Category Archives: mystery

Sidekicks by Jack D. Ferraiolo

SidekicksThanks to my recent stint at Batgirl at the YSS Spring Conference, I finally remembered that I need to post a review of this book!  Let me just start off by saying that I liked this book, but I was a bit put off in the beginning.  I think it’s because the cover had me expecting something that would be more accessible to tweens and younger teens but the story left me feeling uncomfortable recommending this book to someone who specifically asks for a “clean read” for their child.  Perhaps I found the beginning of the book so off-putting just because I am female and just don’t *get* it as much as if I had grown up as a guy.  But, as it stands, I thought that the first several chapters were a bit much.  I mean, does it really take several chapters to get across the point that Bright Boy was embarrassed about an erection showing through his spandex costume? I think not…

For the most part, though, I really enjoyed this book.  I especially appreciated the fact that good and evil were not as typically “black and white” as in many super hero stories.  Sometimes, heroes do very bad things; sometimes, villains are actually misguided altruists.  I loved that Phantom Justice was a campy parody of Batman, whom I think my husband takes entirely too seriously, and Dr. Chaotic reminded me quite a bit of Dr. Horrible.  If you’re looking for a funny story with action and adventure, mystery and suspense, and a hint of romance, you should give this one a try.

Happy Reading!

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Here And NowI am pretty sure the only Ann Brashares books I had read before this ARC were from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.  It looks like I never reviewed them on this blog, though, so I can’t simply link to what I thought of them.  Instead, I will quickly summarize by saying that they are basic contemporary “chick lit” books.  They primarily dealt with friendship, dating, and body image — and they were both realistic and well written enough that I’m not surprised to see that they’re still popular.  While this book was also well written and has a romantic element to it, it was VERY different in that it has a science fiction angle.

Prenna James is an immigrant, but she didn’t come from another country — she came from another time.  She, along with the rest of the people in her tight-knit community, traveled back in time from a future in which global warming had destroyed the world.  Warmer temperatures melted the polar ice caps, caused massive floods, and also allowed mosquitoes to thrive.  Even though cancer had been cured, human existence was threatened by a blood-borne plague reminiscent of AIDS.  Prenna’s time-traveling community has many rules, but the most important rules are to blend in, to avoid making any changes to “the past,” and to avoid intimacy with outsiders.  Despite worries about getting in trouble, Prenna has a hard time following the rules.  She just can’t understand how they can just sit by and watch people destroy the world instead of trying to make a difference.  Plus, of course, there’s the fact that she’s falling for an outsider named Ethan…

Happy Reading!

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

Paladin ProphecyI thought this book was kind of like a Davinci Code for tween and teen readers.  There is a lot of mystery, tons of action, and a “bigger picture” that readers catch glimpses of throughout the story.  (This is the first in a series.)  Although I feel this book probably could have been edited down to be quite a bit shorter, I think the fast-paced action is likely enough to keep even reluctant readers turning pages.  Plus, the movie rights have been bought by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures, so I have a feeling this book will be in high demand as soon as the trailer starts making the rounds.

Will West’s parents constantly remind him to be as average as possible.  They won’t tell him why, but they think it is very important for him to fly under the radar.  So, he stays in the middle of the pack in cross country, he gets average grades, and he doesn’t do much else.  All his careful calculating is wasted, though, when he slips up and scores off-the-charts high on a national standardized test.  As a result, he gets invited down to the principal’s office for a meeting with a woman named Dr. Rollins, who extends an offer for a full scholarship to a secret, elite prep school… and men in black also start following him.  When his mom starts acting like a robot/zombie and his dad sends strange text messages, Will decides he needs to run for it.  With the help of a local taxi driver, who assumes Will is on the run from the police, he makes a mad dash for the airport — where he boards a plane for the secret prep school with the hope that he will soon begin to make sense of what is happening to him.

Happy Reading!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

peculiar-childrenI made it a point to listen to this audiobook last June because it had been added to a local summer reading list.  Since I had already been thinking about reading it, I didn’t even feel like I was doing homework as I sometimes do when I am trying to familiarize myself with summer reading titles.  How lovely!  While I am willing to admit that it wasn’t quite what I expected, though I can’t quite put into words what exactly that means, I was far from disappointed.

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s outrageous stories about strange children with amazing powers — like invisibility, super strength, and levitation — as they looked through pictures from the home in which his grandfather had been raised.  He believed his grandfather when he was very young but, as he got older, started to think that the pictures “proving” their peculiarities looked so fake.  After all, what sane person would believe that there was a girl with a mouth on the back of her head and another who could float like a helium balloon?  Still, it was kind of fun to imagine.  That is, until the day his grandfather called him absolutely terrified about being unable to find his guns when the monsters were coming to get him.  When Jacob found his grandfather’s body in the woods, and saw something he couldn’t explain, he had to decide whether he would choose to believe in the bizarre stories his grandfather had told him or if his grandfather had simply been suffering from delusions or dementia.  And only one thing would set his mind at ease — a trip to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Fans of this book should be happy to learn that movie rights have been sold to 20th Century Fox.  According to Ransom Riggs’ blog, Tim Burton is set to direct and the screenplay with be adapted by Jane Goldman [who also wrote the screenplays for X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, and The Woman in Black].  IMDB has a projected release date of July 31, 2015 but no further information. I, for one, am pretty excited to see how this develops.

Happy Reading!

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Maggot MoonThis was one of those audiobooks where I didn’t really feel like I completely “got it” but I kept on listening anyway.  It won a 2014 Printz Honor, so I figured it must have literary merit even if I wasn’t feeling it, right?  Either way, I now have the ability to “booktalk” it to any library patrons who might ask what it’s about, and that is always key.

Standish Treadwell lives in an alternate reality in which “the Motherland” [England?] is in a race to the moon and operates much like WWII Germany — with ghettos of people segregated from the rest of the population and forced to work in labor camps for mere scraps of food. (Especially since I had just listened to Rose Under Fire, the constant deprivation and brutality definitely reminded me of the Holocaust.)   He lives in Zone 7 (one of the poorest areas) with only his grandfather, since his parents ran away in an attempt to escape the totalitarian regime.  Standish attends an all-boys school in which teachers openly favor kids from well-to-do families and those who come from families of government informants.  It’s not uncommon for kids to pick on or beat up on one another, and teachers often discipline via corporal punishments like caning.  Though he seems to be concerned that he has a learning disability of some sort [dyslexia?], Standish is quite clever and determined to figure out a plan to stand up to his government for the good of all mankind.

Happy Reading!

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore

Water CastleI know I am always telling people not to judge books by their covers, but I am certainly guilty of this infraction from time to time.  Somehow, I saw the cover of this book and thought it would be more fantastic than it was.  Maybe it was the banner that says “Believe in the unbelievable…”  Maybe it was the castle in the background.  But, somehow, I had my mind set that those kids would be involved in mystical time travel.  Yeah…  Not so much!  Although, there were chapters that took readers back to the early 1900s to discover the history of the Water Castle and the ancestors of the main characters, those main characters most definitely did not travel through time themselves.  And that was OK.  Even though this story wasn’t what I thought it would be, I still thought it was extremely cool.

Ephraim Appledore-Smith’s family relocated to Crystal Springs, Maine, after his father had a stroke.  Though his mother had inherited the house quite some time ago, Ephraim and his siblings had never been there before.  His mother decided to move to Crystal Springs because she had hopes that a specialist who lived in that area would be able to help her husband with his recovery.  After their arrival, though, Ephraim became obsessed with the possibility that the local water had special, mystical properties and that he could use it to cure his father.  After all, that was how the “Water Castle” came to be in the first place; his ancestor, Orlando Appledore, built the house because he was convinced that the Fountain of Youth was in Crystal Springs.  After floundering to find his niche in the new town/school, Ephraim became part of an unlikely trio — with Mallory Green, whose family has always worked as caretakers of the Appledore property, and Will Wylie, whose family has long feuded with the Appledores.  First brought together by a polar explorers research project, the three banded together with a determination to find the fountain of youth themselves.

Happy Reading!

Impulse by Steven Gould

impulseCent [short for Millicent] is a 16-year-old girl who, despite being homeschooled in the remote Canadian wilderness, has seen more of the world than many people will see in a lifetime.  She sometimes takes off at a moment’s notice to go shopping or surfing half way around the world, but her parents don’t own a private jet or helicopter.  In fact, the helipad on their property is so overgrown with weeds it’s barely recognizable.  How do they get there, then?  They jump.  All they have to do is concentrate on where they want to go and they can teleport themselves.  Though unable to jump herself, Cent has always been brought along by one of her parents.  Until one day, while snowboarding without permission, when she nearly gets caught in an avalanche and accidentally learns how to jump herself.  Cent gets excited by all the possibilities her jumping has opened up to her… but it terrifies her parents.  Not only do they have the usual parental worries of their daughter getting hurt in the usual ways, but they’re also worried that Cent could wind up kidnapped by the scientists who once held her father captive in an attempt to discover how jumping actually works.

Happy Reading!

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark

what we found in the sofa and how it saved the worldRiver was orphaned when his parents died in a car crash, and he’s also shorter than he should be because his legs’ growth plates were fractured in the crash.  He now lives with his aunt and pretty much only has two friends — Freak and Fiona.  Freak has plenty of problems of his own, thanks to his alcoholic father.  And Fiona is popular enough that she pretends not to know River and Freak when other people are around.  To make matters worse, they live next to a place the local newspaper calls “Hellsboro” — the area surrounding the old Rodmore Chemical plant where an underground coal-seam fire makes the land inhabitable.

After all of that, I can understand if you’re hesitant to believe that this is a great/often-funny middle grade book, but it really is!  My son and I actually laughed out loud fairly often as we read this story.  How is that possible?  Because it doesn’t focus so much on the depressing stuff; that’s all more of a footnote, really.  The story centers around all the craziness that happened after they found a rare crayon in a sofa by the curb in front of the Underhill Mansion.  If you want a funny story about cell phones, genetically modified foods, flash mobs, and brain control (presented as a nice blend of realistic and science fiction), I suggest you check this one out.

Happy Reading!

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the EasyTo say that Josie Moraine has a very unusual life would be an understatement and a half!  Though she is only in high school, she already lives on her own and works two jobs — as a clerk at a local bookstore and as a maid of sorts for the brothel where her mother works.  That’s right…  Josie’s mother is a prostitute.  Not to mention a cold, calculating, unloving woman who only ever seems to think of herself.  And, as if that isn’t bad enough, Josie’s mother also happens to be in love with an abusive gangster-type.  So, when her mom disappears from the French Quarter the very same morning that a man turns up dead, Josie isn’t sure what to do or what to believe.  She has never wanted anything so much as a chance to get out of the “Big Easy” and to get a good education, but her mother and her mother’s foolishness always seem to get in the way.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this story was how the entire cast of characters was so well fleshed-out.  I get annoyed when authors skimp on developing the supporting characters, but Sepetys did not disappoint!  My favorite was Willie — the brothel madam who knew Josie was bound for bigger and better things, regardless of the fact that many people assumed/hoped she would simply follow in her mother’s footsteps.  I loved that Willie did her best to support Josie and to encourage her to want more from life instead of being upset that Josie didn’t want to join the [ahem] family business.  If you like historical fiction and/or mysteries, this is a book you won’t want to miss.

Happy Reading!

The Paganini Curse by Giselle M. Stancic

paginini curseIt wasn’t exactly easy to be an independent teenage girl in New York City in 1911, but Aurora Lewis wouldn’t let societal norms dictate her life.  She refused to give up on her musical studies to attend a “finishing school” because she was determined to play violin in a symphony someday.  When she arrived at violin lessons one Saturday morning, though, she found the studio a mess and the window open — despite the winter chill in the air.  Looking down from the window, she found her teacher dead on the sidewalk… and was accused, by street hooligans, of having pushed him!  Although the police cleared her when they deemed his death an accident, Aurora wasn’t satisfied with that result and decided that she and her friends would have to solve this murder themselves.  This book was well written, fast-paced, and full of interesting musical and historical facts.  I bet even reluctant readers would get lured in to this story!

Happy Reading!