Monday, November 30, 2015

The Clockwork Scarab

Mina Holmes is the niece of the great detective, Sherlock, and she has done her best to be a great observer and detective like her famous uncle.  She may not be graceful or beautiful, but she is smart, scientific, and brave.

Evaline Stoker is beautiful, but she is also deadly.  She has inherited the vampire slaying gene of her family which give her incredible speed and agility.

These two young women have been recruited by Irene Adler to serve the royal family in investigating unusual crimes.

The first case is a series of dead girls who appear at first to have committed suicide, but they were really murdered.  A clockwork scarab beetle was found with each body.

This leads our two heroines down a twisting case involving Egyptian cults, street ruffians, opium, and a time traveling young man from the future.

Will our heroines be able to overcome their own weaknesses and prejudices against each other before another girl dies?  Read Colleen Gleason's series opener to find out.

There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about this books, but it wasn't quite perfect.  The time travelling alternate universe aspect seems a bit clumsy and doesn't have any kind of conclusion.  But this is still a fun read with strong female characters and a dash of steampunk thrown in.

Newt's Emerald

When the Newington Emerald, stone of immense magical power and source of the Newington luck, is stolen right from under Lady Truthful Newington's nose, there is only one possible solution.  She will go to London, dress as a young man, and investigate the crime herself.  It's Regency England after all, no lady would be allowed to investigate the emerald's disappearance let alone move about the city unescorted!

With the help of her feisty sorceress aunt and an ensorcelled mustache, Truthful clumsily begins her investigation.  When she encounters Major Harnett, a handsome but arrogant war hero, she finds an unexpected source of help.

But will it be enough to get the emerald and save England from the villain who would use its powers for evil?  Lady Truthful will not be pushed out of the investigation despite the growing danger to her person and to her heart.

I was excited to see this from Garth Nix, one of my favorite authors.  It is a perfect blend of adventure, fantasy, romance, and Regency manners.  This is truly a fun read!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Night Divided

Gerta wakes up one morning to find her city divided by a fence.  East Berlin is controlled by the Communists, and Gerta's father and brother are on the other side.  She, her mother, and her older brother are trapped.  The fence is patrolled by soldiers who will shoot to get their message across.  Eventually, the fence becomes a wall, and Gerta wonders if she will ever escape or see her father again.

Her older brother Fitz becomes increasingly frustrated with life in the East, and Gerta, too, longs for freedom.  One day after years of separation, she see her brother and her father on the wall.  It is dangerous to stop and stare, but it seems like Papa is trying to tell her something.  Does Papa want her to...dig?

With the threat of death hanging over them at every moment, Fritz and Gerta begin their plan to escape Communist rule to find freedom in the East.  Gerta will have to sacrifice food, safety, and friendship to attain her dream, but she is determined to have her freedom at any cost, even if that cost is her life.

Historical fiction is a departure for Jennifer A. Nielson, but this book is definitely a winner!  Highly recommended especially for kids who devour books about the Holocaust.  This is a good stepping stone for discussion about what happened after WWII.


Jackson loves facts.  He wants to be a scientist, an animal scientist more specifically.  That's why the reappearance of his imaginary friend is so unsettling to him.  Crenshaw is an enormous black and white cat who likes to take bubble baths and loves purple jelly beans.  But what is he doing here?  It's hard enough to deal with a talking cat, but when no one else can see the cat, you start to feel a little crazy.

Jackson wants Crenshaw to leave.  Crenshaw insists he will leave when Jackson doesn't need him anymore.  The last time Crenshaw showed up was when Jackson's family lost their house, and they had to live in the minivan for a few months.  That can't be happening again.

Surely they will find a way to stay in their apartment.  Jackson likes his neighborhood, his school, and his best friend Marisol, but sometimes life just doesn't work out the way you want it to even when you are doing the best you can.

Katherine Applegate's newest book is a bittersweet story about childhood, friendship, and the painful reality of poverty and homelessness.  Highly recommended!

The Lost Planet

Chase Garrety knows nothing when he wakes up in a field on Trucon.  Heck, he doesn't even know he's on Trucon or what his name is until someone tells him later.  He has a major head wound, and now he's recuperating in a huge with some kid named Parker who appears to be completely unsupervised except for an android named Mina.  Who is Chase, and where did he come from?

When Chase and Parker break out of their prison/home for a little fun on a nearby planet, disaster strikes.  The planet is destoryed!  Now the boys don't know where to go or what to do.

They pick up a man floating in space hoping he is alive, but Maurus has his own secrets, and the boys are now drawn into his story.  They travel to distant planets trying to outrun police, and high ranking men with evil plots all while trying to figure out who Chase really is.

Oh, and one more thing.  Chase discovers he has a special talent.  He is not a normal human boy, and that talent could lead to his doom or his salvation.

Rachel Searles's book is a fast paced sci-fi adventure!

The Hollow Boy

I love this series so much!  The third installment takes our ghost hunting trio even further into the mystery of London's hauntings.  There is a massive outbreak in Chelsea, and Lockwood is miffed that his agency isn't in on the action despite a recent spate of high profile jobs.  Even so, the agency is overworked, and Anthony, Lucy, and George are wearing a little thin.

To make matters worse, George and Anthony have hired the beautiful and annoyingly perfect Holly Munro as a secretary/office manager while Lucy was out of town.  Sure, Ms. Munro is practically perfect and they are working higher profile jobs, but Lucy just can't seem to find her way to liking the perfect Ms. Munro.

Lucy's increasing frustration is leading to problems at work, and it's not just with Holly Munro.  After using her gift of listening to resolve a major haunting, Lucy is convinced, this could be a tool for agents to use in the future.  Lockwood and George firmly disagree; they believe listening to ghosts could get Lucy killed.

On top of all this, Lucy can't deny her growing affection for Anthony Lockwood, but he seems even more closed off than ever.  Will our intrepid heroes be able to overcome their problems and get back to being the best, if the smallest, agency in London?  Will they be able to solve the Chelsea hauntings?  Read Jonathan Stroud's new book to find out!

Also, there is a hug cliffhanger at the end.  Why, Stroud, why?!  This is me reading the final sentences:

The Madman of Piney Woods

Benji loves the forest surrounding his home in Buxton, Canada.  There's pretty much no other place he'd rather be.  He can read the scattered leaves and bent branches like a book to understand what has happened there.  He's always heard stories about the Madman of Piney Woods, but he's never been sure they're true until the day he senses someone watching him.  Could it be the Madman himself?

Red has spent his life in fear of his prejudiced and often abusive grandmother.  He doesn't understand why she hates everyone including him.  He tries to take his father's advice and appreciate her as the person who gave them beloved but now dead mother.  It's not easy.

One day these two boys have a chance meeting that begins an instant friendship, and they navigate their way through a society that doesn't think Irish boys and children of former slaves should be friends.

Their friendship is put to the ultimate test when the most vulnerable member of their community is in danger.  It will take all their courage, strength, and trust to make it through the most terrifying night of both their lives.

There are parts of Christopher Paul Curtis's newest book that I really love, but it's just not my favorite of his books.  The alternating points of view go on too long before the boys have any contact with each other.  I wanted more of an intersection earlier in the story to make it feel more cohesive.  It's still a good book and definitely worth reading.  Once the boys come together, it's classic Christopher Paul Curtis filled with adventure, hope, and heartbreak.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fuzzy Mud

When Tamaya and Marshall take a "shortcut" through the woods to avoid a bully on their way home from school one day, their lives are changed forever.  Soon they are hopelessly lost, and the bully, Chad, is closing in.  To defend herself and Marshall, Tamaya scoops up a handful of strange fuzzy mud and throws it in Chad's face.

It's only later when they are home that Tamaya realizes there is something strange going on.  Her hand feels tingly and is covered in a rash that is getting worse by the minute.

This story is inter-cut with excerpts from senate hearings on a new fuel source called bioline.  It's make of tiny microorganisms to double at an alarming rate.

Now it's a race against time to see if the characters realize the truth and get help before it's too late.

Read Louis Sachar's new book for a terrifying sci-fi mystery that seems all too plausible.

Sunny Side Up

Sunny thinks going to Florida to visit her grandfather will be great!  Beaches!  Disneyworld! Right? Wrong.

Sunny is pretty bored at the retirement community where her grandfather lives until she meets Buzz, the son of the groundskeeper. Buzz introduces Sunny to comic books, and she discovers a fun new world.  They also accidentally find a way to make money to buy new comics by helping the ladies of the community find their missing cats.

There's also a giant alligator roaming around for a little extra adventure!

But Sunny still  has a lot on her mind.  Her grandpa told her he quit smoking, but she keeps finding cigarettes hidden in the apartment.  That on top of the fact that her older brother is dealing with some serious problems back home that no one wants to talk about, makes Sunny a little frustrated with keeping secrets.

Read this new graphic novel by sibling team Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm to find out if Sunny can solve all her problems to stay "sunny side up!"

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I read the first two volumes of this graphic novel series by a quartet of authors, and I really enjoyed both.  They are packed with adventure, friendship, wackiness, and references to female icons.

Our heroes are cabin-mates and best friends Jo, Mal, April, Molly, and Ripley.  It's a little easy to confuse personalities and who is talking at first, but give it some time and it will all make sense--in a crazy kind of way.  While out on one of their rule bending adventures they come across some odd three-eyed creatures and nearly drive their counselor to the edge, but their camp director, Rosie, thinks it's a good idea to give them some freedom.

Soon the girls are out solving clues and facing danger.  The camp's motto is "Friendship to the max!," and the girls are definitely dedicated to friendship and each other.  I really enjoyed this graphic about girls that's focused on friendship instead of romance, and it's nice to see female characters with more normal body types who are fully dressed.  Plus, I think "What the junk?" is going to be my new catchphrase!

There isn't an official website for the Lumberjanes yet, but here is a link to their Tumblr.