Friday, October 30, 2015

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina has lived her life in secret.  She and her pa live in the basement of the massive Biltmore Estate which he helped build.  Now he works there as an electrician.  Serafina knows she must keep their secret or they will lose their home, but she isn't sure why they must live in secret in the basement.  Even though she loves her silent nighttime prowls around Biltmore, she longs for friendship.

One night she sees a terrifying man with a black cloak chasing a young girl through the house.  As she watches, the man throws the cloak over the girl and it seems to swallow her whole.  Serafina runs to tell her pa what happened, but he thinks it's just another one of her stories.

Then several more children go missing, and Serafina realizes she's the only one who knows the truth.  In the chaos of the staff and guests searching for the missing children, Serafina accidentally exposes herself to Braeden, the nephew of Biltmore's owners.

Serafina isn't sure if he will by an ally or an enemy, but it seems that Braeden is as much in need of friendship as Serafina, and he believes her story about the man in the black cloak.  Now they are on the hunt together to uncover the villain's identity before he takes any more children.  The more Serafina uncovers, the more she questions her own identity.  Is she a "creature of the night," too?  Is that why Pa keeps her a secret in the basement?

Read Robert Beatty's dark fantasy tale to find out!

Chasing Secrets

Lizzie Kennedy's life is by no means perfect.  Her mother died when she was little, so now she is in the clutches of her Aunt Prudence who only seemed concerned with making Lizzie into a proper young lady for Chicago society in 1900.  Lizzie secretly loves science and struggles to get along with the other girls at Miss Barstow's finishing school.

When a plague quarantine in Chinatown puts everyone on edge, Lizzie finds a secret in her own home.  Her family's beloved cook, Jing, has gone missing and Lizzie fears he is caught in the quarantine.  Her doctor father is away on a call and won't be back for days.  No one listens to Lizzie's pleas for help.  After Jing's disappearance Lizzie discovers his son Noah hiding in Jing's attic bedroom.  The two quickly become friends, and Lizzie's resolve to rescue Jing is strengthened.

All the important people are saying there is no plague in San Francisco, but if this is true, then why is there a quarantine?  And what does a monkey have to do with anything?  Lizzie has plenty of questions, but no one wants to listen to a girl.  At best they tell her not to "worry her pretty head" about these things.  Will Lizzie uncover the truth in time to save someone she loves?

Gennifer Choldenko's new book is a medical mystery inspired by the real life plague outbreak in 1900 in San Francisco.  It is a fascinating story with a great author's note about which parts of the story were based on real people and events.

Terrible Typhoid Mary

Susan Campbell Bartoletti's new book explores Mary Mallon's role in the typhoid frenzy at the beginning of the 20th century.  Mary's connection to the disease began when she was hired as a cook for a wealthy family on summer vacation.  Several members of the family and staff were stricken with typhoid fever, but no one knew why.

Mary's connection may never have been discovered if the owners of the house hadn't hired a man named George Soper to investigate.  It was Soper who discovered Mary was a healthy carrier of the disease.  She showed no symptoms, but her body was host for the deadly typhoid bacteria.

What followed was an epic battle of wills between Soper and Mary Mallon.  Mary's case is important because it tested the power of the New York Board of Health.  Could the government imprison people for being sick?  What about Mary who wasn't sick at all and had no skills other than cooking?

One of the best aspects of this book is the author's exploration of notoriety.  After Mary's name was reported in the press, she became a scapegoat for typhoid fever despite all the other healthy carrier's who were never imprisoned and all the people who got sick but had nothing to do with Mary Mallon. Is being sick a crime?

Skink: No Surrender

Richard's cousin has done something stupid.  Malley met a guy online, and now she's run away with him.  Fourteen year old Malley insists she's fine, but Richard is worried.  The police are on the case, but Richard knows Malley better than anyone, so when a crazy looking guy he met on the beach wants to go find her, Richard decides to join him.

Skink may look like a crazy homeless guy with mismatched eyes, and there is the fact that Richard met him hiding on the beach to catch a turtle egg poacher, but there is something about Skink that makes Richard trust him.

Even though Skink seems like a crazy homeless guy, he has resources that can get him a car and money for the hunt.  Even though Skink doesn't know Malley, he's in it for the puzzle and to punish the loser who's kidnapped Malley.  His real love seems to be the environment though, and Richard isn't sure they will survive all the crazy things Skink does to protect animals or the roadkill dinners he serves up along the way.

This book is a great mystery with one crazy character and plenty of laughs!  Plus, this could be a series opener with more Skink stories to follow!  Read Carl Hiaasen's new book for action, mystery, comedy, and, of course, environmental awareness!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Surrounded by Sharks

Davey just wants a little alone time on the family vacation in the Florida Keys, so when he wakes up earlier than everyone else, he decides to take his book and sneak out.

He quickly comes to realize this was a mistake, maybe a deadly one.  Davey gets caught in a rip tide and pulled out to sea.  No one knows where he is.  They don't even know he left the hotel room.

When the family discovers Davey missing, they aren't too worried at first.  After all, he likes to go off to read alone.  But their concern turns to worry and then panic as the hours pass and Davey is clearly not on the small island.

When Davey is already exhausted from spending hours in the sun, he sees the first one.  A blue shark is swimming in slow lazy circles around him.  That's when he really begins to panic.

In alternating chapters, Michael Northrop tells Davey's story and the story of his family and the people trying to find him.  This book definitely lives up to its name and was much more intense than I was expecting!  The last several pages flew by as I hurried to discover Davey's fate.  Recommended for adventure/survival fans and shark fans!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stella by Starlight

When Stella and her little brother, Jojo, witness the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross at night, their community is moved to action.  Everyone is afraid, but no one knows what to do.  It's 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina, and it seems like the KKK has always been around to remind the African American community of their place.

But things might be changing.  Three black men want to register to vote, and Stella's father is one of them.  They know it is dangerous, but they also know people like the Klan will never just give them rights.  It they want dignity and self respect, they will have to step up and demand it.

Stella is proud of her father's courage, but her mother is worried about retaliation.  When tragedy strikes, the whole community will come together including some people Stella never expected to see on her side.  Will Stella be able to overcome her own fears and find her courage?

Sharon Draper's new book explores a troubling time of segregation and transition in our nation's past and the power of one young girl's courage.