Tag Archives: murder

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

 

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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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The Possible by Tara Altebrando

The Possible by Tara Altebrando. June 6, 2017. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 304 p. ISBN: 9781619638051.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Some storms rage from within.

What if…a teenage girl could move objects with her mind?

What if…someone turns up at her door asking questions she doesn’t want to answer?

Kaylee lives a normal life with her adoptive parents, and almost never thinks of her birth mother, Crystal, who is serving a life sentence in prison. But the woman at the front door is producing a podcast about Crystal that is about to blow Kaylee’s forgotten past wide open.

What if strange things have been happening Kaylee’s entire life, things she could not explain? What if she’s more like her mother than she ever imagined?

What if the podcast is about to put her on a collision course with Crystal—and her darkest self?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Is it possible? Kaylee has been asking herself that her whole life. Her birth mother, Crystal, first gained fame for her alleged telekinetic ability, and then infamy when she was convicted of murdering her infant son—Kaylee’s younger brother. With Crystal serving a life sentence, Kaylee was adopted into a loving home to live a more normal life. That is, until The Possible, a hit investigative podcast, chooses to focus on Crystal’s case more than a decade after the conviction. All of a sudden, people begin questioning Kaylee about what she remembers from the trial, or if she has powers, too. Altebrando has penned a fast-paced thriller that is less a Dan Brown–style adventure and more of a psychological examination. At play is how Kaylee’s seemingly mundane world is ripped apart by gossip, secrets, and her own curiosity about a birth mother she barely knows. Altebrando manages Kaylee’s relationships with her parents, friends, and the gossiping public masterfully, tossing in unique twists to keep readers on their toes. Fans of true-crime podcasts especially will feel right at home.

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2017)
Kaylee’s birth mother, Crystal, claimed telekinetic powers before she was convicted of murdering Kaylee’s little brother, Jack; 13 years later, Liana, a journalist revisiting the story for her podcast, wants to know if Kaylee’s inherited Crystal’s ability. Kaylee’s suppressed her memories of her early years with Crystal, serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania penitentiary, but still dreams of Jack and suspects Crystal’s claims were valid and that she may have inherited them. Against her parents’ wishes, Kaylee agrees to be interviewed for the podcast if Liana will take her to see Crystal. As episodes go live, Kaylee becomes a celebrity at school and the swim club where she’s a lifeguard. She leverages her fame to attract a boy but takes friends (including Aiden, who wants to be more) for granted. Unsure of her powers, Kaylee still enjoys the attention—even when it’s more fear than popularity. Plot twists entertain, but the story’s weakened by its superficial, insensitive portrayal of adoption. The juxtaposition of Kaylee’s world of white suburban affluence, where everyone belongs to the swim club, and Crystal’s foreshortened world, from impoverished childhood to prison, is stark. Well-heeled characters seem indifferent to the less-privileged; Crystal, brutal and brutalized, is treated with contempt. Kaylee’s occasional reflections on her birth mother’s privations, seemingly intended to convey her empathy, are belied by her cruelty to Crystal. A narrative deaf to adoption’s difficult complexities: the ties that may no longer bind but never disappear. (Fiction. 14-17)

About the Author

Tara Altebrando is the author of several middle grade and teen novels, including The Leaving and Roomies, an ALA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, co-written with Sara Zarr. She lives in New York City with her family.

Her website is www.taraaltebrando.com

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Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle

Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle. May 16, 2017. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 256 p. ISBN: 9781481472227.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

Newbery Honor winner Janet Taylor Lisle’s gorgeous and profound new novel about a pivotal summer in two girls’ lives explores the convictions we form, the judgments we make, and the values we hold.

The pond is called Quicksand Pond.

It’s a shadowy, hidden place, full of chirping, shrieking, croaking life. It’s where, legend has it, people disappear. It’s where scrappy Terri Carr lives with her no-good family. And it’s where twelve-year-old Jessie Kettel is reluctantly spending her summer vacation.

Jessie meets Terri right away, on a raft out in the water, and the two become fast friends. On Quicksand Pond, Jessie and Terri can be lost to the outside world—lost until they want to be found. But a tragedy that occurred many decades ago has had lingering effects on this sleepy, small-minded town, and especially on Terri Carr. And the more Jessie learns, the more she begins to question her new friendship—and herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild sexual themes, Murder, Domestic violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. When Eddie Carr was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, the family dairy folded, the family barn burned to the ground, and the family name, too, suffered irreparable damage. In fact, five decades later, 12-year-old Terri, Eddie’s great-granddaughter, is still paying the price, living at the west end of Quicksand Pond with her abusive, alcoholic father. But Jessie Kettel, a vacationing outsider, hasn’t heard the rumors. And when a mysterious old raft appears at the water’s edge, the two girls work to repair it, developing a profound, if precarious, friendship. As town gossip and the Kettel family’s judgment simmers in the background—and long-misunderstood local Henrietta Cutting staggers into the foreground—Jessie comes to a most unsettling conclusion: the closer she gets to Terri, the closer she could be to unknowable danger. Deftly navigating a diverse array of socioeconomic statuses and the discriminatory nature of the justice system, Newbery Honor Book author Lisle crafts a stirring story that raises crucial questions about the assumptions we make, the distances we keep, and the vulnerable voices we often fail to hear. As Lisle details Terri’s determination to cease a vicious cycle, Henrietta’s resolve to remedy an unjust past, and Jessie’s aching ambivalence between the cautionary advice of others and her own hard-won revelations, readers are sure to listen. Striking, enigmatic, and haunting all around.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A summer beside Quicksand Pond on Rhode Island’s coast transforms a reluctant 12-year-old white girl. When Jessie arrives at her family’s rental cottage, she’s in “a separatist mood.” Immediately drawn to the pond, Jessie’s content to stand, “breathing in the place, listening and watching.” Discovering an abandoned raft, Jessie explores on her own until she encounters Terri, also white, a local outcast with an abusive, dead-end father. Bonding quickly, Jessie and Terri spend quiet days on the raft. Terri tells Jessie about the boys who disappeared in the pond and the family murdered years before whose surviving child, Henrietta, is now an elderly woman still living in the big house by the pond. Indeed, Henrietta stealthily watches Terri and Jessie using the raft she built as a child. When Terri’s suspected of stealing Jessie’s father’s laptop, Jessie adamantly defends her friend, but after Terri’s blamed for setting a fire in Henrietta’s garage, where the girls had borrowed some tools to repair the raft, Jessie’s support for Terri wavers. Unfolding slowly in simple, quiet prose, this sensitive, compelling story alternates between Jessie’s present experiences and Henrietta’s befuddled memories until they collide in a disturbing, pivotal climax. A suspenseful, realistic, finely crafted story exploring friendship, trust, and how we judge others. (map) (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Janet Taylor Lisle’s books for young readers have received the Newbery Honor Award (Afternoon of the Elves), the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction (The Art of Keeping Cool), Holland’s Zilveren Griffel, and Italy’s Premio Andersen Award, among other honors. A graduate of Smith College and former journalist, Janet lives in Rhode Island and often draws on Rhode Island history in her work.

Her website is JanetTaylorLisle.com

Teacher Resources

Quicksand Pond Group Reading Guide

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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. May 30, 2017. Delacorte Press, 368 p. ISBN: 9781524714697.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Suicide

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. It’s a murder mystery, Breakfast Club–style: five students from different social spheres walk into detention. Only four walk out. Simon, the outcast at the helm of the high school’s brutal (and always true) gossip app has been murdered, and he had dirt on all four students in detention with him. Brainy good-girl Bronwyn knows she didn’t kill Simon, and she doesn’t think drug-dealing Nate, everyone’s favorite suspect, did either. Simon knew something that could ruin homecoming princess Addy’s perfect relationship, but Addy’s always been so timid. And baseball superstar Cooper has a secret, but it’s not what Simon said, and everyone knows Simon was never wrong. Trailed by suspicion, the four team up to clear their names—and find the real ­killer—even as proving their innocence becomes increasingly more difficult. Told in alternating perspectives among the four, this is a fast-paced thriller with twists that might surprise even the most hardened mystery reader. An engaging, enticing look at the pressures of high school and the things that cause a person to lose control.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Detention takes a dark turn when the student behind Bayview High’s infamous app About That dies from a peanut allergy—and every witness has a different reason for wanting him gone.Although McManus’ debut initially feels like a rehashing of The Breakfast Club, with five teens from disparate social circles brought together through detention, there is no bonding through library dance parties or atypical lipstick application. Instead, Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Addy witness Simon collapse and ultimately die after taking a sip of water. When police discover the drink was laced with peanut oil—and that Simon was going to reveal life-ruining secrets about all four students on his gossip app the next day—they go from unfortunate witnesses to top murder suspects. With each teen (“brain,” “criminal,” “jock,” and “princess,” respectively; “walking teen-movie stereotypes,” as Simon says) narrating alternating chapters, the novel offers insights into common adolescent struggles—from the pressure to succeed to an alcoholic, out-of-work father—as well as an unlikely romance and opportunities for self-reflection as the investigation escalates. Although their suburban San Diego high school is a multicultural place, with the exception of Latina Bronwyn, the principal cast is white. Although the language and plot sometimes border on cliché, this fast-paced blend of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and classic John Hughes will leave readers racing to the finish as the try to unravel the mystery on their own. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Karen M. McManus earned her BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and her MA in journalism from Northeastern University. When she isn’t working or writing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, McManus loves to travel with her son. One of Us Is Lying is her debut novel.

Her website is www.karenmcmanus.com.

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Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. April 18, 2017. Doubleday, 352p. ISBN: 9780385534246.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. The book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts; Discrimination; Violence; Alcohol; Criminal culture

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
During the early 1920s, many members of the Osage Indian Nation were murdered, one by one. After being forced from several homelands, the Osage had settled in the late nineteenth century in an unoccupied area of Oklahoma, chosen precisely because it was “rocky, sterile, and utterly unfit for cultivation.” No white man would covet this land; Osage people would be happy. Then oil was soon discovered below the Osage territory, speedily attracting prospectors wielding staggering sums and turning many Osage into some of the richest people in the world. Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, 2010) centers this true-crime mystery on Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman who lost several family members as the death tally grew, and Tom White, the former Texas Ranger whom J. Edgar Hoover sent to solve the slippery, attention-grabbing case once and for all. A secondary tale of Hoover’s single-minded rise to power as the director of what would become the FBI, his reshaping of the bureau’s practices, and his goal to gain prestige for federal investigators provides invaluable historical context. Grann employs you-are-there narrative effects to set readers right in the action, and he relays the humanity, evil, and heroism of the people involved. His riveting reckoning of a devastating episode in American history deservedly captivates..

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding “headrights” that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the “Reign of Terror.” Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn’t stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann’s crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs. Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

About the Author

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. He has written about everything from New York City’s antiquated water tunnels to the hunt for the giant squid to the presidential campaign.
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, published by Doubleday, is Grann’s first book and is being developed into a movie by Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company and Paramount Pictures.

Grann’s stories have appeared in several anthologies, including What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001; The Best American Crime Writing, of both 2004 and 2005; and The Best American Sports Writing, of 2003 and 2006. A 2004 finalist for the Michael Kelly award for the “fearless pursuit and expression of truth,” Grann has also written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and The New Republic.

Before joining The New Yorker in 2003, Grann was a senior editor at The New Republic, and, from 1995 until 1996, the executive editor of the newspaper The Hill. He holds master’s degrees in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as well as in creative writing from Boston University. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1989, he received a Thomas Watson Fellowship and did research in Mexico, where he began his career in journalism. He currently lives in New York with his wife and two children.

His website is www.davidgrann.com.

Teacher Resources

Killers of the Flower Moon Discussion Questions

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Overturned by Lamar Giles

Overturned by Lamar Giles. March 28, 2017. Scholastic, 352 p. ISBN: 9780545812504.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Nikki Tate is infamous, even by Las Vegas standards. Her dad is sitting on death row, convicted of killing his best friend in a gambling dispute turned ugly. And for five years, he’s maintained his innocence. But Nikki wants no part of that. She’s been working on Operation Escape Vegas: playing in illegal card games so she can save up enough money to get out come graduation day.

Then her dad’s murder conviction is overturned. The new evidence seems to come out of nowhere and Nikki’s life becomes a mess when he’s released from prison. Because the dad who comes home is not the dad she remembers. And he’s desperately obsessed with finding out who framed him—and why.

As her dad digs into the seedy underbelly of Vegas, the past threatens everything and Nikki is drawn into his deadly hunt for the truth. But in the city of sin, some sinners will do anything to keep their secrets, and Nikki soon finds herself playing for the biggest gamble ever—her life

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcohol; Smoking; Gambling

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. If she knows anything, Vegas native Nikki Tate knows cards. She’s trying to earn enough money to escape Vegas after high school, and she comes by the trade honestly: her casino-owning father, Nathan Tate, was a big deal, until he was convicted of murder five years ago. Now, though, that conviction has been overturned, and Nathan Tate joins a long line of wrongly convicted black men. But the man who returns is not the father Nikki remembers, and the circumstances surrounding the murder he was imprisoned for have not disappeared. As Nathan digs into the past, Nikki, too, becomes more entangled in Vegas’ seedy underbelly, and the stakes are higher than she’s used to. Giles deftly imagines the tense, sinister atmosphere of underground Vegas, while grappling with the issue of race in the justice system. Nikki’s friendships and burgeoning relationship with the son of a rival casino titan are three-dimensional, and she herself is a tough-talking, sometimes impulsive heroine who’s smart even when she’s scared. A fast-paced, endlessly intriguing mystery.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
A fast-paced mystery uncovers a truth hidden by the bright lights of Las Vegas.To bankroll her future escape from Las Vegas, Nikki plays illegal poker games, using her natural skill and training from her father, Nathan “The Broker” Tate. Those skills also help her run the family’s failing casino, which languishes because her father is on death row for murdering his business associate. After five years, though, her father’s conviction—like so many other black men, he’s found to be wrongfully convicted—is overturned and he returns home. Nathan is determined to reveal who framed him, only to quickly end up dead. So Nikki takes up her father’s quest and tries to untangle the mystery. Even her blossoming relationship with Davis Carlino—son of local magnate Bertram “Big Bert” Carlino—won’t get in the way of finding the truth. Then Nikki discovers how Big Bert and her father are connected…and that Davis could be part of it, too. Is Nikki about to become another Vegas cautionary tale? Nikki is a totally appealing character: gutsy, practical, and strong, at the head of a cast of well-drawn supporting characters. The interracial romance between Nikki and Davis, who is white, is handled deftly, as is Giles’ skillful evocation of the townies-vs.-tourists nature of Las Vegas. An utterly compelling whodunit. (Mystery. 14-18)

About the Author

L. R. Giles hunts monsters. When he catches them, he locks them in stories. His work has been featured in the Dark Dreams anthology series, he’s won the prestigious Virginia Commission for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, and he was a Top 10 Finalist in the international SciFi Now/Tor UK War of the Words competition. He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife.

Her website is www.lamargiles.com.

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A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho

A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho. February 28, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 368 p. ISBN: 9780451476241.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Can the right kind of boy get away with killing the wrong kind of girl?

Finley and Betty’s close friendship survived Fin’s ninth-grade move from their coastal Maine town to Manhattan. Calls, letters, and summer visits continued to bind them together, and in the fall of their senior year, they both applied to NYU, planning to reunite for good as roommates.

Then Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out, and soon the entire town believes he was coerced and Betty has simply run away. Fin knows the truth, and she returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, even if it means putting her loved ones—and herself—at risk.

But Williston is a town full of secrets, where a delicate framework holds everything together, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda. How much is she willing to damage to get her revenge and learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance, which is more complicated than she ever imagined—and infinitely more devastating?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Calder Miller confessed to the murder of Betty Flynn. Yet, as a minor without a present lawyer—and the son of Williston’s manipulative mayor—he walked free. But Finley Blake, Betty’s best friend, is ready to settle the score. Slitting tires, sparking fires, and doggedly interrogating classmates and locals alike, Finley demands nothing short of the truth: why did Calder do it? While her perilous ploys successfully bring Betty, a “mercurial” force with a long tarnished reputation, to the forefront of Williston’s clouded memory, they also unearth a series of startling secrets. Finley soon finds herself—and those she cares most about—haunted not only by danger but also boundless uncertainty. Finley’s brooding first-person narrative, precocious and often deluged with drug use, doesn’t always accommodate deep secondary-character development. Still, Moracho’s setting, a sleepy coastal town swathed in superstition and sea, shines. Edgy, atmospheric, and sometimes steamy, this is a thoughtful portrait of grief and an engaging examination of the risks we take for the ones we love. Ideal for mystery enthusiasts and noir newcomers.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A young woman returns for the summer from her mother’s in New York City to her dad’s house in a small Maine town, intent on uncovering what actually happened to her best friend, who is only officially recognized by the police as missing even though her ex-boyfriend confessed to—but then recanted—having killed her. Finley is set to begin at NYU in the fall, but the loss of her troubled friend Betty drives her back to insular Williston to spend one final summer there in the late 1990s. An incredibly tangled web immediately presents itself, and she meets Serena, whom Betty met when her parents sent her to a religious summer camp and to whom Finley develops an intense attraction. Together, they do all they can to force the truth to come to light. Lushly evocative writing sets an atmospherically dark and foreboding tone from the start, and secrets are harbored by nearly every character, all of whom appear to be white. Finley is a distant narrator, tough and smart, and though she spends a fair amount of time downing pills, drinking, and having sex with both the town drug dealer, Owen, and Serena, her grief and anger over Betty are believable motivating forces that keep her asking questions and seeking revenge. A discomfiting, gripping mystery with plenty of sharp edges. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Cristina Moracho is a novelist and freelance writer/editor. Her debut novel was Althea & Oliver (Viking). She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where she makes all the bad decisions.

Her website is www.cristinamoracho.com.

 

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Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan. June 7, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553524857.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned–crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding–though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price

Part of Series: Witch’s Child (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. Julia is the best thief and spy in Spira City. At 16, she knows every twisted alleyway and escape route it holds. She also has the ability to “be unseen”—not to become invisible, exactly, but to pull herself into gaps in the air. This unusual talent has proven dead useful in her line of work, which has been her lot ever since her mother was drowned as a witch (magic and folklore are illegal in the kingdom of Frayne). Home is now with her brother and the ragtag gang that contracts her jobs. This is how Julia has ended up posing as a maid in the house of Mrs. Och, but her snooping assignment is becoming more dangerous by the day. Strange meetings, secretive guests, and frightening sounds inhabit the house’s walls, while outside, a serial killer is on the loose. Egan nimbly builds a fantasy world resembling early modern Europe—with a class system, scourge survivors, prescribed religion, and witch hunts—and laces it with original mythologies to fuel the story’s action. Readers will find themselves immediately immersed in the narrative and invested in the fate of Julia, who is both feisty and flawed. There is a richness to this inaugural volume of the Witch’s Child trilogy, and readers will be hard pressed to put it down.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2016)
Julia is a thief in Spira City, sent by a mysterious employer to gather information from the wealthy Mrs. Och’s house. Though Julia has never understood her ability to turn almost invisible, that talent helps her spy and steal. Posing as a housemaid, Julia learns that Mrs. Och is defying the fervidly anti-magic government by secretly smuggling well-connected witches to safety. (Less-fortunate witches are drowned in public “Cleansings,” as Julia’s mother was years before.) Mrs. Och’s newest houseguests are a beautiful witch and her toddler son — a child with powers that interested parties would kill to claim. Julia is drawn into a battle encompassing her targets, a corrupt politician, and the terrifying forces behind her assignment. While this fantasy’s world-building, politics, and magical history are indeed interesting, these are surpassed by the daring criminal escapades and by Julia’s internal conflicts. Julia’s self-made family of thieves (including brother Dek and love-interest Wyn) is a likable crew that works together, even through the personal betrayals that add emotional complexity to the novel. The villains, too, are attractive in their wickedness. Following Julia and her comrades makes for a tricky, frightening, relentlessly exciting adventure colored with moral ambiguity and magical intrigue. The fast-paced plot concludes nicely, but with plenty of questions left open for further installments in the series. sarah berman

About the Author

My superpowers: high-kicking, list-making, simultaneously holding two opposing opinions

My weaknesses: fear of flying, excessive list-making, lame-ass mortality

My allies: The Canadian Mounties, my made-for-walking-in black boots, Mick, the English Language

My mission: the coexistence of ambivalence and joy.

Her website is www.catherineegan.com.

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City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson. January 24, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 432 p. ISBN: 9780399547584.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling murder mystery set in Kenya.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Gangs

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-11. “If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.” So begins Congo refugee and Kenyan street gang member Tina’s gripping narrative, a wonderfully twisted puzzle of a murder mystery. Six years ago, Tina’s mother, maid to wealthy Mr. Greyhill, was murdered in his study. Eleven-year-old Tina got her half sister Kiki (Mr. Greyhill’s daughter) a scholarship at a convent school and then disappeared into the streets of Sangui City, where she joined the Goonda gang. Here Tina refined her skills as a thief while carefully plotting revenge on Greyhill, whom she has good reason to believe murdered her mother. Now 17, Tina is ready to put the plan into action by blackmailing and then killing her mother’s assassin. Anderson, who has worked with refugee relief and development in Africa, addresses issues of race, class, and gender as intrinsic plot elements. Tina’s gay friend BoyBoy is an especially sympathetic and compelling character who refuses to join the Goondas, yet lends his computer skills to their many heists. Greyhill’s son Michael, Tina’s childhood playmate, is now both her captor and maybe her love interest, highlighting the tremendous gap between wealth and poverty and the resulting power dynamics. The nicely twisted climax is wholly believable, and readers will be sorry to leave Tina, whose fierce loyalty to family drives her courageous actions.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Anderson’s debut mystery novel features a Congolese teenager bent on revenge.In fictional Sangui City, Kenya, lives 16-year-old Tina, a black Congolese refugee. Tina has two purposes in life: take care of her mixed-race half sister, Kiki, and avenge their mother’s death. Five years ago, Mama was murdered, and Tina believes the culprit can only be the rich and corrupt Mr. Greyhill, her mother’s white former employer and lover. To survive, Tina has embedded herself as the wiliest of thieves within the ranks of the Goondas, a powerful gang in the city. After a Goonda heist on Mr. Greyhill goes wrong, Tina finds herself in cahoots with his mixed-race son, Michael, to find the true murderer. Michael wants to prove it wasn’t his father, and Tina goes along with it so that she can resume her plan for vengeance. Along with her black tech genius partner in crime, Boyboy, they find themselves in the depths of Congo, looking for answers that could cost them their lives. The narrative is guided by Tina’s rules for survival, which reveal a strong yet vulnerable character. While much of the novel is fictionalized, it exposes both the very real corruption and greed of the mining industry in Congo and the women who pay the price. The novel is peppered with Swahili words and phrases, and Anderson makes an effort to paint a picture of the country. A story full of twists and turns, proving nothing is ever as black and white as it may seem. (glossary) (Thriller. 12-16)

About the Author

Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.

Her website is www.nataliecanderson.com.

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The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro. February 14, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062398949.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Watson and Holmes: A match made in disaster.

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter-break reprieve after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But Charlotte isn’t the only Holmes with secrets, and the mood at her family’s Sussex estate is palpably tense. On top of everything else, Holmes and Watson could be becoming more than friends—but still, the darkness in Charlotte’s past is a wall between them.

A distraction arises soon enough, because Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring. The game is afoot once again, and Charlotte is single-minded in her pursuit.

Their first stop? Berlin. Their first contact? August Moriarty (formerly Charlotte’s obsession, currently believed by most to be dead), whose powerful family has been ripping off famous paintings for the last hundred years. But as they follow the gritty underground scene in Berlin to glittering art houses in Prague, Holmes and Watson begin to realize that this is a much more complicated case than a disappearance. Much more dangerous, too.

What they learn might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

Sequel to: A Study in Charlotte

Part of series: Charlotte Holmes Trilogy

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Drugs; Alcohol

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Picking up just weeks after A Study in Charlotte ended, Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are on their Christmas break in London. Their friendship has taken a few steps back, though, and things seem tense. After Holmes’s mother turns suddenly ill and her beloved uncle Leander goes missing, the game is afoot. The pair travel across Europe from Berlin to Prague, bickering all the way yet still making a great team. The book is nearly all from Watson’s perspective, as was the first title in the trilogy, but a few chapters at the end are from Holmes’s view, and they are worth the wait, filled with turns of phrase that only she could dream up. This delightful sequel introduces a mystery on a grander scale with much higher stakes while staying true to the flavor of an original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story. There are new characters, a kidnapping, poison, art fraud, narrow escapes, danger, drama, and a final twist with a heap of delicious, complex sleuthing that will keep readers guessing until the end. No one is ever what or who they seem. VERDICT A strong purchase for fans of A Study in Charlotte and where mysteries are popular.—Kristen Rademacher, Marist High School, IL

About the Author

Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August. She’s also the author of the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she’s a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps.

Her website is http://brittanycavallaro.com.

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