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)