Buzz Kill

I first became a fan of Beth Fantaskey’s work a few years ago when I read Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. Since then, I’ve read a few other works by Fantaskey: Jessica Rules the Dark Side, Jekel Loves Hyde, and The Wedding of Antanasia Jessica Packwood and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu (a short story published on the author’s website). So, when Goodreads gave me the chance to read an ARC of this author’s latest novel, Buzz Kill, I was pretty stoked. I’m happy to say that the book lived up to my expectations.

Unlike Fantaskey’s other stories, this newest read has no supernatural elements, but it does introduce us to a strong, relatable, female protagonist. In Buzz Kill, readers meet Millie Ostermeyer, a seventeen-year-old who eats like a trucker, is the only member of her school’s Philosophy Club, wears ironic t-shirts that nobody gets, and has a somewhat loose relationship with rules and authority. She’s also an award-winning reporter for her school newspaper, and, while on what should be a routine assignment covering the new football stadium, Millie becomes embroiled in a story that will rock her entire world…

Nobody really liked the Stingers’ head football coach, Hollerin’ Hank Killdare, but who could have wanted him dead? That’s a question Millie wants answered after she discovers his body under the football stadium…especially when it’s made clear that her dad, the town’s mayor and the assistant football coach, tops the list of suspects.

Millie is sure that her dad didn’t do this (even if he has been acting kind of strange lately), so she goes on a quest to find the identity of the real killer. Plenty of people had reason to kill the coach, but who really did it? Was it Millie’s arch-nemesis, Vivienne Fitch, the cheerleader who was embarrased on YouTube, thanks largely to Coach Killdare? Was it Mike, Viv’s lackey, who lost his position as quarterback with the coach brought in a ringer? Could it even be the new quarterback himself, Chase Albright, a boy with a murky past who tends to keep to himself? Who could have committed this heinous crime, and can Millie figure things out before the murderer strikes again?

As Millie unleashes her inner Nancy Drew, she’ll find an unlikely ally in Chase. He’s still a total mystery, but it seems he knew Coach Killdare better than most, and he can give Millie access to the coach’s house, the school locker room, and other areas that would otherwise be off-limits (not that anything would have stopped Millie with or without Chase’s help). Chase may be the key in proving that her dad is not the killer everyone thinks he is.

But why does Chase want to help Millie? Why was the coach so important to him? Chase is most certainly hiding something, and, along with her quest to solve a murder mystery, Millie is determined to solve the mystery that is Chase Albright. She may not, however, be prepared for what she finds.

Millie and Chase are growing closer and closer to uncovering the truth…and they’re also growing closer to each other. Can either of them handle a relationship when everything around them is going crazy? Especially when things are about to get even more insane? There’s a killer on the loose, and, as Millie starts to put the pieces of this puzzle together, she may be this maniac’s next target. What would Nancy Drew do? Millie will have to answer this question and many more if she hopes to get out of this mess alive…

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I found Buzz Kill to be a thoroughly entertaining read. In addition to the murder mystery that kept me guessing for quite a while, I was also enthralled by the character of Millie. I think many readers will be able to see themselves in this character. She speaks before thinking sometimes, she dresses in what’s comfortable, she’s awkward around guys she likes, and she’s tortured by a mean girl. (Actually, “mean” doesn’t quite fit the evil Vivienne. The words I’d use to describe her would make a sailor blush. She’s vile, and a host of curse words went through my mind every time she made an appearance.) Millie questions rules that don’t make sense to her, she doesn’t understand why she should learn French, and she has a complicated relationship with her dad. Who can’t relate to at least some of that?

I also found Chase’s character to be intriguing. (See, I’m relating to Millie right now!) He was mysterious from the instant we saw him, and he remained something of an enigma for most of the book. Even when his secrets were revealed, there was still an aura of mystery about him. I think that’s part of what made him so attractive to Millie. Of course, his good looks and impressive vocabulary didn’t hurt either.

There were so many dynamic, well-developed characters in this book. I wanted to punch many of them in the face (even Millie on occasion). So many characters were butt-heads, in fact, that I didn’t know which one I wanted to be the killer. Like Millie, I waffled on who could have committed the crime, and, also like Millie, I didn’t figure things out until the very end. I’d say both of us were surprised by the way things turned out, and I think that’s the mark of a good mystery novel.

If you’re looking for a murder mystery with a liberal dose of humor, wit, and a touch of romance, I strongly urge you to give Buzz Kill a try.  It’s due to hit stores on May 6th, and I think it will be a big hit with middle grade, teen, and adult readers.

For more information on Buzz Kill and author Beth Fantaskey, visit the author’s website, Facebook page, Goodreads page, and Twitter feed.

The Body in the Woods

I love a good crime drama. It’s not uncommon for me to spend hours watching Criminal Minds, Law & Order (any of them), or my personal favorite, Sherlock. The same can be said for reading crime dramas, particularly those involving teenagers. Crime dramas–whether in print or visual media–have a way of sucking me in and not letting go until the mystery is solved.

When I got the opportunity to read a galley (courtesy of NetGalley) of the first book in a new YA crime drama series, I jumped at the chance…especially when I realized it was written by April Henry. (I’ve previously read and reviewed a couple of her books: Torched and The Night She Disappeared.)

The Body in the Woods, book one in Henry’s Point Last Seen series, will be released to the masses on June 17th, and readers who enjoy a good mystery will eat this book up.

Told from three different perspectives, The Body in the Woods begins with a Search and Rescue mission in a Portland park. Alexis, Ruby, and Nick are SAR volunteers, and they’re in the woods looking for a missing autistic man. They end up finding so much more. Not long into their search, they stumble upon something their training didn’t really prepare them for…a dead body. It’s not the body of the man they were looking for. No, this is the body of a teen girl, and, based on Ruby’s cursory examination of the scene, this girl was strangled.

The police have a lot of questions for Alexis, Nick, and Ruby, and the authorities urge the trio to leave the murder investigation to the professionals, but that’s not something these kids can really do. For different reasons, each of them is determined to discover who killed this girl.

Nick wants to be a hero. His dad was killed in action in Iraq, and Nick wants to live up to the heroic example set by his father. He imagines himself saving the day and being revered by those around him. Reality, though, doesn’t quite match up with Nick’s imagination. Tracking down a killer forces Nick deal with fear, bone-deep fear that makes him wonder if he’s really hero material.

Alexis needs to escape her life at home. Joining the SAR team seems to be a way to do that, get a good mark on her college applications, and help people at the same time. Even when Alexis is forced to deal with her mentally ill mother, she continues her work with SAR, hoping that she can help to solve this mystery which is growing closer and closer to her own life.

Ruby is a crime buff with no friends, and when she latches onto something, she can’t let it go. She knows she can figure out who committed this crime…and possibly others in the area. When Ruby discovers that another girl was murdered in a nearby park, she takes her suspicions to the police, but they brush her off. Alexis and Nick, however, listen to her and agree to keep digging.

Even when the three are warned off this case–and Ruby’s parents force her to abandon her work with the SAR team–they keep trying to figure out who could be killing homeless girls in Portland. But what will happen when the killer targets one of them? Are three teenagers any match for a sociopath with a taste for murder? Can they stop a killer before one of them becomes yet another body in the woods? Time will tell…

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As with most galleys, there were a couple of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors that jumped off the page, but I’m sure those will be corrected in editing.  Those few errors aside, this was a riveting book. While I did enjoy reading each of the teens’ perspectives, I was even more intrigued when given a glimpse into the mind of the killer. (Not sure what that says about me.) Even with those glimpses, though, I didn’t figure out who the killer was until fairly late in the book, and that definitely served to keep the suspense going.

My favorite character in The Body in the Woods would have to be Ruby. When I was reading her point of view, it was all too easy to imagine her as a young, female version of Sherlock Holmes. She just didn’t think the way those around her did. (I swear, if she had told the others to shut up because she needed to go to her Mind Palace, I wouldn’t have been surprised.) Some may argue that Ruby, like Sherlock Holmes, is a high-functioning sociopath, and I think that is true to a certain degree. Like Sherlock, though, Ruby wants to be close to people. She’s just not always sure how to make that happen.

The Body in the Woods, in my opinion, is a great read for anyone (middle grades and up) who likes a good mystery. It is a quick, captivating read, and anyone interested in crime scenes and forensics will be taken in by this story. Definitely give this book to fans of Alane Ferguson’s forensic mysteries (The Christopher Killer, The Angel of Death, The Circle of Blood, and The Dying Breath).

As mentioned previously, this book will be available on June 17th. No word yet on when we can expect the other books in this exciting new series.

 

Published in: on March 30, 2014 at 5:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gone Girl

*Normally, I post on middle grade and YA lit on this blog. That is not the case today. Gone Girl is definitely intended for an adult audience. You’ve been warned!*

At about 1am this morning, I finished reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Like a couple of other books I read this year, Gone Girl was a bit of a departure for me. It definitely falls within the realm of an adult book. (By “adult,” I don’t mean, you know, pornographic or anything–although there is some use of graphic scenes and language. I simply mean that this book is written for adults to enjoy…and even “enjoy” may not be an adequate word here.) I picked up this book because so many people–people I trust to lead me to good books–said it was worth the read. They were not wrong.

I guess we can classify Gone Girl as a psychological thriller. I definitely kept me guessing and thinking “What the #$%&!” for much of the book. I’m used to books where there is definitely a good guy and a clear villian. Not so in this read. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that both main characters are fairly despicable. At the beginning of the book, I didn’t feel that way, but I was definitely swayed later on.

I think what is so entertaining–if that’s the right word–about Gone Girl is the glimpse into a truly psychotic, codependent relationship. It’s not like the give-and-take between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. No, Nick and Amy (the main characters in this book), make the Holmes-Watson relationship look positively healthy. Nick and Amy truly have a love-hate relationship…and their definitions of “love” kind of make me deliriously happy that I’m single.

Gone Girl is told from both Nick’s and Amy’s viewpoints, and the book centers around Amy going missing. Like most cases of missing wives, Nick, her husband, is almost immediately the prime suspect. In his story, we see a picture of a husband who has grown disinterested in his marriage, a man who lies freely, and someone who brings suspicion on himself.

In Amy’s story, at least in the beginning, readers get a glimpse into how she was led to the point of  being afraid of her seemingly perfect husband. Is that really the whole picture, though? As you may have guessed, it most definitely is not. In later chapters, Amy is revealed to be a conniving, manipulative–and altogether brilliant–psycho hose beast. (She makes James Moriarty look like a freakin’ teddy bear.) Seriously. This woman is batcrap crazy. And as more of Amy’s twisted mind is revealed to both Nick and readers, the clearer it becomes that Nick will never escape from this horror of a marriage…but does he really want to?

I don’t really know how I feel about the journey this book took me on. Part of me wanted at least one person to get a happy ending…but a bigger part realizes that there really wasn’t anyone in the book–apart from maybe Nick’s sister–who really deserved one. It’s rare that I read a book where I don’t like any of the characters but I still enjoy the book. That’s what happened in Gone Girl, though. It was a dizzying read at times, but the roller coaster–with all its twists and turns–was pretty thrilling.

Published in: on December 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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City of Orphans

Well, my summer is nearly at an end, and I’ve almost finished reading the twenty books nominated for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. Last night, I finished #19, City of Orphans by Avi (also nominated for the South Carolina Junior Book Award). Had this book not been nominated for the SCCBA, I don’t know that I would have picked it up. It’s no secret that historical fiction is not my favorite genre. (For those wondering, the 20th SCCBA nominee left to read is also historical fiction. I’ve put it off as long as possible.) After reading City of Orphans, though, I’m honestly glad I gave this book a chance.

For the most part, this is not a particularly happy book, but it does explore what life was like for kids in turn-of-the-century New York. (Hint: If you had no money, it was bad.) The title, City of Orphans, refers to the fact that even kids with parents, most of whom were immigrants, were–for all intents and purposes–orphans. It was up to them to figure out how and where to make money, where to go when they needed help, and how to get out of bad situations. In this book, we meet Maks and Willa, two “orphans” just trying to survive in this bleak world.

It’s 1893, and New York City is teeming with people–immigrants, crooks, cops, and, most of all, kids. Kids just trying to survive, trying to make a few cents to help their families. One of these kids is Maks Geless. Maks is a newsie. (He sells newspapers on street corners.)

One night, Maks runs into some trouble on his way home from work. Trouble by the name of Bruno and the Plug Ugly Gang. Maks is sure he’s dead meat…until a dirty, homeless girl with a big stick saves him. This girl, Willa, has lived in the streets for months, and Maks figures the least he can do is give her a place to stay for coming to his rescue. So Maks takes Willa home to stay with his family.

Maks’ family, immigrants from Denmark, lives in a tenement, nearly ten people crammed into one small apartment, but it’s home, and they’re all together…until Maks’ older sister Emma is arrested! Maks is sure that Emma must be innocent. There’s simply no way she could have stolen a watch from someone at the new, fancy Waldorf hotel where she works. Maks’ parents are unfamiliar with the way things really work in America, so it’s up to Maks–and his new friend Willa–to figure out just what happened with Emma and the case of the stolen watch.

All the while, Maks and Willa have to watch out for the scary Bruno and this gang, just waiting to terrorize them and take their meager earnings. Can these two kids save their own necks while trying to get Maks’ sister out of jail? And is anyone willing to help two poor kids–who have no money–without expecting something in return? What will these two junior detectives discover in their quest for the truth? The answers will shock even them and will have the power to turn their worlds upside down. Learn how two kids navigate the perilous waters of turn-of-the-century New York when you read City of Orphans by Avi!

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I think City of Orphans is a great discussion-starter about what kids experienced throughout history. As a former social studies teacher, I can tell you that most lessons focus on what adults did in the past. Not much attention is given to kids’ experiences, and that’s a shame. I think many students today would find lessons more engaging and relatable if they could somehow identify with the people they were studying. Do we need to ignore what adults were doing during historical periods? No, but we shouldn’t discount a large portion of the population just because they’re young. (I see a research project in the future for some of my students!)

I also believe City of Orphans could be a “gateway” book to other works of literature. Those that immediately come to mind are the works of Charles Dickens, particularly Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. City of Orphans, while not quite as bleak–or wordy–as Dickens’ works, has the same kind of tone. I don’t particularly care for Dickens, but others do, and readers who really enjoy City of Orphans may want to explore a few of these classics.

If you’d like more information about this book and others by Avi, visit http://www.avi-writer.com/. You can also like his page on Facebook.

I hope you enjoy City of Orphans as much as I did!

Three Times Lucky

This morning, I finished yet another of this year’s nominees for the South Carolina Children’s Book Award. That book was Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Almost from the first page, I was enthralled. Why, you may ask? Simply because of the main character’s voice and the descriptive language used in this story. It’s been a while since I read any book–whether for children, teens, or adults–that was such a wonderful example of developing a character’s voice and employing figurative language. I found myself laughing frequently at how things were described in this book, and I also think readers and writers could learn a lot from Three Times Lucky about how to creatively express themselves using something as simple–and complicated–as words.

Eleven years ago, Moses “Mo” LoBeau washed ashore in Tupelo’s Landing, North Carolina. This child, who was washed away from her Upstream Mother in a hurricane, was rescued by the memory-impaired, cantankerous Colonel and Miss Lana, and the three of them made a life for themselves in this small coastal town.

Now, eleven years later, Mo is a rising sixth grader who works part-time in the restaurant run by the Colonel and Miss Lana. (Her specialty seems to be peanut butter on Wonder Bread.) She spends most of her spare time researching who and where her Upstream Mother might be, and she enjoys hanging out with her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III. (The “III” is for the iconic #3 car of his namesake.)

This summer, however, things are being stirred up in Tupelo’s Landing, and Mo takes it upon herself to figure out what’s going on. One of the restaurant’s customers has been killed, a cop is asking questions about Mo’s beloved Colonel, and strange things are afoot in the town Mo calls home. What else is a precocious girl to do? Mo and Dale open up their own detective agency–Desperado Detectives–and begin investigating the crime.

What these junior detectives find, though, may just change everything they know about the people they’re closest to. What secrets are hiding in Tupelo’s Landing? And how can Mo and Dale discover the truth when the police can’t?

As Mo and Dale come closer and closer to solving the biggest mystery to hit Tupelo’s Landing since Mo herself washed ashore, they’ll learn just what family and friendship really mean. When waters get rough, it becomes clear who’ll be there for them, and even Mo might be surprised by who has her back. Join Mo LoBeau on her journey to the truth when you read Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, a nominee for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award!

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The brief recap above doesn’t even come close to describing what Mo encounters in Three Times Lucky. I tried to hit the major points, but there are so many more that I could have added. Mo is a character to be remembered, and I could see so many of my students in her. She’s hilarious, strong-willed, loyal, curious, and determined…qualities that are to be admired in anyone, in my opinion. I adore this character and the way she looks at life. Despite her humble, mysterious origins, Mo doesn’t let anything stand in her way. Yes, that can sometimes get her into trouble, but she always has the best of intentions.

Another thing I enjoyed about Three Times Lucky was how many of the adults treated Mo. She wasn’t just some annoying kid to them. She was a valued part of the community…even when she didn’t always feel that way. The adults around Mo listened to her, took her seriously, and looked out for her. That’s no small thing, especially when Mo is technically an orphan with no “real” family of her own. In this book, it definitely takes a village to raise this particular child, and I think they’ve done a fantastic job!

If I had to classify this book, I would call it a humorous mystery. (If that wasn’t a category before, it is now.) Yes, Mo and Dale are trying to solve a murder, but they’re also living the lives 11-year-old kids with problems. Those problems are serious in their own right, but both Mo and Dale deal with those issues with humor and a particularly refreshing outlook.

All in all, I would say that Three Times Lucky is an excellent read for those in upper elementary grades and up. It’s highly entertaining from start to finish. I hope my students feel the same way.

The author of Three Times Lucky, Sheila Turnage, currently lives in eastern North Carolina, so I can only hope that she’ll journey across the border soon to visit with students and librarians in South Carolina. In the meantime, check out her webpage at http://www.sheilaturnage.com/SheilaTurnage/Desktop.html for more information on Three Times Lucky and future books!

Published in: on August 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slide

It’s been a while, dear readers. I freely admit that I’ve neglected this blog for the past couple of weeks, and my only excuse is that I needed a break. Whenever Knight Reader feels more like an obligation than a fun hobby, I like to take a step back and spend some time focusing on other things. Yes, I still read during my brief hiatus, but I didn’t feel the need to blog about those books (mostly picture books and mindless romances). Also, I’m gearing up for a new school year, and I needed to just do nothing before I dive back into the school library grind. (My fellow school librarians can no doubt relate to how hectic the beginning of a new school year is.) Now, feeling a bit refreshed, I’m ready to get back to sharing books with people. Thanks for bearing with me.

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I never know what I’m going to get when I download free ebooks. Sometimes, these free books are less than stellar. Other times, though, I’m pleasantly surprised. The latter scenario was true of my latest read, Slide by Jill Hathaway. It was a free Kindle download last month, it seemed interesting, so I thought I’d give it a try. It was a pretty good read, and it definitely kept me guessing. Readers who like a fast-paced mystery with supernatural undertones will likely agree.

Sylvia “Vee” Bell is not what one would call a normal teenager. Sure, she has many of the typical problems–parents, popularity (or lack thereof), siblings, boys–but she has to deal with something that most people don’t. The “experts” call her condition narcolepsy, but they really don’t know the whole story. They don’t know that when Vee falls asleep/passes out, she doesn’t just lose consciousness. She “slides” into the minds of others. She sees what people don’t want seen. She learns things she doesn’t necessarily want to know.

When Vee slides into one mind, however, she sees something that turns her blood cold. She sees her sister’s best friend, Sophie, dead. Her wrists are slit, her bed is covered in blood, and someone–the eyes through which Vee is viewing this scene–is writing a suicide note. Vee, of course, is the only person who knows that Sophie was murdered, but how can she prove to everyone that this is not the obvious suicide that they seem to think it is…especially when she doesn’t know whose mind she slid into.

As Vee searches for answers, she uncovers uncomfortable truths about her friends, her sister, and even her own father. But how do these long-kept secrets have anything to do with what happened to Sophie…and what is continuing to happen in Vee’s community? Who is ultimately responsible for the terror in her town, and is there anything Vee can do to put a stop to it…before she’s the next victim? Unravel the mystery when you read Slide by Jill Hathaway.

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While Slide was an engaging, gripping book, it’s not one I would have picked up had it not been free. (Kudos to whoever decided to make it a free download last month. You reached at least one new reader.) Now, I kind of want to see how the story progresses in the next book, Impostor. Maybe it’ll be a free download soon.

Slide is not a particularly deep book, but it does explore family dynamics and how secrets and jealousy can tear relationships apart. It is a mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end. (I’m pretty good at picking up on clues, but even I didn’t really expect things to end they way they did.)

If the premise of Slide intrigues you, I urge you to give Lisa McMann’s Wake series a try. These three books (Wake, Fade, and Gone) are very similar, in my opinion, to what occurs in Slide, but they’re a little more fleshed out.

For more information about Slide and author Jill Hathaway, visit http://www.jillhathaway.com/index2.php.

The Madness Underneath

Spoilers! Read Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, the first book in her Shades of London series, before continuing. I just finished the second book in the series, The Madness Underneath, and you really need to experience the first book before diving into the second. This sequel is definitely not a stand-alone novel. You’ve been warned!

A little over a year and a half ago, I read The Name of the Star (which is now on the nominee list for this year’s South Carolina Young Adult Book Award). I picked this book up for two reasons. 1. The author, Maureen Johnson, is one of the funniest people on the planet. (If you don’t already follow her on Twitter, you should.) 2. Jack the Ripper. I’ve always been kind of morbidly fascinated by stories of the Ripper, and I figured this one–with its new supernatural twist–would intrigue me. As usual, I was right.

I absolutely adored The Name of the Star (one of my top 10 books of 2011), so I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up the sequel. (It was released in October 2012.) At any rate, I made time for it this week, and it didn’t take long to get right back into the world created in this series.

Now, the Ripper-esque story in the first book was–more or less–wrapped up, but the aftermath opened up a whole new world to our main character, Rory Deveaux, a Louisiana native transplanted in London while her parents are on sabbatical. (Hmm…a southern girl in London. I wonder why that appeals to me…)

Following her near-death experience at Wexford, her boarding school, Rory is now staying in Bristol under the watchful eyes of her parents and her therapist. While Rory would normally be thrilled to talk about herself–especially to someone who is basically paid to listen–she just can’t tell her therapist (or her parents) what really happened. No, she must keep quiet about her encounter with the Ripper copycat who stabbed and nearly killed her. She can never reveal that she can see ghosts…and can now somehow kill them (or help them move on to the next spiritual plane) with a touch. Who would believer her anyway? Is there any way for Rory to get back to some semblance of a normal life and maybe–just maybe–not have to hide so much? Perhaps…

With the help of some high-ranking government officials, Rory is allowed to return to Wexford. She’s behind in all of her classes, and she has a bit of trouble adjusting to school after so much time away, but Rory is back with friends…including the Shades of London, a top secret “police force” capable of seeing and interacting with ghosts. And the Shades–Stephen, Callum, and Boo–need Rory. Now that their all-important termini (ghost-eliminators) are gone, Rory is the only being that can send ghosts on. (On to where, I have no idea.) A simple touch makes ghosts go bye-bye. So, in addition to worrying about grades, friends, boys, and the warped psyche that comes with nearly being murdered, Rory must also deal with being a human terminus, a weapon against ghosts with a grudge.

And boy, do some of the ghosts in London carry grudges. But they’re not the only beings up to no good. It seems that something–or someone–even more disturbing may be at work, and Rory finds herself right in the middle of yet another mess. Her longing to get away from her problems and find a place to belong may have landed her into a predicament that even her quick wit can’t get out of. What has Rory gotten herself into this time, and will she be able to find a way out…before she or someone she cares about pays the price? Learn what madness lurks underneath the streets of London–and in the hearts and minds of people–when you read The Madness Underneath, the second book in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series.

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While I enjoyed The Name of the Star a bit more than this book, I have to say that The Madness Underneath was a wonderful read. The character’s distinctive, often sarcastic, voice was perfect, and I felt her turmoil over trying to return to a somewhat normal life after going through so much horror. At several points in the story, I felt like screaming at Rory because I could kind of see that she was about to walk into bad situations. (What seventeen-year-old doesn’t?) I was thoroughly engaged and, at the end, kind of heartbroken. (When you read this book, you’ll know what I mean. If I didn’t treasure books so much, this one would have taken a lovely flight across the room and landed against my wall.) I’m hoping for some kind of happy resolution in the next book. (But I honestly don’t see how things can get happy after what happened at the end of this one. Hopefully, Maureen Johnson can find some way to “unbreak my heart,” to borrow a phrase from one of my all-time least favorite songs.)

Speaking of the next book, it’s supposedly titled The Shadow Cabinet and is due for release sometime in 2014 according to Goodreads. There is no information on the third book on Maureen Johnson’s website. With any luck, she’ll tweet about it in the near future. (This woman is all about some Twitter. So am I, so that’s cool.)

I guess that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with a book trailer for The Madness Underneath from Penguin Young Readers. It’s creepy, but it doesn’t give away much of anything about the book. It does a good job of setting the mood for a good supernatural mystery though. Enjoy!

Published in: on July 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Night She Disappeared

Several days ago, I impulsively downloaded one of the Kindle Daily Deals on Amazon. Before that day, I honestly didn’t have this particular book on my radar. I had read a book by the author before–and enjoyed it–so I thought this one would be no different. I was right. (Happens all the time, really.)

The book was The Night She Disappeared by April Henry. As the title suggests, this book is a mystery centered around a teenage girl, Kayla, who has mysteriously disappeared. This is a super-fast read (only took me a few hours to finish) is told in different viewpoints and takes the reader through what happened from immediately before Kayla’s disappearance to the discovery of what really happened to her.

While Kayla is the central focus of the book–and there are chapters from her point of view as well as the bad guy’s–the major part of the The Night She Disappeared is told from the perspectives of two of her coworkers, Gabie and Drew. These two young people are closer to the investigation that almost anyone, and they may be the only people capable of really figuring out what happened to Kayla.

It seemed like a normal pizza delivery. A guy ordered three pizzas and gave his address. He asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper would be delivering his food. She wasn’t working that night, but Drew, who took the order at Pete’s Pizza, didn’t tell the caller that. Instead, he sent Kayla out on what should have been a normal delivery. If only. Hours later, when Kayla had not returned to work, Drew called the police to report her missing. He just knew something was wrong. How right he was…

When Gabie hears the news of Kayla’s disappearance, she’s immediately filled with guilt. She should have been the one working that night. And when Drew tells her that the caller specifically asked about the girl driving the Mini Cooper, she’s even more freaked out. The girl he asked for is Gabie herself. What if Kayla hadn’t asked her to switch workdays? Would she be the one missing…and presumed dead? Does this mystery caller still have his eyes on her?

As Gabie and Drew deal with their guilt over what has happened and a firm belief that Kayla’s alive somewhere–despite loads of evidence to the contrary–Kayla is facing a horror that she never expected. She’s quickly losing hope, and she wonders if she’ll ever see her friends and family again. Is there any way she can get out of this alive? Or is she destined to be the victim of a deranged man who is determined to eventually get his hands on his real target, Gabie?

Peppered with evidence reports, police interviews, and articles detailing the investigation into Kayla’s disappearance, readers learn what really happened to this girl and how this horrific event impacted those closest to her…and one young man who was thought to be behind it all. Will anyone find out how and why Kayla disappeared…before it’s too late? Uncover the disturbing truth when you read The Night She Disappeared by April Henry.

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If you enjoy a riveting–if at times predictable–mystery, I suggest you give The Night She Disappeared a try. It’s incredibly fast-paced and might be a good fit for reluctant readers who have an interest in crime dramas. Pair this book with Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles, or any of Alane Ferguson’s forensic mysteries, and you’ve got an awesome reading list for the YA mystery lover. If The Night She Disappeared strikes your fancy, Torched, another book by April Henry, may also appeal to you.

For more information on this book and other mysteries by April Henry, visit http://www.aprilhenrymysteries.com/. You can also like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Have fun!

Published in: on July 21, 2013 at 11:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Aviary

Greetings, dear readers! It’s been a while since my last post, and I apologize for that. I’ve been trying to get through my latest read for a while, and let’s just say that it was extremely slow-going at first. So slow, in fact, that I read at least six other books while I was trying to get into this one. Why did I continue trying, you ask? Well, this book, The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell, is a nominee for the 13-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, and I felt I had to read it if I plan to promote it to my students. A few minutes ago, I finally finished The Aviary, and, while it took what seemed like forever for me to get invested in the story, the last half of the book flew by. (Pun intended.)

Even though The Aviary a work of historical fiction (not my favorite genre) that involves birds, which I’m not a huge fan of (which is odd considering that both of my college alma maters have birds as mascots), I do still plan to recommend this book to my students. It’s a good story, and I think it will spark the imaginations of upper elementary and middle grade readers.

Clara Dooley has been cooped up in the Glendoveer mansion her entire life. Her mother takes care of the house, and young Clara, who has a weak heart, has lessons with the aging Mrs. Glendoveer, widow to the famed magician, the Great Glendoveer. The Glendoveers were once a big, happy family, but tragedy struck–the Glendoveer children were kidnapped and killed–and the family was reduced to little but tears, bitterness, and a longing for times past.

The Glendoveer mansion is shrouded in mystery, a mystery made even more strange by the birds that inhabit the house’s aviary. These birds have lived longer than any birds should, and they have some odd connection to the Glendoveer family. Clara has always been a bit frightened of the birds–who squawk madly whenever she’s near–and her fear reaches a new level when one of the birds speaks a name–Elliot.

As one would imagine, Clara is intrigued by this, and she asks elderly Mrs. Glendoveer if she knows anyone by the name of Elliot. That seemingly simple question starts Clara down a path that will eventually unravel the mystery of what really happened  to the Glendoveer children…and how the birds in the aviary–and Clara herself–fit into the puzzle she’s attempting to solve. But how can Clara hope to figure out what happened if she can’t even leave the house? Well, she’ll have a little help from a new friend, and Clara may just discover that she’s stronger than anyone ever realized…

What really happened to the Glendoveer children? Who is Elliot? What is so special about the birds in the aviary? Why is so important that Clara be the one to uncover the truth? And can this young girl solve a mystery that has puzzled everyone for decades and help the Glendoveer family finally find peace? Answer these questions and many more when you read The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell!

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I think that any reader who really sits down and gives The Aviary a bit of time to get going will be pleasantly surprised by the journey. That being said, I do have a few issues with this book. First of all, it felt like it dragged at the beginning. It usually doesn’t take me quite so long to get into a book, and, honestly, if I hadn’t had to read this book, I would have stopped reading it entirely. Secondly, I didn’t find the cover appealing at all. (I freely admit that I judge a book by its cover.) I found the cover to be kind of boring, and that may have given me some preconceived notions about the book. Finally, the book featured letters from several characters, and those were printed in very difficult to read fonts. Given that many of my students can barely write–much less read–cursive, these letters may be hard to decifer (which is a shame since most of them add quite a bit to the story).

If you’d like more information about this book, check out the official Facebook page or the author’s website. You may also enjoy the book trailer below. Maybe if I’d watched this first, I would have gone into this book with little more excitement. (It doesn’t give away anything, but the music sets the perfect mood for this book.)

Published in: on July 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Social Suicide

Note: It’s probably a good idea to read Deadly Cool before reading the sequel, Social Suicide. (It’s not absolutely critical, but I would highly recommend it.)

I read Deadly Cool, the first book in this series by Gemma Halliday, a couple of weeks ago, and I immediately ordered the second, Social Suicide. (It didn’t hurt that Amazon had it on sale as a bargain book!) Well, the book arrived at my house last week, and, as soon as I finished up with a couple of other books I was reading, I made the time to dive into Social Suicide. Just like Deadly Cool, this second installment is a bit of brain candy. It’s a murder mystery, but it also gives readers a glimpse into the mind of a teenage girl who seems to attract trouble wherever she goes. I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to that along with the main character’s distinctive voice.

Hartley Featherstone, after having solved the mystery of who killed tried to frame her cheating ex-boyfriend, is attempting to put her investigative skills to use by writing for the school paper. (She’s also hoping to figure out her rather complicated relationship with Chase, the paper’s editor.) Her current assignment involves writing a piece on a cheating scandal that booted a popular girl, Sydney Sanders, off the homecoming court. Should be an easy enough story, right?  Well, “easy” doesn’t seem to apply to Hartley’s life. Almost immediately, this story embroils Hartley–once again–into a saga of intrigue, corruption, danger, and death…

Hartley was supposed to have a simple interview with Sydney. What she discovered, however, was this homecoming hopeful face-down in a pool. Everyone seems to think Sydney’s death is a suicide (because of the cheating scandal and possible boyfriend/best friend drama), but Hartley isn’t convinced. After all, who commits suicide in the middle of a tweet? It’s up to Hartley and her crew of friends to prove that this Twittercide was in fact murder. But how? And who had motive to kill Sydney?

Suspects–and potential motives–abound, and Hartley quickly becomes ensnared in yet another mystery. Can Hartley get out of this mess while holding onto the story of a lifetime? Will she be able to prove to everyone that Sydney was murdered? How? Who could have done this? Why would anyone murder one of the most popular girls in school?  The answers to these questions will shock everyone, and even Hartley will be surprised when the truth is finally revealed. So surprised that she never sees the danger to her own life until it’s staring her in the face. Unravel the mystery when you read Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday!

I enjoyed this sequel just as much as I did Deadly Cool…even though I predicted who the villain was pretty early on. Unless you’re really paying attention, though, the clues as to the bad guy’s identity could escape you. It’s not exactly obvious…which makes Social Suicide a pretty good mystery.

Teens and adults alike will enjoy the mystery aspect of the book, but readers may also relate to Hartley’s boy drama, fashion woes, and dealing with her mom reentering the dating world. (Some of this was cringe-worthy even to me.) Even though some of Hartley’s antics stretch the bounds of reality–particularly regarding what a typical teen can get away with–readers will find her totally relatable. She has problems and flaws, but she keeps on keeping on, often with humor and a bit of sass.

According to Gemma Halliday’s website (which is now working, thank goodness), we can expect more adventures with Hartley and company late this year. The third book in this series is Wicked Games. I know nothing about this book beyond the title. Hopefully, details will be up on the author’s website soon.

Published in: on May 2, 2013 at 10:06 am  Comments (1)  
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