Southbury Teen Review Blog

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A Spy in the House April 25, 2013

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

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An orphan in Victorian London.  The possibilities are endless.  In Y.S. Lee’s debut novel, we meet Mary Quinn.  After being sentenced to hang, twelve-year-old Mary is whisked away by a prison guard, sparing her from the gallows.  Her savior is really Anne Treleaven, mistress of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.  Mary is welcomed and given an education befitting a proper lady.  Upon graduation, Anne reveals the school is really a front for The Agency, an all-female detective group. Now seventeen, Mary joins their ranks.

Her first assignment is to infiltrate the household of the Thorold family, rich merchants.  While posing as paid companion to the daughter Angela, Mary attempts to discover what happened to Thorold’s missing cargo ships.  While undercover she encounters James Easton, brother to Angela’s fiancé.  He is also snooping around, trying to find cause for his brother not to marry.  Mary discovers everyone has secrets.  She even has some of her own.

I am happy to say I have a new favorite series.  A lover of Victoriana and mysteries, The Agency is right up my alley.  Mary Quinn is a charming character; smart and spunky.  There is just the right amount of drama, mystery and romance to appeal to any reader.  Fans of period fiction will love Lee’s descriptions of 1850’s London, “Great Stink” and all.  I am pleased to announce the second and third books, The Body at the Tower and The Traitor in the Tunnel are already on the shelf and eagerly await reading.

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The Twin’s Daughter April 22, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 5:40 pm
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The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

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Lucy Sexton opens the door to a bedraggled woman, a stranger.  But no, her face…it couldn’t be.  Is it her mother?  No, it’s her mother’s long-lost identical twin.  Separated at birth, Lucy’s mother was afforded all the comforts of an upper-middle class life while her twin has languished in the workhouse.  Aunt Helen is soon welcomed into the Sexton home and becomes part of the family.  Transforming from illiterate vagrant into refined lady, Helen is experiencing the life she could have had. Lucy grows close to her Aunt, closer than perhaps her own mother.

One day Lucy arrives home to a horrifying scene.  The two identical women are tied to chairs and one has been brutally murdered.  Who is dead?  Who has survived? All is not as it appears.  Doubts and questions begin to torment Lucy as she attempts to solve the mystery and find justice for the deceased.

I simply loved this book.  For me, it had it all!  A thrilling mystery, historically accurate, set in Victorian England, The Twin’s Daughter will leave you spinning from all the twists and turns.  Secrets, lies, twins, murder, corsets…what more could a girl want?

 

Lark April 17, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 2:07 pm
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Lark by Tracey Porter

LarkLark Austin was murdered.  She was brutally attacked and left tied to a tree, left to die from exposure in the frozen Virginia forest.  This story is not really about Lark, but more about two of her former friends.  Eve used to be close with Lark, sharing a love of swimming until events made her quit.  Plagued by guilt, Eve wonders what might have been if she had been there for Lark.  Nyetta is also plagued by the ghost of Lark, her former babysitter.  Unable to rest in peace, Lark’s spirit is rooted to the tree she died under.

As her memory fades and her killer goes unpunished, Lark transforms into the tree.  She is surrounded by the souls of others that have met similar fates, all trapped in their wooden coffins.  Unable to come to terms with what she is experiencing, Nyetta reaches out to Eve.  Together they acknowledge what has happened to their friend to set her soul free.

A quick, compelling read, Lark really makes an impact.  I read the whole book in one sitting, quickly propelling myself towards the satisfying conclusion.  A must for fans of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones or Katie Williams’s The Space Between Trees.

 

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson February 13, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 4:23 pm
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Fresh faced Rory Deveaux has arrived from Louisiana, eager to begin her senior year in London.  Adjusting to life in a foreign city is the least of her problems.  Rory’s British debut coincides with a series of brutal murders.  Rippermaina has gripped London as these copycat killings take place on the same dates and locations as Jack the Ripper’s infamous crimes 123 years earlier.  Rory soon finds herself in the midst of the investigations as the only possible witness to one of the crimes.

Filled with atmospheric detail, London comes alive as we share Rory’s experiences in the fog filled, cobbled streets.  Peppered with just the right amount of supernatural elements and a hint of romance, The Name of the Star is another win from Maureen Johnson.  I look forward to the next installment in the Shades of London series.

 

The Space Between Trees by Kate Williams

Filed under: Books,Staff Pics — Heather @ 1:44 am
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Evie is a loner, emotionally distant, without friends.  She invents realities more colorful than her true life.  She imagines scenarios involving Jonah Luks, the handsome drop out and dead animal remover for whom she harbors a secret crush. One Sunday morning she stops to chat with Jonah while on her paper route.  Used to the sight of dead animals, he is startled by the discovery of the body of a girl.  Evie recognizes her as Zabet McCabe.  They were friends years ago in Elementary School.  Evie immediately fixates on the murder of her past friend.

While attending Zabet’s funeral Evie encounters her grieving father.  Mr. McCabe, eager to find a connection to his murdered daughter, latches on to Evie and urges her to tell him about his daughter.  Evie, adept at stretching the truth, weaves a story that will comfort Zabet’s father.  Zabet’s real best friend, Hadley continues the charade.  The two girls vow to discover the killer of their friend.  Hadley becomes obsessed with unearthing the truth.  Evie’s life is spinning out of control.  She wants to find Zabet’s murderer as much as anyone, but at what cost?

Kate Williams’ debut novel is a hauntingly beautiful story.  The cover itself is stunning.  What lies beyond is a lyrical masterpiece.  I am a big mystery lover, but this one goes beyond the simple whodunit.  The focus of this novel is not the murdered girl or the identity of the killer.  It is how those left behind are changed by the events.  I can’t accurately do justice to the depth of this book.  The Space Between Trees is one of my favorite books.