19. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter, 318 pages, read by Lisa, on 12/04/2014

 In 1960s Toronto, two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives. Polly lives in a house bursting at the seams with people, while Rose is often left alone by her busy parents. Polly is a down-to-earth dreamer with a wild imagination and an obsession with ghosts; Rose is a quiet, ethereal waif with a sharp tongue. Despite their differences, both girls spend their days feeling invisible and seek solace in books and the cozy confines of their respective attics. But soon they discover they aren’t alone–they’re actually neighbors, sharing a wall. They develop an unlikely friendship, and Polly is ecstatic to learn that Rose can actually see and talk to ghosts. Maybe she will finally see one too! But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does no one ever talk to her? And why does she look so… ghostly? When the girls find a tombstone with Rose’s name on it in the cemetery and encounter an angry spirit in her house who seems intent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her strange family… before it’s too late. (from Goodreads.com)

17. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 12/16/2014

Octobia May lives with her Aunt Shuma who runs a boarding house. Octobia is obsessed with Mr. Davenport, one of the boarders. She believes he is a vampire for much of the book. Octobia and her best friend Jonah start following Mr. Davenport and belief he killed a girl. No one believes them until Mr. Davenport and banker Mr. Harrison try to railroad Shuma when she goes for a loan. There is a lot of mystery and intrigue in this book as Octobia and Jonah try to figure out what is going on with Mr. Davenport. Octobia is a strange child who seems obsessed with death; she died for a little while and talks to the statues in the graveyard. There is a lot of important topics discussed in the book that aren’t often talked about in middle grade fiction. Some of the boarders are holocaust survivors, no one will loan Aunt Shuma money because she is black and single, schools are segregated, there is talk of passing as white for light skinned Blacks, mixed race children and what it means to be free. You would think all of that would make this a more enjoyable story. It doesn’t! I think Octobia’s vampire obsession at the beginning of the book just made the whole thing seem more unrealistic and put me off the rest of the story. It was a bit on the long side and seemed less cohesive than I would have liked.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

09. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits by Michael D. Beil, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 12/08/2014

Henry is traveling with his mother and sister on the Lake Erie Shoreliner. He meets chatty heiress Ellie who decides they are going to be great friends. They also meet conductor Clarence and his telepathic cat Sam. When Ellie disappears soon after Henry, Clarence and Sam are determined to find her. Someone has kidnapped Ellie and demanded her mother’s priceless necklace, the Blue Streak, as ransom. There are a lot of characters on the train with secrets and hidden agendas. Our intrepid investigates must sort through all the hidden motivations and identities of the passengers to figure out who is behind Ellie’s kidnapping.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book and was a bit skeptical of the telepathic cat, but it all worked here. As an adult reader I was able to pick out the bad guys pretty quickly, but I am not sure younger readers will figure it out quite as fast. There are a lot of twists and turns to this mystery that made it even more fun to read. I especially liked the confined environment of the train as the setting; it gave the mystery a feeling of immediacy as the train got closer and closer to its destination. Train travel in the 1930s was nothing like it is today and the setting highlighted just how much it has changed. The mystery of Ellie’s kidnapping is interspersed with Lantern Sam’s autobiography as he tells of his many adventures and nine lives. This part of the story seemed to justify having a telepathic cat in the plot and added a lot of humor to the story. Sam is a smart aleck calico with a love of adventure and sardines and perhaps the star of this story. 

01. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell, 295 pages, read by Tracy, on 11/28/2014

Olivia Greyson is the proud owner of The Gingerbread House—a quaint shop that specializes in all things cookie—and her best friend, Maddie, is her sidekick, baking up scrumptious treats for their cookie-themed parties. But now they must take a break from baking and turn their attention to recreating a recipe for murder…

No one is more shocked than Olivia when prominent business owner Clarisse Chamberlain is found dead. It was Clarisse who encouraged Olivia to open The Gingerbread House—and she was one of her best customers. The sheriff is ready to call the case a suicide, but Olivia’s convinced there’s a murder to solve.

Then word spreads that Clarisse left Olivia a large sum of money, along with a collection of valuable, antique cookie cutters. Suddenly, Olivia is the prime suspect, with some fingers pointing to Maddie when the local postman falls ill after sampling one of their cookies. If the cookie-loving duo doesn’t find the real killer, their reputation—and quite possibly their lives—will be battered for good…

01. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Tracy · Tags:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 560 pages, read by Tracy, on 11/15/2014

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

01. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Tracy · Tags:

Dick Francis's Damage by Felix Francis, 400 pages, read by Tracy, on 11/01/2014

Felix Francis is back with another edge-of-your-seat thriller, in the classic Dick Francis tradition.

Undercover investigator Jeff Hinkley is assigned by the British Horseracing Authority to look into the activities of a suspicious racehorse trainer, but as he’s tailing his quarry through the Cheltenham Racing Festival, the last thing he expects to witness is a gruesome murder. Could it have something to do with the reason the trainer was banned in the first place—the administration of illegal drugs to his horses?

Then many more horses test positive for prohibited stimulants, and someone starts making demands, threatening to completely destroy the integrity of the racing industry. In order to limit the damage to the sport, it’s critical that Jeff find the perpetrator . . . but he’ll soon learn he’s up against someone who will stop at nothing to prevail.

01. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Jane, Mystery

Love you More by Lisa Gardner, 368 pages, read by Jane, on 11/01/2014

WHO DO YOU LOVE?

One question, a split-second decision, and Brian Darby lies dead on the kitchen floor. His wife, state police trooper Tessa Leoni, claims to have shot him in self-defense, and bears the bruises to back up her tale. For veteran detective D. D. Warren it should be an open-and-shut case. But where is their six-year-old daughter?

AND HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO . . .

As the homicide investigation ratchets into a frantic statewide search for a missing child, D. D. Warren must partner with former lover Bobby Dodge to break through the blue wall of police brotherhood, seeking to understand the inner workings of a trooper’s mind while also unearthing family secrets. Would a trained police officer truly shoot her own husband? And would a mother harm her own child?

. . . TO SAVE HER?

For Tessa Leoni, the worst has not yet happened. She is walking a tightrope, with nowhere to turn, no one to trust, as the clock ticks down to a terrifying deadline. She has one goal in sight, and she will use every ounce of her training, every trick at her disposal, to do what must be done. No sacrifice is too great, no action unthinkable. A mother knows who she loves. And all others will be made to pay.

Love you more . . .

22. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Katy, Mystery

Invisible City by Julia Dahl, 295 pages, read by Katy, on 11/17/2014

Dahl_1024x1024“Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn. Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder.”

It was tough to put this one down! A great debut novel and good read for Gillian Flynn fans.

17. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

Space Case by Stuart Gibbs, 352 pages, read by Angie, on 11/14/2014

Dash is one of the first kids to live on the moon. He and his parents are part of the science team on Moon Base Alpha. Life on the moon isn’t everything they were promised; the food is bad, the accommodations are cramped and the bathrooms are all the way across the base! There also isn’t a lot to do since you can’t go outside the base which makes even school work seem exciting. One night in the bathroom, Dash overhears a conversation Dr. Holtz was having with someone about a big discovery. Dr. Holtz told whoever he was talking to that he was going to reveal his discovery the next day. The next day Dr. Holtz is dead on the surface of the moon. Everyone thinks he went crazy or just had an accident, but Dash thinks he was murdered. Dash is determined to investigate even though the base commander forbids it and everyone else is satisfied by the official explanation. Dash is assisted in his investigation by new arrivals Kira and Zan Perfonic. The investigation gets Dash into all kinds of trouble, but also reveals startling information about life beyond Moon Base Alpha.

Fans of Stuart Gibbs’ books will enjoy this new mystery as will space aficionados. Space mysteries are always fun and the setting of this one on a moon base adds a claustrophobic element to the story. I think kids will particularly enjoy all the cool space facts about life is really like in space. They will be grossed out by the food and how they use the bathroom.The mystery is one that will intrigue readers with its many twists and turns before the surprising reveal of who really killed Dr. Holtz and why. I think my big challenge with the story was the actual ending and the revelation of Dr. Holtz’s discovery. It took the story out of the realm of reality which I didn’t think it needed.

17. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Loot by Jude Watson, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 11/15/2014

March McQuin is the son of notorious thief Alfie McQuin. He is used to a life on the road going from one heist to the next. Then one night in Amsterdam, a heist goes horribly wrong and Alfie falls from a roof. March is caught and sent back to the states to a group home along with the twin sister he didn’t know he had, Jules. Jules is also used to a life on the road and neither of them adjust well to the group home. The escape along with their two new friends Izzy and Darius. The four of them are out to find the mysterious moonstones. The moonstones were stolen by Alfie, his wife (and March and Jules mom) and Owen several years ago. It was a heist that went wrong when Owen was captured and the mom was killed. The moonstones are cursed and gave a prophecy the night they were stolen. If they don’t find them before their thirteenth birthday March and Jules may die. They are pursued by Owen, Carlotta who used to own the moonstones, and Mike Shannon a disgraced cop turned reality tv star. The four must follow the clues left by Alfie and pull off some major heists to get all seven moonstones back together.

This was an action-packed thrill ride. The story goes from one heist or chase to the next with very little down time in between. The kids are fabulous characters with March and Jules being experts in living on the run and conning people. Darius and Izzy offer their own skill sets to the group. It is amazing what they pull off. I liked how everything seemed so fantastical, but yet could be possible. The only really iffy part was the prophecy and the magic of the moonstones. I almost wish the story would have stayed in the realm of reality. I think kids are really going to enjoy this book.

17. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting by Erin Dionne, 269 pages, read by Angie, on 11/16/2014

This is the follow up to Moxie and Art of Rule Breaking. Ollie’s family is swamped by all the media attention and decides to send him away to camp until things die down. Ollie becomes a probationary member of a scout troop and heads to Wilderness Camp on one of the Harbor Islands outside Boston. He doesn’t know any of the guys in his new troop but quickly becomes friends with Chris, a talkative but likeable guy. He also makes an enemy of troop leader Derek. On the island they meet Ranger Johnson who is obsessed with the possibility of pirate treasure on the island. He enlists Ollie’s help in finding it, but Ollie is not sure he can trust Ranger Johnson. Johnson’s daughter Gray is also looking for the treasure and Ollie isn’t sure he can trust her either.

Ollie was the side-kick in Moxie’s story, but the star of this one. I like that he got to branch out on his own and come into his strength. He is smart and pretty creative. I thought the scout troup was pretty realistic. They play together and work together but there are also rivalries involved. I thought Ranger Johnson was a pretty creepy villain of the story. You knew all along there was something shady about him, but just weren’t sure what it was. I kind of wish there had been more development in the Ranger Johnson and Gray characters. It would have made it a little easier to care about them and their situation. This was a fun mystery that was again based on real historical events and places.

17. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry, 351 pages, read by Angie, on 11/17/2014

The young women at St. Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies might not really like the headmistress Mrs. Plackett, but it is better than their homes. When Mrs. Plackett and her brother are poisoned one night at dinner the girls decide to conceal their deaths so they won’t be sent home. Everything would have worked perfectly except people just keep showing up at the house. Smooth Kitty takes charge and makes sure everyone keeps the story straight. Stout Alice starts impersonating Mrs. Plackett to keep the neighbors and Mrs. Plackett’s suitor at bay. Pocked Louisa is investigating the deaths and believes they were poisoned with cyanide, but who killed them?

I had mixed feelings about this book. I really like the mystery aspect of it. I like the seven independent girls trying to live on their own and figure out what is going on. I laughed several times at the comedy of errors and the constant troupe of visitors to the house. The thing that annoyed me the most however was the girls themselves. Each of them have an adjective attached to their name and that is used repeatedly throughout the book. It got to be pretty annoying and I felt it was used instead of character development. The girls were hard to distinguish between except for their adjective. I also thought it was hard to place their ages. They seemed much older than I am guessing they were. A couple of times it was mentioned someone was 12 (can’t remember which one), but they all were terribly interested in suitors and seemed so much more mature. Maybe it was the Victorian setting, but it just seemed a bit odd. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book and stay up way too late reading it to find out who the murderer was and why they were killed.

13. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Tammy · Tags: ,

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, 373 pages, read by Tammy, on 11/02/2014

sweetness at the bottom of the pieThe first book in a series of British mystery novels. But our detective is non-other than a plucky, whip-smart 11 year old girl. Who loves chemistry, scientific exploration, and especially poisons. I believe Flavia and Sherlock Holmes could have had some interesting conversations. Though smart and curious Flavia still remains an 11-year-old girl and tormented younger sister of two older sisters.

Set in the summer of 1950 at the decaying mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce finds herself surrounded by curious happenings. First a dead bird appears on their doorstep with a postage stamp pinned to its beak. But more worrisome is how this unnerves her usually steadfast father. Just hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in their cucumber patch and hears him utter his last words.

Flavia is both appalled and delighted as she says “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

13. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Tammy · Tags: ,

Darkness at Pemberley by T. H. White, 286 pages, read by Tammy, on 11/10/2014

darkness at pemberleyA little known detective story by the author of The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn. Starting off with a closed room mystery Inspector Buller is soon confronted with two other superstitious deaths at a prestigious college. Frustrated by his inability to prove who the murderer is even the villain confesses in private to him, the Inspector decides to resign from Scotland Yard. The story moves to the estate where two of his friends live. Made famous by Jane Austen, Pemberley, is our majestic setting for evil. The killer determines to kill Sir Charles and endangers the life of Detective Buller’s one true love. The action picks up once the killer manages to hide in the house. What follows includes car chases, kidnapping, poison gas, grinning skulls and a dangerous maze of a chimney system. Sir Charles and Inspector Buller must wrestle with their conscious. Could they kill the man if it’s the only way Sir Charles and his sister will be safe?

12. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage, 368 pages, read by Angie, on 11/10/2014

Mo and Dale, the Desperado Detectives, are back with all the quirky characters of Tupelo Landing. They have to learn about the history of their town for a school assignment. Instead of interviewing one of the elders of the town like all their classmates are doing, Mo convinces Dale to pick the ghost of the inn as their subject. The ramshackle inn was recently purchased by Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy to keep it out of the hands of the horrible Rat Face woman. The inn has been closed since the 1930s when a horrible accident left the family grieving and a ghost in residence. Mo and Dale are determined to find out who the ghost is and what happened to her even as they are stonewalled by the people who were there and know the story. Their investigation uncovers secrets of some of the town residents and explains the connection new kid Harm has to the area.

I really enjoy this series of books. I like that you don’t necessarily have to read Three Times Lucky to enjoy The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing though it does help. I think Mo is a fabulous character full of grit and determination. I really like the family she has created in Tupelo Landing and how they all fit together. I thought the mystery was good; filled with bootlegging, car races and terrible tragedy. I like how the truth unfolded throughout the story. I think Sheila Turnage does a fabulous job of recreating the quirky nature of small town Southern people with her wonderful cast of characters. I can’t wait to see what happens next for Mo and Dale.

09. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Once Upon a Midnight Eerie: The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe, Book Two by Gordon McAlpine, Sam Zuppardi (Illustrations), 192 pages, read by Angie, on 11/08/2014

Edgar and Allen Poe are back in their second adventure. This time they are in a movie about Edgar Allen Poe in New Orleans. They meet another set of twins Em and Milly Dickinson who are descendants of Emily Dickinson and also starring in the movie. Together the twins meet a couple of ghosts who can’t pass on because they have unfinished business. The kids help them with their quest to expose their murderer. Edgar and Allen don’t know it but they are also under surveillance by Professor Perry’s daughter who wants to stop her father’s plans, but not by helping Edgar and Allen. This second adventure is a bit better than the first actually. It isn’t quite as implausible or ridiculous. It is an interesting mystery series. Not sure how much it will appeal to kids, but it does have a certain kind of charm.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, 440 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/14/2014

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again .

04. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe by Dan Poblocki, 288 pages, read by Leslie, on 10/22/2014

The Haunting of Gabriel AsheGabe and Seth used to play make-believe games in the woods behind Seth’s family farm. It was the perfect creepy landscape for imagining they were up against beasts and monsters and villains.

Just as Gabe’s decided he’s outgrown their childish games, though, it appears that their most monstrous creation could be real.

Gabe and his family move in with his grandmother after their house burns in a fire.  Eager to escape the labels he endured at his old school, Gabe makes friends over the summer with Seth, who lives nearby.  After school begins, Gabe is accepted into the somewhat popular crowd but learns that his friendship with Seth may cause those labels to begin again.  Gabe and Seth had spent the summer playing a game in the woods, that Seth used to play with his brother, until he disappeared.  Gabe and Seth find themselves caught up in something that pulls Seth’s new friends into it’s evil.  Can the boys figure out the mystery and bring it to an end?  This is going to be very popular with both boys and girls, despite the main characters being boys.  Very suspenseful and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

31. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

The Mummy's Curse by Penny Warner, 182 pages, read by Angie, on 10/30/2014

The Code Busters Club is a group of four friends who love to solve puzzles and codes. Cody, Quinn, Luke and ME are in 6th grade and learning about hieroglyphics. Their classes are taking a trip to the local Egyptian museum. At the museum they meet Ms. Cassat, the museum director, and Dr. Jordan, a forgery expert. The kids notice that an eye of horus appears to be fake and they start investigating what happened to the real one. Did Dr. Jordan create the perfect forgery or did Ms. Casset’s love of Egyptian jewelry get the better of her?

This is an interesting book. In some ways I really liked the fact that there are actual puzzles for the reader to solve along with the Code Busters. In others I became really frustrated by the fact that I had to keep flipping to the back of the book to find out the answers. I thought the mystery was good and not as obvious as some kid’s mysteries. I liked that all the kids were smart and did their parts to solve the mystery.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Jane, Mystery

The Code of the Hills by Nancy Allen, 480 pages, read by Jane, on 10/24/2014

To uncover the truth, she’ll have to break the code of the hills …

In the Missouri Ozarks, some things aren’t talked about … even abuse. But prosecutor Elsie Arnold is determined to change that.

When she is assigned to prosecute a high-profile incest case in which a father is accused of abusing his three young daughters, Elsie is ready to become the Ozarks’ avenging angel.

But as Elsie sinks her teeth into the case, everything begins to turn sour. The star witness goes missing; the girls refuse to talk about their father, who terrorizes the courtroom from the moment he enters; and Elsie begins to suspect that their tough-as-nails mother has ulterior motives. To make matters worse, Elsie receives gruesome threats from local extremists, warning her to mind her own business.

While Elsie swears not to let a sex offender walk, she realizes the odds—and maybe the town—are against her, and her life begins to crumble. But amidst all of the conflict, the safety of three young girls hangs in the balance …

A powerful debut, with the haunting atmosphere of Winter’s Bone and the page-turning suspense of Alafair Burke’s thrillers.