January books

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
Started in 2010 when he was 16, Bachmann was born in Colorado but attends school in Switzerland now. This is vaguely like Paolini's works--a complicated plot and lots of scary violence. Bartholomew and his sister Hattie are peculiars or changlings, half faerie and half human. Everyone hates them (not as clearly presented, since all other kinds of magical creatures are acceptable in English society here. I like the mild-mannered Mr Jelliby the best. This is a mixture of murder, fantasy, gothic and steampunk. Definitely unique. OK for 5th grade mature readers. Left hanging at the end.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
This was unusual--a realistic fiction for intermediates set in the rural South with a murder mystery. Moses LoBeau or Mo was found eleven years ago after she washed ashore in Tupelo Landing. the Colonel has taken her in even though he suffers amnesia from the same hurricane. Along with Miss Lana, her life is looking good until there is a murder and two detectives from the big city show up. Turnage's style is dry humor mixed with some strong personalities. I liked this to the very end. Excellent 4th+ good read aloud? One "boob" reference.

Legend by Marie Lu
Don't know why I've waited so long to pick this up. Similar to Insurgent etc, this is dystopian San Francisco being run by the Republic. At war with the east coast Colonies, the poor are also dying of changing viruses. The ruling army has the vaccine and cure. Enter our protagonists: Day who is from the slums and has the reputation of being an independent rebel, and June who scored a perfect test for entry to the military. Day needs to save his family from the plague and June needs to avenge her brother's death. Well written and enough to keep me up way into the night (now I have a reading hangover). Excellent. YA for kissing and senseless murders. (both necessary to the story)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
In a setting akin to the Middle Ages, the dragon and human kingdoms have a tenuous peace treaty. Dragons have learned to transform into something that looks like the human shape although they still have distinguishing marks--silver blood, a certain aroma, and a predisposition toward math. Seraphina has a terrible, dangerous secret in this world and is trying to remain out of any spotlight. Her musical talents and strong-willed personality make that impossible. This is something like Eragon--castles, intrigues, dragon fights, but more mature and with deeper emotional conflicts. The circumstances of "race" relations, generational beliefs, church doctrine, governmental decisions and personal issues of truth, trust and love make this a more complex book. Excellent. YA for lots of birthing/parenting, romance issues.

Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery)
different fair for my diet. This is adult although not very "adult". Lord Peter's brother has been accused of murder when his sister's fiance is found shot dead on the doorstep of their conservatory. Lord Peter is a sleuth. The brother is a Duke and hence the trial must be held before his peers. Most embarassing. Lots of intrigue in the family with the fiance, the sister, a midnight tryst or two. This moves slower than molasses in January, but was a nice calm read. I suppose I liked it almost as much as Agatha Christie. Adult.

13 Curses by Michelle Harrison
sequel to 13 Treasures. From the story of Red (or Rowan), we continue her search for her brother in the kingdom of the fairies. Unfortunately Warwick is trapped in the land of the fay too. This needs an understanding of the first book to go on with this one. Tanya and Fabian join Red in her search for the 13 Treasures which have become Curses. I wasn't fond of the beginning--very very creepy and violent. The plot moved on though and became more intriguing. Good for mature intermediate readers who like fantasy. 4th+

The Red Blazer Girls: the Secret Cellar by Michael Beil
Sophia and her best friends solve crimes like Nancy Drew, but in the 21st century and in New York City. I like the dialogue, the mystery, and the city setting. This is fun and yet adventurous. In this case there is a WWII spy who disappeared in 1940, a lost will, coded messages and a walking stick key. Fun. 4th+ Excellent.

Hideout by Gordan Korman
Yes the Swindle series continues. This time the group of friends are all off to various summer camps within 25 miles of each other. Meanwhile, S Wendall somebody ("Swindle") the heartless, money-grubbing, cruel, evil adult is out to claim Luther away from his dog-whispering soul mate. Adventures and mishaps follow with no one hurt--except the bad guys of course. This stretches the suspension of disbelief, but it's hard to find good intermediate reads. So--Good. 3rd+.

Anything but Ordinary by Lara Avery
Bryce wakes up after a five year coma and must pick up a life that she doesn't know how to start. Her old boyfriend and girlfriend have gotten complicated. She meets an intern doctor who has fallen for her while she slept. Her family has fallen apart. And she has visions of some sort that don't make sense. This is well-written and extremely thoughtful and believable. I think the ending is just too mature and difficult for middle school readers. YA-High School.

Ivy and Bean: What's the Big Deal by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall

Here There Be Dragons by James Owens