I enjoyed Spirit's Key. While I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. It is one of those books that sucks you in due to the mystery,...more3.5 stars
I enjoyed Spirit's Key. While I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. It is one of those books that sucks you in due to the mystery, which is incredibly well done. The hints are given out slowly and just enough to keep you engaged and waiting for the next tidbit. I was also pleased that I was only able to half figure out what was going on. The book left a lot of unanswered questions in my head as well. I was never able to fully suspend my disbelief enough to completely buy into the fantasy element. This seems to be a problem just I have. Most others seem to be dealing with it just fine. It is a good book and a wonderful recommendation to give to kids who love fantasies and animals. (less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this, and it had nothing to do with the mystery, which was rather predictable, or the execution of the plot, which is sometimes m...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this, and it had nothing to do with the mystery, which was rather predictable, or the execution of the plot, which is sometimes muddled. No. All my enjoyment of this is wrapped up in the characters, who I love. I have often said, I can forgive you a lot in plotting and setting, if you give me characters to love. Flavia is just such a terrific heroine. Precocious, a genius even, she is still very much her age. While she sometimes runs circles around all the grown ups in her life, she is still vulnerable and overlooks the things a child would easily overlook. I just loved everything about her, her manipulativeness, her snark, her fierce need for vengeance, and calm execution of revenge. She's a little sociopath, but a lovable one.
I liked this scene from when she found the almost-dead body: I wish I could say my heart was stricken, but it wasn't. I wish I could say my instinct was to run away, but that would not be true. Instead, I watched in awe, savoring every detail: the fluttering fingers, the almost imperceptible bronze metallic cloudiness that appeared on the skin, as if, before my very eyes, it were breathed upon by death. Then the utter stillness. I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.
And boy does she embrace it. I just love that about her. She attacks life with such vigor and has an insatiable curiosity and is completely unapologetic for who she is.
I was me. I was Flavia. And I loved myself, even if no one else did.
I am looking forward to reading the other books in this series as well. (less)
Knightley & Son by Rohan Gavin is a perfect read for budding mystery enthusiasts who may not be quite ready for Sherlock Holmes. I was drawn to this book not only because of the mystery, but also because of the father/son dynamic that the synopsis promised.
This is a review of an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
Darkus and Alan both bear a strong resemblance to iconic detective Sherlock Holmes. Darkus is socially awkward, but mature and super polite. Both he and his father have a strong observation skills, and Darkus is particularly good at deducing through rational thought. Alan is a bit off his game having been asleep for four years. This gives Darkus an advantage over his father making him the hero. Kids love it when this device is used in their books, and Gavin does a good job with it. At the same time Darkus and his father have a continuously developing relationship that is interesting in itself. Alan was an absent workaholic prior to falling into his long sleep, and he firmly believes that keeping his distance from his son is the best thing for him. In the years his father has been asleep, Darkus decided to become as much like him as possible in order to impress him when he woke up. Alan is impressed, but also chagrined, chastened, and a bit incredulous. Alan is not at all a likeable character. At one point he even says, "She was distracting, Doc. As female counterparts often are." This is an attitude that shines through his entire life, including his dealings with his ex-wife. Darkus fortunately doesn't seem swallow his father's anti-women in the business sentiments. The girl in question here is Darkus's stepsister, Tilly, who is a marvelous character. She needed to be in the book more, and will hopefully be featured more prominently as the series continues.
The mystery is a fun one featuring a mysterious book that is causing people to commit heinous crimes. Alan believes a sinister organization is behind it all. As the case continues, it becomes clear that something with a lot of muscle and little conscience is behind it all. It is one of those mysteries that is a race agains time. It is an engaging read. I know several of my students will be highly interested in it.
One thing I really liked was that the Britishisms were not Americanized. THANK YOU!
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Bloomsbury USA Children's, at ALA Midwinter. Knightley & Son is available for purchase now. (less)
To be fair if younger me had read this, it may have blown my mind. Older me has too much experience with psychological thrillers and genre tropes of s...moreTo be fair if younger me had read this, it may have blown my mind. Older me has too much experience with psychological thrillers and genre tropes of such so I had the entire thing figured out by the end of the first chapter. ENTIRELY. Even the author's attempts at misdirection didn't shake my confidence that I was right. And I was. I do think that this is a failure on the part of the writer to craft his story with the proper amount of suspense. Also, I don't like be bashed over the head with symbolism. I don't enjoy it when writers condescend to their readers as though they are not smart enough to grasp thematic elements and symbolism without the author's help. So that annoyed me too. The plot is certainly full of intrigue, paced well, and has many edge-of-your-seat moments. This is clearly Dekker's strength as a writer, though I was rolling my eyes at how safe and sanitized it all was.
I may have been able to give this three stars if I hadn't been so enraged by the last couple of pages and the character of Jennifer. I could not believe the choices she was making and where Dekker implied all of that was going. Talk about having a female character who exists only in relation to what she can do for the male lead. (less)
I am not a fan of The Series of Unfortunate Events so this was not the right book for me from the start. I just don't like the style of them. I know I...moreI am not a fan of The Series of Unfortunate Events so this was not the right book for me from the start. I just don't like the style of them. I know I'm in the minority here and I can't even tell you WHAT it is about it that bothers me so much. I just know it does. (less)
Any time I find a fantasy that does something new and different I am excited. When the new and different is also done well and...moreOriginally posted here.
Any time I find a fantasy that does something new and different I am excited. When the new and different is also done well and is an engrossing read, it is even better. I found such a book with The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. I am the first to say that this won't be a read everyone will enjoy, but I sure did.
Chalk drawings: who would have thought they could be used in such a way? In The Rithmatist Sanderson has created a world in which chalk drawings can be brought to life and used for nefarious purposes. Like eating a person until all that is left is a mangled messy corpse. A concept like that could have turned quickly into the ridiculous, but Sanderson's writing keeps that from happening. This book is a page turner filled with mystery, intrigue, and a quest to find a killer whose weapon is CHALK. (I'm still not over the creativity of that.) There is a definite creepy element to the chalklings, but the true horror in this book comes from the feelings of fear and panic the people trapped by them experience. Sanderson brings his characters to vivid life and describes what they are going through in a way that the reader feels s they do.
I adored Joel. He is focused, brave, intelligent, and a complete nerd. He loves Rithmatics and dedicates all of his free time to studying theories and defense moves. He is not a Rithmatist himself, but longs to be one. Unfortunately he was not chosen so must watch the Rithmatists from a distance and help in any way he can. Fortunately, a Rithmatic professor at his school takes an interest in him and brings him on as a research assistant in the case he is investigating. During this time Joel befriends Melody, a Rhithmatist who needs remedial attention. Her chalkings have amazing abilities, but her defense circles are weak. Together these two make a fantastic team. They are brilliant foils for each other and their friendship developed in exactly the perfect way. Melody is a bit odd and her favorite chalklings to draw are unicorns. I loved that about her.
The chalk drawing involves a lot of math and theory and Sanderson goes into a lot of detail about this, which is why this may not be the best book to hand just any reader. But for readers who enjoy puzzles and strategy games, it is a perfect fit. I was riveted from beginning to end and can not wait to read the next book in the series. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Rose by Holly Webb is a book I may have missed out on entirely if it had not been nominated...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Rose by Holly Webb is a book I may have missed out on entirely if it had not been nominated for the Cybils and that would have been tragic. This book has so many elements I love to find in a fantasy story and Webb brings them all together so well.
Rose is wonderful. I love how simple and practical she is. All she wants is to earn a decent living and be proud of the work she does to earn it. When she begins to show signs that she has the ability to do magic, she wants no part of it. She just wants to be a regular girl. She is a courageous and righteous though, and when children begin disappearing and she is required to use her magic to solve the mystery she jumps at the chance. Rose has an equally wonderful supporting cast backing her up, from the rest of the household servants to her master's snooty apprentice and spoiled brat daughter. She even has the help of a magical cat named Gus, who is one of the best talking animal characters ever. I am impressed by how well Webb drew all these characters. I felt like each had a distinct personality and I really knew them. It is not easy to do that in the space of a short book with such a full plot, but she did it.
The story is delightful in every way. Taking place in an alternate Victorian England, the book includes the orphan with special abilities, a magical mystery, and a truly awful villain. I enjoyed that Rose was not plucked from the orphanage because of her magic. I like that she was chosen because her "special" talent was hard work. Lucky for her she ended up in the household of the King's most trusted alchemist so she is able to learn about her powers more. The villain's goal is not a surprising one, but the methods employed to achieve it are not for the easily sickened or grossed out. I enjoyed the real sense of danger this added to the story. It kept it from being too sweet, and made the stakes higher.
This is not a long book and the language is such that readers at the younger end of the MG audience will enjoy it, and it works well for older readers too. It certainly worked perfectly for this one. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
When I read Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, I went in expecting not to like it due to...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
When I read Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, I went in expecting not to like it due to my overwhelming dislike for quirky southern books, particularly ones that take place in the state I've lived the most years of my life. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and it overcame almost all my qualms. It was with no hesitation at all that I picked up a copy of the follow up, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, at ALA Midwinter. It has all the charm of the first book and does it all even better.
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing has so many aspects I look for in a good story: mystery, an old house to explore, old secrets, family history, friendship, and strong characters. Mo's voice, already the greatest strength of Three Times Lucky, is even stronger and more assured in this book, as though Turngage grew completely comfortable with her character and let her take completely over as she was writing. I appreciate how true to their age Mo, Dale, and all their classmates are. I recognize the kids I know in them. I further appreciate the friendship between Mo and Dale and how solid it is. As they are dealing with the fall out of the events in the last book, particularly Dale's father being in jail, this is brought out fully. Mo and her big mouth make all sorts of mistakes, but Dale forgives her (eventually). Mo is learning too, which is always a wonderful aspect of characterization to see. She actually realizes when she has gone too far sometimes, and even manages to hold herself back at points. The kids relationships with the adults in the community are highlighted well too. They are working on a history project where they have to interview an older member of the community and this brings in history, but also demonstrates the importance of these generational relationships and knowing your own story. I like how Mo firmly feels a part of this community and family created around her. She still writes to her upstream mother, and she still has moments she wonders about where she comes from, but mostly she is living where she is. Harm is a new student and character introduced in this book. I throughly enjoyed the addition he made to the Mo/Dale dynamic, how he changed it. It was an interesting look at how jumping to conclusions about a person is an injustice, and how friendships can grow and change to incorporate new people and relationship dynamics.
The mystery aspect of this story fascinated more in than in the last too. As a kid, I loved stories that explored the past of a certain place and how it connected with current characters lives. I still love those stories as an adult, and this one is executed well. It focuses mostly on the kids and their immediate problems, and the mystery itself focuses on children. The ghost is the same age as the characters making it infinitely interesting to readers. As an adult reader, I would not have minded if the ghosts in the title had been completely metaphorical, but I know my students would not agree. If they are promised a ghost, they want a ghost. And Turnage delivers a wonderful ghost, complete with chilling disembodied laughter, freezing spells, flickering lights, slamming doors, and visions of scenes past. Yet the story isn't creepy so even sensitive readers can enjoy it. It is full of humor and the charm that is Mo herself. The imagery is perfect. Descriptions are short and snappy yet full of wonderful similes that readers will understand, be able to picture perfectly, and find amusing. The writing is jus top notch.
I can't wait to book talk it. I have so many pages marked with passages that I love and that will be sure to capture interest.
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Kathy Dawson Books, at ALA Midwinter. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing will be in stores on February 4th.(less)
I was a huge fan of The Screaming Staircase when it came out last year and couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel, The Whispering Skull. Stroud b...moreI was a huge fan of The Screaming Staircase when it came out last year and couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel, The Whispering Skull. Stroud brings his talent for eerie creepiness, mystery, and snarky humor to this latest edition and it is so much fun.
In the six months since the first novel ended, Lockwood, George, and Lucy have made good on the reputation they established in the first book. They have been busy banishing ghouls and continuing to build their business. The plot of The Whispering Skull begins with a bet with their rival team at the Fittes Agency and springboards them into an even more intense and circuitous mystery than their last. There is a mysterious artifact that has disappeared into the London underworld that kills those who look at it, and it seems to have a startlingly hypnotic effect on George. The criminals who want the artifact are also killing for it, and the mysterious skull in the jar has finally decided to start talking to Lucy once again, its interest awakened by the mystery it knows too many details of. The mystery here was rather easy for me to solve, as with the first, but also like the first that was okay with me because it is all about the journey the characters take to get at the answer. The setting of this book is expanded as the team goes out across the city of London. There is quite a lot of adventure, danger, fighting, and narrow escapes as Anthony, Lucy, and George strive to solve the mystery before the evil object takes another life and it's one of their own.
I enjoyed the way the characters grew and expanded in this book. After his performance in the first book, I was particularly happy to see Anthony falter a couple of times in this one. He made some mistakes and his thinking was wrong and off the mark on a couple of occasions. I was worried after the first book Stroud may turn him into one of those characters never allowed to fail, but he fills him in a little more in this book. Secrets Lockwood wants to bury come to light in this book too which I think is probably the set-up for the next book. It's fascinating and how it's revealed shows a lot about the growth of his character and his changing relationship with Lucy and George. George was given more of a role in this book too, a chance to be more than just a stock character to foil Lockwood and Lucy. Lucy's talent is growing and becoming something more and she has many mixed feelings about this. Her character, despite being the narrator, was the one I felt grew and filled out the least. I'm hoping that will change with the next book.
What makes this slightly better than the first book is the sly humor that is woven in it to it. I think it is so much more amusing and that the comic is there as relief against the drama in a much better way here.
Anyone who enjoyed the first book is sure to enjoy this one as well. I'm pretty invested in all theses characters now and am in this series until the end for sure.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Disney Hyperion, via NetGalley. The Whispering Skull has a release date of September 16th. (less)
Originally poste here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey has been on my TBR since it came out. Sadly...moreOriginally poste here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey has been on my TBR since it came out. Sadly, other things keep coming up. When its sequel, The Magician's Tower, was nominated for the Cybils I decided to go ahead and give it a try anyway. At least I would know if it could stand on its own. It can and it is such a fun story I am now looking forward to reading its predecessor even more. (Come January.)
I adore a good fun mystery, and that is what The Magician's Tower is first and foremost. It is also an adventure full of riddles and, of course, a fantasy. All things prepared to make me have quite a bit of fun with a book. And did I ever have fun reading this one. The competition is set up in an interesting manner and watching as Oona attempts the feats and tries to solve more than one mystery at the same time is thrilling.
Oona is a wonderful main character. She is persistent, brave, clever, and also possessing of a remarkable amount of common sense. And when her common sense fails her she has a talking pet raven to remind her when its gone missing. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between these two characters. Oona's rival in the competition, Isadora, is a bit over the top, but that is what makes her character fun and a perfect foil. She was frightfully annoying, as she is intended to be. Oona's cursh on Adler is sweet and perfectly described for the intended age group. I quite liked the villain as well, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was not able to figure every piece of this mystery out before the reveal.
I enjoyed the mixture of genres and am delighted to have found another book and series I know I can get my students, many of whom also love both these things, interested in. (less)
Kate Milford is one of my favorite authors, and I don't think her books get the attention and love they so deserve. She writes unique stories with such care and attention to detail. Greenglass House is different from her previous two novels in setting and plot, but no less excellent in its execution, unique voice, and brilliant storytelling.
Greenglass House has so many elements I love: an old house that needs exploring, guests trapped in an Inn with a mystery happening, intrepid children who embrace their imaginations and save the day. And it's Christmas. What more could you ask for? I can not stress enough how much this book seems just tailor made for me. Every single aspect of it is one that I love and Milford's writing is so clever here. The book has a rather nostalgic feel to it, but not in an old tired way, rather the same way the Penderwick books feel nostalgic to adult readers but kids still love them. I think Greenglass House will have a similar effect on both groups of readers. Milford builds her mystery slowly. In the tradition of all the great mystery writers she introduces each player one at a time giving the reader a glimpse at who they are and setting them in their places on the chess board of her story. The house itself even feels like a character as Milo shows each guest to the room they will occupying as they are all snowed in the week before Christmas. Not everyone is who they claim to be, none of them are honest about why they are there, and one of them is actually dangerous. All are connected through the house in some way and it is the house that has brought them all together. When Milo finds a strange map and then it is taken from him, he and Meddy team up to try and uncover the mysteries which are numerous and are leading them to uncovering buried truths of the past. This requires exploring the house, questioning the guests, and in a stroke of brilliance on Milo's part, having them each tell a story to entertain the others at night as they are trapped by the snow. These stories help Milo and Meddie piece together the mystery and reveal fascinating details about everyone's past. I enjoyed how this showed the interconnectedness of everyone and forged a community amongst the guest that would never have come about without it. The stories in themselves are fun too.
Milo is the central character and,while all the characters are drawn well, he is the one that connects everyone and pulls everything together. He is a typical kid looking forward to a few days of peace to begin his winter vacation. The Inn doesn't normally have guests before Christmas. He even does all of his homework on the first afternoon so it will be out of the way. When the guests begin to arrive, he is less than pleased. While he does what his parents require of him, it is with enough reluctance and temper that it strikes the perfect chord for a child his age. Milo is of Chinese descent and is adopted. This is another thing about his character that is really well done. He loves his parents, but he wonders about his birth parents too. He sometimes goes as fas as imagining he was still with his birth parents in a family that looks like him. At other times he even imagines what his life would be like if someone else had adopted him. He feels so conflicted and guilty about these fantasies. I really loved how Milford used this to make him relatable and also into something more than a cliche' of a character. Milo's struggles with adoption are real but not dramatic or a huge issue. In order to solve the mystery Milo and Meddy adopt role-playing characters and this too was a lot of fun. Milo is skeptical at first but soon embraces the idea that he can imagine himself to be whoever he wants with the skills necessary to do what must be done. He is surprised to find he is actually able to take on his character so well. Meddy is more shy and withdrawn, always hiding from the other occupants and only talking to Milo. She is his silent shadow and her role is to observe and collect information, which she does very well. They are a great team and wonderful foils for each other as they work to uncover the mystery.
Milford has combined the best elements of mystery, history, folklore, and reality to weave a wonderful tale that is both thoughtful and adventurous. The action is not page-turning exciting, but the way Milford writes kept me hooked and wondering what would happen next. The language and imagery is so well done, and this book would make a great read aloud, particularly during the month leading up to Christmas. I plan on rereading it myself during that time. Greenglass House has shades of both Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens, but is wholly its own story and told in such a way that it will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Clarion Books, at ALA Midwinter. Greenglass House is for sale on August 26. (less)
I really enjoyed this book at first. It is a classic who-done-it mystery in which there are multiple suspects and no real clear evidence. Yet the bodi...moreI really enjoyed this book at first. It is a classic who-done-it mystery in which there are multiple suspects and no real clear evidence. Yet the bodies keep piling up. I loved the portrayal of small British village life. I was thoroughly enjoying the character of Richard Jury and thinking this would be a book (and series) I could really get into do despite the sometimes overwrought use of figurative language. (Seriously, the similes in this are way over the top.)
There is insta-love. The hero takes one look at a girl and decides he is madly in love with her. Never mind that she can actually be considered a suspect. Never mind that she is known to be close to two other people who are also suspects. No. He is in love. And why? I couldn't really tell since the girl hadn't spoken a word when he decided this, but it is implied she in some way reminded him of a former lover. Nice. Jury immediately gets all grumbly and jealous over her interactions with other men. My liking for his character dwindled fast. The overwrought similes in the writing became more annoying when tied up with this, and the last half of the book left a bad taste in my mouth as a result. Sigh. I so wanted to like this one. (less)
A fun good old fashioned mystery. Some of the attempts at humor fall a little flat and the dialogue is a tad awkward in places, but I enjoyed the char...moreA fun good old fashioned mystery. Some of the attempts at humor fall a little flat and the dialogue is a tad awkward in places, but I enjoyed the characters and story. I will certainly read the next one in the series. (less)
I have a lot of friends who love this series so I feel really bad that I didn't like this book at all, so bad I thought, "I could give it two stars. I...moreI have a lot of friends who love this series so I feel really bad that I didn't like this book at all, so bad I thought, "I could give it two stars. It wasn't that badly written." Yet one star means didn't like it and I didn't like. I have reasons:
1. Totally called it. I knew who the murderer was from the first scene that person was in and figured out the motive shortly after. Now that in and of itself is not enough to turn me off a book. If I believe the amount of time it takes the characters to figure it out makes sense, I'm good. And with Julia it did. There is no reason any of that should have been on her radar. I'm less impressed that Nicholas didn't even seem to flirt with the notion. He has seen more of the world and had more experience. Really, the thought should have crossed his mind. Which leads me to...
2. Nicholas is fairly useless as a character. He is supposed to be this great agent. He makes his living off of investigating things. He does absolutely no investigating in this book. All the important clues are stumbled on by Julia. He contributes an arsenic test and a few field trips to question some people-to no avail I might add. Most of the time he is "indisposed" or "out of town". What he does contribute is a perfect brooding stare, snarly dialogue directed toward Julia, and some obligatory I'm-too-sexy-for-my-shirt scenes. None of which endeared him to me. Also he's there to save Julia in the end when she needs him, which of course she does because...
3. Julia is not exactly possessed with an overabundance of critical thinking skills. Au contraire. The book kept telling me she was smart. All the people who knew her kept stating it. I kept waiting for evidence of it to show up. Example: She finds a crucial clue to the case in her own private study, in her own private book. She has a couple of days to ruminate on this before showing it to Nicholas. She is utterly shocked when he presents the notion that this means the murderer is most likely someone in her own household. She had days to think it over. This is only one example, there were other times I was blinking at Julia's inability for deep and nuanced thinking. But she must be intelligent because the author kept insisting on it. After all she had a great education because...
4. Julia's family believes in fully educating women. Is this a bad thing? No. They are also completely okay with people having same sex lovers, performing merciful abortions, and are loving and helpful to gypsies. They are open minded and accepting of all the things. Now if this were a contemporary series all this together would not be a problem but...THIS IS VICTORIAN ENGLAND. I will say the context in which these are included is believable for the time period. If ONE of them had been present, I would not have been skeptical. But all of them together? No. This is a 21st century family living in Victorian times.
5. Finally: Nicholas's big "secret". I really hated this element. Why? What on earth was the purpose of this really? It seemed it was just a convenient way to have him out of commission for half the novel and then able to rescue Julia in the end. Also so he could angst and have reason to talk himself away from Julia. Lame.
Needless to say I will not be reading any more of these. They are clearly not meant for me.(less)
This is a fun mystery that involves old family secrets and following clues to hidden treasure. It is one of those books that I think will be an easy s...moreThis is a fun mystery that involves old family secrets and following clues to hidden treasure. It is one of those books that I think will be an easy sell to kids, but not necessarily one all kids will stick with to the end. I did like the way the mystery unfolded, and it had a lot of humor in it. There is a villain and some mild danger, so nothing too scary. It could easily by enjoyed by more advanced younger readers as well. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I love mysteries, particularly ones that appear to add in a touch of the fantastic, so I was...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I love mysteries, particularly ones that appear to add in a touch of the fantastic, so I was excited to read North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler, which I received an e-galley for.
Mia is a girl that will have a wide appeal to child readers as well. Kessler made her sound like a 12 year old. The book is written more like how a 12 year old would write a story than what a 12 year old girl's thoughts would look like. It is simple, not layered thinking, and there are lots of exclamation points! Again, not particularly my cup of tea, but kids will like it.
Definitely pick this one for kids in your life who love mysteries mixed with fantasy. I will be suggesting it to Bit, it's a book that will be just her thing.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Candlewick, via NetGalley. North of Nowhere is available for purchase on August 6.(less)
I usually enjoy Erin Dionne's books more than I did this one. I think my disappointment was magnified because I had my hopes rather high for this one...moreI usually enjoy Erin Dionne's books more than I did this one. I think my disappointment was magnified because I had my hopes rather high for this one and was mostly unimpressed. I can see kids loving it though. It has that sort of kid adventure movie feel to it. Kids versus the mobsters, and the kids actually have a chance of winning. The danger never materializes quite like it would in reality. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I could have liked Moxie herself, but I was rolling my eyes by the end of the first chapter. I'm so tired of main characters who are supposed to be unique and special because they like older music and buy vintage clothes. This is so overused that there is nothing unique or special about these characters. It feels like slapping a vintage t-shirt on a character and giving her a playlist her parents would have listened to are acceptable replacements for actual character development. I do like that she was a Math lover though. (less)
Last year I read the first book in Mindee Arnett's Arkwell Academy series, The Nightmare Affair, and I fell in love with the fun premise and combinati...moreLast year I read the first book in Mindee Arnett's Arkwell Academy series, The Nightmare Affair, and I fell in love with the fun premise and combination of mystery and fantasy. I was so excited to read the second volume, The Nightmare Dilemma, and I wasn't disappointed. These books are so much fun.
(This is a review of an ARC received from publisher in exchange for a fair review.)
The story opens with Dusty being called to dream feed on a fellow student who has been gravely injured. While breaking the Will was the right thing for Dusty to do at the time, it has created a chaotic atmosphere at the school and in the wider magical world. Kinds are attacking each other and violence abounds. Dusty and Eli are asked to use their dream sessions to figure out who is behind this violent attack. The mystery in this novel is not about figuring out who is behind the attacks, but figuring out what is going wrong in Dusty and Eli's sessions and why Dusty is having a recurring dream herself about a mysterious plinth with a word she feels compelled to discover. There's a lot going on in the story as Dusty and Eli's evolving (or not as evolving as she would like) relationship is a major issue as well. Despite the number of pieces in the story, Arnett fit them together well and perfectly. I never felt that it was too much or that anything was left undone. The villains in the piece are not surprising, but they are not intended to be either. This is a mystery of how/why, not who, and there are some surprises regarding Dusty and Eli's dream seer relationship that are surprising. The entire book is a page turner, and every page is a joy to read. I simply adore the combination of mystery and fantasy that Arnett has in these books.
The characters are another aspect that will keep returning to this series. Dusty continues to be impulsive, rash, and heedless of danger though she is working on all three of these. Her intelligence and bravery shine through as well. Eli is a perfect foil for her in every way, and I adore the way they balance each other and work together as a team. Also Eli is just a pretty amazing guy. The further development of Selene, Lance, and Paul worked really well in this story too and I also liked how the adults were shown to have more sided and nuances.
The romance is something else that makes these fun. Dusty and Eli are more than just a great dream seer/crime fighting team. They have great chemistry too. The interaction between them is far more angsty in this book than the first though. For a long time their relationship remains undefined and that is frustrating to Dusty (and me!), but soon a secret is revealed that shakes the whole thing up. I sort of could have done with out that. It ratchets the angst factor through the ceiling and I have a feeling will be the central focus of at least the next book, if not more. I can see the point behind it though, and am interested to see where Arnett takes it. I will go along with her for the ride, but honestly I wouldn't mind if these books were just Dusty and Eli solving crimes and occasionally making out in their free time. But I am not a member of the target audience either. I think they will eat this up.
I am definitely in this series for the duration. I'm already eagerly awaiting the third installment.
I received an ARC via the publisher, Tor Teen. The Nightmare Dilemma is available for purchase on March 4. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Looking for an adrenaline pumping edge of your seat read? Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner is...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Looking for an adrenaline pumping edge of your seat read? Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner is just the book.
Wake Up Missing is a mind bending twisty ride full of adventure and intrigue. Messner sets the tone perfectly from the beginning. There is a sense that nothing is quite right or as it seems. The reader is kept off balance from chapter one, which fits with Cat's difficulty in keeping hers. The clues are revealed slowly, and just when you think you know what's going on there is a shift. The twisty plot comes with boat chases through swamps, conspiracies, fears of who to trust, quick risky escapes, and some rather seedy bad guys of more than one variety. Messner maintains a real sense of danger for the kids, while keeping it from being too terrifying at the same time. I also appreciate Messner's willingness to show the messy outcomes inevitable in such a plot.
The kids are typical 12 year olds. Some of the things they choose to do (searching offices, sneaking around, taking a kayak out on the swamp in an attempt to escape) are not the best plans, but perfectly in tune with a middle school mentality. They all have different personalities and issues, but have to work together. Cat is telling the story, but all of them are key members of the team. It was interesting to see how each of them reacted to what they discover, and how they chose to deal with it.
Wake Up Missing had my heart pounding in many places and I was frantically flipping pages to see what was going to happen next. My kids were forced to wait for their dinner. I can see this having the same spell binding effect on the kids who read it. Messner is one of my daughter's favorite authors and I know she's going to be thrilled by this one. (She has to wait for the actual copy to come as I wouldn't let her run off with my Nook.)
I read an e-galley received from the publisher, Bloomsbury Walker, made available via NetGalley. Wake Up Missing is available for purchase September 10. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Earlier this year I read Robin Benway's Audrey Wait! and enjoyed it. When my library got cop...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Earlier this year I read Robin Benway's Audrey Wait! and enjoyed it. When my library got copies of her latest novel, Also Known As, I snapped one right up. It was a cute, fun story of a teenage spy, mystery, and first love.
Following the action of this book requires a large suspension of disbelief, but that is obvious from the first reading of the synopsis. I was willing to suspend and enjoy. I did think Maggie's parents and their willingness to expose their daughter to their dangerous lifestyle, no matter how altruistic, was not the best parenting choice possible. However, Maggie herself is a delightful main character. Confident and knowledgeable of the world, high school is not that much of a hard change for her. She has studied enough to know how to roll with it and to take it all in stride. Her transition may have been a little too easy, but I rather liked this element as she is one who has had to learn to blend her entire life. I also liked her willingness to befriend Roux and actually be a true friend to her. Roux is another wonderful character, full of snark and bitterness, she has a softer side to her too. Jesse and Maggie have great chemistry and I adored their banter. In fact, I was thinking of giving up on this one simply because I was in a weird mood while reading it, but then I hit their first conversation and it turned everything right around. I also enjoyed how round of a character Jesse is. Maggie and Jesse do seem to trip into "love" awfully fast, but it isn't without getting to know each other first and they are teenagers. (Many teens do seem to fall in love awfully fast. Or at least think they do.)
The action in the story is interesting, though I didn't think the big mystery was all that hard to figure out. I had fun watching Maggie get there and the stress over having to target Jesse added to the tension. There are wonderful scenes between the two of them of the romantic sort, but there are also chase scenes, intense moments of safe cracking, and a helicopter. Fun all the way to the end.
When I picked this up, I didn't realize it was the first in the series, but am delighted to discover it is. The sequel, Going Rogue, will be released in January. (less)
Doll Bones is a new Middle Grade title from the talented Holly Black. It is, thus far, my favorite MG read of the year. It is a genre busting title that covers horror, suspense, mystery, and the supernatural. Or it could be a plain old contemporary realistic novel. It is all in how you look it at.
Doll Bones follows three twelve year olds who have been friends for years.
Zach: He is a talented basketball player and has recently attracted the interest of the cool kids and girls in his middle school. He doesn't want anyone to discover he still plays with action figures with his two friends who are girls, but he also loves it and doesn't want to give it up.
Alice: She is a drama girl who loves theater and acting and uses it to escape from her domineering grandmother, who is her guardian. She uses the game with her friends for the same thing and has created ever more dangerous and reckless characters who take the risks she is afraid to take herself.
Poppy: She is the youngest of a group of delinquent siblings. Her house is always a mess and her parents have quit trying to maintain order. It is her house the other two come to for their game, and it is Polly who is the diabolical thinker who comes up with all of the games danger and adventure. It is why she often plays the part of villain.
The game is complex. These kids created an epic imaginary world culled from tales and myths they read. Into it they placed characters who have real lives and histories. Over this world rules the Queen in her glass tower, an antique china doll belonging to Poppy's mom and locked in a cabinet to keeep her safe. They are invested in their game and everything it entails. Until one day Zach tells the girls he doesn't want to play anymore. Then one night the girls show up and tell him a horrifying story. Poppy released the Queen from the tower hoping she could convince Zach to keep playing. Now she is having dreams about a girl who was murdered. A girl whose bones were ground up and made into a china doll. She is demanding a proper burial in the cemetery in her home town. And she wants Poppy, Zach, and Alice to take her there.
All three characters are vivid, layered, and interesting. The story is told in third person from Zach's perspective so it is his thoughts and struggles the reader is most connected to. However, the girls' struggles are also depicted through Zach's interactions with and musings on them, even if he doesn't understand all of what he is seeing. The struggle here between childhood and emerging adolescence is rendered so well. It is happening gradually, yet faster than any of them would like, particularly Poppy who feels like she is being left behind by the other two. There is the struggle to hold on to the things that are most familiar as everything seems to be changing too fast. Yet there is an excitement and anticipation about the changes as well, at least in Zach and Alice. This is a story any middle school kid will find themselves in, they all have this same struggle.
Then there is the creepy horror part of the story. And creepy it is. Is Poppy messing with the other two? Spinning a yard to keep them playing the game, keep them attached to her? Or is the Queen really the ghost of murdered girl named Eleanor who is forcing the three to do her bidding by scaring the pants off of them? Black laid out her plot perfectly, setting down each event to keep the reader wondering, asking. Everything that happens to the kids can be logically explained, and Zach and Alice do logically explain it all. And yet...the creepiness is there.
The writing here is phenomenal. The pacing keeps the reader engaged from start to finish. The phrasing is engaging and simple, but layered with meaning at the same time. The kids are equal parts relateable and unlikable. They are so real. The theme of growing up, changing, moving on, learning to adapt are woven into the story so perfectly that anyone who is or has experienced adolescence will get the character's struggles. At the same time it also funny. When you add in the sense of mystery, intrigue, and horror, you have a book that is impossible to put down until you have reached the last page.
Some of my favorite quotes: Sometimes it seemed to him that girls spoke a different language, but he couldn't figure out when they'd learned it. He was pretty sure that they used to all speak the same language a year ago.
In stories, orphan boys became assistant pig keepers and magician's apprentices. In real life, he wasn't sure there were many equivalent jobs.
He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.
Also, it wasn't like they were walking through the awesome vistas of Middle Earth- a forest full of Ents or elves, a mountain pass brimming with orcs and ice-they were mostly walking past industrial buildings and a bowling alley.
It's not fair. We had a story, and our story was important. And I hate that both of you can just walk away and take part of my story with you and not even care. I hate that you can do what you're supposed to do and I can't. I hate that you're going to leave me behind. I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying. It feels like each of you is being possessed and I'm next. (less)
For a book where serial killings are a major part of the plot this was kind of boring. Yovanaff is one of those writers really good at conveying mood...moreFor a book where serial killings are a major part of the plot this was kind of boring. Yovanaff is one of those writers really good at conveying mood and doing atmosphere and setting, but those are elements I don't care so much about personally. The plot was slow and the most of the book has a bleak and empty feel to it. The characters were hard for me to access and get to know. I think the writing is decent and those who like this sort of book will eat it up. It just wasn't for me. (less)
This is a fun MG mystery. Fast paced from the beginning, Kittscher has woven together a tale of intrigue and danger where the kids get to save the day...moreThis is a fun MG mystery. Fast paced from the beginning, Kittscher has woven together a tale of intrigue and danger where the kids get to save the day. It is one of those books that MG readers who like mysteries will love. The mom-reader in my was side-eyeing it through a good deal though because I don't like it when kids take risks I can realistically see my own thinking would be awesome. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I'm going to admit it. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Bartimaeus books. I didn't actually f...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I'm going to admit it. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Bartimaeus books. I didn't actually finish the series. I hated it because I wanted to love them. So it was with a little trepidation that I requested a galley of the first book in Jonathan Stroud's newest series entitled Lockwood & Co. This time, I'm pleased to say, I wasn't at all disappointed and loved everything about The Screaming Staircase.
The book is told from the perspective of Lucy, a brave bold girl whose particular talent lies in hearing and feeling ghosts. After a tragic incident at her former job she sets off to find a new one. Lucy is a wonderful vehicle for the story as she is the newest employee of Lockwood & Co. and she has a greater sense of what the supernatural forces they face are feeling because of her talent. She is often impatient and doesn't always think her actions through all the way. Lockwood is the brilliant young leader of the band. His wit and charm tend to pull people toward him, Lucy included. She joins his agency despite the lack of adult supervisors and buys into his belief that they can and will be the best there is. This doesn't mean she can't see his faults though. Lockwood is brilliant, snarky, a great strategist, and a massive risk taker. There is something a bit Sherlockian about him. I loved him beyond all measure. There is also a mystery surrounding him involving a locked room in his house and the truth behind his dead parents. Other characters hint at things that just make you want to know as much as possible. Seeing him through Lucy's eyes makes him even more enigmatic, causing the reader to be drawn in by the force of his personality as much as Lucy and George are. George is the third member of the team. He is the cautious one. He lives for research and organizing things. The three of them together have all the essential components of a brilliant team if they could just work together properly. The story of this book is about them doing just that as much as it is about the mystery and the ghosts.
I love a good mystery and if you add in some creepy but not too terrifying supernatural elements I'm even more on board. Stroud builds his story piece by piece. The famed Screaming Staircase of the title is not even mentioned until well into the book. The story opens while Lucy and Lockwood are on another job. The reader learns all of the elements of the work involved in dealing with "the Problem". Since children are the ones best as sensing the spirits, the most dangerous work falls to them in this world. The job Lucy and Lockwood are working goes horribly wrong on several levels. There is then a flashback to how they came to work together and then a return to the fallout of the messed up job. All of this ties together brilliantly. There is so much action that despite the length of these sections the story doesn't drag or feel too heavy. A lot of this is due to the characterization. I will gladly read about Lucy, Lockwood, and George doing pretty much anything together now. I adore all three of them. A story that shows them working through their team work difficulties, fighting for their lives, solving a mystery decades old, and facing a night in the most sinister haunted house in existence is mesmerizing. I could not put this book down and read it one afternoon. I immediately wanted more. I hope we will be getting book two sooner rather than later.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Disney Hyperion, via NetGalley. The Screaming Staircase is available for purchase now. (less)
I really enjoy Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda books. That being the case, he is now an author whose books I'm on the lookout for. I was fairly excited when my library attained copies of Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or The Loosenin og M'Lady Luttertuck's Corset. It is written by Tom Angleberger and involves life at an English manor house.
There are so many exciting things in this book-a Stolen Diamond, snooping stable boys, a famous detective, the disappearance of a Valuable Wig, love, pickle eclairs, unbridled Evil, and the Black Deeds of the Shipless Pirates-that it really does seem a shame to begin with ladies underwear.
But the underwear, you see, is the reason that all those Unprecedented Marvels happened-with the possible exception of the pickle eclairs.
And yes, the book is about all those things, but most importantly it is about a boy named Horton Halfpott. Horton is a downtrodden servant. His family was once more affluent, but they have been brought low by his father's illness. So he is a kitchen boy. A good, upright, honorable and true kitchen boy who develops an affection for a girl beyond his means he knows he can never have. He is positively Dickensian. In fact, this book reads as a Dickens novel might if it were written by...well, Tom Angleberger. (Whose head, I'm convinced, would be a most fascinating one to peek into.)
The story has one of those plots that pops around a lot showing what several people are up to all at once, not leaving room for much character development. There is quite a bit of the zany and ridiculous. It mostly works because of Angleberger's talent for wording delightful sentences and because it's so understatedly satirical. That is going go go way over the heads of the target audience, who will most likely enjoy it for it's aforementioned zaniness. There is plenty of hijinks and action to keep readers, even ones who would never deign to pick up a book set at an English manor house under normal circumstances, interested.(less)
When I discovered there was a book coming out about a girl who was a literal Nightmare I was super excited. The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett has a great concept. When I began reading it I was afraid the execution would not quite live up to it. I'm glad I stuck with it though because I thoroughly enjoyed the second two thirds.
Dusty and Eli are a dream-seer pair, a very rare phenomenon. She is a nightmare who feeds on dreams and when she feeds on Eli's they can see things that are going to happen or that have happened. Which means they have no choice but to work together no matter how either of them feels about it. Dusty is uncomfortable with feeding on Eli and Eli is seriously angry at her for dragging him into this strange world where he doesn't belong. My concern at the beginning of the book was that it was going to have all the elements I hate finding in YA fantasy: boy and girl bound together by a supernatural destiny neither of them can fight=love, boy half of duo being dangerous and sparking feelings of fear, a love triangle, cliche high school politics (exchange mean sirens for mean cheerleaders). I kept reading though because I did love the concept and I couldn't help but like Dusty's snarky yet vulnerable voice. I'm happy to say that most of my concerns were laid to rest as the story unfolded.
Eli is not at all dangerous or a bad boy. At all. He is actually a really nice guy who wants to be a cop and loves mythology and folklore. He sticks up for the little guy and though he is angry at Dusty he never mistreats her. Dusty and Eli are attracted to each other but both are trying to ignore it. He is dating someone else and so is she. Their characters are not as fully realized as I like my characters to be, but I definitely enjoyed them and their story which is full of action, adventure, and mystery. In addition to Dusty and Eli there are several minor characters who I really enjoyed particularly Selene, Dusty's best friend. I love the way Arnett has given a new spin to old folklore and what she has done with the world here. The book is hard to put down and engrossing to the very end.
The book is a fun mystery with a magical flavor. It is lighter in tone than other books of the same genre and I enjoyed that element. I will definitely be back for more as I'm fairly certain this will be a series.
I read an e-galley received via the publisher from NetGalley. The Nightmare Affair is on sale March 5.(less)
Secret Letters by Leah Scheier was a book I couldn't refuse. It involves Sherlock Holmes after all, and I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. I did enjoy the mystery element of the story even though I had some issues with the book overall.
The mystery part of the story was a lot of fun. There is more than one Secret Letter floating around in the plot. So many that one of the characters (the "attractive yet enigmatic young detective") makes a joke about it in his own letter to Dora: I would burn this letter if I were you. There are far too many questionable letters floating about in this case, and I don't want to add mine to the pile. Which brings to my favorite part of the book. Peter. I want a book series that is all about Peter. There is really no need for Dora (I'll get to that in a minute). Peter is funny. Peter is brilliant. Peter has a tragic past that has marked him, but doesn't make him. He is making himself. He is all kinds of interesting and when he was in a scene it was great.
The mystery is a good one. It is certainly not on the level of some of the Holmes canon, but it is fun and there are several twists and turns along the way to keep the reader engaged and guessing. Though I don't think the whole connection to Dora's cousin's blackmailing was explained as well as it could have been.
My major issue with the book lies with Dora. She is an anachronism, a 21st century girl dropped in a Victorian setting. And it shows. She is a lady of class and wealth who has been brought up in a gentle household, corseted, finished, taught the ways of society. She of course thinks it's all nonsense. I'm sure there are girls who did, but an awful lot of them seem to pop up in historical fiction. More than I think there were actually. And the extent of it here is not so believable. When it is proposed that Dora should go undercover in a house as a scullery maid she doesn't hesitate. She manages to hoodwink her chaperone into thinking she is somewhere else and hoodwink everyone into thinking that she is indeed a scullery maid. This is more than just donning a costume. It is also more than just doing chores she would never have dreamed existed. It is an entire way of life she would have had no prior exposure to. Yet it doesn't require much effort for her to fit in. Then she barely bats an eye when she discovers a fellow maid is pregnant and not married. Then she barely bats an eye again when said maid confesses she is going to have an abortion. THIS IS THE VICTORIAN ERA. I realize that this is a thing of mine being the history nerd that I am. Others might not be so bothered by it, but I'm just too tired of reading YA historical fiction where the main character thinks in such a modern context. It bothered me enough here I wanted Dora completely gone from the story and more Peter. Lots more Peter.
If you are not a hyper sensitive history nerd like me and love mystery, Sherlock Holmes, and Victorian settings this is a fun and engaging story. If you are a hyper sensitive history nerd like me you may enjoy it too. Just be forewarned. (less)