Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Rory Deveaux is back in this second book in the Shades of London series. This review may contain some spoilers to the first book, so I suggest that if you are in the mood for a compelling supernatural mystery you check out the Edgar Award-nominated The Name of the Star instead and read no further here.

Following the harrowing events of the first book, Rory has been living in Bristol with her parents, who are worried for her and are constantly hovering solicitously nearby. When her therapist suggests that she return to London, to the scene of the Jack the Ripper copycat murders that she was so perilously involved in, Rory is delighted - despite the horrific things that happened at Wexford, she misses the boarding school and the good friends that she made there - not to mention the members of the Shades, London's secret group of supernatural police specialists.

Rory finds that school is difficult; she cannot focus, as she's constantly suffering flashbacks from the previous year. A string of strange murders is happening in the city, and she just knows they are somehow related to ghosts, but the Shades are not convinced. Rory soon finds herself a dangerous position as she tries to determine the truth behind the killings.

I love Rory, her strength and wit and determination. The first part of the book unwinds slowly, as Rory truly is suffering from PTSD, and I was glad to see that her experience was not brushed airily aside as she moved on to fearlessly confront more scary things - she came across as a teenager who had survived a terrible event as was, with the help of her family, therapist and friends, learning to come to terms with it. I enjoy reading about strong female characters (and recommending books featuring them to teens - and others - at my library), but I become annoyed with the unrealistic super female that appears all too often - the beautiful, tall, witty, butt-kicking martial arts expert who is always on top of things, never makes mistakes (unless the plot requires it) and is unfazed by any and all danger. Rory is a realistic heroine, funny and strong, fallible, learns from her mistakes, and has a good heart. I can't wait for the next book in this wonderful series.

Books in the Shades of London Series:
1. The Name of the Star
2. The Madness Underneath

The Madness Underneath (#2 in the Shades of London series) by Maureen Johnson (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2013)

Also by Maureen Johnson:
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses

This YA book explores traditional fairy tales from a dark, often gruesome perspective, mining the most disturbing aspects (and there are plenty) of the stories from Anderson and the brothers Grimm. The twelve dancing princesses, Bluebeard, the little match girl, the robber bridegroom and, of course, Little Red Riding hood are among the tales retold from various perspectives.

Some take a fairly traditional approach to the stories.  "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" begins: 
When one sleeps, they all sleep. When one pouts, they all pout. And they all wear out their shoes in a roadhouse by the lake."
Others have a more modern, up-to-date spin, as with the story "Bearskin:"
The soldier had seen the devil in the desert. And he'd seen the devil's toys - IEDs, VBIEDs, the maniacs with dynamite strapped to their chests.
So he wasn't surprised when the devil came right up to him in the VA hospital room and said, "So here's the deal. If you can wear a bearskin for seven years, you'll stop having  bad dreams. And I'll make you rich. But it you ever take the bearskin off, I get your soul."

This is a quirky, compelling, darkly humorous and often disturbing little book that will have appeal for fans of fairy tales in all the shapes and forms. It's a mixture of poetic prose and free verse, heavier on concepts and ideas than on characterization, interesting and full of surprises. My library shelves this in the YA section, but it definitely has adult appeal and I would not recommend it to younger teens because of some of the content. I look forward to seeing what Koertge turns his talents to next.

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge; illustrated by Andrea Dezso (Candlewick Press, 2012)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

This one totally had me when I read the tagline at the back of the book: It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

This teen novel is set in the same fictional world as Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series and features Sophronia, a brash and adventurous teenager who doesn't fit in with her mother's plans for her to be a demure, marriageable young lady. She finds herself whisked off against her will to Madame Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, but on the way there she discovers that the school will not be at all what she expected (and certainly is not what her mother had in mind for her). In fact, she might even find herself liking it there.

Nefarious plots, supernatural creatures, magic, dancing lessons, assassination lessons - what's not to like? Funny, exciting, mostly predictable but still packing a few unexpected twists and turns, this teen novel will appeal to Gallager Girl Academy and Sorcery and Cecelia fans, and to just about anyone, teen or adult, who is looking for an amusing, steampunkish romp with strong female characters and suspense mixed with a bit of silliness.

Books in the Finishing School series:
1. Etiquette and Espionage
2. Curtsies and Conspiracies

Etiquette and Espionage (#1 in the Finishing School series) by Gail Carriger (Little, Brown and Co., 2013)

Also by Gail Carriger:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Vesper by Jeff Sampson

This YA fantasy novel features teenage Emily Webb, a girl who prefers to stay in the background at school, keeping to herself and following her own geekish interests. Things change for her when she starts having dreams about becoming a stronger, bolder Emily, dreams that are so real but in which she behaves entirely out of character. She soon realizes that these dreams are, in fact, real, and that she is both drawn to and repelled by the nighttime version of herself. When a girl - also named Emily - is murdered one night, Emily becomes drawn into the mystery - both of the identity of the killer and of the reason behind the changers that are happening to her.

This was certainly an action-packed read, and I liked that Emily doesn't sit around whining about what is happening. It is certainly unsettling to her, but she approaches the situation with strength and tenacity, and she takes charge as best she can, given her limited knowledge of what is going on. While I will certainly be recommending this series to teens at my library who are looking for an page-turning fantasy, I personally didn't connect with the characters enough to continue with the series. I enjoyed it as I was reading it, but I guess I am a little tired of all the loose ends that are inevitably present at the end of this kind of book, leaving the reader hanging until the next one comes out. It sure would be nice to have things end in a conclusive way once in a while!

Books in the Deviants series:
1. Vesper
2. Havoc
3. Ravage

Vesper (#1 in the Deviants series) by Jeff Sampson (Balzer and Bray, 2011)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Takedown Twenty

When I show up at work to find a brand-new Stephanie Plum novel waiting for me on my desk, it's like finding a cupcake or a fudgy frosted brownie. I exclaim Hooray! and spend the next few hours impatiently waiting to crack the book open and find out what's been going on in Trenton since the last time I visited Stephanie and her quirky assortment of friends, family, co-workers, skips and, of course, romantic interests.

In this installment, Stephanie has incurred the wrath of just about everyone in town when she goes after an elderly man, a mobster known as "Uncle Sunny," who is wanted for murder (a witness captured the incident on his phone and posted it on YouTube, so there's no doubt about his guilt). He's a charming man who wears a bow tie, and not only is Stephanie not getting any help at all from anyone, they are actively opposing her in every way they can.  To make her life more complicated, her mother sets her up with the local butcher - and is encouraging Stephanie to quit her dangerous bounty hunter job and work at the butcher shop instead. Things are going so badly that Stephanie finds herself admitting that her mother might actually be right.

Fans of the Stephanie Plum series will find a lot to like here - plenty of Morelli and Ranger, Lula and even a giraffe. Humor abounds, but there are also some heartfelt moments and plenty of suspense. Anyone in the mood for a break from the stress and demands of life - particularly at this time of year - will find a welcome respite in Stephanie Plum's Trenton. The series is best read in order. Lots of fun!

Takedown Twenty (#20 in the Stephanie Plum series) by Janet Evanovich (Bantam Books, 2013)

Books in the Stephanie Plum series:
1. One for the Money
2. Two for the Dough
3. Three to Get Deadly
4. Four to Score
5. High Five
6. Hot Six
7. Seven Up
8. Hard Eight
9. To the Nines
10. Ten Big Ones
11. Eleven on Top
12. Twelve Sharp
13. Lean Mean Thirteen
14. Fearless Fourteen
Finger Lickin' Fifteen
16. Sizzling Sixteen

17. Smokin' Seventeen
18. Explosive Eighteen
19. Notorious Nineteen
20. Takedown Twenty

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

I was about halfway through this book before I realized it was a sequel of sorts to Kushner's Swordspoint, which I had read back in the late 80s when it was published. I couldn't remember much about it other than the fact that I'd enjoyed it, and I was too excited to see what happened to stop reading this and pick up the first one - which is saying something, because normally I'm such a stickler about reading things in order.

The setting is the city of Riverside, where our heroine, Katherine, is sent to live with her uncle. She had envisioned going to the city and attending lavish parties wearing lovely gowns, maybe even falling in love - but her uncle has other plans for her. Known as the Mad Duke Tremontaine, he has decided that it would be far more amusing to have her trained up to become an expert at swordsmanship. And because her mother is in the duke's debt, Katherine has little choice. She finds herself thrust into a world of political intrigue, duels, and swordplay, and the more she learns of her uncle, the more she wonders about the truth behind his often outrageous behavior.

This was a wonderful read - fantasy writing at its best - with rich world-building, complex characters, and an exciting, fast-paced plot. Katherine is an admirable, endearing heroine who will appeal to fans of Graceling and Sorcery and Cecelia. I'm looking forward to returning to the city of Riverside when I go back to reread the first book, Swordspoint.

Books in The Swords of Riverside series:
1. Swordspoint
2. The Privilege of the Sword

The Privilege of the Sword (#2 in The Swords of Riverside series) by Ellen Kushner (Bantam Books, 2006)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Will and Whit

Despite the fact that Laura Lee Gulledge has published only two graphic novels so far, she is at the top of my list of favorite graphic novel authors. Her books are beautifully illustrated, surprising, creative, quirky, funny, moving, and just all-around delightful. I first discovered her with Page by Paige, which I adored. In fact, I was almost worried to pick up this second one because I felt my expectations may have been unrealistically high. But I needn't have worried.

From the cover I expected this to be a traditional love story, but it wasn't that at all. Not that there isn't romance - that's certainly a part of it - but as with Page by Paige, there was so much more. Our heroine is teenager Will (Wilhelmina) Huxstep, who is wrestling with some demons - trying to come to terms with a family tragedy that has left her fearful of the dark. She is a creative person, and she battles her fear through her art: she makes beautiful, whimsical lamps. She enjoys getting away from the plugged-in aspects of life and out into the world, doing fun things with her friends (also creative, artistic people). When the threat of hurricane Whitney - and the accompanying blackout - is bearing down upon them, Will will need to muster all her bravery - and creative outlook on life - to make it through.

I just loved this book. Gulledge uses metaphors in her artwork  in such amazing ways (this one is populated by very interesting shadows that give the careful reader insight into thoughts and feelings that lie beneath the surface), and the artwork and the words flow from page to page in a natural way that lends itself perfectly to the story. The characters are engaging and funny and feel very real, and they interact in ways that often had me laughing out loud. This is a moving story that teens (and adults) will certainly find appealing, and if you have been thinking of taking the plunge into graphic novels, this one would be a wonderful one to explore. Highly recommended!

Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge (Amulet Books, 2013)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

This is one of the few books that I read after seeing the movie, and this is also one of the rare times that I have had difficulty deciding which one I liked better!

I hesitate to say too much about it, because it is fun to just let the story unfold and go with it. People who love zombie stories definitely need to read this one - and people who think they don't like zombie stories really should give it a try. It is told from the zombie's point of view - and in a funny, sensitive, very interesting sort of way. It involves romance, coming-of-age, humor, action, and, of course, some blood and dismemberment just for fun. Also there are echos of Romeo and Juliet. 

What's not to like? Give this one a try - you won't be sorry you did. Oh, and the movie? You really need to check that out as well. It's the most charming zombie movie you will ever see.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (Atria Books, 2011)

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

Eleven-year-old James is a bit of a troublemaker, but there is no doubt he has a keen mind. When he and his sister are orphaned, he finds himself recruited to be part of a teen spy group. After all, who would suspect children of bugging houses and doing recon work? He has a very rigorous basic training to make it through, and if he gets through that, his first mission.

I picked this one up because it is popular among preteen and teen boys at my library, so I thought I should check it out. It is a fast read, rather predictable, but with characters who offer a bit more in complexity than I had expected, particularly some of the minor characters. I found that James's behavior wasn't always believable for an eleven-year-old boy, but I doubt younger readers will have an issue with that. There is a lot of fast-paced action here, and while I don't personally feel the need to continue with the series, I'll definitely be recommending it to young readers at my library.

Books in the CHERUB series:
1. The Recruit 
 2. Class A aka The Dealer
3. Maximum Security
4. The Killing
5. Divine Madness
6. Man Vs Beast
7. The Fall
8. Mad Dogs
9. The Sleepwalker
10. The General
11. Brigands M.C.
12. Shadow Wave 

The Recruit (#1 in the CHERUB series) by Robert Muchamore (Simon Pulse, 2004)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger

This is a lovingly illustrated adult fairy tale about a postman who falls in love with a raven. They stay together and have a child, a girl who is a raven at heart and feels trapped inside her human body. It's an unusual story with a dreamlike quality that unfolds in a matter-of-fact but magical way. I enjoyed it very much!

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger (Abrams Comic Arts, 2013)

Also by Niffenegger: The Night Bookmobile

Also reviewed at:
This Book is Reserved
Nomad Reader

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blackout by Connie Willis

I'm struggling a bit with how to review this one. It's a story set in 2060 Oxford, where historians travel back in time to learn more about particular eras and events in history. This one focuses on England during World War II. There were things I loved about it, and things I didn't like so much. So I'll tell you what those things are, and leave it at that.

What I loved:

  • The setting. By the time I finished reading this I felt as though I'd sat through the blitz in the Underground and other basements around London. She clearly did a ton of research into life in England during the war, and it shows.
  • The way certain scenes would just take off and become so gripping and compelling that it felt as though I were experiencing them as one of the characters.

What I didn't love so much:
  • As clear as it was that Willis thoroughly researched the background of this one, there was a little too much of her research in the book, indigestible lumps of exposition that dragged down the narrative for me.
  • The characters were sort of eh. I didn't really care much about any of them - in fact, with all the point-of-view shifts I could barely keep them apart, to the point where I'd find myself several pages into a new chapter thinking I was reading about one character when, in fact, I'd been reading about another.
  • The book felt way longer than it needed to be.
  • The way the book just ended, without any real conclusion to speak of.
  • I could never figure out the point of the time-travel investigations. It seemed so purely academic and arbitrary, which took away some of the tension I think I was supposed to be feeling.
So yeah, good and bad. I'm not sorry I read it, but even though the book just ends, clearly to be continued in the sequel, I have no intention of reading any further. If you really love World War II-era stories, this one is definitely for you. If not, you might want to give it a pass and pick up something else by this wonderful author. 

Blackout by Connie Willis (Spectra Ballantine Books, 2010)

Also by Connie Willis:
Inside Job

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is one of those authors I turn to when I need a dependable escape from reality that is sure to give me an emotional and mental experience that, when I come back out of my book, makes me feel refreshed, looking at the world around me with new eyes.

I've read this short story collection several times since it was first published in 1993, and one day I noticed it was available as an audiobook through my library's digital collection. It was a nice change of pace to return to my beloved Newford through the narration of the aptly named Kate Reading, who did a great job bringing all the characters to life.

If you've never read de Lint, you are in for a treat. Along with a wonderful series of characters who appear as protagonists in some stories and novels, and as minor or supporting characters in other stories and novels, he also writes about Newford, a fictional Canadian city that is just about a character in its own right. The short stories touch on new and familiar lives here and there, in and about Newford, featuring magical characters, normal everyday characters somehow touched by magic, mythical elements, gritty, edgy issues, young characters, old characters, and everything in between. As usual de Lint's love of music and the arts shines through in many of these stories, which is another element I always enjoy in his fiction.

Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint; narrated by Kate Reading (Blackstone Audio, 2009)

Also by de Lint:
Angel of Darkness
Eyes Like Leaves
 Little (Grrl) LOST
Waifs and Strays
Wolf Moon

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Seraphina Dombegh lives in a world in which there is an uneasy truce between dragons and humans. She has secrets of her own, and when a member of the royal family is murdered in a way that seems to can only have been perpetrated by a dragon, she finds herself plunged in the middle of a complex and dangerous situation. Instead of protecting her own safely by discreetly staying in the shadows as she's been taught, Seraphina finds herself continually brought to the attention of people who could, if they knew her secret, make life very difficult for her.

I didn't know much about this book before reading it, and I'm glad. It was one of those delightful stories that just sucked me into a world that is fascinating and surprising, populated by compelling characters that I came to care about. There's magic, action, adventure, danger, romance, mystery and intrigue - what's not to like? Although the novel stands well on its own, there a sequel slated to be published next year. And anyone who reads this book will be happy about that. This is a great choice for anyone who enjoys a good fantasy novel with excellent world-building, or a book with a strong and likable female protagonist. Highly recommended!

Books in the Seraphina series:
1. Seraphina
2. Shadow Scale (2014)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Random House, 2012)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Wednesdays

One of the young patrons at my library recommended this one to me while we were out in the stacks looking for good books for him to read. I love how readers advisory goes both ways - I often find great books that I wouldn't have otherwise put on my reading list after talking books with people at my library.

This one is a solid middle reader fantasy, creepy and funny at the same time, about a town in which strange events happen on Wednesdays, inconvenient, "mostly harmless" things, such as cars breaking down, baked goods burning (or even catching fire), tea being switched with perfume. These pranks make adults angry, children scared, and everyone in town just stays inside on Wednesday, waiting for the day to end. Everyone, that is, but Max.

Max sneaks outside, curious about what actually happens on Wednesdays, but then he finds himself beset by the worst case of the Wednesdays ever - on every day of the week. Soon he has lost his friends (anyone who comes near him is beset by a catastrophe), and even his family relegates him to sleeping outside. Max must discover the secret behind the Wednesdays before it's too late.

This was a fun read with a likable protagonist and an interesting situation. It is never fully explained why this particular town has this unusual problem, nor how the fantastical elements actually work, but the story is certainly interesting, and I doubt most readers will be bothered by this. This would be a good choice for fans of the May Bird series or Buckley's NERDS series.

The Wednesdays by Julie Bourbeau (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)

Also reviewed at Book Chic Club

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Poison Study

I've been hearing so many good things about this series, and it's been on my list for so long, that I finally decided to take the plunge. It's always a bit of a risk to have high expectations, particularly when it's a fantasy novel, since I tend to have higher standards for fantasy.  I suppose that's because it's my favorite genre; I've read so much and have become pickier over the years.

This one opens with an interesting premise. Yelena is a young woman who is about to be executed for murder (in her world there are no extenuating circumstances - and we don't really know why she did what she did; that is gradually revealed throughout the course of the novel). She is given a chance to live. She can become food taster to the Commander (someone who is wanted dead by a host of people), or she can continue on her way to the gallows. She chooses life - a life that is measured out by the constant threat of death by poison - and becomes aware of a growing power inside her that she doesn't fully understand.

I really enjoyed this one. Great storytelling, a strong heroine to root for, political intrigue, a romantic interest, a world that is complex and compelling - what's not to like? It was one of those stories that creates a powerful atmosphere and characters that are a believable part of that world. My library shelves this in the adult collection, but I think that it would be just as appealing to teen readers. I look forward to reading the further books in this trilogy.

Books in the Study series:
1. Poison Study
2. Magic Study
3. Fire Study

Poison Study (#1 in the Study series) by Maria V. Snyder (Luna, 2005)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Something Fresh

I've been making my way through Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster series, which is a guaranteed lighthearted and clever romp, but a friend of mine keeps telling me to read the Blandings books, which he actually enjoys even more. So I set Bertie and Jeeves aside and picked up this first book in the series, which introduces us to Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle as well as many other fun and quirky characters.

As with the Jeeves series, this book is made up of several subplots that wind together and come to a clever, funny conclusion and involves interesting characters I came to care about as the novel progressed. There is a young man about to be engaged who is worried about being blackmailed about some incriminating letters. There's another young man in need of a change in his professional and personal life, who finds himself behaving in a new and purposeful way after meeting an inspiring young woman. He soon finds himself undercover in an attempt to retrieve a purloined scarab, but that young woman is bound and determined to beat him to it - and to the reward money.

I particularly enjoyed the female characters in this novel, who are stronger and more independent-minded than many female characters portrayed by writers (male and female) even decades after this was published, which is certainly refreshing. There are humorous misunderstandings, romantic entanglements, and all those delightful things to be expected in a Wodehouse novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

These books truly lend themselves to being read aloud, and I listened to the audio version of this one, narrated by Frederick Davidson, who did an excellent job. I'm now hooked on both series and look forward to many more visits to Blandings.

This book is available for free at Project Gutenburg.

Books in the Blandings series:
1. Something Fresh
2. Summer Lightning
aka Fish Preferred
3. Heavy Weather
4. Blandings Castle and Elsewhere
5. Lord Emsworth and Others
aka The Crime Wave at Blandings
6. Full Moon  
7. Pigs Have Wings  
8. Galahad at Blandings aka The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood
9. A Pelican at Blandings 
10. Sunset at Blandings  
11. Imperial Blandings 
12. Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best

Something Fresh (#1 in the Blandings series) by P.G. Wodehouse; narrated by Frederick Davidson (Blackstone Audio, 2009); originally published 1915

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Earth Girl

This YA science fiction novel grabbed me from the start. It features a seventeen-year-old girl living on Earth in the year 2788, in a society in which much of the population has spread out to other solar systems. However, there is a very small percentage of humans who have an immune system that is unable to support their survival on any planet but Earth. When an infant is born off world who has this rare condition, he or she is immediately transported (through a portal transport system) to Earth before anaphylactic shock can set in. If the child's parents cannot (or will not) move to Earth to be with their child, the child is raised in a sort of orphanage/school on Earth, with a very politically powerful part-time guardian to look out for them.

Jarra is one such child, unable to leave Earth, abandoned by her parents, thought of by the rest of "exo" society as a throwback, or worse, an "ape." She is finishing up her final year of school and must decide upon a profession and college. She is utterly obsessed with archaeology, but, being contrary and feisty, she decides to apply to an exo program. The first part of that university program takes place on Earth, so she can physically do it, and she wants to go in proving that an "ape" girl can hold her own among norms. She joins her university cohort, who has no idea she's an "ape," and begins the daunting task of proving her worth among them.

This is a gripping story with a fascinating premise, and I adored it while I was reading it (aside from the inordinately minuscule font size) - up until the end.  I'm not sure what happened, but the story is moving quite nicely toward a suspenseful climax - when it all falls apart, and then it just kind of wraps up retrospectively. The Big Reveal - in which Jarra's "ape"status is revealed to her her exo classmates, happens off stage. That's right - the reader gets to hear about it afterwards, secondhand. How disappointing is that? It seemed like a huge cop-out, and left me feeling utterly unsatisfied. Great premise, interesting characters, excellent setting, nice dash of romance, but ultimately disappointing.

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (Prometheus Books, 2013)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Disappearing Nightly

I finally picked up this book after reading Cat's glowing review at Beyond Books just about a year ago. I liked what she said about feeling like she wanted to sit down with the characters at the book store and help them solve mysteries.

This first book is about a young actress named Esther Diamond who is playing a minor part in an off-Broadway production of a play called Sorceror! when the lead actress disappears into thin air. Esther is asked to substitute for her, and she can't help worrying that she will disappear into thin air too, if she gets into the prop box - and her fears increase when a mysterious stranger warns her that there is evil among us...

This is a fun, lighthearted mystery with supernatural elements and an interesting cast of characters. I'm not sure I enjoyed it quite as much as Cat - I found it dragged a bit, with the characters spending a bit too much time sitting around and talking and not doing as much as I'd have liked, but I did enjoy it. And I do like to give the first book in a series the benefit of the doubt. I will give the next one a try when I'm in the mood for something light and funny - and I imagine that with the increasing demands of a new school year, I'll be ready for something light and funny very soon.

Books in the Esther Diamond series:
1. Disappearing Nightly
2. Dopplegangster
3. Unsympathetic Magic
4. Vamparazzi
5. Polterheist
6. The Misfortune Cookie 

Disappearing Nightly  (#1 in the Esther Diamond series) by Laura Resnick (Luna, 2005)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Who is AC?

Fans of the sadly defunct Minx comic series are sure to be delighted with Hope Larson's latest graphic novel, Who is AC?

Our heroine is Lin, a teen who has recently moved to a new town. Missing her friends back at home and feeling a bit isolated, she spends most of her time writing about Rhea Ironheart, a swashbuckling heroine who has amazing adventures.

Lin has an adventure of her own when she stumbles upon a robbery at her local photocopy store. She returns a mysterious phone call she'd received earlier, and suddenly she is somehow transformed, through a strange cybernetic cell-phone power, into a superhero. She foils the robbery and discovers an even worse villain lurking in her new town.

This one has so many elements that appeal to me - a strong heroine, a thought-provoking premise, engaging characters, humor, suspense, and surprises along the way. The illustrations are bold and appealing, mainly in black and white but with a few dashes of purple here and there to liven things up. I do hope there will be more AC adventures to come!

Who is AC? by Hope Larson; illustrated by Tintin Pantoja (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013)

Also by Hope Larson:
A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

This second book in the YA fairy-tale-inspired science-fiction series The Lunar Chronicles picks up where the cliff-hanging second book left off. Usually I like to take a break from series books, trying to wait long enough that I enjoy the anticipation of getting to the next book but not too long so that I forget what's actually going on. In this case, since the second book was already out when I read the first one, I couldn't wait very long.

This one alternates viewpoints between the cyborg Cinder (loosely based on the Cinderella story), our heroine of the first book, and a new character, Scarlet (loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood). At first I was a bit reluctant to accept an additional viewpoint character, but I was quickly drawn into Scarlet's end of things, and really, if one strong female protagonist is good, two are even better!

Meyer clearly has a whole lot of fun telling her story, set in a future in which the Earth is in danger from the malicious Lunar queen and her powerful, terrifying mental abilities. Cinder is now a fugitive, fleeing from the Commonwealth law enforcement (not to mention the hottie Prince Kai), and Scarlet is trying to find her grandmother, who has disappeared but seems to have been somehow involved in a super secret government project. Action, swash-buckling adventure, humor, mayhem - and a dash of romance - ensue.  This series is great fun, and I'm very much looking forward to the next book, Cress, which is due to be published in 2014.

Books in the Lunar Chronicles:
1. Cinder
2. Scarlet
3. Cress (2014)

Scarlet (#2 in the Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel and Friends, 2013)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian

12-year-old Derek is looking forward to a long, lazy endless summer with his best friend, doing fun and crazy pranks involving water balloons and hand grenades (actually his mom's avocadoes). But then he finds himself enrolled in "Learning Camp" where he, an extremely reluctant reader, is made to do school work instead of hanging out with his best friend. When he discovers a ten-year-old article in the attic that talks about the death of a teenager on a beach in Martha's Vineyard, his mother's nervous, defensive reaction makes him suspicious. The less she wants to tell him about it, the more Derek becomes determined to discover why she's kept an old newspaper article for so many years.

This one is clearly geared toward fans of the Wimpy Kid series, with its reader-friendly journal-like format and lively illustrations. It has more depth than I expected, which was a nice surprise, a mystery to solve, and some adventure along the way. I particularly enjoyed the funny, clever little illustrations in the margins that Tashjian's son Jake draws to define vocabulary words used in the story. I find that this series is appealing to readers at my library, particularly boys, and it never stays on the shelf for long.

Books in the My Life series:
1. My Life as a Book
2. My Life as a Stuntboy
3. My Life as a Cartoonist

My Life as a Book (#1 in the My Life series) by Janet Tashjian (Henry Holt, 2010)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

Georges and his family have just moved from a beautiful large house to an apartment building in Brooklyn because of financial circumstances. Georges, a seventh grader, is not very happy about this, nor about the fact that his mother has to pick up the slack while his father is out of work by accepting late nights and long shifts at the hospital where she works. When Georges spots a sign in the laundry room of the new apartment building advertising a meeting of a spy club, he meets Safer, a homeschooled boy who lives in the building. The boys become friends, together trying to ferret out the secrets of a sinister neighbor.

The title of the book alerts readers that there is lying going on here, somewhere, on someone's part, and the suspicious reader will find inconsistencies and red flags as the story is told. Those who have read Stead's wonderful When You Reach Me will be prepared for another game of points of view and reality shift, and it is a lot of fun, particularly when combined with characters who are quirky, engaging and sympathetic. This is a great exploration of storytelling in general, as well as the complex relationships among friends and family. Fans of E.K. Konigsburg should particularly enjoy this one.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2012)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ruby Redfort: Look into My Eyes

Clarice Bean (from Lauren Child's Clarice Bean series) is obsessed with the Ruby Redfort books - she can't get enough of of her favorite heroine. And now all the Clarice Bean fans will get to read the Ruby Redfort books, too. This book introduces 13-year-old Ruby, whose brilliant mind and extraordinary attention to detail make her a natural when it comes to investigating mysteries.

Things at the Redfort household haven't been the same since Ruby's parents returned from a trip. Their housekeeper suddenly disappears, and they get a new butler in her place - and then everything - everything - is stolen from their house. Luckily Ruby is a super-intelligent sleuth, a code-cracking prodigy, and she's determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

This one has a similar tone to the Brixton Brothers mysteries - it's silly, snarky and funny, with lots of action and adventure. My only issue is that Ruby is astonishingly brilliant except when it's inconvenient to the plot; then she is a bit too clueless. But that's a small quibble, and fans of Harriet the Spy, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys - not to mention the Clarice Bean series - should gobble this one up.

Books in the Ruby Redfort series:
1. Look into My Eyes
2. Take Your Last Breath
3. Catch Your Death (2014)

Look into My Eyes (#1 in the Ruby Redfort series) by Lauren Child (Candlewick Press, 2012)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Island of Thieves by Josh Lacey

This one is another summer reading pick at my library. I was on the committee this year for choosing books for grades 6-8, and this was one that was recommended. I heard it described as James Bond meets Treasure Island, which sounded like fun to me.

The story begins as Tom's parents are about to embark on their first alone vacation in years - but after Tom pulls a knuckleheaded stunt, none of his friends' parents will allow him to stay with them. He gets shipped off to New York City to stay with his Uncle Harvey, a relative who, for some reason, doesn't get along very well with Tom's dad, but will do as a last resort.

Tom gets an inkling about why his father disapproves of Uncle Harvey when he learns a bit about how his uncle makes money. When Tom hears that his uncle may have discovered a map to a treasure in Peru, he blackmails him into letting him come along on what he hopes will be an adventure of a lifetime. He gets way, way more than he bargained for.

This is the perfect action-packed summer read, full of twists and turns against an exotic Peruvian backdrop. There isn't much character development to speak of, but readers will barely have time to care as the plot carries them along on a wild roller-coaster ride. This one is an easy sell to young readers at my library, particularly skeptical reluctant-reader boys.

Books in the Island of Thieves series:
1. Island of Thieves
2. The Sultan's Tigers

Island of Thieves (#1 in the Island of Thieves series) by Josh Lacey (Houghton Mifflin, 2012)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I'd been meaning to read this book for ages, but when my library system selected it as one of its summer reading picks for 6th grade and up, I bumped it up to the top of my book pile. And I'm glad I did! It's a science fictional tale inspired by the Cinderella story, but it departs from the usual storyline enough that it offered plenty of twists and surprises.

Cinder is a cyborg (and therefore a second-class citizen) living in the city of New Beijing. She is a gifted mechanic and lives with her horrible stepmother. When she encounters the handsome Prince Kai, who brings her a robot to fix, her life takes a sudden turn. Before she knows it, she's uncovered some secrets that reveal a sinister threat to the kingdom. This is much more than a Cinderella story - it's a gripping read featuring a refreshing, strong heroine in a well-crafted, fascinating world. The book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, but luckily the second book in the series is already available. Highly recommended.

Books in the Lunar Chronicles series:
1. Cinder
2. Scarlet
3. Cress (2014)

Cinder (#1 in the Lunar Chronicles series) by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel and Friends, 2012)

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity

Steve Brixton has a school project to do, and the students are picking slips of paper from a hat to determine their research topics. His best friend gets “detectives.”  This is upsetting, because Steve is obsessed with detectives. His favorite books are the Bailey Brothers mysteries. He practically knows them by heart – and he is planning on being a detective when he grows up. He draws from the hat for his project and gets "early American needlework." Life is so unfair!

He heads reluctantly for the library to start his research, asking the librarian for a reference book on early American needlework. Soon he finds himself with a gun to his head, and he discovers that librarians are actually highly trained crime-fighting intelligence agents – and they think that he is working for the mysterious Mr. E., who sells America's secrets to the highest bidder. Soon Steve is on the lam with everyone chasing him – and all he has is his Brixton Brothers Detective Handbook, his wits, and, luckily, his best friend. 

This one should appeal to kids who have read a few Hardy Boys books and are looking for something a little snappier, with some humor and over-the-top action. Much of the book is a silly parody of Hardy Boys and similar series, but there is enough going on that kids who haven't read many mysteries should still enjoy themselves. I found it a little too extreme for my personal reading taste - I'm willing to suspend my disbelief to a point, but after that it all becomes pretty ridiculous, with people behaving in unbelievable ways. But I doubt most kids will have my issues, and I frequently recommend the series to young readers at my library, who enjoy it.

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (#1 in the Brixton Brothers mystery series) by Mac Barnett (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Speaking From Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce mystery

11-year-old Flavia de Luce has got to be one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. She is a passionate amateur detective, not to mention a top-notch chemistry whiz. This is the fifth book in the series (which, despite the tender age of the protagonist, is definitely for adults).

In this installment, Flavia is beside herself with excitement because it is the 500th anniversary of Saint Tancred’s death, and the small English town of Bishop’s Lacey is going to open his tomb. She can’t wait to see the patron saint of her town, but the proceedings screech to a halt when the excavation at the church unexpectedly discovers the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist - and with a gas mask covering his face. Flavia doesn’t miss much, and as usual, she’s determined to discover the culprit before the police can figure it out.

This is another delightful book in the series, with Flavia’s usual unforgettable metaphors and similes, and as always, I listened to the audio version. It is read by Jayne Entwistle, who does a fantastic job with the narration. The only bad thing about the Flavia de Luce series is having to wait for the next one to be published!

Speaking From Among the Bones (#5 in the Flavia de Luce series) by Alan Bradley; narrated by Jayne Entwistle (Books on Tape, 2013)

Books in the Flavia deLuce series:
5. Speaking From Among the Bones

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ready Player One

Wade Watts is a teenager growing up in a future America where the world has suffered a great recession, energy reserves have been depleted, and poverty is the norm. People increasingly spend time hooked up to OASIS, a massively multiplayer online simulation game, a version of life that is much more pleasant than 2044 reality and feels nearly as real. Years earlier, when Wade was a kid, the creator of OASIS had died without heirs, leaving a will that amounts to a contest – the first player to collect three keys and pass through the matching gates in OASIS will his fortune and a controlling stake in the company. The book opens years later, when no one has found any of the keys. Wade tells us up front that he found the first key, and he proceeds to tell us the story of how that happened, and what happened after that.

This book is first and foremost an homage to the 1980s, particularly the geekish things of the 80s that are clearly near and dear to the writer’s heart. It is a delightful blend of genres - a quest adventure, a futuristic dystopian, a mystery, a coming-of-age story, and a thriller with a dash of romance, and it is a rollicking fun ride all the way to the conclusion. There isn’t a whole lot of character development going on, but I couldn’t bring myself to care all that much because it was such a gripping, engaging story.

My library files this in the adult science fiction section, but I didn’t realize it till I had nearly finished the book because it has such a YA feel to it. I think teens and adults would enjoy this equally. It should pique younger readers’ curiosity about many of the 80s books, movies, and video games that are mentioned, and it is a heart-warming blast from the past for those of us who actually lived through them. The only thing that irritated me about the book was the author’s list of seminal 80s books, which had either no or maybe one female author included. There were plenty of fantastic women writing speculative fiction then! Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Crown Publishers, 2011)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fool Moon

In this second installment of the Dresden Files, supernatural investigator Harry is called in to help the Chicago police department investigate a series of horrific murders. Enormous paw prints found at the crime scene, along with the fact that the crimes take place during the fullest phase of the moon, would appear to indicate the perpetrator is a werewolf. Could it be that simple? In Harry’s world, probably not.

I listened to the audio version of this one (as I did the first),and it is read by James Marsters, who does a great job with the hard-boiled first-person narration. I liked it, but I found my attention wandering a bit as I listened, partly due to the pacing, which seemed a bit uneven to me, but also due to the fact that I became impatient with Harry. He whines a lot about things, and he has a bad habit of withholding information for no good reason that I could see, which repeatedly erodes trust between him and Murphy, the police officer he works with (and secretly has the hots for). He seemed to get enough of a clue by the end of the book that I’ll probably continue with the series, because for the most part it’s a lot of fun. Customers at my library tell me that it gets better and better as it goes along, and I do like that in a series.

Books in The Dresden Files:
1. Storm Front
2. Fool Moon
3. Grave Peril
4. Summer Knight
5. Death Masks
6. Blood Rites
7. Dead Beat
8. Proven Guilty
9. White Night
10. Small Favor
11. Turn Coat
12. Changes
13. Ghost Story
14. Cold Days
Backup (A novella)
Side Jobs (a short story collection)
Love Hurts (an e-book short story)

Fool Moon  (#2 in the Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters (Buzzy Multimedia, 2003)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

12-year-old Foster and her mother are leaving a bad situation and end up in the small town of Culpepper, West Virginia. They think it's just a temporary stop in their journey, but they end up staying there, little by little carving out a space for themselves among the quirky and colorful residents of the town.

I'm not sure why I haven't read everything Joan Bauer has written yet, because every time I read one of her books it knocks my socks off.  What I love about this one is that it deals with some very specific, hard-hitting issues, such as abusive relationships and learning disabilities - but not in a Problem Novel, message-y sort of way. Yes, there are serious issues that Foster is dealing with, but they are part and parcel of the story, and they never take precedence or become Lessons for the Reader. The book is about Foster, and she is such a delightful character with her passion for cooking, her strength and resilience, and her vulnerability. I wanted to reach into that book and give that girl a hug as I read, and she often made me laugh out loud.

It's a sweet and funny book, and I think it would appeal to fans of Sharon Creech and Susan Patron. Bauer doesn't shy from unpleasant truths, but she doesn't overplay them either. It's all about Foster, and her story is a riveting one. This is a great summer read, sure to inspire readers to grab a bowl and an oven mitt and pull out the cupcake tins. You might not want to read this one on an empty stomach!

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer (Penguin Group US - ebook edition, 2011)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The same day that Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives to start her new life in London, a woman is brutally murdered mere blocks from Rory's new boarding school - and in the copycat style of Jack the Ripper's first murder. Rory tries not to pay too much attention to the murders, disturbing as they are. She is excited about living in London, meeting new people, and trying to figure out exactly why she agreed to play on the field hockey team.

But the murders continue to happen, and the media frenzy surrounding them soon has everyone in London caught up in the horrible events. When Rory believes she has seen the man responsible, she gets caught up in them too - and in a terrifying, unexpected way.

Part murder mystery, part ghost story, this creepy, gripping tale gets under the reader's skin and won't let go until the very end. The setting is an evocative backdrop, and Rory is a likable teen whose strong narrative voice carries the reader through the events of the story. While the book ends in a satisfying conclusion, there are enough unexplored areas that readers will be pleased to learn that a sequel, The Madness Underneath, has already been published. My fourteen-year-old daughter read and enjoyed this one, and I expect I won't get to the second book until she finishes it first.

Books in the Shades of London series:
1. The Name of the Star
2. The Madness Underneath

The Name of the Star (#1 in the Shades of London series) by Maureen Johnson (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2011)

Also by Maureen Johnson:
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith

This one is another summer reading pick at my library this year. It features Precious Ramotswe from McCall Smith's adult mystery series that begins with The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, presenting her very first case.

Precious lives in a village in Botswana and is an intelligent, observant little girl who thinks she might like to be a detective when she grows up. When children's cakes start disappearing from their lunches at school, suspicion immediately falls on a little heavyset boy who loves sweets and always walks around with candies in his pockets. Precious knows that just because he likes desserts doesn't mean he's the thief, and she sets out to find out who the real culprit is.

This is a sweet, simple story with large print, illustrations and lots of white space that will be appealing to new chapter-book readers. I like the setting, which is atypical of most children's books. While it doesn't offer much complexity of character, it gives a nice picture of the African village where Precious lives without long boring descriptions.  Most important, it shows the many ways in which the lives of these children in Botswana are just the same as those of children all over the world.

The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor, 2012)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

I checked this book out from my library's digital catalog because it was available, I needed ebooks to fill up my reader before going away, and Meg Cabot can be depended on for a decent read. I knew nothing about the book before I started reading - and I like it that way.

This one turned out to be a funny take on paranormal vampire romances. Our heroine is Meena Harper. She works as a writer for a soap opera, and she is very annoyed when her bosses decide that they need to jump on the vampire bandwagon and add a sexy vampire romance to the show. She thinks the idea of a supernatural angle is ridiculous (although she possesses her own supernatural ability). Meanwhile, her Romanian neighbor has fixed her up with a relative from out of town: a real-life modern-day prince. She's prepared to hate the man, but he turns out to be fascinating, charming, and...remarkably like the type of sexy vampire her bosses want her to write into the soap opera script.

This is a fun, humorous, light read. When I saw the direction the book was taking, I found myself expecting Cabot to take her parody a little further than it actually went - it seemed to waver between utter silliness and taking itself just a little too seriously - but it was a fun vacation read all the same. I didn't realize this book was part of a series (pretty silly of me, now that I think about it - what's not a series these days?), and at this point I don't think I feel the need to continue with the next book.

Book in the Insatiable series:
1. Insatiable
2. Overbite

Insatiable (#1 in the Insatiable series) by Meg Cabot (William Morrow, 2010)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Helen's Eyes by Marfe Ferguson Delano

This book is one of the nonfiction summer reading choices at my library this year, so I thought I'd take a look. I don't review much nonfiction here but wow, I really enjoyed this one. I've read a lot about Helen Keller over the years, but not so much about her teacher, particularly Annie Sullivan's early life, which was incredibly difficult. She was a child of Irish immigrants and grew up in extreme poverty in Massachusetts. She was physically abused by her father, and lost much of her vision after contracting an eye disease called trachoma. After her mother died, her father abandoned her and her two siblings, and she ended up in a poorhouse, many of whose inmates were mentally ill, diseased, and violent.

How this child ended up with an education, not to mention the creative thinking skills and determination to help a child as difficult as Helen Keller is an extraordinary tale. This book's targeted audience is the younger set (I'd say starting at 5th or 6th grade), but it certainly held my attention and is a great way for people of any age to learn more about these two extraordinary people. I loved the inclusion of so many images from the time as well as text from letters, diaries, and quotations from people who knew her and Helen. It's not always a happy story, but it's a real one, and an inspiring one, too.

Helen's Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan by Marfe Ferguson Delano (National Geographic Society, 2008)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Katarina Bishop comes from a family of skilled art thieves. She's been participating in heists of famous artwork since she was a child, but now she wants out. She wants to go to school like a normal person, have friends like normal people, and not have to watch her back. But she gets dragged into her old life all over again when her father is framed for a theft he actually had nothing to do with. If she doesn't find out who really stole the artwork, a very bad man is going to retaliate in a very bad way. In order to keep her father safe, Kat sets forth a scheme for the heist of the century. But she is just a teenager, and it's easy for things to spiral out of control.

Teens at my library have been recommending this one to me for ages. I had been putting it off because I'm not a huge fan of books where the main character is a thief. Or an assassin. Not that I haven't enjoyed books in which the main character doesn't share my moral compass - but it can be tricky to pull that off in a way that makes me care enough to keep reading.  Happily that was not an issue with this book. I found Kat's predicament made for a page-turning story, and the characters surrounding her added to the fun - particularly the developing (if slightly mysterious) relationship between Kat and Hale. In fact, I may have enjoyed this one even more than the Gallagher Academy series books that I've read. This first book ends in a satisfying way but does leave a lot of questions unanswered, and I look forward to continuing with the series.

Books in the Heist Society series:
1. Heist Society
2. Uncommon Criminals
3. Perfect Scoundrels

Heist Society  (#1 in the Heist Society series) by Ally Carter (Disney/Hyperion, 2010)

Also by Ally Carter:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Beautiful Elizabeth Holland lives in Manhattan 1899, and her world is a whirlwind of parties, visits to the dressmakers, and visiting other wealthy socialite friends. She has a secret, though, one that could ruin her future and her family's social status. The book opens with Elizabeth's funeral, and then backtracks through the events that led to that moment, the twists and turns of fate, hidden intentions, secret love, jealousies and vindictiveness.

I've been meaning to read this book since I saw it on the shelves at my library, and it sure has taken me a while to get to it! It was certainly a gripping read, a sort of Pretty Little Liars meets Downton Abbey, which should appeal to fans of both. I found the plot to be rather predictable, but the characters are interesting enough, and the setting was a nice change from the usual, that I was able to relax and enjoy the ride.

The characters are engaging but never stray too far from the character type they represent, and this lack of complexity leaves me on the fence as far as continuing the series - although I doubt teen readers will share my qualms. I think they will enjoy reading about this time period - some historical novels can be a tough sell to that crowd. The novel wraps up in a satisfying conclusion but does leave enough loose ends for subsequent books to explore.

Books in the Luxe series:
1. The Luxe
2. Rumors
3. Envy
4. Splendor

The Luxe (#1 in the Luxe series) by Anna Godbersen (HarperCollins, 2007)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bigfoot Boy: Into the Woods (graphic novel)

This fun graphic novel is about a boy named Rufus who goes to stay with his grandmother, who lives near a vast forest. He's a city boy, and he finds the woods fascinating - even though he doesn't know much about the outdoors - as Penny, a girl his age who lives next door to his grandmother, doesn't hesitate to point out. Penny is rather prickly - her big sister mentions to Rufus that Penny's spirit guide is a skunk - if you get too close too soon, look out! But skunks also need friends, so Rufus gives it a go.

When he's in the woods he discovers a necklace with a wooden figurine on it, and when he reads aloud the words that are carved into it, he turns into - Bigfoot! And so the adventures begin...

This one should have huge kid appeal, and I expect it won't spend much time sitting on the shelf at my library. It's straightforward and fairly simple, with engaging illustrations and the delightful humor I've come to expect from Torres and Hicks. This first volume appears to introduce the main characters and set up the background and the conflicts that will be explored in future installments. It's fun, silly and exciting, a definite must-read for young (and older!) graphic novel fans.

Into the Woods  (#1 in the Bigfoot Boy series) by J. Torres and Faith Erin Hicks (Kids Can Press, 2012)

Also by J. Torres: 
Alison Dare

Also by Faith Erin Hicks: 
Friends with Boys
The War at Ellsmere
Zombies Calling

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

It took me a while to get to this sequel of last October's favorite Halloween read. I kind of wanted to wait till next October, but I couldn't hold out that long. I kept wondering about Cas and Anna and what happened after Anna Dressed in Blood ended.

This book picks up a few months after the concluding events of the first book - so spoiler alert! If you are interested in an intense and refreshingly different ghost story, please check out my review of the first book and read no further.

Cas becomes increasingly convinced that when Anna disappeared after saving his life, she did not cross over into whatever peaceful place is waiting for her. He keeps seeing her everywhere - when he is out killing ghosts, when he is asleep - and she is suffering.  He can't stop thinking about her. When the distraction of Anna nearly gets him killed, he knows he has to do something fast, so he ends up leaving for England in search of the information he desperately needs to save Anna. What he discovers there is nothing he could ever have imagined...

Another great ghost story, with the same surprising twists and turns I loved in the first book. Girl of Nightmares is a definite thrill ride, but there is substance and depth as well. This is the kind of story that is a gripping page turner, but also contains an emotional resonance that will linger with you long after you close the book.

Books in the Anna series:
1. Anna Dressed in Blood
2. Girl of Nightmares

Girl of Nightmares (#2 in the Anna series) by Kendare Blake (Tor Teen, 2012)