Cover Image: Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter

Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter

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Member Reviews

Lola Benko does not believe that her father was killed, and she is determined to find him no matter the cost. In order to search for him, she needs funds. When her illegal measures to get money land her at a private school rather than jail, she meets Jin, who is willing to help her in exchange for her help with a STEM project. Lola is bright, courageous, and quite inventive. Mystery, danger, family, and friendship in a fun adventure.
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When reading the description for this book I was expecting something along the lines of Indiana Jones trying to find the ancient relic by going to the ruins and following the clues to the ultimate discovery.  What I got instead was a “how to” guide on breaking and entering, theft, and a self centered character who was very hard to like. I got to within 50 pages of the ending and just couldn’t seem to care if she rescued her father or not.  I will not be reading the sequel or recommending this to readers.
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As the daughter of world-renowned archeologist and treasure hunter, Professor Lawrence Benko, twelve-year-old Lola Benko has become accustomed to a life filled with adventure and unpredictability. From Estonia to Bucharest, from Prague to Mali, Lola has learned to live life out of a suitcase and expect the unexpected as she moves from one country and one school to the next. So, when Professor Benko is called away suddenly on a ‘stupendous’ and ‘extraordinary’ expedition to Budapest, the details of which he can’t disclose, Lola doesn’t think anything of it, and is even eager to spend time in San Fransisco with her Great-Aunt Irma and Irma’s companion, a grey parrot named Zeus, while her father is away. But when news of Professor Benko’s sudden death in a flash flood is related to Lola and Irma by agents employed by the United States State Department, Lola refuses to believe it. (“I informed them they were dead wrong about my dad being, well, dead. If some tragedy befell him, I’d feel it. And I didn’t feel anything but hungry.”) Even more unbelievable and suspicious are the agent’s enquiries about Professor’s Benko’s missing expedition notebooks and their insistence he was searching for the magic Stone of Istenanya when he died. After all, the Stone is nothing more than a fictional invention, a part of a fairytale Lola’s mother used to tell her. At least, that’s what Lola’s always been told. Now it’s up to Lola, and a couple of newfound friends, to uncover the truth about her father’s disappearance and the mysterious Stone before it’s too late.

While Lola’s description of her jet-setting adventures prior to the events of the novel sound exciting, the one thing she truly longs for is the stability her unpredictable life has always lacked. Lola dreams of a room of her own with bookshelves she can fill, a birthday cake with candles she can blow out, and friends to celebrate it all with. The latter is particularly important to Lola, and has always felt the most unattainable. After all, as Lola puts it, “Who wants to be BFFs with a girl who is just going to up and leave?” Moving to San Fransisco and eventually attending the prestigious Redwood Academy allows Lola her first glimpse of normalcy, filled with STEM fair inventions, homework, and the friends she has always hoped for. This change in circumstances is anything but smooth sailing for Lola, however, as she learns she no longer has the freedom she previously enjoyed, a particularly difficult truth as Lola must balance schoolwork and the supervision and expectations of others with her continuing question to find her father. Lola is impulsive and reckless, but this is largely because she’s also loyal and brave, and willing to go to any length to help those she cares about.

Ji Wu-Rossi, who is Lola’s new friend and who the reader grows to know almost as well as Lola, is also dealing with the complexities and nuances of friendship. At the beginning of the novel, we learn that Jin’s childhood friend, Paul, has recently moved away, leaving Jin with a “best-friend-sized hole” in his life. While Jin mourns the loss of his former best friend and clearly thinks highly of Paul, the glimpses the reader is given of Jin’s dynamic with Paul make it clear this was in no way a healthy or positive relationship. Among other things, Jin reveals to Lola that “Paul used to say I trusted too much in feelings and that was bad”, “Paul always tells me my ideas are stupid.” and that “Paul yelled at me all the time”. Lola is quick to pick up on the toxicity of their relationship and the insecurities that Jin struggles with as a result, and is careful not to replicate Paul’s behaviour and is actively supportive of Jin’s ideas and the things he’s passionate about. After all, as Lola observes silently to herself, “aren’t best friends supposed to make you feel good about yourself?” It was touching to watch as two people reluctant to make friends – either for fear of rejection, judgement or the unknown – find unconditional acceptance and support in one another.

The first book in a new middle grade series, Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter lays a solid foundation for further books to come, establishing its cast of characters with clarity and giving readers an understanding of what they can expect from future instalments. The novel’s intriguing blend of mystery and adventure is sure to capture the imagination of young readers who enjoy puzzle-solving and stories of derring-do as Lola tries her hand at pilfering, escapes a sailing ship, and explores mysterious underground tunnels, each with varying degrees of success. McMullen’s unique twist on Hungarian mythology also adds a little bit of magic to a story otherwise rooted in realistic, contemporary issues faced by middle grade readers today. I don’t know what’s next in store for Lola Benko, though I would love to see the series deconstruct colonialism, which is unavoidably inherent in the practice of ‘treasure hunting’ and, in doing so, educate the next generation about the dangers of and harm caused by cultural appropriation and exploitation. There’s a great deal of potential to be found in Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter, and I would certainly be interested in tagging along with Lola, Jin and the rest of the gang on their next adventure.
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Lola Benko has always traveled the world with her archaeologist father, but one day he sends her to stay with her great-aunt in San Francisco, rather than go with him on a dangerous trip. Soon after that, she gets the news that he has disappeared and is presumed dead. Lola is certain that her father is still alive, so she takes over the investigation that he was doing. Along with her new friends from school, she looks for the mythical stone that her father was searching for when he went missing.

This was a fun adventure story. Lola took a lot of risks. In order to start her investigation of her father’s disappearance, she needed money, so she decided to steal expensive pieces of art to sell for millions of dollars. This was a risky thing to do, and it didn’t work out for her. Even though Lola did some bad things with good intentions, she was very smart. She entered a STEM competition with her friends. She also invented many devices. She was a smart girl who took a lot of risks.

I found the twists predictable and not surprising. I’ve read many similar adventure books, so that may be why I could figure it out. This story also has the stereotypical absent parents. Lola’s great-aunt wasn’t very hands-on because she had agoraphobia, so she never left the house. However, she didn’t seem as concerned about Lola’s whereabouts by the end of the story. I would have liked her great-aunt to be more consistent throughout the story. I enjoyed the adventure that Lola went on, though the twists weren’t surprising.

This is a fun middle grade story!

Thank you Simon and Schuster for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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If you put a book in my hands that is both Middle Grade and an adventure, you can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to be a good fit for me. As a middle grade reader, and even now, getting lost in a good adventure story is one of my favorite things. I love daring escapes, treasure hunts, and mission fraught with peril. In fact, who doesn’t love those things? It’s such a great way to spend a few hundred pages. This is why Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter caught my eye.

Now, the beginning of this book was spot on for me. I loved the idea of Lola traversing the world with her father, and building her whirlygigs as a means of distraction when they were stuck in one place too long. It seemed like her and her father had a wonderful relationship, and I loved that. I hoped to watch them go off on an adventure together, but then I remembered that the blurb told me he’d disappear. Alas. Still, I was excited to see what Lola, with her fierce personality, got up to once she was on her own. I wasn’t prepared for this girl.

Unfortunately, this is where the book and I had a little bit of a rough patch. Although I still loved Lola’s fierceness, when she left her father and started her new life it was tough to handle her. Although I know that most characters at this age would also be single minded and self centered about the things that they did, especially when it came to their family members, Lola’s callousness towards others dug a little deep for me. As I kept reading, and she started to grow a bit, I understood her better. In fact, I’m glad that she had her friends to keep her grounded. I’m not sure we would have been able to reconcile otherwise.

Once I was back on board with Lola’s antics, things did pick up, and the adventure that I was waiting for began. It takes about half the book for things to really get going, but it is actually worth the wait. My only concern was that, as an older reader, I can handle a slow start with no issue. As a middle grade reader, I might have struggled a little bit. Still, this is the first book in a series and the ending leads me to believe that there are lots of good things in store! So that makes me a very happy reader.

Long, rambling review in summary? Essentially this book sets up a new adventure series quite well! Although it was a little slow to start, the last half of the book flew by. Now that we have a glimpse into Lola’s life, and her brilliance, I’m ready to see what happens next.
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Review goes up on my blog 8-25 on as part of the tour.

This was a fun middle grade adventure story and although I enjoyed it I just didn't think it was adventurous enough for me.

Lola has travelled all over the world with her treasure hunting father. She has been to all sorts of schools and doesn't have any friends because she is never in one place long enough. Then her father all of a sudden tells her she is going to go and live with her great Aunt in California because he has something he needs to do that is to dangerous for her to tag along.

Not long after she is with her Aunt than two mysterious agents show up telling them that her father has died. Lola doesn't believe it so she decides she is going to try and figure out a way to prove her father is alive. The only thing is that it's expensive to travel so she has several mishaps with the law trying to find her father that lands her in Redwood her latest school. It's her last attempt to lead a normal life instead of ending up in jail.

While there she meets Jin who is all about winning the STEM competition against his nemesis Hannah who ends up blackmailing her way into their adventure when Lola tells Jin about not believing her father is dead. Then when the Lipstick lady shows up giving her a bit of a hint about things it sends them on a short lived adventure.

So lets talk about the characters. Maybe Lola will grow on me a bit more in the second book should I read it but she was a bit self absorbed and I didn't like the fact that she was basically a buddy criminal mastermind in the making and didn't see how what she was doing was damaging. Jin was fun but he had a hard time getting his head out of the I need to win the STEM contest so I can go to NASA mode to be very helpful. Hannah I think I liked her most of all the characters because I think she was just a bit misunderstood. She came from a bit more of a lower income family so being in Redwood and winning the STEM competition was something I think her mother wanted more than her but she nevertheless was very smart with electronics.

I thought I was going to be in for a fun adventure story where kids were going treasure hunting (see book title) but there really wasn't must adventure until you reach about 60% into the book. I am not going to stay it was all dull up until then but just not very adventurous as I was hoping it would be. Now with some things resolved in this book maybe the next one will be more adventurous (at least I assume there will be another one because of how it ended) and I really hope so as I would like to continue with the series but only time will tell how I feel by the time it comes out.

Despite all that I didn't hate the book I thought it was a decent middle grade book (though didn't like the criminal things the MC did) and I think that younger readers might enjoy it.
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This was a total thrill ride where Lola Benko (and friends!) go from above average prep school attendees to a temporary life of crime all in the name of family...well, and STEM glory. Think along the lines of Indiana Jones, if he was a she and in middle school...with a bit of the danger ala a slightly milder version of Tomb Raider's Laura Croft.  So a word (or two), SO GOOD!

Lola and her dad have a unique relationship.  He loves her to pieces, dragging her round the world on many a treasure hunt just to have her near, while she sees new places, experiences new cultures, and learns mostly from the world...because it's awfully hard to put down roots enough to attend a regular school, and have regular school friends, and a regular routine.  I mean, who wants regular though, right?  Well, about's not that Lola doesn't enjoy the unusual lessons and freedom afforded her, but a dose of regular sounds like just what the doctor ordered, but only if dear old Dad comes with.  Being shipped off to her Aunt's house in San Fran by herself is SO not what she wanted, and yet...that's exactly what's happening.  

According to Dad, it's the safest option...or at least that's what he let's slip.  But safe why, from what or whom, and how is it okay for him out there by himself...are just a few of the questions that remain unanswered, percolating in her mind...and with some unfortunate sudden news, it doesn't look like any answers will be forthcoming.  Good thing Lola knows her Dad better than the suspicious agents (really...Star, and Fish?  Nothing fishy about that!) that deliver same said bad news.  Good thing Lola never heard a NO worth accepting.  Good thing the unexpected friends she may have inadvertently made in her news prison...I mean, school...are truer than she could have hoped for and willing to go to the ends of the earth all in the name of friendship...and science. 

The story was great, as was the adventure, and the danger!  Lola is one fearless young lady, except when it comes to furry four-legged rodents that pretty much no one likes to be around...especially in large numbers...not that that happens here for anything!  *gulp*  She's in this game to win it...though I'm sure she REALLY wished it WAS in fact a game because becoming an art thief, or wildlife kidnapper aren't really high on most kid's to-do lists, but the experiences land her where she didn't even know she needed to be to form the relationships she longed for with those she never expected to need (and vice versa!).  Watching her explain away the decimated cast from her first venture gone wrong was giggle worthy, but the second time was definitely worth at least a guffaw!  Her unwitting sidekicks and potential wielders of a magical artifact that does not in fact exist (or does it?) keep things rolling with their espionage, second guessing, and knack for uncovering things just when they need uncovering.  I admit, for those paying attention and putting the pieces together, it's not a stretch to figure out what's what, what's where, and just how things slipped around the way they do, but exactly HOW they do and with whom are kept pretty well mum, adding greater depth to the mystery portion of the book...though that SHADOW persona was a bit on the tricky side!

All in all, a great kick off to a series I know I'll be keeping my eye on and I'm pretty sure many of you will be too!  So add this little beaut to your upcoming must-read-list for an adventure filled with danger, friendship, and heart that you won't want to put down!
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4.5 Stars

Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter is such an enjoyable read. Beth McMullen’s characters, especially Lola, are well-developed and a joy to follow. Their capers are just the right mix of danger, adventure, mystery and humor.

What I appreciated the most, though, was McMullen’s ability to make something that should be implausible seem perfectly normal. Even as an adult, I didn’t question the plot, I just ran with it. It was a blast.

I wish Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter had been released a few weeks ago. With school starting up, there will be less time for “fun” reading, and that’s a shame. This book is just the escape readers have been looking for.

On the other hand, it’s a good option for any “free reading” teachers may offer/require, and it also would make a great birthday, holiday or just because gift.

This is the first book in a planned series, and I can’t wait to read more of Lola’s adventures.
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A fun adventurous read!  Lola is a spunky character who is used to doing things on her own  but slowly realizes that help (and friends) can be, well... helpful.  The book definitely went in directions I wasn't expecting and adding a hint of magic into it gave it an Indiana Jones feel.  I think this will be enjoyed by many readers and I would recommend it.
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I feel bad, but I honestly kind of hated <em>Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter</em> by Beth McMullen. The book, as a whole, held so much promise and delivered on exactly none of it. If you’re looking for an adventure-filled, Indiana Jones-esque tale about a young girl raised as an explorer/treasure hunter as she goes on an exciting and dangerous journey to find her missing father...this is not the book you want to read. And that fact alone is what truly killed any possibility of me enjoying this novel. It does not for one second live up to the promise made by its cover and synopsis. If I could describe this book in one word that word would be disappointing.

<b>Lola Benko, Annoying Brat</b>

Honestly, the worst part about this book is that Lola is an incredibly self-important snot.

She is completely dismissing of any adult input--all of the adults in this novel are also inept, which only makes it worse--and throws herself into ridiculous situations every time you turn the page. With the fact that McMullen is clearly trying to keep this story somewhat realistic, Lola's journey to find her missing father feels useless which only results in making the end feel very contrived.

There's very little to endear me to Lola as she comes off as an inept and narcissistic pre-teen who is convinced that she is the only competent person alive. This is kind of hilarious, too, since she is utterly inept at nearly everything she does. She reads like a girl playing at hero despite having none of the skills to actually do so. Thus, Lola ends up throwing herself and her "friends" into ever-increasingly dangerous situations that <em>none</em> of them are truly prepared to deal with.

I'll give McMullen credit here with the fact that she occasionally takes advantage of how useless Lola is and has her fail on numerous occasions, so at least Lola is realistic. That said, everything she succeeds at has more to do with luck than anything else thanks to the girl's lack of skills in a number of areas. I never really got the sense that Lola was smart, but rather that she had one moderate tinkering skill and just spent the rest of the book floundering and stumbling upon success at random intervals.

This, of course, led to some serious deus ex machina.

<b>Making friends.</b>

So, all of the kids in this story are kind of dumb. They're incredibly inept, making their attempt at an Indiana Jones -esque adventure really difficult to appreciate. Also, with the exception of perhaps Jin, none of the characters are really all that likable?

Lola is by far the worst. She only cares about finding her father, will use anyone she can to achieve this goal, is deeply inconsiderate and downright rude in nearly all of her thoughts, and doesn't ever actually do anything useful. She repeatedly stumbles across just what she needs simply by chance every time. And being inside her head for the entire book was honestly agony.

Jin, while not terrible, is hyper-focused on winning a competition and beating his arch-nemesis, a girl who is the only one he thinks might have a chance of beating him. This is practically his only motivation. His previous friend was kind of a bully, so he regularly repeats that he doesn't want to ever have an actual friend. And then he "befriends" Lola with the sole intent to use her tinkering skills to help him beat Hannah in the competition.

Hannah is just plain mean. Even when they become "friends" with her after she blackmails them, she continues to act awful. Part of me wants to feel bad because of the fact that she has to struggle through life, relying only on her academic accomplishments to further her position, but I just couldn't find much to like about her at all.

<b>Lola's dad...</b>

So, it's no wonder, really, that Lola is so inept. She clearly gets it from her father. Despite the fact that he's only in the book for a short period of time, it quickly becomes clear that Lola is able to accomplish more than he is. Granted, this is largely due to her luck and a ridiculous bit of magic that comes in out of nowhere--I guess sticking to that realistic thing made building an interesting story too difficult--but considering everything that happens I genuinely do have to wonder how he got himself kidnapped in the first place.

And then, despite the fact that he sent Lola to a relative when he began his treasure hunt for her safety, he is somehow perfectly happy to let her risk herself to save him and this stupid magic stone everyone is after. Way to be a responsible adult here.

<b>The villain is a joke.</b>

I know it's common in children's books and films for the villain to be ridiculous. I forgive it in a lot of instances. This one, though, blew the ineptness and ridiculousness of every villain I'd ever heard of and even the other characters in this novel completely out of the water. I honestly cannot with how much this antagonist was just a useless and stupid character. It was so bad I cringed every time they came back onto the page.

Also, the nickname, Lola. <em>Really?</em>

<b>So...did I like anything?</b>

Honestly, no. I mean, the cover is cool. And despite my <em>hating</em> Lola entirely, she looks awesome on it. I think my biggest problems with this book really come down to setting, though. Honestly, had Lola just somehow managed to sneak onto a plane and fly out to whatever place her father had last been seen and, I dunno, accidentally hijacked a few kids to help her along the way...a lot could have been <em>better</em>. I don't think I'd feel like she was incredibly inept had that been the case. Instead of everything falling into her lap, she would have had to actually<em> do something</em> to find her father.

I probably still would have disliked her, but I at least could have respected her.

As the book stands now, I hated everyone and no one really did <em>anything</em>.

I will say this much, though. I think there will be a lot of kids who love it. It's not written <em>terribly</em> and my complaints have more to do with convenient and unrealistic plot resolutions and awful characters than anything else. These aren't things that I think a lot of young readers are going to care about, much less recognize. By all accounts, your kid might <em>love</em> this book. I can probably think of students I know who would love this book.

If they grow up reading like I did, they'll recognize a lot of flaws in it later. But, at least there's a nostalgia factor with books like that.


Yeah, sure. It's not bad for the age it's written.

<em>I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.</em>

Review will go live on the Reader Fox blog and Goodreads on August 31, 2020.
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A fun and exciting book with a good mystery and characters. The plot moved along well and kept the reader engaged.
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