Thursday, June 26, 2014

Crime? Pick: The Art of Secrets

The Art of Secrets
by James Klise
Algonquin
2014
255 pages
ISBN: 9781616201951

All I can say is: WOW! The Art of Secrets will rock your world! Readers will be invested in the many faceted characters of the main characters and  bit players who tag along for the ride but provide insight will pull the story along. James Klise has written a teen tour-de-force so compelling and lavishly layered  that it is sure to become a classic.

A tragic apartment fire destroys an immigrant family's American dream; Saba Khan's family would be homeless and penniless if not for the generosity of wealthy strangers who let Saba's family stay in their luxury condo rent free. Others step in with donations and Saba's online presence explodes. Students in Saba's  prestigious school offer to hold a fundraiser to help her family.

When it's discovered that the fire was set and obviously arson, questions are raised. Could the Khan's be looking for a handout, or is this a hate crime? Someone so enraged with "outsiders" set the fire knowing it would destroy the family? Maybe even hoping to kill members of the family? The school is rife with opinions which bleed over to Facebook.

The students at the school believe in Saba as a victim, and won't bow to pressure from outsiders who gossip that the Khans set the fire themselves. When pieces of donated art are discovered to be hidden gems of  Chicago artist Henry Darger--an artist whose works are considered "outsider" but priceless--all forms of human sins are revealed. The school principal sees the chance to raise money for her floundering budget, the Khans realize they could be "rich" and feel blessed but unworthy, students begin to whisper, the police investigate, the school art teacher dreams of having a closer look, and hungry journalists descend upon the school hoping for the scoop of the century.

Readers will be sucked in the vortex that is The Art of Secrets--secrets truly are an art, and this page turner proves it. James Klise has written a novel that will make readers question what is right and what is wrong. A reader is likely to see the issue one way at the opening of the book, but do a complete 180 when the truth is revealed. This one left me gasping for breath! Thank you, James Klise, for one helluva ride!

Highly, highly recommended for mature readers. The twists and turns of the plot make this a more difficult read but highly worth your time!  Anyone who loves a great, dark tale full of intrigue and drama will love The Art of Secrets.

Grade 8-up due to nuances and subtle storytelling. The story is told in what appears at first a haphazard and difficult way--it is a series of interviews, Saba's journal entries, monologues, articles and conversations--but as the story gains momentum, readers realize it is told in a uniquely sublime way. The only way it could be told. I say hurrah, James Klise! I believe you have a runaway winner of a book, likely to cause a lot of buzz and be selected for quite a few honors. Good luck, sir.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.



This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Series Pick: The Wicked Within

The Wicked Within
by Kelly Keaton
Simon Pulse
2014
280 pages
ISBN: 9781442493162

(sequel to Darkness Becomes Her)


Fast paced and thrilling, set in the backdrop of a ruined New Orleans, and rife with creepy, crawl-y things that beg for the cover of the night, The Wicked Within does not disappoint.

Ari is on a mission to find the cure that will release her from  the Gorgon curse that will turn her into a Gorgon by her next birthday. If she can stop it and figure out a way to save love interest Sebastian from himself and what he's become, she may be able to defeat Athena once and for all. The stakes are high and Athena wants everything.

Ari must find the Hands of Zeus, bring Athena's baby back to her, claim a cure for impending curse, fix Sebastian and possibly raise an ancient, possibly and quite probably evil  god from his eternal sleep. Ari seeks the help and vision of the River Witch for answers. Little Violet, always the  enigma, is more of a puzzle than ever and holds  secrets that may save all of them.

Sparks fly between Ari and Sebastian, but they are ill-fated and not meant to be together. Henri provides Ari's much needed sidekick and side love interest, but the plot does not stray far from killing ancient gods and trying to stop Ari's impending doom. Love takes a back seat to the more important things--like staying alive and staying human--and for that I love The Wicked Within. It's hard to think about romance when ancient gods and their minions can pop up anywhere and everywhere.

Does Ari dare to seek help by raising an ancient, unknown god who may desire much more than even Athena does? Or does she dare trust Athena to keep her word--even though Athena's been known to be capricious and spoiled in the past? Can Ari save Sebastian and their love? Will Sebastian give up everything for the girl he loves?

Fans of the series will love The Wicked Within! If you haven't read the first two books, what are you waiting for? This is the most fun you can have with ancient Greek gods!

Highly, highly recommended for paranormal fans and readers of the series. Grade 7-up, some steamy scenes. Caution: language! The author uses swear words in this book--it does not seem necessary and I will caution the language here. F-bombs a few times.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher.  I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fun Mystery Pick: Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile
by Marcia Wells
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2014
240 pages
ISBN: 9780544238336

Eddie Red Undercover is that one middle grade book that will make you happy to be a kid or to be a kid again (for some of us)! It's great fun, packed with nerd-i-ness, art,  history, museums, New York's artsy charm and bustle, a great father/son duo who share some great moments, a crusty old New York detective who has a heart of gold underneath it all, and a mystery worth uncovering, plus a few serious-ly strange goons who deserve what they get.

Edmund  (code name "Eddie Red") is lucky (or cursed) enough to be blessed with a photographic memory; he says it's just that he remembers details that other people don't notice, for example, someone's name on their nametag or which side they part their hair on. He is witness to a crime in the alley and sees the assailant escaping. He is able to convince the police sketch artist that he can sketch the perp's likeness. When Eddie takes up the charcoal pencil, he draws the likeness of a known art thief the cops have been trying to bust.

Eddie and his father are offered a deal. Eddie can hang around art galleries and watch people using his particular skills to see if anything or anyone seems "off." His father will pretend to be a tourist but be within sight at all times. Eddie will be paid minimum wage for his hours, but if they crack the stolen art case, his expensive private school tuition will be paid by the police department.

Eddie meets Detective Bovano who is not exactly a warm and fuzzy person. Bovano doesn't want to work with a kid--even a genius like Eddie. Bovano has great fun in constantly calling Edmund by the wrong name "Eddie" and adds the "Red" himself. "Eddie" doesn't really seem to mind as long as he can earn the tuition to stay in school with his best nerd friend Jonah.

Surveillance heats up and Eddie is in danger. The art ring is out for a big heist and it's up to Eddie to figure out the puzzle. The ringleader has a thing for puzzles and Eddie (with Jonah's help) is up to the challenge of breaking the code.

Highly, highly recommended for any mystery fan! Great fun, great story, great character!

Grade 5-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)





Friday, June 6, 2014

Tales From a Not-So-Glam TV Star (Dork Diaries, 7)

Tales From a Not-So-Glam TV Star
by Rachel Renee Russell
with Nikki Russell and Erin Russell
Aladdin
2014
320 pages
ISBN: 9781442487673


Rachel Renee Russell just keeps getting it right; this time, with the help of her two young daughters. They each co-wrote the book with their mother and their voice shines through and captivates. This Dork Diaries delivers!

Nikki Maxwell is back and she's true to her loveable dorky self. When she gets a phone call from famous  television producer Trevor Chase to meet him at the local Bad Boyz concert to discuss recording her band's song, Nikki accepts back stage passes for herself and her BFFs Zoey and Chloe. The girls are told to pick up their passes at the box office. There's only one problem: MacKenzie! Mean girl MacKenzie just happens to be at the box office when they show up and she swipes their passes and masquerades with her friends as Nikki's entourage. A cranky security guard denies Nikki and her BFFs access into the concert, even though they tell him their passes are either stolen or missing. The girls sneak in and are mistaken as backup dancers and glammed up by the make up and hair team. An outrageous run in with all parties  backstage turns into a true melee until Trevor Chase shows up and sorts everything out.

He offers Nikki a reality tv show, much to MacKenzie's seething chagrin! Everywhere Nikki goes with cameras following her, MacKenzie is sure to show up and try to steal Nikki's thunder. Lucky for Nikki, each time she ends up  on top with more and more fans.

Even though being a pop princess and a reality show star sounds glamorous, Nikki can't find time for Brandon without cameras following her. As she becomes more famous, she is pushed away from Brandon and she worries about it.

Girls will cheer on Nikki! It's nice to see the underdog achieve success and trump the beautiful and evil girl. Nikki is charming, adorable, and dorky. She will encourage all of us to embrace our inner dork. The Dork Diaries series picks up speed with each book, gaining more and more of a worldwide following. It has everything a young reader could ask for: a perky, funny, captivating protagonist, an evil, manipulative villain--MacKenzie, two sidekicks who truly have Nikki's back, a cute and sweet love interest--Brandon, quirky parents--Nikki's father owns an extermination service and drives around in a van with a giant cockroach on top, and a cast of minor characters--each enriching the story and Nikki's character.

This is a winning book that is sure to please.

Highly, highly recommended grade 5-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)





Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Sound
by Sarah Alderson
Simon Pulse
2014
308 pages
ISBN: 9781442499331

British  teen Ren Kingston is visiting America as a nanny. Just getting over a break-up with her first boyfriend, Ren decides it's the perfect time for escape. She lands a job as a live in nanny for two small children, baby Braiden and precocious Brodie. Between their day care and summer camp hours, Ren has a lot of "off" time to explore the town and walk the beach of Nantucket. She even learns to drive on the right side of the road (the American side--the British drive on the left side of the road--a custom steeped in history that left your sword arm--your right arm--free to defend yourself against enemies. I don't hear about any incidences of sword fighting motorists run amok, so driving on the left seems nonsensical).

Summers in Nantucket cater to a wealthy crowd of old money and year round town kids. The battle lines are clearly drawn in the sand and Ren tries to walk the fine line between the two warring groups. The trust fund babies stick together and party hard; they have no rules and are seemingly above the law while the town kids are expected to worship them. When Ren meets handsome, mysterious Jeremy, she is intrigued. Then she meets local bad boy Jesse and is warned to stay away from him--he's trouble.

As she is drawn further into the feud between the two boys, a nanny is found murdered. Megan--a friend of Ren's from back home-is worried about Ren's safety. This is the second summer that a young nanny has been murdered, and a serial killer may be on the loose targeting foreign nannies.



Readers will like the gossip-y pace and beach setting. This is the perfect book for a summer beach read with enough mystery and murder to keep things interesting. Ren's voice comes through loud and clear and it is brilliantly British! Her comments about American pop culture, Gossip Girl references, our weird obsession of throwing the word "LIKE" into sentences at least every other word; example: Ren like thinks it's like weird that Americans like the word like so much, ring too true.

Recommended for readers who like a breezy summer read and anyone who loves a British accent that comes alive on the pages.

Grade 9-up. Partying, mature content.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)






Monday, June 2, 2014

Crafty Pick: Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects: Easy To Pick Up, Hard To Put Down

Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects: Easy To Pick Up, Hard To Put Down
by Sophie Maletsky
Zest Books
2013
240 pages
ISBN: 9781936976546

Duct tape has many household uses and my father swears that duct tape and  a little ole down home ingenuity can fix just about anything, but who knew duct tape was the new go-to for crafting and projects? Since duct tape is versatile and now colorful, it can be used in many craft projects.

This how-to guide features 58 projects from earring trees and Iphone cases to lanyards and  backpacks. Chapter One gets the beginner started. It outlines the three most important needs: a work surface which is  the most important thing since duct tape sticks to everything. Duct tape is made by various suppliers--some come in only a few colors while Duck brand comes in colors and patterns. The price of tape varies as well. A good pair of scissors and you're all set!

Each project features  easy to follow  step-by-step instructions with photos of each step. The skill level is listed by the project name as well as the projected time it takes to complete the project.

Crafters, tweens and teens will be excited to try and make duct tape projects they can make, wear and give as gifts.

Recommended grade 5-up and for any crafter.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)