Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson – YA F JOH (NEW)
The setting is Ellingham Academy, a prestigious private school for gifted teens located in a remote section of Vermont. Our protagonist is one Stevie Bell, who has immersed herself in crime for years. (Learning about crime; not necessarily being a criminal… ) Her ambition is to be a detective, work for the FBI and help people by solving mysteries. Her obsession is the unsolved case that occurred at the Academy in the 1930s involving the founder’s wife and daughter and a murdered student. Stevie never anticipated that her admissions essay would actually be taken seriously – but she is accepted as a student at Ellingham. As bits and pieces about the original crime are revealed, new mysteries and threats surface at the school that threaten Stevie and her new friends. Will Stevie be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together before history repeats itself?
Roben’s thoughts – I thought this one started out at just a teeny bit slow. While most of the story is about Stevie there are sections that are presented as narration and evidence from the original crime. But once the writing appears on the wall (literally) you will have a hard time putting the book down. AND – this is the first in a trilogy! Not all questions will be answered at the end of this book and book 2 is scheduled for 2019. I’ll be waiting for it!
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones – YA F JON (currently in NEW)
What it’s about: As our story opens, sixteen-year-old Annis has just learned that her beloved father has mysteriously died while away on one of his frequent “business trips.” Annis and her Aunt Cassia are left virtually penniless. Cassia believes Annis’ only option is to become a governess but Annis rebels. She wants to become a spy (like her father) and uncover who murdered him. Unfortunately she can’t convince the War Office that she is spy material so she disguises herself as an elderly French dressmaker and uses her magic to sew ball gowns (with the help of her assistant, Millie). In no time, secret messages, code names, and knife fights are flitting in and out of ballrooms and dressmakers’ shops. Technically a Regency tale since it is set in 1818, this story has very little romance but tons of girl power and Annis proves that bravery and style can go comfortably hand-in-hand, especially if she has designed the outfit (with secret pockets to conceal their knives!).
Roben says: Historical mystery with a bit of magic thrown in? What is there not to like? While on the surface the story seems to be a bit fluffy and nonsensical, there are undercurrents of seriousness dealing with violence against women and the limitations placed on both girls and women in the early 1800s. This is the author’s first book but hopefully we will hear more from Annis and Millie.
Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
About: Adri’s, Catherine’s, and Lenore’s lives are intertwined but not in the way that one would think. Adri lives in 2065 Kansas, Catherine lives in 1930s Kansas, and Lenore lives in England in 1919. As Adri is preparing to go to Mars, she stays with her cousin in Kansas, where the training takes place. Upon settling in, she comes across letters written from Lenore to Beth. Through journals and, later, letters, Catherine narrates her own story of being in Kansas during the Dust Bowl.
Ofilia’s Thoughts: Wow. When I read the description for this book, I thought there was no way the author would be able to pull this off in any way that makes sense. Not only does Anderson pull it off, but she makes it sing. The novel begins with Adri who lives in 2065 and is completely disconnected emotionally from people and really from herself. When she moves in with an elderly aunt temporarily before being shipped off to Mars, she finds some letters and a journal, which is how we get the stories of the other two protagonists. Anderson uses this story within a story device with maximum effect making the stories flow and intertwine seamlessly. This book is all about how knowing your history helps make your future. All three protagonists are interesting and tell compelling stories on their own. When you see how they are all connected it just makes the narrative that much stronger. Adri is also assisted by a 100 year old tortoise named Galapagos, who actually plays a role in all three stories. I know it sounds weird, but you have to admit you’re intrigued, right? You should be because this is storytelling at its most complex and beautiful. This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before and totally worth reading more than once.