, superstitions, habits, culture and traditions provide a great backdrop for a classic tale of family rivalries, forbidden love, revenge and the threat of violence that can lurk behind them.

I also really enjoyed the hint of the supernatural that is an undercurrent in the story. Gwenda lets the characters tell the story and we see the talismans and events of the past through their eyes. Is there magic involved, dark magic, or is it simply someone out for revenge using magic as a cover?  Does the coin have real power or is it the owner’s fierce belief in the luck that powers events?  These questions never really are definitively answered but rather lurk in the background as the events play out.

The budding romance between Jules and Remy (AKA Romeo and Juliet for those who might have missed the allusion) is well done. Again, I am not a romance reader but I appreciated the way that element was handled. It was not overdone or overly sentimental. The emotions and perspectives surrounding the relationship seemed authentic and natural; and kind of sweet at times.

If there is a weakness it is that the farther you move away from Jules the less defined and filled in the characters become.  Jules and her family are well done and developed as is the relationship with Remy. The secondary characters are less well-developed and so pack less punch when they are brought into a scene.

But all in all, it was a well done and enjoyable story with a unique setting and background. The mystery builds its tension nicely and there are a couple of plot twists to add excitement.  Jules is a strong female protagonist with personality and character. And the circus is a unique enough setting to make it that much more enjoyable.

If you enjoy YA literature and are looking for a fun, unique and well done female lead character definitely check out Girl On A Wire.

Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond

Photo Source: Berkshire Museum

When I reviewed Gwenda Bond’s first novel, Blackwood, in 2012 I began with my standard “I try to read books written by people I know even we just interact online” spiel. Today, I feel like I know Gwenda a bit better having recently read another of her books (The Woken Gods), have continued to interact with her on social media, and even met her in “real life” at a book reading.

So I was excited when her third book, Girl On A Wire, was announced.  And I was even more excited when it was a Kindle First choice which meant I got to read it on my Kindle a couple of weeks early.

Girl On A WireSixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies.

Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque.

As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall.

And in many ways like Blackwood, I enjoyed it despite not really being in the target audience. Most of my YA reading is from the fantasy adventure world whereas GOAW is a blend of mystery and romance (albeit light).

Gwenda Bond

Gwenda Bond

As is typical of Gwenda, the central character, in this case Jules, is once again the strength of the story.  Gwenda really takes you inside the circus world and inside a particular family from that world, the Maroni’s.  Jules unique perspective (how she sees the world, how she views herself and her family, what she likes and dislikes, her style and personality, what and who she wants to be, etc.) shine and make for a strong character. A girl with ambition and verve but also with doubts and struggles as she seeks to navigate relationships and challenges.

The circus and its history is also a character of sorts. The entertainers and their suspicions, superstitions, habits, culture and traditions provide a great backdrop for a classic tale of family rivalries, forbidden love, revenge and the threat of violence that can lurk behind them.

I also really enjoyed the hint of the supernatural that is an undercurrent in the story. Gwenda lets the characters tell the story and we see the talismans and events of the past through their eyes. Is there magic involved, dark magic, or is it simply someone out for revenge using magic as a cover?  Does the coin have real power or is it the owner’s fierce belief in the luck that powers events?  These questions never really are definitively answered but rather lurk in the background as the events play out.

The budding romance between Jules and Remy (AKA Romeo and Juliet for those who might have missed the allusion) is well done. Again, I am not a romance reader but I appreciated the way that element was handled. It was not overdone or overly sentimental. The emotions and perspectives surrounding the relationship seemed authentic and natural; and kind of sweet at times.

If there is a weakness it is that the farther you move away from Jules the less defined and filled in the characters become.  Jules and her family are well done and developed as is the relationship with Remy. The secondary characters are less well-developed and so pack less punch when they are brought into a scene.

But all in all, it was a well done and enjoyable story with a unique setting and background. The mystery builds its tension nicely and there are a couple of plot twists to add excitement.  Jules is a strong female protagonist with personality and character. And the circus is a unique enough setting to make it that much more enjoyable.

If you enjoy YA literature and are looking for a fun, unique and well done female lead character definitely check out Girl On A Wire.

The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond

You know me, I like mythology and interesting characters so I was excited check out The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond. Add in the fact that I “know” the author from blogging, twitter, etc. made it a must read.

Synopsis:

Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke around the world.

This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school.

Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., home to the embassies of divine pantheons and the mysterious Society of the Sun. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way back from school, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn’t what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne “Oz” Spencer, an intriguing Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous relic. The Society needs it, and they don’t care that she knows nothing about her father’s secrets.

Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz–whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn’t? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it.

And I have to say it was a fun read. The mythology aspect turns out to be an interesting backdrop to the story. I wish the gods had played a more prominent role but the story is really focused on the lead character and how she maneuvers through this complex world of gods, family and friends. A nice blend of action, relationships and suspense; with a dash of humor too.

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