Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

Cover image for Murder is bad manners : a Wells & Wong mysteryThis is the first in a new children's mystery series set in 1933 England.  Hazel Wong is from Hong Kong and has come to boarding school in England.  She is befriended by one of the most popular girls in her grade, Daisy Wells, and they form a secret detective agency.  Their first big case comes when Hazel finds the body of one of their teachers lying in the gymnasium. Hazel runs to get help, but when they return, the body is gone. Hazel and Daisy are amazed when the administration claims that the teacher simply quit her job and life at the school goes on as if nothing sinister has happened.  Daisy and Hazel decide that it is up to them to solve the crime.

This book, and the other two in the series have all received starred reviews. Daisy and Hazel are complex characters.  Hazel has to deal with racial prejudice, and Daisy is rather controlling and over ambitious.  The reader senses that Hazel and Daisy's relationship is not entirely healthy, but Hazel is just grateful to have any friend, so she is willing to do things for Daisy she wouldn't otherwise do.  The mystery is also rather complex.  The reader gets to see into the varied lives of all the teachers who are the suspects in the case.  I should have seen the final solution, but I must admit I did not. Once it was revealed I could see that Stevens had given ample clues to the solution, but I had missed them.  It is pretty good mystery writing.  I will probably read more in the series. (307p.)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

Cover image for Sprig muslinI went on a cruise, and decided to have some very light reading for the trip.  So I chose--you guessed it--Georgette Heyer. 

This one is classic Heyer.  A slightly more mature wealthy gentleman, Sir Gareth Ludlow, decides that it is his duty to marry, even though his heart was lost long ago when the fiance of his youth died before they could wed.  He chooses to propose to an old friend, Hester, who is also a confirmed old maid.  On the way to propose he meets a young girl, Amanda (age 17) who has run away from home and clearly needs a protector.  It is quite a scandal when he arrives to propose to Hester with the amazingly beautiful Amanda in tow. Amanda turns out to be rather headstrong and creative in her attempts to free herself from Gareth's protection.  Will Gareth fall for the fiery upstart, or will he remain true to the quiet and faithful Hester?  You never know with Heyer and I wasn't sure which way she was going to take it until about 2/3s the way through.  

All Heyer's leading men are the same, and there isn't much variety in her women as well, but as long as you expect and embrace that, it is just fun to see what variations Heyer comes up with using the same ingredients.  There were some truly funny scenes in this one, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. (268 p.)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

Cover image for The creeping shadowThis is the fourth installment of the Lockwood and Co series.  In this one Lucy has left the agency because of the premonition she received at the end of book 3.  She is successful as an independent agent, but her life is empty and her only friend is The Skull. When Lockwood comes to her door begging her to come back and help them with "just one case" he doesn't have to twist her arm very hard.  Their case is a request by Penelope Fittes herself to tackle the ghost of a famous cannibal.  That case leads to another, and soon they are battling the biggest and scariest phenomenon they have ever faced.

This story does not disappoint Lockwood and Co fans at all. All the main characters develop in their relationships with each other, and readers get few more hints at the ultimate cause of "The Problem."  Stroud is a master at crafting both characters and plots, balancing intensity and humor so that readers are biting their nails one minute, and laughing out loud the next.  I can hardly wait for the next one to come out (probably in the fall.) (445 p.)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Snow White by Matt Phelan

Cover image for Snow WhiteThis graphic novel got a lot of attention last year during Mock Caldecotts.  It is a retelling of the story of Snow White set during the depression.  It has very few words--I read the whole thing in about 1/2 hr, but the art work is stunning. Snow is the daughter of wealthy stock market investor. After her mother dies, her father marries a glitzy Broadway star. Then the stock market fails and Snow's family is left penniless. Snow's step mother disposes of her husband by means of a poisoned drink and then sends Snow off to boarding school.  When Snow graduates and returns home, her step mother is jealous of her beauty and hires a stage hand to kill her.  He can't bring himself to do it, and urges her to flee.  Snow is befriended by a group of street kids but they are unable to protect her from her jealous stepmother.  When they find her unconscious body, the put her in a sparkly department store window display out of respect for her kindness to them.  She is discovered by a police man, officer Prince, who revives her.  It is all very clever and works quite well.  Phelan's illustrations are primarily black and white, but capture the time period and drama of the story perfectly. This book is a little dark, and isn't really appropriate for small children, but for older kids up to adult, it is well worth the read. (216 p.)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke

Cover image for Zita the spacegirl. Book 1, Far from homeZita and her friend, Joseph are playing in the forest when they find a newly formed impact crater.  At the bottom they find a shiny red devise.  Joseph warns Zita not to push the button on it, but she does and as a result Joseph gets sucked into another world.  Zita decides to go after him and finds herself on a world full of creatures of all shapes and sizes.  The only other human she meets is the mysterious Piper and he agrees to help her find her friend, but can he be trusted?

This is another graphic novel series that is popular for lovers of action adventure science fiction.  Zita is a solid character and she meets several endearing side kicks along the way. The color illustrations are great and the whole story is imaginative and entertaining.  This is the first of a three book series. (182 p.)