Tag Archives: action

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin. June 6, 2017. Dial Books, 416 p. ISBN: 9780803740723.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

Let’s not die today. Not even to make things easier for our parents.

When a building collapses around five teenagers—and they just barely escape—they know something strange is going on. Little by little, the group pieces together a theory: Their parents are working together to kill them all. Is it true? And if so, how did their parents come together—and why? And, most importantly, how can the five of them work together to save themselves? With an unlikely group of heroes, sky-high stakes, and two budding romances, this gripping murder mystery will keep readers guessing until the last page.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 8-12. Five teens at a private school are invited to a Leader’s Club orientation at a dilapidated campus building, and then the roof falls in—literally. Someone, maybe plural, is trying to kill them, but what does this unlikely group have in common? Except for Antoine and Evangeline, they barely know each other—although Saralinda does have a crush on Caleb. Those two are the alternating narrators, and from them we learn that diabetic, physically challenged Saralinda lives with a smothering mother who would like her daughter to be dependent on her. Caleb’s father is a celebrity psychiatrist who has convinced his son that the boy is a bad seed, a danger to everyone around him. Although the psychology of the kids—and their parents—is a huge part of the story, it’s the nonstop action that sweeps readers along. People are on the run, bodies are piling up, and murder is in the air. Up until the last moment, it’s not clear who is going to make it out alive. Over the top, definitely, but also a compulsive read.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
After a three-book detour through the fantasy genre (Impossible, rev. 9/08, and sequels), Werlin (The Rules of Survival, rev. 9/06) returns to her mystery/thriller roots for another psychological page-turner. Five students at a private boarding school are called together under mysterious circumstances to a remote, dilapidated building on campus. The building collapses, and they all survive, but one of them dies shortly afterward in an automobile accident. The remaining students band together, pool their information, and come to a horrific conclusion: each of their parents is involved in a conspiracy to murder them. Werlin simultaneously deepens characterization and unfolds the plot in alternating narrative voices from two of the teens, Saralinda and Caleb; they are attracted to each other but slow to act on it. Saralinda has diabetes–and a cane–but she is a hopeless romantic and a keen observer of her classmates. She loves her overbearing single mother but wishes for a greater measure of freedom. Caleb is aloof and harbors a dark side, but is fiercely loyal to his friends; his second-person narration is unsettling and underscores the notion that he might have sociopathic tendencies. His famous psychiatrist father has cowed both Caleb and his mother, and harbors a mean streak of his own. The other three teens, Antoine, Evangeline, and Kenyon–along with their parents–are similarly complex. Indeed, the entire cast is also notable for its diversity (in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, ability) in ways both organic and incidental to the plot. And if that plot occasionally strains credulity, it taps into a deep-seated teen paranoia that adults are out to get them. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Nancy Werlin has written 10 young adult novels, including New York Times–bestselling fantasy (Impossible), Edgar-award winning suspense (The Killer’s Cousin), and National Book Award-honored realistic fiction (The Rules of Survival). Her newest book is And Then There Were Four, a suspense thriller that marks her return to suspense after writing the fantasy trilogy Impossible, Extraordinary, and Unthinkable. Nancy grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Yale, and now lives with her husband near Boston.

Her website is nancywerlin.com

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York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby. May 16, 2017. Walden Pond Press, 496 p. ISBN: 9780062306937.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 780.

It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

From National Book Award Finalist Laura Ruby comes a visionary epic set in a New York City at once familiar and wholly unexpected.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Twins Tess and Theo live in one of the only remaining buildings designed by the Morningstarrs, visionary twins who built glittering structures in nineteenth-century New York, as well as the Cipher, a notorious, citywide puzzle leading to fantastic treasure. Now, in the twenty-first century, Tess and Theo’s building has been purchased by a mercenary developer, but Tess grasps at a shred of hope: if they solve the Cipher, they might be able to keep their home. With robust, architectural world building, Ruby reveals an alternate New York teeming with mechanical marvels and compelling secrets. This New York still has some familiar features, however: a rich culture of diversity alongside insidious greed and wealth inequality. Tess and Theo, and their friend and neighbor Jaime, have distinct voices and idiosyncrasies that, though some might consider them odd, become marvelous strengths. As the trio traverse the city, they’re often baffled by how easily clues fall into their hands, but Ruby slyly sidesteps those coincidences by giving the Cipher itself a mysterious, subtle sort of agency. In this smart, immersive series starter, Ruby expertly juggles stunning plot choreography, realistic stakes in a captivating fantasy setting, well-wrought characters, and flashes of sharp cultural commentary. It’s a brainy romp with a worrying heart, and while many plot threads are resolved, Theo, Tess, and Jaime will surely, thankfully, be back for more.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
When their (alternate reality) New York City apartment building is bought by a scheming real-estate developer, seventh-grade twins Tess and Theo Biedermann and their neighbor Jaime Cruz devise a plan to solve the Old York Cipher and thus save their home. The Cipher had been created in the nineteenth century by the brilliant Morningstarr twins (after whom Tess and Theo were named), inventors of the city’s “mechanical wizardry”–streets paved with solar panels, metal caterpillars that clean the Underway trains, and elevators that go in every direction–who then disappeared without a trace. As Tess, Theo, and Jaime take a fresh look at the Cipher, a new path of enticing and dangerous clues leads them deeper into the Morningstarrs’ mystery and closer to treacherous villains. Ruby’s nuanced trio of protagonists strikes a balance of emotional vulnerability (the twins coping with their grandfather’s onset of dementia, Jaime with his father’s increasing absence, and all three with the impending loss of their home) and resilience. The equally thoughtful vision of an alternative New York, both historical and present-day, pulsates right off the page, with geography, history, and steampunk-esque machines thoroughly integrated into the thrum of a strange but recognizable city. Weaving one web of secrets even as it works to unravel another, Ruby’s story will have both mystery and sci-fi fans reading and rereading in anticipation of the next installment. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Laura Ruby is the author of books for adults, teens and children. Her titles include the Edgar-nominated tween mystery Lily’s Ghosts, the children’s fantasy The Wall and the Wing (3/06) and a sequel, The Chaos King (5/07) all published by HarperCollins. She writes for older teens as well, and her debut young adult novel, Good Girls (9/06), also from HarperCollins, was a Book Sense Pick for fall 2006 and an ALA Quick Pick for 2007. She followed this with the teen novels Play Me (2008) and Bad Apple (2009).

Her short fiction for adults has appeared in various literary magazines, including Other Voices and The Florida Review. A collection of these stories, I’m Not Julia Roberts, was published by Warner Books in January 2007. Called “hilarious and heart-wrenching” by People and “a knowing look at the costs and rewards of remaking a family,” by the Miami Herald, the book was also featured in Redbook, Working Mother, and USA Today, among others.

Raised in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, Laura Ruby now lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two cats that serve as creative advisors.

Her website is www.lauraruby.com.

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A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge. May 9, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 489 p. ISBN: 9781419724848.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 920.

In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare—wines that remove memories, cheeses that make you hallucinate, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. On the surface, the people of Caverna seem ordinary, except for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to express (or fake) joy, despair, or fear—at a steep price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. Neverfell’s expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, except hers are entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 7-10. Published in Britain in 2012, this makes its American debut on the heels of Hardinge’s acclaimed The Lie Tree (2016). Eschewing the horror-tinged darkness of the latter, this story embraces fantasy, whimsical detail, political intrigue of epic proportions, and cheese—yes, cheese. Twelve-year-old Neverfell has been the apprentice of Cheesemaster Grandible since he found her hiding in his tunnels seven years ago. Paranoid from his years at court, he’s sealed their home off from the rest of Caverna, the underground city where they dwell. When Neverfell stumbles upon a passage out of her master’s tunnels, she’s plunged into a mad world where facial expressions are crafted and sold, and families are locked in a high-stakes game of politics and power, constantly scheming to gain the upper hand, whether through deceit or assassination. Neverfell, whose face shows her every emotion, is immediately marked as an outsider and swept into the deadly machinations of Caverna’s elite. Though wide-eyed, she’s a fast learner who refuses to be their pawn; and as Neverfell devises her escape, she uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her past and Caverna itself. Using beautiful prose, Hardinge builds a richly imagined world that twists as much as the carefully orchestrated plot. Readers will eagerly follow noble Neverfell through its tunnels, marveling at the extraordinary sights and catching their breath at her daring escapades.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
In this fantasy (first published in the UK in 2012), Hardinge (The Lie Tree, rev. 5/16) imagines Caverna, an underground city that thrives through its production of magical luxuries: mind-altering cheeses, wines that erase memories with surgical precision, and perfumes that influence attitudes. Perhaps these consciousness-influencing items make up for the inhabitants’ shared disability: they’re incapable of making facial expressions naturally. Into Caverna’s highly artificial court lands apprentice cheese-maker Neverfell, whose unique facial mobility and transparent feelings are so dangerous she must wear a mask. First threatened, then adopted by powerful courtiers, Neverfell penetrates the heart of Caverna’s secrets and disrupts its very underpinnings with her plan for social justice (“I want you to help me topple Master Childersin, break hundreds of laws and save as many people as will trust me”). Hardinge’s imagination here is—as ever—ebullient, lavish, and original. Whether she’s anatomizing expression as fashion accessory, describing the effects of certain wines, or likening human maturation to that of cheeses, she needles into some of our dearest desires and foibles with sharp psychological insight. Her enthusiasm for language play brightens dark Caverna with the sparkle of wit; but most notably, she suggests how fundamental to human interaction our facial expressions are. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Frances Hardinge spent her childhood in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and the two things inspired her to write strange, magical stories from an early age. She studied English at Oxford University and now lives in Oxford, England.

Her website is www.franceshardinge.com

 

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The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel

The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel. May 2, 2017. Random House Books for Young Readers, 248 p. ISBN: 9781101935873.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 400.

The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .

• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

Part of Series: 5 Worlds (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fighting

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Oona is lucky to have grown up in the relative luxury of Sand Dancer Academy, though she’s clumsy and the last person anyone would expect to have any special powers. An Tzu ekes out a meager life in the slums surrounding the academy, and when Toki rebels from one of the moons making up the five worlds attack the main power station, he and Oona—along with Jax Amboy, an athlete with a serious secret—find themselves unexpectedly at the center of the conflict. Together, they navigate the city under siege, flee Toki forces curiously insistent on capturing Oona, and try to make sense of some enigmatic clues they discover along the way. The Siegels’ immersive series starter drops readers right into the midst of its fully fleshed-out world, a multiplanet system with simmering conflicts that might look awfully familiar to contemporary readers. When those conflicts come to a head, the disarray in the city is terrifying, which only amplifies the suspense of Oona, An Tzu, and Jax’s quest. Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun’s richly detailed panels, filled with fluid shapes, swirling sand, and clearly depicted action, imbue the narrative with vivid, compelling atmosphere, while their figures are refreshingly varied in size, shape, and skin tone. With sensitive writing, gorgeous artwork, and a riveting plot, this is a series to keep an eye on.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
A sudden attack on the world of Mon Domani and its inhabited moons drives a young dancer, a street urchin, and an illegal android together.Many pages are crowded with sequential panels that are too small to fit the dialogue balloons or convey the hot action discernibly, but the overall plotline is easy enough to follow. Though generally mocked as a poor student of sand dancing—a psychokinetic art that uses hand and body movements to conjure solid “aniforms” from mystic vapors—next to her vanished big sister, Jessa, Oona Lee finds her powers growing as mysterious forces work to prevent the relighting of giant, long-dark Beacons that may stave off the growing environmental instability that is threatening all five worlds. With but little time to address the crisis by learning how to dance up a mighty Sand Warrior aniform and rediscover the lost technique of Beacon lighting, Oona is plunged into a running battle with minions of the Mimic, an ancient shape-changing nemesis. The three illustrators work seamlessly together to place Oona, a thick-bodied but graceful, pale-skinned strawberry blonde, in exotic, elaborately envisioned settings and surround her with a notably variegated cast of green-, blue-, brown-, black-, and pink-skinned allies and adversaries. The climax features a shocking revelation but leaves one Beacon lit with four to go: stay tuned. A headlong, if visually busy, opener for what promises to be a rare adventure. (Graphic science fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Mark Siegel has written and illustrated several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson. He is also the founder and editorial director of First Second Books. He lives with his family in New York.

 

 

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The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker

The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker. April 11, 2017. Little, Brown, and Company, 408 p. ISBN: 9780316348560.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 920.

Honorine’s life as as maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia’s study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night….

Suddenly, Honorine is whisked into the middle of a battle between the crew of a spectacular steamship and a band of mythical constellations. The stars in the sky have come to life to defend themselves against those who want to harness their powers. Much to her surprise, Honorine is the crux of it all, the center of an epic clash between magic and science, the old ways and the new. But can this spirited young girl bring both sides of a larger-than-life fight together before they unleash an evil power even older than the stars?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. In this adventure of the galactic variety, Honorine’s deepest wish is to know a family. And according to the Mapmaker, a strident and fiercely powerful Mordant, she’ll betray him to gain her deepest longing. Orphaned as a baby, Honorine discovers Lord Vidalia placed her in his home to protect her from unseen powers that literally light up the night sky. One night, Honorine’s life drastically changes when she stumbles upon Mordants—constellations come to life—and is reunited with the only person she’s ever considered family: Lord Vidalia’s son, Francis. The problem? Francis seems to be on the wrong side of the epic battle above, and Honorine is discovering truths about her family that leave her in an extremely sticky situation. Infused with references to constellations and Greek mythological creatures, and stocked with ships that sail through the sky and civilizations succumbing to power and greed over and over again, the invigorating plot ultimately leaves Honorine with only one choice to make. A fun, Rick Riordanesque escapade.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
A debut middle-grade adventure involving constellations that come to life, airships, friendships, revenge, and the fight for survival.In the years just before the turn of the 20th century, Honorine—a white girl with gray eyes and a knack for artifacts and machinery—has lived on the Vidalia Estate for as long as she remembers. For the first years her best friend and playmate was Francis Vidalia, but now he’s in school and her days are filled with household chores. When strangers come looking for a book, her world is turned on its head. Honorine is swept up into a world where living constellations—here known as Mordant—are in a fight for their very survival. Before the book is over Honorine will have been on a fantastical flying island that is really a ship; met the scheming white Capt. Nautilus Olyphant and seen the ingenious device with which he has been capturing the Mordant; dealt with the mysterious and somewhat sinister Mapmaker; found out who her parents are; seen monsters emerge from Hades; and made important decisions involving friendship, family, and loyalty. The pace is fast, the characters believable, and the setting original. Though there are some holes in the story, such as exactly what motivates Nautilus, the breakneck pace will not give readers time to ponder such questions. And they probably won’t mind a bit. Readers enjoying a mix of fantasy, adventure, and a clever heroine will fall for this one. (Fantasy. 9-12)

About the Author

Lindsey Becker writes middle grade fiction about ghosts, monsters, mythical beasts, and daring children who love adventure and magic. The Star Thief is her debut novel.

Her website is http://literarylilycate.blogspot.com/

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Guys Read: Heroes & Villains by Jon Scieszka

Guys Read: Heroes & Villains by Jon Scieszka. April 4, 2017. Walden Pond Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062385611.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2.

Heroes and Villains, the seventh volume in Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read Library of Great Reading, is chock-full of adventure featuring an array of characters—with and without capes.

Featuring ten all-new, original stories that run the gamut from fantasy to comics to contemporary adventure to nonfiction, and featuring eleven of the most acclaimed, exciting writers for kids working today, this collection is the perfect book for you, whether you use your powers for good—or evil.

Authors include Laurie Halse Anderson, Cathy Camper and Raúl Gonzalez, Sharon Creech, Jack Gantos, Christopher Healy, Deborah Hopkinson, Ingrid Law, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Lemony Snicket, and Eugene Yelchin, with illustrations by Jeff Stokely.

Part of Series: Guys Read

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence

 

 

 

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Guys Read website

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Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman

Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman. March 7, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062300058.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

The thrilling finale to the New York Times-bestselling Masterminds series from middle grade star author Gordon Korman. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and James Patterson.

After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.

Part of Series: Masterminds (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 4-7. Korman’s action-packed caper series comes to a satisfying close in this final installment. After facing a surprising double-cross at the end of the last book (Criminal Destiny, 2016), Eli and Tori get separated from Amber and Malik, but that doesn’t stop each pair of kids from continuing to follow clues to track down the criminals from which they were cloned. They have good intentions, but they can’t help but use their inborn skills, and soon they all begin to feel lured in by the ease of breaking the law. But as the cinematic plot, laced with red herrings, daring escapes, and mostly harmless minor crimes, trundles on to a tropical resort, where the foursome confronts the mad scientist responsible for their existence, the kids realize that their loyalty to one another and the skills they’ve learned from each other are enough to keep them on the straight and narrow (for now, at least). With a masterful balance of humor, thought-provoking questions, and adventure, this finale offers just the right closing note to an entertaining trilogy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In this trilogy closer, the four escaped clones from Project Osiris are still on the run, trying to avoid capture, discover the truth behind their criminal origins, and rescue the rest of the clones from the clutches of the evil Dr. Hammerstrom.Amber and Malik travel to Chicago to question Malik’s DNA donor, crime boss Gus Alabaster. Posing as his long-lost son, Malik is able to infiltrate his inner circle, but other than the confirmation that he is Gus’ clone, the trip is futile. Meanwhile, Tori and Eli go to California to visit serial killer Bartholomew Glen. There, they find that the Osiris conspiracy is bigger than they imagined. The four use a combination of their innate criminal abilities and their learned kindness to survive. Whether it is stealing a car, selling stolen Girl Scout cookies, or hacking computers, they will do whatever it takes to find the truth. This final installment in the trilogy that began with Masterminds (2015) is packed with surprising twists, high-speed chases, and plenty of near misses. Though the novel sidesteps racial differences, the question of nature versus nurture adds a thoughtful layer to a book that relies heavily on some convenient coincidences and improbable scenarios. (The dimly lit cover depicts the kids as either white or ambiguous.) Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Action-packed, high-speed fun. (Adventure. 8-12)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. May 2, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 368 p. ISBN: 9780399171635.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

Part of Series: Flame in the Mist (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (March 13, 2017)
Ahdieh delivers an elaborate fantasy set in feudal Japan, where a resilient young woman defies class conventions and gender roles in a quest for vengeance and autonomy. At 17, Mariko, the perceptive and intellectual daughter of a notable samurai, has been promised to the son of the emperor’s favorite consort. While en route to meet her betrothed, she narrowly survives an assassination attempt, which fuels her determination to unmask those responsible. Disguised as a boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan, soon recognizing that its reclusive members are much more than thieves and murderers. Occasional chapters are told from the perspective of Mariko’s twin brother, Kenshin, a samurai known as the Dragon of Kai, adding complexity to Mariko’s actions and revelations. Ahdieh (The Wrath & the Dawn) is immensely skilled at crafting vibrant settings inhabited by sympathetic characters with rich pasts, and she also treats readers to a slow-burning romance that does not impede Mariko’s independence or goals, illustrating the power of a well-matched pairing. While the final pages provide some closure, readers will enthusiastically anticipate the next installment. Ages 12-up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (May)

About the Author

Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.

Her website is www.reneeahdieh.com.

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Bone Jack by Sara Crowe

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe. February 7, 2017. Philomel Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9780399176517.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 620.

A haunting story of magic and myth, of one boy caught between worlds, and of the lengths he will travel to save those he loves.

Times have been tough for Ash lately, and all he wants is for everything to go back to the way it used to be. Back before drought ruined the land and disease killed off the livestock. Before Ash’s father went off to war and returned carrying psychological scars. Before his best friend, Mark, started acting strangely.

As Ash trains for his town’s annual Stag Chase—a race rooted in violent, ancient lore—he’s certain that if he can win and make his father proud, life will return to normal. But the line between reality and illusion is rapidly blurring, and the past has a way of threatening the present.

When a run in the mountains brings Ash face-to-face with Bone Jack—a figure that guards the boundary between the living world and the dead—everything changes once more. As dark energies take root and the world as he knows it is upended, it’s up to Ash to restore things to their proper order and literally run for his life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Bullying; Killing of animals; Suicide of a parent

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 7-10. Ash has been training for months for his village’s annual Stag Chase, the modern iteration of an ancient ritual to usher in a prosperous season. This year, Ash will be the revered Stag Boy, leading a pack of Hound Boys on a chase around the mountains. He should be elated, but he’s struggling with both the return of his PTSD-afflicted father and his ex–best friend Mark’s eerie descent into a violent, weird obsession with both the pagan roots of the Stag Chase and a mythical being, Bone Jack, who monitors the gateway between life and death. Crowe cultivates an unsettling atmosphere with ghostly apparitions, threats of violence, and descriptions of grotesqueries, such as a rotting stag head and a cape of crow carcasses. Amid the looming danger, Crowe leaves plenty of room for meaningful conversations about family, loyalty, and mental illness, particularly pertaining to Ash’s father. Though this might seem like just another ghost story, there’s subtle depth here, too, and teen fans of both horror and literary fiction will find lots to like.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In a grim season, one rural tradition seems less like a boys’ romp and more like a gateway for the old powers.This ought to be a banner year for 13-year-old Ash, finally selected as the stag boy. As the lead runner in his British town’s annual Stag Chase, Ash should be preparing to race his best friend, Mark, and the other boys their age, hounds to his stag. If only the whole town weren’t shattered with grief. A foot-and-mouth outbreak has devastated the area, with tragic consequences; Mark’s dad hanged himself in the barn. Ash’s own father, an army captain, has returned from the war—afflicted with PTSD, haunted by visions and rising alcoholism. Even the Stag Chase itself seems corrupted. Ash sees creepy crows in the woods, skulls draped in the trees, ghost stag boys, and (most uncanny) Mark living in the woods, dressed in rags and daubed with clay. The old ways are rising, Mark insists, and the stag boy’s destiny will not be a happy one. In haunting, lyrical prose, Ash tries to protect himself from Bone Jack the soul-taker while learning to be a better son and friend. With a deft hand, Crowe twines the ancient folk motifs around her evocation of modern Britain—with one exception: characters’ races go unspecified, leaching it of its multicultural vigor. A lovely, eerie adventure that balances the ancient magic with its protagonist’s very real character growth. (Fantasy. 11-13)

About the Author

Sara Crowe was born in Cornwall and raised all over England by her restless parents. She taught cinema and photography studies until 2012 when she and her partner bought a van and spent the next 18 months travelling around the British Isles. She currently lives in a tumbledown cottage in Lincolnshire. Bone Jack is her first novel.

Her website is http://theforest.me.

Around the Web

Bone Jack on Amazon

Bone Jack on Goodreads

Bone Jack on JLG

Bone Jack Publisher Page

Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park

Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park. March7, 2017. HarperCollins, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062327413.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

In the second installment of the spellbinding Wing & Claw series, Newbery Medal—winning author Linda Sue Park takes a young apothecary hero to new heights of danger, exciting adventure, and intriguing botanical magic.

Raffa Santana has spent all winter hiding in the harsh wilderness of the Sudden Mountains, and now it’s time to return home. Home, where his parents will help him fight back against the vile Chancellor who has captured and altered the wild creatures of the Forest of Wonders. Home, where Raffa’s beloved companion, Echo the bat, will recover from his mysterious sickness.

To get there, Raffa must make a treacherous journey across Obsidia. Along the way, he will discover a luminous plant that might be the key to saving the creatures stuck in the Chancellor’s grasp… if only Raffa can unlock the plant’s secrets and deliver the cure to the captive animals.

Cavern of Secrets masterfully explores one boy’s responsibility to his friends, family, and the wider world.

Sequel to: Forest of Wonders

Part of series: Wing & Claw

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 3-6. After spending months hiding in the woods, Raffa, Garith, and Kuma, accompanied by their animal friends, decide it’s time to go home, if only because Raffa’s talking bat, Echo, is gravely ill. On their trip back, Raffa stumbles onto a new plant with miraculous healing properties, which comes in handy once aggressive animals treated with the scarlet vine start attacking people in unnatural ways. Raffa’s new plant seems to reverse the effects of the scarlet vine, and he endeavors to return to the heart of the city, no matter how dangerous, to thwart the Chancellor’s nefarious plans. Amid all the action of his mission, Raffa faces some hard truths about his apothecary gifts, especially when he considers what might be best for Echo. While Raffa’s fretful inner monologue sometimes bogs down the pace, Park’s meaningful exploration of emotions nicely grounds the plot, and her rich, vividly drawn characters add plenty of depth. Another cliff-hanger ends this second volume of the Wing and Claw series, but that only means there’s more for fans to pine for.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
In this sequel to Forest of Wonders (2016), hero Raffa applies his apothecary skills to thwart the Chancellor of Obsidia’s malevolent plot to treat wild animals with botanicals and use them against her own people. Raffa, his cousin, Garith, and his friend Kuma, along with a talking bat named Echo, a gigantic bear, and a raccoon, have spent the winter in the Sudden Mountains, hiding from the Chancellor who wants to silence them because of their knowledge of her secret plan. With spring’s approach, Raffa decides to return to his parents. On the perilous journey home, Raffa discovers a hidden cavern where he harvests a mysterious, translucent plant whose healing properties cure the ailing Echo. After witnessing the Chancellor’s manipulated foxes, stoats, and crows devastate Kuma’s village and finding his own home in ashes, Raffa covertly develops an antidote from the cavern plant, hoping to cure and free the captured animals. When his plan fails, a desperate, desolate Raffa faces a precarious future, pondering his role as a healer vis-à-vis his family, friends, and Obsidia. As in the trilogy opener, Park demands that her child protagonist make adult-sized choices that come with real consequences. Raffa’s world is a diverse one; he has dark hair and light-brown skin, Kuma’s skin is dark, and Garith is newly deaf. The nail-biting adventure, relevant moral dilemmas, and complex characters will leave readers eager for the final installment. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

Linda Sue Park is a Korean American author of children’s fiction. Park published her first novel, Seesaw Girl, in 1999. To date, she has written six children’s novels and five picture books for younger readers. Park’s work achieved prominence when she received the prestigious 2002 Newbery Medal for her novel A Single Shard.

Her website is www.lindasuepark.com.

Teacher Resources

Wing and Claw Reading Guide

Around the Web

Cavern of Secrets on Amazon

Cavern of Secrets on Goodreads

Cavern of Secrets on JLG

Cavern of Secrets Publisher Page