Genre: Mysteries & Detective Stories

ARC Mini Review: Book Scavenger (2015) by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

ARC Mini Review: Book Scavenger (2015) by Jennifer Chambliss BertmanBook Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Published by Macmillan on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Books & Libraries, Middle Grade, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Realistic
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it's the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game. Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold's new game--before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.

Ciphers! Games! Codes! A fun romp through San Francisco! This Middle Grade Debut has it all…

And guess what…I’m about to depart for San Francisco soon to attend ALA’s Annual Convention! So I’m sharing my thoughts about this book at the perfect time.

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Always moving and having to leave friends behind is hard. Making new friends all the time can be difficult too. In this story we have a family whose job it is to move—Emily’s parents keep a blog and record all their travels and adventures. Sure, that’s all fun and good, but at the end of the day, they have to pick up and go to a new place so they can keep everything on the blog fresh. Emily has grown a little weary of endlessly picking up and moving, saying goodbye to friends, and starting over at new schools. Now that the family is in S.F., she wishes they would stay put.

She meets James, her neighbor, who becomes a great friend and loves puzzles as much as she does. It becomes clear pretty early on that it will take both of them to crack the code[s] that will lead them to the “treasure” at the end of the hunt Book Scavenger creator Garrison Griswold has set up.

If you like puzzles, then you’re in for a treat—there are loads of puzzles to unfold and codes to crack.

Twelve year-old Emily and her new friend James are pretty busy as they race to find out what treasure lies at the end of their hunt once they get their first clue in the shape of a strange book discovered in a Bart Station. The kids are dismayed to discover that Garrison Griswold is lying in a coma somewhere in a San Francisco hospital after he is attacked. This makes her even more determined to figure out the puzzle behind her mysterious book. Adventures, danger, and various mishaps ensue! But trust me…you do want to set out on this scavenging hunt!

**The author has peppered references to parks and restaurants and other spots in San Francisco throughout the story, and those of you familiar with this California landmark will enjoy these references.

Who Should Read This Book:

This book reminded me so much of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library—which coincidentally is mentioned in the book. If you know a reader who is a lover of literature and books, then by all means give them this delightful new Middle Grade debut from Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. You may even find yourself wanting to develop your own Book Scavenger game or community. If you’ve ever heard of geocaching, Book Scavenging is a kind of similar activity, but you’ll find out all about its origins in a section at the end of the book.

Fans of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as well as Mr. Lemoncello couldn’t find a better middle grade mystery debut to pick up. There’s an extensive Afterword filled with lots of fun and intriguing information—about codes, Edgar Allen Poe, books, and San Francisco! This is a strong debut from Jennifer, and I’m excited to see what else she uncovers for us.

Did you read Book Scavenger? What did you enjoy most?!? And who’s going to be at ALA this weekend?

four-stars
What Katie Read

Mini Review: Bone Gap (2015) by Laura Ruby

Mini Review: Bone Gap (2015) by Laura RubyBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Published by Harper Collins on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Love & Romance, Magical Realism, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

"Bone Gap marks Laura Ruby as one of fiction's most original voices. She is capable of moving you to tears, terrifying you on deep and dreamlike levels, and making your heart shout with happiness. This book is magic realism at its most magical."—E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars

Bone Gap is the story of Roza, a beautiful girl who is taken from a quiet midwestern town and imprisoned by a mysterious man, and Finn, the only witness, who cannot forgive himself for being unable to identify her kidnapper. As we follow them through their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures, acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

Illuminations:

Get ready….this book is a bit difficult to talk about—only because it’s hard to fit it into a particular category. It features a mystery, unique friendships, changing family relationships, romance, some scary bits…and it’s technically fantasy because it’s magical realism. The MC is eighteen so I think this is also a good crossover book into Adult. All that being said, this is certainly an excellent book club book because I think it’s one that should be discussed.

Bone Gap is one of those unique books that I was thinking about for a long time after I turned the last page. It’s also the kind of book I could see myself re-reading.

I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book—I knew it was about a girl who had disappeared from the town of Bone Gap (which is a real place, by the way) and I knew that the main character thought he had seen someone kidnap her, in spite of much of the rest of the town thinking she had just decided to leave.

The story switches between Finn’s (MC) and Rosa’s perspective, and several other voices are featured as well. The narrative shifts between characters smoothly—I didn’t feel jarred by the change in voices, but rather, I appreciated getting a glimpse into the minds of secondary characters like Sean and Petey.

Roza and Petey (Priscilla) are whom I would consider the two heroines of the story. Though Roza’s story features more prominently, I think Petey (a beekeeper) is just as important a character. You’ll love the development of the relationship between Petey and Finn. It’s a unique connection, and one aspect I loved in this book is the portrayal of multiple relationships that aren’t your typical unions.

“Funny how you notice how beautiful things are just when you’re about to leave them.”

Why I Think You Should Read This Book:

Having recently read Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, I couldn’t help but think of this book after I read Bone Gap, even though both stories are quite different. At the same time, the magical realism aspect is something they share. I haven’t read a large number of stories in this genre, but the two YA novels I have read recently have both been impressive to me.

You know what else this reminded me of in some ways? The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

This book is hard to categorize though—there’s nothing else that is quite like it. Because of its magical realism, it’s not as straightforward or clear, so if you’re wanting a book where everything is neatly tied up and makes sense, Bone Gap might not be the book for you. But if you’re willing to let go, and be swept away by a beautifully written and mysterious story featuring unforgettable characters, first love, and strong female voices, then by all means, make sure you take a trip to Bone Gap!

four-stars
What Katie Read

ARC Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (2015)

ARC Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (2015)The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Published by Algonquin Books on March 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Law & Crime, Magical Realism, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

“Ori's dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She's dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices--one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there's Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls' juvenile detention center, there's Amber, locked up for so long she can't imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls' darkest mysteries.We hear Amber's story and Violet's, and through them Orianna's, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture--which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.Praise for Imaginary Girls:“A surreal and dreamy world where magical thinking is carried to a chilling extreme.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review.

First Impressions:

Wow!

That’s my first impression of a book that I couldn’t put down and pretty much raced through. This story’s lyrical tone and beautiful language gripped me, and I was first intrigued by the fact that it’s referred to as a “ghost story” in the GoodReads summary. This is true. The atmosphere in this book is at time chilling and ominous, and though I’m fairly sensitive to really scary books, this one didn’t bother me in the least. I was happy to slip into this story world the days I was reading this book, a world featuring killer ballerinas, the ghostly remains of a women’s only juvenile detention center, and the injustice of a person wrongly accused of a crime.

Ori and Vee were best friends until those days came to an end after a terrible crime took place in the midst of one of their ballet rehearsals. Ori is the one who gets locked up, while Vee is free to pursue her dreams of attending Julliard one day. Will those dreams come true? Will Ori’s innocence be proven? These are some of the questions posed for the reader in the book.

Some Spiritual Aspects in This Book:

One example of spirituality that was immediately apparent to me in the story is the desire for an injustice from the past becoming revealed and reconciled. Someone was wrongly accused, and obviously that affects the lives of multiple people in the story. I won’t give anything away about how and if that injustice is righted, but I’ll just say the presence of supernatural forces does come into play.

There’s also the issue of guilt and innocence. How do we navigate a world where the innocent are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit? When friends betray friends, destroying a life in the process? There are pretty heavy issues that come up in this story, and I think that adds to its appeal—how can things get better, we ask? Especially when it looks like wrongs will not be righted?

But wait. Events take place in the story—events that probably would not take place in our own world. But the world of The Walls Around Us is that of magical realism. And this makes this one unique story. Some readers might be confused by what’s happening at any given moment in this book, but hang tight—events should come into focus (or not).

Who Should Read This Book:

I haven’t read other books by Nova Ren Suma but I’ve heard that her other titles are good, so I assume that if you have read and enjoyed her other books, you might like this one as well. Do you like stories of ballerinas, stories from the barre? Multiple pov’s and a women’s juvenile detention center? Any of these reasons would probably be enough for you to test out The Walls Around Us.

There may be some aspects of the story you want more from, if you’re like me. For example, this didn’t affect how much I liked the book, but I definitely would have LOVED to read a few chapters from Ori’s perspectives. Sure, we get Vee’s and Amber’s, and those are both important perspectives, but I wonder how the narrative might have been different if we had received a deeper glimpse into Ori’s mind?

The Final Illumination:

I finished this eerie and unique story satisfied, but at the same time, wished it was longer with THREE voices (including Ori’s) instead of just two, Amber and Vee. At the same time, in real life, we don’t always have the advantage of getting all perspectives in a situation, so maybe the gaps left in the book are ok. I actually didn’t anticipate what happened in the end—I was expecting something—but not quite the resolution we receive. Tweet me or comment on this post when you finish the book, but I do have to say that what did happen was really interesting! And though I do have questions about the workings of all that happened, I suppose that’s where magical realism comes in.

The Walls Around Us impressed me with its plot that drew me in, its magical realism, and its grappling with what happens in a world where the innocent are found guilty.

 

four-stars
What Katie Read
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