Category Archives: mystery

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

far far awayJeremy Johnson Johnson was rather unlucky.  Not only did his mom leave him and his dad, but his father became so crippled by depression that he became a total recluse.  Jeremy became, in essence, the adult of the household and started taking care of things to the best of his abilities.  After Jeremy was involved in a prank gone awry, though, he was ostracized by the townspeople who had previously given him enough work to get by.  With the final “balloon payment” of the mortgage on his father’s bookstore [aka his home] coming due very soon, Jeremy began to panic.  Fortunately, he had a friend, Ginger, who had a crazy plan and a guardian angel of sorts, Jacob, looking after him.  Whether he was actually an angel is debatable, but there was no doubt that Jeremy could definitely communicate with the ghost of Jacob Grimm — one of the famous Brothers Grimm.  Jacob was pretty sure he had not yet passed on completely because he still had a purpose on earth, and he was certain that his purpose was to keep Jeremy safe.  Readers who are familiar with Grimm fairy tales will surely guess that something “grim” is in the cards, but they’re not likely to guess exactly what until it’s already too late.  This clever combination of old-fashioned fairy tales and modern storytelling has plenty of suspense and plot twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats, and I’m glad I can finally settle back in mine again.  :-)

Happy Reading!

I am the Weapon by Allen Zadoff

i-am-the-weaponI would like to start off this post by apologizing for the lack of a post last week. I seriously thought I had posted something, but multiple curriculum nights and weeknight soccer games apparently broke my brain. To make it up to you all, and in celebration of my fREADom to read, I am going to post several reviews this week. I typically like to post multiple reviews during Banned Books Week, anyhow, so I’m going to keep the tradition alive with some “edgy” books.

Much like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (which was the most challenged book of 2014 and yet *another* book I managed not to review even though I loved it), I fear that some readers will complain that I am the Weapon contains drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, violence, depictions of bullying, and that it’s “unsuited for age group” — whatever THAT means!  I honestly believe that we need to trust tweens and teens to make their own choice about what they’re comfortable reading, since their lives and their emotional needs vary greatly from person to person.  If they aren’t ready to handle a topic that comes up in a book, they’re most likely to simply set it aside and move on.  And if there’s something “too mature” in a book, it will often go over the reader’s head — unlike a movie that just spells it right out for ya!  I also firmly believe that experiencing the repercussions of unsavory/risky behaviors vicariously through characters in a book is a much safer than testing things out in “the real world.”  Wouldn’t you rather your children learned to have empathy for others by witnessing the repercussions of bullying in a book instead of blindly joining up with the bullies at their school because they didn’t really think it was such a big deal?  I know I would.

Ben, aka the Unknown Assassin, is a finely-tuned, teenage hitman.  He has been trained by “The Program” and reports to people he calls “Mom” and “Dad.”  Ben is not his real name, of course.  It’s just the name of his persona for this mission, and he will stop being Ben as soon as his mission is complete.  This mission is different than the rest, though, because it has such a short timeline.  Ben is used to taking time to find his mark, to get close enough to kill them, and then sticking around long enough afterward so as to not arouse suspicion.  But this mission is supposed to be completed in no more than five days.  Five days!  With such a high-profile target, this mission seems nearly impossible.  But, Ben is bound and determined to succeed.  He’s never failed before, and he doesn’t intend to start now.  Except…  Something about this mission feels off.  Not only that, but Ben also has feelings for the daughter of the mark.  The fast pace, action, and adventure are sure to lure guys in, and the romantic undertones are well-balanced enough to enrapture love-crazed teenage readers without turning off the people who couldn’t care less.  I definitely need to get my hands on the rest of this series!

Happy Banned Books Week!


Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Oh. My. Goodness!  Y’all have GOT to read this book when it comes out!  Sadly, people who are not members of a site like NetGalley might have to wait until the November 3rd release date to get their hands on Need — but, even then, it will be worth the wait.  I’d especially recommend this book to fans of thrillers like Lauren Oliver’s Panic.  I also think this would be a good book to present to your child when s/he asks for permission to start a Facebook (or other social media site) account.  Even though it’s a bit hyperbolic, this story does an excellent job showing just how easily social media brings out the worst in people and could be a great conversation starter about both bullying and personal accountability.

With the anonymity available through some sites, and the simple fact that confrontations aren’t happening face-to-face, cyberbullying has become a huge  problem.  Teens are known for being impulsive and self-centered; those traits are part and parcel of the whole adolescent experience.  So, imagine how easy it would be to convince teens to complete simple tasks in exchange for rewards.  Especially if they were able to name the rewards they wanted AND were able to complete those tasks anonymously.  Let alone the fact that they often had little-to-no information about how their task fit into the big picture.  I kept thinking to myself, “OMG!  Something like this could totally happen!”  Everything started out so simply and innocently but then quickly escalated to get completely out of hand — a bit like Janne Teller’s Nothing.  Do yourself a favor and don’t pick this book up until you have a few hours to read it uninterrupted.  Trust me!  ;-)

Happy Reading!

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

vanishing-girlsDara and Nick used to be more than just sisters; they were best friends.  Though they used to be practically inseparable, they don’t even speak to one another anymore.  The worst part is that Nick started to lose her other best friend, Parker, at the same time as Dara — all because he and Dara started dating.  One night, during a heated argument, the girls ended up in a car accident and that was the final straw.  Dara’s face and body were forever damaged, just like her relationship with Nick, and she keeps herself hidden away all the time.  Still, Nick is determined to fix things with Parker and Dara this summer.  Before she can even start to work things out, nevertheless, Dara disappears.  It could just be that Dara is messing around, but the disappearance of another local girl, 9-year-old Madeline Snow, makes Nick wonder if there might be something more to the story.  Will she be able to piece everything together?  Will the girls ever be found?  The answers might be more shocking than you can imagine…  Fans of Oliver’s earlier books Before I Fall and Panic are sure to enjoy her latest mystery/thriller.

Happy Reading!

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

so-yesterdayI’m not quite sure how I read [and loved] Peeps, the Uglies series, the Leviathan series, AND Afterworlds but managed not to get around to this book until now…  I’m just special like that!  Though I felt the references to pop culture and technology definitely “dated” the story a bit, I think it is still relevant enough to recommend to today’s teens.  After all, society still cycles through “cool” fashions and trends.  And I don’t think many people really consider WHY and HOW things become “cool” — they just fall into the trap of wanting the next “cool” thing.  I encourage my kids (my biological children and the ones I work with) to question everything instead of just taking other people’s word for it.  I also encourage them to trust their own instincts and to find their own style instead of caring what other people will think.  As long as you’re not purposely trying to offend other people, I think you should embrace what you love and just go with it.  Hopefully, this story will help some tweens and teens see the light.

Hunter Braque was a “cool hunter.”  He was literally paid, mostly in free shoes, to report upcoming trends and fashions to a major corporation he called “The Client.”  (Throughout the story, Hunter left out the names of the brands/companies to which he was referring — but he gave just enough information that the readers could likely fill in the blanks on their own.)  Hunter actually worked for a woman named Mandy, who reported back to The Client after “cool tastings” (aka focus groups).  When Hunter met Jen, he just knew Mandy would want to meet her too and got her an invitation to a cool tasting.  Jen’s new perspective earned both Hunter and Jen an invitation to a super-secret meeting with Mandy, but then Mandy never showed up.  After hearing Mandy’s cell phone ringing from inside the abandoned building, Hunter and Jen broke in and found a stockpile of the coolest shoes they’d ever seen.  They weren’t sure what to think, but they were pretty sure Mandy was in trouble and that it had something to do with those shoes…  Action and mystery combine for a super-fun read that also questions the conformity and consumerism that run rampant in our society.

Happy Reading!

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

when-you-reach-meThis book was an interesting blend of historical fiction, mystery, and science fiction.  I can certainly see why it won the Newbery Award, since it was well written, pays homage to a “classic” children’s book, and has a nostalgia factor for the teachers and librarians who grew up in the 70s and 80s — especially with all the references to Miranda’s mom practicing for her appearance on the game show $20,000 Pyramid.  I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that a lot of tweens and teens would find it difficult to really get hooked on this story.  I was curious about how things would play out in the end and all, but the story didn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat.

One day, as Miranda walked home with her best friend, Sal, he got punched in the stomach.  The kid who punched him was new to the neighborhood and didn’t even know Miranda or Sal, so there didn’t seem to be any reason for the attack.  Even worse?  Right after that incident, Sal began to get distant.  Miranda felt lost without Sal, since the two of them had been constant companions since their early childhood.  And then, when the hidden/”emergency” key to her apartment went missing and she found a strange note hidden in a library book, Miranda got understandably freaked out.  Especially since the author of the note seemed to know things about her — even things that hadn’t happened yet.  Fans of A Wrinkle in Time are sure to enjoy the way Miranda’s life experiences drew parallels to that book and made her question the real possibilities of time travel.  I think there are enough details, nevertheless, that the story will still make sense to readers who aren’t familiar with L’Engle’s work.

Happy Reading!

Burn for Burn [trilogy] by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

burn-for-burnLet me just start off my review by stating that I refuse to read any further books if this trilogy suddenly becomes a series with four or more books, like The Selection.  As far as I am concerned, this trilogy is complete, there is no more story, and Jenny Hand and Siobhan Vivian should leave it alone!  ;-)  (Who am I kidding?  I’m sure I would eat it up if they published anything else because I tore through these books!)  Oh… And there is one other thing I would like to clarify before starting my actual review.  Some people might start reading the first book and think the “sci-fi/fantasy” classification is unjustified.  Even at the end of the first book, I was a little unsure if the supernatural element was quite enough to justify being in the “sci-fi/fantasy” section of the Teen Area.  But, trust me when I say that it will make sense if you keep reading. Continue reading