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  • fairrosa 5:56 pm on January 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , mystery,   

    Far From You 

    farfromyouby Tess Sharpe

    Genre(s): Mystery, Romance, Realistic Fiction

    Basic Content Information: 17 year-old girl, former prescription drug addict, recovering from two traumatic events in life: surviving a car crash at age 14, leaving her crippled and scared (does not hinder her attractiveness from others); her best friend, a girl who is a faithful Christian withholding her dark secret of being a lesbian, was murdered in front of her — now will have to face distrust from parents, police, her best friend’s brother, and at the same time piece together the evidences that will lead her to the identity (and hopefully arrest) of the murderer.  The book is told in present tense, first person perspective, chapters alter from present to a moment in the past (still told in present tense) that reflects, affects, or triggers events in the next present day chapter.  It is a murder thriller and a love song in a very leisure pace.

    Edition: Netgalley

    Pub Date: April 8, 2014

    Publisher: Hyperion/Disney

    (I’m only recording the bare bone facts about the Young Adult Fiction titles I read in 2014 — Serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee means that I need to be quite cautious in expressing opinions on social media. The safest way is to not express specific reactions publicly. But I’d like to keep reporting the titles I encounter throughout the year. You can always follow the link to Goodreads to see other readers’ reviews.)

    Click here for: Goodreads summary and other people’s reviews.

  • fairrosa 11:39 pm on January 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , mystery, ,   

    We Were Liars 

    wewereliarsAuthor: E. Lockhart

    Genre(s): This is a realistic fiction … and a mystery… and also something else that I simply cannot reveal.  Trust me.  You’ll thank me for not giving it that specific genre label before your journey with it.

    Basic Content Information: We have an unreliable, shaky narrator.  We have a privileged family with many untold secrets.  We have drama.  There is a teen romance complicated by a case of class struggle.  There are summers on a private island, by the beach, in big houses, near Martha’s Vineyard.  The writing is both no-nonsense, straightforward and full of hidden meanings and messages.

    Edition: Netgalley

    Pub Date: May 13th 2014

    Publisher: Delacorte Press

    (I’m only recording the bare bone facts about the Young Adult Fiction titles I read in 2014 — Serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee means that I need to be quite cautious in expressing opinions on social media.  The safest way is to not express specific reactions publicly. But I’d like to keep reporting the titles I encounter throughout the year. You can always follow the link to Goodreads to see other readers’ reviews.)

    Click here for: Goodreads summary and other people’s reviews.

  • fairrosa 12:21 am on January 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , crime, mystery   

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 

    dragontattooby by Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland (Translator)
    Audiobook narrated by Simon Vance

    I have SO many issues with this book.  The top three:

    It has the longest, most boring exposition section of pretty much ALL the books I’ve ever read.  The tedious laundry lists of the company and personal histories that do not propel the story and also do not really illuminate the personalities that much more made me want to just KILL the audio!

    I find neither of the protagonists portrayed convincingly to fit the author’s high esteem of both: Mikael does not quite “show” how he is the most moral person as proclaimed by other characters and the narrator; and Salander seems to me more broken and angry than badass and vulnerable.  I really don’t find her appealing.  But, hey, I’m not a fanboy/fanman of this character.

    I am not particularly squeamish or prim when it comes to book/story contents — as long as I feel that whatever details or events included in the book serve some literary, storytelling, or creative purposes.  But for some reason, the portrayal of Salander (the female protagonist) really bothers me — her “toughness” and lethal personalities, mixed with her supreme helplessness and brokenness are all probably very realistic (I’m no psychoanalyst) and yet this mixture does not appeal to my sensibilities at all.  The fact that so many young and middle-aged men highly recommended this book to me, and especially expressed their appreciation of Salander as a cool character made me actually uncomfortable and worried.

    This, along with some other children’s and Young Adult books I read in 2013 featuring “tough girls” made me start pondering about the current trend of readers’ readiness and urge to applaud tough female characters in books.  Because, it seems to me, that instead of patience, resilience, open-mindedness, what I consider true strengths in human spirit, many authors have been creating vengeful or single-minded “tough” female characters whose most prominent and “appealing” personality is rooted mostly in aggression: a traditionally (and physiologically?) masculine trait. What are we applauding then? Are we praising a female character because she is free to be “whomever” she wants to be, liberated from the traditional and “weak” traits associated with femininity – or are we just saying that she is to be lauded because she behaves more like a male specimen since masculinity is clearly superior?

    I will be reading many many 2014 Young Adult books this coming year and how young women are portrayed in these books will be something I pay special attention to and report here.

    By the way, here’s a funny re-title from the site: betterbooktitles –

    BetterBookTitle for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    • DaNae 11:27 am on January 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I very much appreciated and enjoyed your insight. I’m reading THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN right now. I don’t think the protagonist is vengeful or particularly tough but the boys who are drawn to her do think that of her. I’m wondering if Holly Black put her finger on the same phenomenon you did.

  • fairrosa 5:40 pm on October 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , mystery, read-aloud   

    The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp 

    truebluescoutsby Kathi Appelt

    (narrated by Lyle Lovett for Audible)

    This is what outstanding, distinguished, and thoroughly enjoyable children’s books should be!  And of course, I had the additional pleasure of listening to Appelt’s narrative voice brought to live by Lyle Lovett: folky, hilarious, tender, with just the right amount of controlled drama.  This environmental tall tale set in the swamp land, featuring anthropomorphized critters, caricatured villains, down home, real but also realer than life characters, and mythical beings is perfect for a family and classroom read aloud!  One of my favorite 2013 books for sure!

  • fairrosa 5:24 pm on August 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , growing up, , mystery,   

    Doll Bones 

    dollbonesby Holly Black

    I was pleased that Holly Black decided to maintain the mystery and the suspense over the paranormal scenario of the story all the way to the very very end.  To me, that’s the best part of the whole book.  Some other aspects, however, did not speak to me that much.  I was told the three main characters’ personalities, a bit of their back stories, and about the fact that they had been best friends with such amazing bonds as telling those fantastical stories…. but, as a reader, I never quite “felt” any of these facts.  Partly because on their “quest,” most I saw was their bickering and distrust of each other.

    For example, when Zach worried about the two girls’ talking about him behind his back, his thoughts are whether they talked about he smelled bad or that he’s stupid.  I would hope, that after being close friends with each other for years, there might have been some darker, deeper secrets or concerns that made Zach squirm.

    There are also just so many details that do not advance the plot or our understanding of the characters.  A list of 27 flavors of donuts that do not carry overt or hidden meanings baffled me.

    I was also puzzled by each character’s ability to succinctly explain why have been acting in such a way toward their friends, sounding like what a therapist might present, after listening to 12/13 year olds relating the events and their feelings.  Alice revealed that the reason why she couldn’t believe in Eleanor’s ghost was that “There can’t be a ghost, a real ghost.  Because if there is, then some random dead girl wants to haunt Poppy, but my own dead parents can’t be bothered to come back and haunt me.”   And Poppy’s confession, “I thought that we could do this thing, and when it was over we’d have something that no one else had — an experience that would keep us together.”  Even Zach’s father confessed, “But I’ve been thinking that protecting somebody by hurting them before someone else gets the chance isn’t the kind of protecting that anyone wants.”

    Don’t get me wrong — I believe in the validity of all of these statements and those are at the heart of this story — that we act certain ways because there are some additional, underlying emotional reasons which are seldom on the surface for others to interpret quickly or easily.  I just have a bit of trouble with how all of these ideas are delivered as “statements” by these characters.  I wish that readers had chances to perhaps sort some of these out by ourselves.  For example, perhaps in one of the shouting matches, Alice could have said something like, “There are NO GHOSTS!  If there are, WHY WOULDN’T MY PARENTS TALK O ME???!!!”  (haha.. much exaggerated)

    I also was not creeped out enough by the book — and I wish I had been — the cover gave me so much hope!

  • fairrosa 4:27 pm on August 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , mystery,   

    The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (Ninja Detective #1) 

    NinjaDetective1by Octavia Spencer

    I usually approach books written by celebrities with a bit of trepidation. More often than not, I don’t even bother reading them — just waiting for others’ reactions. But for some reason, I got a positive vibe from the galley. Perhaps because its multi-ethnicity cast portrayed and neatly presented on the cover? My gut feelings proved to be not that wrong. Much like what Spencer enjoyed reading as a child (Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown,) the story is just complex enough to keep the readers’ interest without too many confusing layers and the solutions are somewhat on the easy and happy side — which are thoroughly appropriate for its intended middle grade readership: both entertaining and comforting.

    Do I sense that Spencer tried too hard to “balance” the cast with the inclusion of a hearing-impaired Hispanic kid, a black kid, and a Chinese house-keeper/friend? Yup. I sense that. But I’m ok with it because she actually created solid characters whose identities and friendships ring true and whose ethnicities are not the focal point or the plot driving elements. For the most part, the ethnical references are cringe-free. (Except for when Mei-Ling says, “Ni Hao” for a quick morning greeting to those she knows well… instead of the more appropriate “Zao” – for early/morning.) I will have no problem recommending this book to my students and hopefully they will enjoy this mystery with its positive message of community building.

  • fairrosa 10:56 am on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , mystery, ,   

    The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One 

    leagueofextraordinarygentlemenby Allen Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Ben Dimagmaliw and Bill Oakley

    The concept of bringing a lot of 19th century literary characters together to solve a mystery is definitely a fun one — although not unique, at least, not any more in an age of mash-up stories. I enjoyed spotting literary allusions and also learning more about characters or original stories that I was not familiar with. The art is superb. The section with all the Chinese dialog is actually fairly accurate. Kudos! I think I’ll go over all the panels more than once just to enjoy the artists’ talents. Another aspect that’s extraordinarily fun is how the whole thing is done in an 1898 serial publication style. All in all, worth my time!

  • fairrosa 5:20 pm on June 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , mystery,   

    All the Truth That’s In Me 

    allthetruthby Julie Berry

    I couldn’t put the book down, especially toward the end — really wanting to know how everything played out. I don’t want to spoil it for other readers so won’t say how the plot/romance/mystery/fate were handled by the author — suffice it to say that I was quite impressed.

    The most impressive aspect of the book, to me, is the author’s ability to maintain the inner voice, authentic and powerful, of Judith.  Every thought and emotion felt raw and genuine.  Did I sometimes wish that she had thought or acted differently because I wished all the best for her at the moment? Definitely.  But did I want her to act completely rationally — definitely not — because then we would not have had this very readable and more importantly, for a school librarian, “sellable” book to my middle school readers.   I already know that those who enjoyed Scarlet Letter and The Crucible would find this a much easier but nonetheless as gripping addition on their reading list!

  • fairrosa 3:48 pm on May 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , mystery   

    The Lost Symbol 

    lostsymbolby Dan Brown

    I’m so happy that 1. I didn’t spend time reading this book.  Instead, I listened to it on audible.  It was LONG, but at least I was walking, or washing dishes, and didn’t spend my otherwise precious reading time on this.  Paul Michael, the reader, is quite adroit and I enjoyed his voice and inflections — and the subtle but effective switches between characters.  But, I cannot say that I enjoyed the book as much as its reader’s voice.

    At first, I was somewhat intrigued by the exploration of Symbology, Free Mason history, and some supposedly high-tech science research on harnessing human consciousness…. but it all turned out to be just like Dan Brown’s other books: inserting very elementary knowledge of all these fields and channelling such knowledge through supposedly learned experts in each field to “explain” away the twisted plot and connections between events.  The bottom line, however, is that many many words are repeated and wasted to tell a potentially intriguing story that simply didn’t not live to that potential.

    (For example: why would Langdon be forced to wear a blindfold to go to the “secret” place and experience pages of claustrophobia and doubts when the destination turned out to be somewhere he completely recognized — and should be recognizable by millions?)

    Also, perhaps I’m just too jaded a reader for this — I completely predicted and guessed the identity of the villain a couple of hundred pages before it is revealed in the story.

    The only bits that I enjoyed were the gruesome descriptions of tortures and deaths!

  • fairrosa 3:57 pm on May 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: classic, mystery,   

    A Study in Scarlet 

    sherlock-_-a-study-in-scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
    I never got to read this original story that has inspired so many other renditions. I loved “A Study in Emerald,” a short story by Neil Gaiman in the collection Fragile Things and thoroughly enjoyed the BBC Sherlock episode entitled “A Study in Pink.” So pleased to report that this is indeed a fascinating mystery. Now I think I’ve read all the Sherlock Holmes tales: short and long. Happy about it.

  • fairrosa 9:47 pm on April 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , mystery,   

    Sisters Grimm #1: The Fairy-Tale Detectives 

    sistersgrimm by Michael Buckley

    I read this series not in order but it didn’t hurt the enjoyment since each story has its central conflict to resolve and there’s a nicely tied up ending for each one. This first story sets up the backdrop quite nicely, explaining how the fairy tale creatures (the Everafters) got to Ferryport Landing and how the sisters came to assist their grandmother in playing the detectives to capture the culprits in magical crimes. It’s all very clean, imaginative fun and beloved by many of my young readers.

  • fairrosa 10:14 pm on February 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , mystery, ,   

    8680025The Darkness Dwellers: Kiki Strike #3. (Galley)
    by Kirsten Miller

    Finished. The first 2013 children’s book that I got to read. A whole bunch of girls (5-8 grade) have been waiting for this to come out for a long long time! Hurray for its final appearance AND happy that they will definitely enjoy it. They will find that the plotting is as adventuresome and surprising as the previous two installments and the tone is as sassy. It’s also delightful to read Ananka’s TIPS for girls that encourage kindness and level-headedness throughout the story.

  • fairrosa 10:08 am on August 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , mystery   


    Pieby Sarah Weeks

    This is a short and charming caper story with some not-quite-so-believable reconciliations — especially the incredibly fast and easy resolution of the mother-daughter relationship which was so extremely strained. I did enjoy the notion of aunt Polly being such a generous soul and that her legacy was felt and practiced throughout the town by those who truly loved her. I think many young readers will find great satisfaction in reading this story but those who came to PIE because they loved So B. It! should be told before hand to not expect the same kind of intensity, originality, and affecting ending as that previous most-beloved tale.

  • fairrosa 11:36 pm on April 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , mystery,   

    Brain Camp 

    Brain Campby Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks

    It’s really quite an oddly enjoyable weird tale. Some of the images can be disturbing, but effectively and purposefully so. I think plenty of young readers will find this a very interesting read.

  • fairrosa 4:21 pm on February 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , mystery,   

    The Name of This Book is Secret 

    The Name of This Book Is Secretby Pseudonymous Bosch

    I really should have heeded the recommendations, enthusiastic and spirited, from many different readers in several grades for the last few years. Why I felt reluctant to read this title for so long, I have no idea. Reading this book was absolutely a fun experience! Although some more experienced readers might find the meta-fiction aspect a bit heavy handed or derivative (ala Snicket or Scieszka & Lane,) I think young readers who encounter this type of storytelling format for the first will definitely eat it up with gusto! At the same time, I don’t find myself propelled to read on the rest of the series. What is lacking? Perhaps certain genuine emotional bond between this reader and the characters who serve as pieces on a game board and don’t quite come through as “real” people.

  • fairrosa 9:08 am on February 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , mystery, , ,   

    Pining for Kiki III, Waiting for Katniss #3, and Excited about Bitterblue! 

    I (and thousands, if not millions of young readers) need, need, need, to read the NEXT INSTALLMENT in the Kiki Strike series.  The second book was published in 2007.  It’s 2010 and I know the manuscript has not even been submitted for book 3.  Rumor has it that the projected publication date for the third book is 2012 — FIVE — FIVE years after its predecessor.   A child who discovered Kiki Strike and the Shadow City in 2006 at age 9 will be 15 in 2012 and almost too old for it!  We collectively BEG YOU, Kirsten Miller, to finish writing book three and let us have the joy of reading it!  (But, at the same time… we DO understand that you want to make a good book, a good story, and to not disappoint your loyal fans — so, if you are having trouble, we wish you the best at overcoming the problems!)

    Mockingjay, as the third (and final?) book in the Hunger Games series is titled, will be out in the stores on August 24th, 2010.  The cover and announcement can be found at the Scholastic’s blog: On Our Minds @ Scholastic.  What do you think of the color?  And isn’t David Levithan hilarious?  (Quote: “Panem is not shaken up when District 9 is nominated for a best picture Oscar.”)

    And I can’t be more excited about the prospect of reading Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore — which is some sort of a sequel to Graceling but, as the title indicates, will be about Bitterblue and her Grace.  I want to be surprised,  moved, thrilled, and impressed by it the same way I did for both Graceling and Fire.  And Ms Cashore, keep it up with the one-word titles!  It will be your signature move.

  • fairrosa 9:49 am on February 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , mystery, ,   

    The Face on the Milk Carton 

    The Face on the Milk Carton (Janie Johnson, #1)by Caroline B. Cooney

    So much fun to re-read this one, too! I forgot so many details and had a different recollection of the ending to the actual ending. Maybe I read the sequel and mixed them up. The pacing is just perfect: the suspense continues without sacrificing the passing of (quite a long) time it takes a teenager to deal with a truly traumatic event in life. Janie’s journey is entirely credible. Now I have to go and re-read Whatever Happened to Janie.

    View all my goodreads reviews

  • fairrosa 9:40 am on February 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: mystery,   

    The Mysterious Dozen 

    Next Friday, my 4th and 5th graders will participate in a grade-wide Library Quiz Show: Do You Know Books?!

    This year, I picked twelve books for the children to read and enjoy and many of them have signed up to participate.  These are all mysteries and thus I named this year’s Quiz Show “The Mysterious Dozen Edition.”

    Here’s the list of titles:

    • Wolf Rider by Avi
    • The Sisters Grimm: Once Upon a Crime by Michael Buckley
    • The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
    • Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein
    • Running Out of Time by Maragret Haddix
    • Flush by Carl Hiaasen
    • The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
    • Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
    • Regarding the Fountain: A Tale in Letters, of Liars and Leaks by Kate Klise
    • Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller
    • Holes by Louis Sachar
    • A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

    I am re-reading Holes and just finished re-reading The Bad Beginning and The Face on the Milk Carton. SO much fun had I!  Will write another post on these re-reading experiences.

  • fairrosa 7:06 am on November 4, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , mystery   

    The Last Shot 

    Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery (Final Four Mysteries (Paperback)) by John Feinstein

    I can see why young sports-fan readers would like this book and others in the series. The mixture of many real-life details of the sports and sports journalism world and a mild mystery (with a surprising, heavier twist toward the end) is just right to keep these readers’ interest up.

    However, for someone who seeks more intense mystery or actions and cares less about the sporting aspects, this title will fall short in sustaining their attention.

    I do appreciate that there are two young sleuths, one boy and one girl, and that they are smart and mature, but still rely on some help from the adults.  It lends realism and credibility to the story.

    View all my goodreads reviews >>

  • fairrosa 9:53 pm on July 10, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , mystery,   

    Al Capone Shines My Shoes 

    Al Capone Shines My ShoesAuthor: Gennifer Choldenko
    Reading Level: 4th to 7th Grade

    Publisher: Dial
    Edition: Hardcover, 2009 (galley)

    I am completely delighted by this book. I really enjoyed the first one and this one holds up, well and strong, and I think it works even better. Maybe because I thought, “What can she come up with that can top the first book?” before starting to read this one.. and Choldenko absolutely pulled it off. There is humor and tension all throughout the book, not to mention some hard-to-sort-out moral dilemmas. Over the years, my students have loved the first book — from really strong readers to really reluctant ones – and both girls and boys do, too. I can see this one achieves the same effects: not a book that gets everyone super-excited, but one that gets talked up by young peers and gets passed around without making too big a wave. Its “beloved-ness” will last quite a while, I believe.

    I also really appreciate the author’s notes. This will make for a good historical-fiction writing assignment starter book. (I can see a whole class reading the book, discussing the facts and fiction aspects of the story, and doing some sort of historical research and writing a short story. <– with my librarian's hat on, of course.)

    View all my goodreads reviews.

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