The Name of the Star

Now, before I start, there is one very very very important thing you should understand about this book: SCARY SCARY SCARY SCARY SCARY DO NOT READ LATE AT NIGHT SERIOUSLY DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

Phew. I’m glad we got that sorted out. Now. . .

As you have probably noticed, this book is titled The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. The main character of this story is Rory Deveaux, who is just arriving in London from Louisiana to attend a difficult boarding school there. And London is starting to become very exciting–violent, gory murders imitating those committed by Jack the Ripper are popping up around the city, and that has to be just a little noteworthy.

While at first Rory isn’t that interested, that changes soon enough, especially when one of the murders takes place just a bit too close to home. And here’s where it gets really strange. . .Rory saw a man lurking around that night. She talked to him, even. But even though her roommate was right there, Rory was the only one to see him.

And you have to admit, that’s just a bit suspicious.

As the murders continue, the people of London are alternately terrified and curious, or both, and Rory’s left to try to solve the mystery of the strange man she saw. Not to mention why she saw him and no one else did. Oh, and it’d be nice if she could stay alive, too. That would be rather nice.

I’ve already established that this book is definitely creepy, but it is also definitely good. The characters are unique, and the plot is nice and suspenseful. It’s well-written, and while it would occasionally take me a while to really get into things, it was pretty hard to get out once I did. I’m definitely going to check out the sequel soon!

ALSO, as I have mentioned before, this book is very scary, and it has descriptions of gore and violence as well. It’s still a really great book to read, and I liked it a lot, but you should probably keep those things in mind when deciding if you’re going to read it. Anyway, that’s about it! Have a great day everyone!

Literary Quote of the Day: “Fear can’t hurt you. When it washes over you, give it no power. It is a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.” —The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

Venom

Okay, me continuously apologizing for insanely late posts is probably getting old by now, so I’m just going to jump right in for once. . .

Today’s post is on the book Venom, written by debut Young Adult author Fiona Paul. Cassandra Caravello lives near Renaissance-era Venice, on San Domenico Island, with her elderly Aunt Agnese and a number of servants. And boy, is she restless.

The rest of Cass’s life seems to consist mostly of an engagement and marriage to Luca da Peraga, a young man studying in France whom she hasn’t seen in years. The future looks bland and frightening indeed, and Cass honestly isn’t really looking forward to it. At the moment, she doesn’t really feel like she HAS much of a life, period. Until, that is, she discovers the body of a strangled girl in the graveyard near her home. Then things change. Just a bit.

Suddenly, Cass is on the trail of a crazed murderer, along with Falco, a young artist who Cass feels more and more attracted to, despite the fact that he’s obviously keeping secrets of his own. And when you catch a boy sneaking around graves late at night, can you really trust him?

One thing’s for sure: This story is bursting with detail. It throws you into the world of Venice, complete with masquerade balls, politicians, gossiping nobles, and murky canal waters. It’s original, and the plot is often gripping. The characters are pretty unique, and while I was sometimes annoyed by them (including Cass), overall they were entertaining and well-written. Cass’s character may not be as original as some of the others, but for me it doesn’t really hurt the story as a whole. Even if the writing itself is occasionally less than great, most of it was definitely good and enjoyable.

All in all, Venom is a pretty good read, and I would definitely recommend it to Young Adult and mystery lovers. So, what about that sequel? 🙂 Everyone have a great day!

Literary Quote of the Day: “. . .evil flows silently among us like venom. We are at its mercy.” –The priest in Venom, by Fiona Paul

Really Good Books to Get Your Teenager

Okay, this has been languishing in my Drafts since the beginning of December, and now it’s finally posted! Yay! Let us all cheer and eat virtual cookies.

As I’m sure a lot of you have noticed, the holiday season is taking the country by storm. Which means, of course, it’s time to head to the mall. Because of this, I thought I’d do a post about certain books that I think really deserve to be on your shopping list. And so, I present to you: Really Good Books to Get Your Teenager! Ta-DA!

First up is The Diviners, the newest book by Libba Bray, set in the glamorous 1920s. Evie (or Miss Evangeline O’Neill, if you prefer) is thrilled to be sent to New York City to live with her uncle for awhile, even though it is technically a punishment for some hot water she got into at home. From here on out, it’s nothing but parties and chatting up nice fellas for Evie and her best friend, Mabel. But the carefree frivolity doesn’t last very long. It soon becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose. And with Evie’s unusual, supernatural powers, she may be able to catch him. Here’s the rub: How’s she supposed to do that? This book is pretty thick, but it’s totally worth your time. Now, give me the sequel!

Second: The Fault in Our Stars! Ahhh, John Green made me so sad with this book, but it was really good! The main character of this novel is Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old with thyroid cancer, and who has had her future determined ever since her diagnosis. She spends most of her time either watching the newest episode of America’s Next Top Model or rereading her most favorite book in the entire world, An Imperial Affliction. Oh, and she sometimes attends this support group for other kids with cancer. And this is where she meet Augustus Waters, a one-legged 17-year-old who becomes Hazel’s friend and more. This won TIME’s #1 fiction book of the year for a reason, people.

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly. And yeah, I’ve already reviewed this, but I don’t care, because it deserves to be on your shopping list! It follows the adventures of Andi Alpers, (who’s still recovering from her brother Truman’s death) as she goes to Paris with her father (against her will!) to work on her senior thesis. But things get more exciting when she discovers the diary of Alexandrine Paradis, an aspiring player from the time of the French Revolution. Andi is soon so caught up her find that it’s almost an obsession, and she’s desperate for it to have a happy ending. But things start to get rather strange one night in the catacombs. . . I’d just like to say that this book does not disappoint. It’s very thick, though, and kind of complicated, so I’m just warning you. Actually, I’m not. I take that back. Get it anyway!

Divergent. This also already has a review, but we’ll ignore that. This is not your run-of-the-mill dystopian novel. It’s a dystopian novel that is awesome. It tells the story of Beatrice Prior, who must make a choice: Her society, which is located in what was once known as Chicago, Illinois, is divided into five factions, each focusing on a certain character trait or value. They are Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. Now that Beatrice is 16 years old, she must decide which of these factions will become her home, after taking the aptitude test that determines which faction she is most suited to. However, there’s just one little problem: Beatrice is Divergent, meaning she had more than one result. Which is just plain dangerous. This book has had a lot of popularity going for it, and it is well-deserving. Veronica Roth is awesome. Now if she would just finish the last book already. . .

Agh, what next? Um. . .oh! How about Poetry Speaks Who I Am? (Okay, let’s just accept that almost every book on this list probably already has a review, or will have one at some point.) This is actually a really good Christmas gift. It’s properly fancy (comes with a CD) and is filled with awesome poetry for teens (I should know), from a myriad of writers. Some of my personal favorites are How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson, Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros, Used Book Shop by X. J. Kennedy, The Writer by Richard Wilbur. . .you do realize I could go on forever, right? So, seriously, get this. For pretty much any teenage poetry-lover (and older ones, too!) it’s a must.

There are tons of other books I demand you get, but this post would be never be finished if I wrote about them all. So let me just say that I love anything by Gary D. Schmidt, The Future of Us, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, anything by Carolyn Meyer or Ann Rinaldi is great, and. . .okay, okay, I’ll stop.

So, anyway, I hope you consider putting some of these incredibly awesome books under your Christmas tree this year, or giving them as a Hanukkah present, etc. Or just giving them to someone randomly, hopefully in the near future, or for a birthday, or New Year’s, or even Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, because any day is a good enough occasion to give someone a book. (Well, that sounded kind of corny, but let’s face it: It’s true.) Happy holidays everybody!

P.S. There is only one more week of school before break. Did you hear that? One more week!

The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery

Watch out, Sherlock! Little sisters are on the rampage! Enola Holmes, much younger sister of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, has just turned fourteen, but it’s not your normal type of birthday. Well, unless you call your mother disappearing without a trace normal. Enola isn’t sure what to do. She and her mother weren’t exactly inseparable, but she’s determined to get to the bottom of this. But of course she should send a wire to her two brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, right? She was hoping for a bit of affection when they met again, a hug, at least a “Now, how are you?” Well, what does she get? “Enola?” Not what she wanted. And there’s one other thing she doesn’t remember asking for. Boarding school? With corsets?! Well, this simply won’t do. So in the night, when everyone else is sleeping, unaware, Enola is working. With a bit of help from her mother, Enola is able to gather all she needs to embark on the biggest adventure of her life: Running away. Forget about boarding school, forget about older brothers, Enola Holmes is on her way out. But she discovers something along the way that she can’t force out of her mind–the Marquess of Basilwether has disappeared. However, that’s nothing to her. She’s a fourteen year old girl trying to make her way in London, and she wants to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem possible. Before she knows it, Enola is caught in a swirl of danger and conspiracy. This book will drag you in, using the unique voice of Nancy Springer. The plot and characters are great, and I have to say, I’ve read this three times and I’m not sick of it. And if you like it has much as I do, try the sequel, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady.

Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Frozen Hearts

Here it is, the 99th post on Girl Knows Books. And, of course, it’s one of my favorite types of books…you guessed it. A mystery. Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Frozen Hearts, written by Emma Kennedy. Strange title, isn’t it? And who is Wilma Tenderfoot, you ask? Wilma Tenderfoot is an orphan at the Institute for Woeful Children. It’s not exactly what you would call her “fond childhood”. Not at all. She spends her free time solving any mystery that arises in the Institute, to the exasperation of the forever-grouchy Madam Skratch. Wilma’s role model and idol is Theodore P. Goodman, the star detective of Cooper Island, who never fails to bring one of the loathsome Criminal Elements to justice. She’ll do whatever it takes to become a great detective like him! When Wilma is sent to the Farside of Cooper Island to be a servant to the curmudgeonly Mrs. Waldock, she just might have her chance. She never dreamed that Theodore P. Goodman would be living right next door! Whatever it takes, she’s determined to be his apprentice. Just one problem…Mr. Goodman isn’t interested. Well, Wilma will just have to prove herself to him won’t she? And what better way than helping him solve the case of stolen gem and several murders? This book might take a while to get into, but it has good characters, interesting plot, and is written well. The publisher recommends for ages 8 through 12. It did feel a little young for me at some points. I still plan on reading the sequel, Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Putrid Poison, though! Why don’t you take a look?

July 31, 2011: 1 MORE POST!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Now, we all know that this blog is for kids. I review kids’ books, I write about kids’ authors, and that’s pretty much because I’m a kid. But attention adults, because this one is actually one for you! The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley. (I mean, it’s fine for the kids, but I found it in the adult section at the library. It’s for both, okay? Let’s get on with it.)  Meet Flavia de Luce, an experienced chemist who is probably one of the most reliable experts on poisons you’re likely to meet. She’s also an eleven year old. Flavia lives at the creaky old estate of Buckshaw in England, and with two decidedly evil sisters, a stamp-obsessed father, and a mother who’s dead, things aren’t always quite as interesting as she would like. But all that changes when Flavia happens upon a dead body in the cucumber patch. She doesn’t know who it is, but she does have a feeling that it might have something to do with the dead jack snipe that mysteriously appeared on Buckshaw’s doorstep recently. Now, why did that bird have a strange stamp stuck on its beak that seemed like it nearly gave Mr. de Luce a heart attack? This mystery has more twists and turns than the craziest maze in the world, and I can guarantee that it won’t turn out the way you think it will. Gripping plot, detailed characters, and great writing will keep you turning the pages. So go grab a copy!

Tortilla Sun

So many books, so many undiscovered masterpieces. Tortilla Sun, by Jennifer Cervantes, is just such a masterpiece. Meet Isadora, nicknamed Izzy, a 12 year old with only her mother in the world. Her dad died before she was born. Then Mom goes to Costa Rica to do research for her PhD. As for Izzy, she is sent to New Mexico to live with a grandmother she hasn’t seen since she was six. Besides that, there’s the strange baseball she found that used to be her father’s, with the words “Because…magic.” Izzy knows the baseball means something, but Mom sure isn’t yielding any information. Hopefully, living with Nana and the other people in the village will reveal some answers to Izzy’s many questions. The village, as our heroine soon discovers, is filled with magic, enchantment, and new friends. Along with Mateo and Maggie, she starts to learn more about her family and the past previously unknown to her. She also learns some valuable lessons along the way, and I’m talking more than just how to make tortillas. This book was near impossible to put down, and I found myself wishing I could jump in and see the magic for myself. A great book for anyone. So go to the library and check for it!

Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

This book by Wendelin Van Draanen is a must for any reader of mysteries. And if you’re not sure if you’re a snoop fan or not, try it. I am so glad I discovered the tales of Sammy Keyes. This is the first in the series, a gripping, not-to-be-missed read. Sammy Keyes is living (illegally, if you must know) in the Senior Highrise with her grams, since her mother decided to take off for Hollywood. One day, while idly staring out of Grams big ol’ binoculars, Sammy happens to catch sight of something very interesting going on across the street, at the Heavenly Hotel. There, dressed authentically in black, is a guy stuffing big wads of bills into a bag. So she’s caught a thief red-handed, right? There’s just one thing. The thief sees her, too. And skedaddles. Well, now Sammy is on a mission-she’s gonna find the hotel thief and turn him in. And with her natural talents at trouble-making and sneakiness, this shouldn’t be too hard. Like I said, gripping. Good story. A you-better-at-least-look-at-this kind of thing. Get my drift?

The Ghost, The White House, and Me

In the patriotic spirit of it being the day after President’s Day, I’ve an especially patriotic book to review. It’s written by Judith St. George. Let’s get started, shall we? Ahem.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to live in the White House? Sure would, right? Well, that’s what KayKay and Anne Granger thought, until their mom got elected as president of the U.S. Now they hardly ever see her; she’s so busy. Well, soon they realize something pretty intriguing: The White House might be haunted, by none other than Honest Abe, the sixteenth president of the United States. And KayKay intends to figure out if there’s any truth to it. And she drags her little sister Anne into it as well. It’s funny, interesting, and a mystery. Read it even if it’s not President’s Day.

A to Z Mysteries: The Absent Author

As you know, I am a mystery fan. So I fell in love instantly with Ron Roy’s A to Z Mysteries. The first one, titled The Absent Author, introduces you to the protagonists: Donald (called Dink), Josh, and Ruth Rose. Dink has written his favorite mystery author Wallis Wallace, in the hope that he will agree to come to Green Lawn for a signing. To everyone’s great surprise, he says yes! Dink’s ecstatic. But where’s Wallis Wallace on the morning of the big day? Not at the Book Nook, that’s for sure. Not answering the phone. The common opinion is he missed his flight-but a certain letter leads Dink and his friends to believe otherwise. Ron Roy writes well, and has a good eye for plot and characters. It took forever for me to move on to other books. This is a good starting chapter book, or you could just read it aloud if your child can’t. Go. Get. It. And then read the others-all 25 of them.