Welcome to the latest edition of my reviews that made me want to read the book feature. I'm using this series of posts to keep track of books that catch my eye, and also to highlight the fabulous reviewers who pique my interest by getting to the heart of a book. In response to a suggestion from Aerin, I've made an extra effort to include a few adult titles in the mix (though it should be noted that I don't read very many adult-fiction focused blogs, so this is by no means a comprehensive list). In any event, this has ended up quite the mammoth addition to my wish list. Now if I only had time to read half of these titles...
Children's and YA Titles
Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel is actually on my shelf already (I requested it from the Little, Brown catalog). But Betsy Bird moved it up on my list by saying: "to my amazement this book sucks me in instantly. With a rare combination of readability and genuine middle school trials and tribulations, author Elizabeth Cody Kimmel gives a well-placed kick to a genre that deserves a little rejiggering here and a little remastering there. A book I can honestly recommend to any kid looking for some great ghostly fare." How can I resist that? I've added it to my candidate list for the 48 Hour Book Challenge this weekend.
The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin and John Busby caught my eye when I saw it in the publisher's catalog (Bloomsbury). It's a memoir about a family that has to go into hiding after the father is the victim of a crime, and survives. I have already requested a copy. But Sarah from The Reading Zone made me want to read it even more when she said: "Yesterday I sat down to read it and finished in one sitting. This is a thrilling YA memoir with huge adult crossover appeal. In this day and age of TV crime dramas, this true life tale of a family nearly destroyed by a brutal shooting will not go unnoticed!"
Longstockings Daphne Grab and Coe Booth recently interviewed Adrienne Maria Vrettos about her new novel Sight. The Longstockings said: "If you’ve ever wished to be psychic, SIGHT will make you think twice! This book is sooo good. It’s beautifully written with great characters and an exciting ending. And it’s a story that will definitely stay with you for a long time." I read the description in the first paragraph and thought "hmm, kind of has a Lois Duncan feel". I loved Duncan's books as a young adult. So when I saw later in the interview that Vrettos was partially inspired to write this book by her love of one of Lois Duncan's titles, well, that was good enough for me. (Incidentally, this is the kind of tidbit that makes me happy to have started this reviews that made me want the book feature in the first place.)
I'm always on the lookout for engaging books for early elementary school readers (in fact, I'll soon be participating in a blog tour on this topic hosted by Gail Gauthier). Bill from Literate Lives recently reviewed the first book in a new series written by Lin Oliver and illustrated by Stephen Gilpin, the Who Shrunk Daniel Funk Series. Daniel Funk is a boy who is able to shrink and re-grow, and has various adventures. Bill said: "Lin Oliver has created the perfect no brainer, can't put it down, laugh out loud read for third grade and up. I can't wait for the next installment...Escape of the Mini Mummy. Another great title." Sounds worth checking out to me.
Ms. Yingling is one of my most trusted sources of book suggestions. She said of Linda Gerber's Death by Bikini, a murder mystery: "Joan Lowery Nixon has always been my go-to author when it comes to mysteries that girls especially like, but this series will certainly circulate even better." I'm a mystery fan in general, and there's a bit of a shortage of detective stories aimed at teen readers, so this one goes on my list. Plus, it's a great cover!
Speaking of mysteries, I very much enjoyed Peter Abrahams' first Echo Falls mystery, Down the Rabbit Hole. I didn't think that the second book, Behind the Curtain, was quite as strong, though I did like it. Now Doret, the HappyNappyBookseller, has convinced me to give the third book, Into the Dark, a look. Doret said: "What makes this book good is how Ingrid figures out the why. What makes this book great is the ending. There is nothing better then someone trying to cover up a murder with a murder. I loved the last few chapters, the action was fast, intense, scary, page turning good." My concern with the second book was that I felt like Abrahams had toned down the action, so I find this reassuring.
Another books with mysterious happenings that caught my recently was Ghost Letters, by Stephen Alter, as reviewed by Lisa Chellman at Under the Covers. Lisa recommends it for fans of Blue Balliett's books. She calls it "a fun ride. Alter works many mail-related tropes—dogs who chase mailmen, carrier pigeons, secret wartime codes—into the plot (though a chain letter disappointingly went nowhere). There’s also a recurring poetry motif that, while not essential to the plot, does not feel out of place either."
I have a weaknesses for stories set in turn of the (20th) century New York. I also have a healthy respect for the opinions of Betsy Bird (aka A Fuse #8 Production), as evidenced by my having included another one of her recommendations above. So when Betsy reviewed Brooklyn Bridge, by Karen Hesse, a novel about the family that invented the stuffed teddy bear, I was intrigued. Betsy said: "This is perhaps one of Hesse’s most accomplished novels. It’s historical fiction that uses the past as a point of reference rather than as the point of the novel. Hesse is weaving together so many seemingly disparate elements and living breathing characters that the end result feels more like a film, a theatrical production, or a scene on a city street than a book for kids." However, it won't be available until September.
And, for another book with an intriguing historical setting, Tasha Saecker from Kids Lit reviewed Sally Gardner's second novel (after I, Coriander), The Red Necklace. Tasha said: "This book had me immediately upon reading the first page. The writing was flowery but intense, filled with images but equally gripping and fast paced. It was the tone of the French Revolution itself... This is a glory of a book. Highly recommended and one of the best of the year." Since I liked Gardner's first book, and since Tasha gave it such a strong endorsement, I'm ready to check it out.
Then, in describing more of an alternative historical novel, Colleen Mondor piqued my interest in The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson. Colleen said: "Davidson’s novel is by far one of the smartest YA titles I have read in quite some time and I would love to see it in on high school reading lists. I guarantee it would spark the sort of discussion that is rarely found when talking about Shakespeare (as impressive as the Bard can be). This is a book that demands deep thinking of its readers but promises suspense, intrigue and surprises at every turn."
Adult Titles (most with crossover appeal)
Cornelia Read's books have been on my radar since her first Madeline Dare mystery, A Field of Darkness, came out. Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists drew the second book in the series, The Crazy School, to my attention, saying: "This bitterly funny mystery by Edgar Award-nominated author Cornelia Read has a great cast of teen characters, but the best voice is that of jaded, wickedly witty slacker sleuth Madeline Dare herself. This is one seriously dark comedic nailbiter." Of course, I'll have to read A Field of Darkness first, because I am compulsive about reading series books in order.
Little Willow is a big fan of Thomas E. Sniegoski (and an especially big fan of his sometime co-author, Christopher Golden). She's been talking up both Sniegoski and Golden's books for quite some time, and they are on my radar. But her overview of Sniegoski's new urban fantasy A Kiss Before the Apocalypse made it onto the list of serious contenders. "Boston P.I. Remy Chandler has many talents. He can will himself invisible, he can speak and understand any foreign language (including the language of animals), and if he listens carefully, he can hear thoughts. Unusual, to say the least - for an ordinary man. But Remy is no ordinary man - he's an angel. Generations ago, he chose to renounce heaven and live on Earth. He's found a place among us ordinary humans; friendship, a job he's good at - and love. Now he is being drawn into a case with strong ties to his angelic past."
Kelly Herold and I are kindred spirit readers, especially when it comes to adult titles. So when she recently wrote at Big A little a about Tana French's Edgar award winning (for best first novel by an American author) novel In the Woods, I paid attention. Kelly said: "Dark fairy tale themes and the unreliability of childhood memories haunt Ryan (the narrator, a detective) and In the Woods, making this a mystery teens will love. The detectives are young and live young lives--solving cases together while eating and drinking well into the night. Ryan's partner, Maddox, is a kickass heroine--smart, hardworking, and tough." Clearly, this is a title that I need to read. And in fact, I have already downloaded it from Audible, and started listening to it this morning.
Sometimes the mere knowledge that a book exists is enough of a reason to want it - you don't even need to know the title, or hear even a hint as to what it's about. And so it is with me in regards to Katherine Neville's sequel to The Eight and a new standalone title by Carol O'Connell. Trisha from The YA YA YAs included both titles in a recent post about 2008 titles that she's looking forward to reading. Here's what she said: "The Fire by Katherine Neville!!!!! - it’s been, what, over ten years since her last book was published? Plus, it’s the sequel to The Eight!!!! Finally!!" Tricia also was excited about: "Bone by Bone by Carol O’Connell!!!!! - it’s not a Mallory book, which disappointed me for a couple of seconds, because Find Me was excellent (and, wow, all that info about Mallory’s parents!). Then I remembered that the only other standalone O’Connell has written is the awesome Judas Child, which I absolutely love." I'm not quite so prone to exclamation points, but I agree 100% with Trisha about both The Eight and all of Carol O'Connell's books (especially Judas Child, the ending of which still haunts me).