Monday, January 19, 2015

Mystery books for young adults

This week I'm reviewing mystery books for Young Adults.  I was able to read some brand new ones (advance readers copies!) from Netgalley.  This week my website also went live-YAY!!!  In case you didn't know, it allows you to search for books based on title or level, but this one also lets you search by the skill you want to teach.  Here's the web address in case you're interested... 

On to the books...  So it was a big week for mysteries for me.  Nothing remotely mysterious here on the home front... I must be craving some danger...  Anyway, I got it in spades with the books I chose. The first one is the latest in a series about an English girl named Flavia DeLuce.  It's somewhat historical fiction although I never really figured out exactly when the stories take place, they are in the late Victorian period because Flavia pushes a lot of boundaries.  She is wonderful character who loves science and asking questions and finding out answers.  She uses the most amazing vocabulary (I had to look up a couple of them!) and ends up in the most amazing situations.  In the latest installment "As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust" by Alan Bradley, she is being sent to a boarding school in Canada where her mother went to school (she says she's being sent to exile but since I missed the last book, I'm not exactly sure what that's all about).  She takes a boat from England with two people who are acting as her guardians for the trip (and she can't stand) and arrives in Canada and then at the school in the middle of the night.  Flavia is trying to settle into her room (without lights because it's lights out) when another girl sneaks into her room to give her the low down on the school.  Their voices bring the matron and the other girl is so frightened of being caught, she climbs up the chimney to hide.  The matron comes into the room and as she and Flavia are talking, the other girl falls out of the chimney, along with a corpse.  It's a pretty thrilling beginning.  I think Flavia is hilarious in addition to being smart and clever.  I really liked this one.

The second one I read was also an advanced readers copy from NetGalley.  It's called "Inked" by Eric Smith.  It's about a kingdom where groups of people live in fear of each other because of magic.  They use tattoos to mark your passage into adulthood and the tattoos are magical.  They grow and change with the season and your mood or power.  I thought it was a really interesting premise and the characters undergo some very interesting changes and had some really cool powers.  They have some mighty battles and I think kids will like it a lot.  It certainly made me think about tattoos in a new way.  

The last one I read was only an excerpt... probably the first quarter of the book so it might be a bit unfair to review the whole book since I didn't read the whole thing, but that was all I got, so here goes.  This one was called Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson.  I thought it was a great premise... a necromancer has been in exile for the last 25 years (in this case, he's been in the Other Realm, which allows him to still exist and remember things, but doesn't inhabit a body.  His body on the other hand has continued to grow and change and experience things) but his return doesn't go quite as planned and he ends up in trouble again right away.  There is a very interesting cast of characters with very funny dialogue and there are tons of cultural references to the 1980s.  It reminded me a lot of Lish McBride's series that started with "Hold Me Closer Necromancer" which was also about a necromancer coming into his powers.  I think this one is definitely worth looking for.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Books this week - January 6, 2015

Starting back to work after a two week vacation can be a challenge, but a challenge that was met and conquered (albeit with going to bed at 8:30 a couple of nights this week... and struggling to stay awake until 9 pm on Friday  night, pathetic).  I even got to read some really great books!

The first one is a graphic novel called Dogs of War.  It has three chapters, each focusing on a different dog in a different war.  The first one is in World War 1, the second in World War 2, and the third actually deals with a Viet Nam war veteran in flashbacks to the war (also touching on post traumatic stress syndrome).  The art work, by Nathan Fox, is amazing and really evocative.  The stories are emotional and I think this would be a great book to spark the interest of some of the boys to get them interested in reading more about history.  Here's a book trailer about it.

I read two other books this week and could barely put them down.  They are the second and third installment of a series that started with a book called The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen.  It's impossible to tell about the second two without some spoilage of the plot (and frankly, the plot twists are completely amazing).  The False Prince is about a boy named Sage who is an orphan and a thief.  He's funny, irreverent and has no respect for any authority.  He gets caught stealing a piece of meat one day and is rescued by a noble man who is recruiting boys to impersonate the prince.  The prince disappeared four years ago (as a 10 year old) and presumed dead.  The rest of the royal family has been murdered and the noble man has this brainwave that if he could produce the prince, then he could run the show from behind the scenes.  There are three other boys who are recruited (and it's clear right from the beginning that they really don't have a choice in the matter) and are trained to be the prince.  So book two is called The Runaway King and book three is called The Shadow Throne.  If you like plot twists and adventure (think princes, princess, pirates, thieves, good guys, bad guys, brave horses... ) this is the series for you.  Here's a book trailer about the Runaway King, the second one in the series.

The last one I read is also amazing.  It's called "I Kill the Mockingbird" by Paul Acampora.  It's about three kids who are finishing middle school and getting ready to move into high school.  There is the normal angst about fitting in (because although they have been friends forever, they are quite different people) and it's complicated by the fact that the one girl's mom is recovering from cancer and that their English teacher died during their 8th grade year.  They decide that in honor of their English teacher, they will try to encourage everyone to read his favorite book "To Kill A Mockingbird".  They choose a campaign of stealth and social media which is both hilarious and topical.  I think kids are going to love this book.  I wish I taught a grade level that I could read this with kids because I would SO be up for doing a challenge like this.   


Sunday, January 4, 2015

New picture books

Today I went to my local Barnes and Noble in search of some of the books that people have been thinking might be contenders for the Caldecott award in 2015.  When I think about what makes a great picture book it is apparently COMPLETELY different than the criteria for what the committee actually considers because my favorites NEVER win.  But ok.  I'm not bitter (yet) and I can still love the books I love and recommend them lavishly, even if they don't have that shiny gold medallion on the front.  Fine.  But here are some of the awesome ones I saw today.

The first one has been getting a lot of buzz.  It's called Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio.  It's an adorable little book about a puppy named Gaston.  Gaston lives with his family who are all super high class poodles who daintily nibble their kibble.  Gaston doesn't really look like the rest of the family and he's a lot more boisterous than they are.  One day they go to the park and meet a family of bulldogs.  One of their puppies, Antointette, looks a lot like a poodle and Gaston looks a lot like the rest of the bulldogs.  So they decide to switch.  It turns out though. that even if Gaston and Antoinette don't look like the rest of their family, they ARE sure where they belong.  This will be a good one to talk with the kids about how you know who your really family is and how you know you fit in and why you'd want to.

Here's a little book review:

Another great one that I found at the store today that wasn't on any list I'd found so far was called Catch that cookie! by Hallie Durand.  It's a spin off the traditional gingerbread story starring a complete skeptic named Marshall.  Marshall does not believe that cookies will actually jump off the cookie sheet (they're cookies, they can't run).  When they do, Marshall and his classmates have to track down the cookies who leave rhyming but mysterious notes about where they are.  This will make a great addition to the Gingerbread cookie stories in your library and will be great along side "Gingerbread Man-Loose in the school" by Laura Murray.  

I also found a spectacularly gorgeous copy of "Blowing in the Wind" by Bob Dylan and illustrated by Jon Muth.  I think Jon Muth is a genius and his pictures are complete magic.  If you didn't love this song before, the pictures alone are enough to make you completely fall in love with it.  

This is one of the images from the book.