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The Body at the Tower April 29, 2013

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

The Agency 2

Mary Quinn is back in this exciting sequel to A Spy in the House.  Now, a full-fledged member of The Agency, she is given her first official assignment.  She is to pose as an apprentice builder to investigate the suspicious death of a bricklayer at St. Stephen’s Tower- the unfinished Houses of Parliament.  Thankfully petite Mary is able to don the ragged garb, chop off her hair and pose as a young man.  As “Mark” she introduces us to the world of the working poor.  Mary’s assignment brings forth memories of her own difficult childhood on the streets of London, where she once dressed as a boy for her own safety.

Mary is thrust into this underbelly of squalor and depravity.  She attempts to aid Jenkins, another young worker on the job site while investigating the mysterious case.  If all that wasn’t difficult enough, Mary’s old sparring partner James Easton is again in the picture.  Back from India, a weakened James coincidentally enters Mary’s building site.  Will James keep her secret or blow her cover?  And more importantly, will their acquaintance lead to romance?

Lee again makes Victorian London a focus of this novel.  Through Mary the reader is able to view the horrors of poverty.  Reminiscent of Dickens, the back alleys and dark basements roil with filth and sadness . Class distinctions and gender roles pigeon-hole many of the characters.  Through her work for the Agency, Mary is able to transcend these. Identity is a major theme in this novel.  As Mary hides her femaleness by cutting her hair and binding her chest, she is also hiding deeper secrets.  Described as exotic, we learned that Mary is half Chinese in the first installment of The Agency.  Her real last name is Lang, but was changed to better assimilate into British society.   She has so far shunned this part of herself, shutting out memories of her past. While distancing herself from her Asian roots, Mary has also learned to use her heritage to her advantage. She easily treads the boundaries of class, race and gender.

I have already said I am a fan of this series. Victorian England, mysteries, and intriguing protagonist, Lee delivers another winner. Through the course of the first two novels, Mary has matured.  I am curious to see Mary as she grows in age, experience and confidence.  The third book in The Agency series, The Traitor and The Tunnel is next on my list.

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A Spy in the House April 25, 2013

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

agency

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.

 

Suspect

Filed under: Books,Staff Pics — Heather @ 10:12 pm
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Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nitz

suspect book

Seventeen-year-old Jen is fresh from junior year of high school and a break-up with her boyfriend.  A fun-filled summer now awaits her-working at her Grandmother’s bed and breakfast.  Grandma Kay’s Schoenhaus lies among the vineyards of Missouri (who knew Missouri was know for its wine?), and will give Jen a much-needed break.  She’s even on board to play a role in the murder mystery weekend at the B & B, until she learns it may include solving a real-life mystery- her mother’s disappearance!

Jen’s mother abandoned her and her father fifteen years ago.  Periodically receiving gifts and letters from her absent mother, the contact came to a halt a few years ago.  Jen has lived her entire life without a mother, holding on to a few fleeting memories while trying to move on with her life.  Now Grandma Kay suspects Ellen didn’t really leave at all.  She thinks she was murdered!  Could it be true?  Could her mother really have been dead all these years?  Then who’s been sending the presents?  And even more frightening, who could have killed her?

All these questions are answered in this delightful tale.  I am a die-hard mystery fanatic and I suspect the author is as well.  Rarely do you find a well-crafted mystery (without some kind of supernatural beings) in young adult novels.  The teen characters are realistically portrayed.  The plot is engaging.  From the moment I picked it up, this book didn’t leave my hands.  Okay, maybe I had to go to the bathroom once, but that’s it!  I found myself literally on the edge of my seat, not able to read the pages fast enough to reach the satisfying climax of this novel.  Suspect is a great way to introduce teens to the wonderful world of murder and mayhem every mystery lover craves.  I can only anticipate future winners from Ms. Nitz.

 

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

twins-daughter

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?

 

Splintered February 14, 2013

splinteredSplintered
A.G. Howard

All the women in Alyssa Gardner’s family are cursed, ever since her ancestor Alice Liddell inspired Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland they start hearing voices when they reach puberty.  Her mother Alison lives in a mental facility because she hears flowers and insects talking and since Alyssa started hearing the same kinds of voices a few years ago she has worried that she will become like her mother.  As her mother’s condition starts to worsen, Alyssa begins to learn more about her family’s curse and they truth behind Alice Liddell and Wonderland.  When Alyssa finds herself and her best friend Jeb in Wonderland she realizes Wonderland is much darker than the Wonderland in the book and in order to save her mother and herself from the curse she must pass impossible tests.

Alyssa was an interesting main character, I liked her skateboard style and flair and her personality.  She was typical teen in that she rebelled against her parents in subtle ways, like with the hair extensions, but she was still naive in her willingness to trust others.  I wasn’t sure if I would like Jeb at the beginning but as we got to know him more I really started to like him.  His protectiveness of Alyssa was a little annoying when he tried to be a surrogate parent but he was concerned for Alyssa which was nice and who doesn’t love a handsome knight in shining armor!

I wish I had read the original Alice in Wonderland to have something to relate the numerous references with but I still enjoyed the book.  The Wonderland in this book is much darker than the Alice I remember when I was little.  The characters all have a morbid twist to them and Alyssa’s quest is much more dangerous that Alice.  There were so many twists that I was constantly kept guessing what was going to happen next.  The ending was just the right combination of suspense, sadness, despair, hope and even happiness.  Overall, this was a really enjoyable read.

 

Sapphire Blue

Filed under: Books — Jessie @ 11:05 pm
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sapphire blueSapphire Blue (Ruby Red Trilogy #2)
Kerstin Gier

Gwen learned that she was the last time traveler in the Circle of Twelve in the first book of this series, Ruby Red.  In Sapphire Blue, she continues to travel in the past to discover why Lucy and Paul stole the second Chronograph while also trying to figure out what all the prophecies about the Circle mean and if Gideon really does love her.

The entertaining Gwen is back with a new ghostly friend, a gargoyle/demon named Xemerius, who helps her keep tabs on Gideon and the Guardians.  While the Guardians are doing their best to keep Gwen in the dark as to the inner workings of their society, Gwen takes matters into her own hands and together she, her friend Lesley, and Xemerius further their research about the Guardians and Count Saint-Germain.  The book only covers a few days in our time, but Gwen elapses and travels to different time periods during these days.  I loved when Gwen traveled back to attend the soiree, although she had some lessons in proper soiree behavior from Charlotte and her teacher, Gwen stayed true to herself and gave a wonderful performance at the party.  Gwen also meets her great-grandfather during one of her elapses which brings about some new questions.  And of course we have Gideon, the oh so perfect love interest who is so sweet and charming towards Gwen one minute and a complete jerk the next.  It’s hard to decided if I want him and Gwen to be together with everything he does and yet by the epilogue I was back on his side.

I thought the book was pretty fast-paced and enjoyable but as with the first book it was a little confusing to follow the interactions and characters, especially Count Saint-Germain and the Guardians, and there are lots of questions that still need to be answered.  We still don’t know what will happen once all 12 time travelers are read into the chronograph or why Lucy and Paul stole the chronograph.  And what is Gwen’s role in all of this? This book does end in a cliffhanger which is annoying since the third book will not be out in english for a while.

 

Shelter

Filed under: Books — Jessie @ 10:53 pm
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Shelter (Mickey Bolitar #1)
Harlan Coban

After the death of his father, Mickey Bolitar is sent to live with his estranged uncle Myron while his mother enters rehab.  Mickey is finally starting to settle into his new life and even has a girlfriend Ashley, but when Ashley suddenly disappears and strange men with dark glasses start poking around Mickey’s neighborhood, Mickey gets drawn into a bigger mystery than he was expecting.

This was my first time reading a Harlan Coban book so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I really liked it; I read it pretty much in one sitting!  It was fast-paced and full of suspence and twists, as soon as I thought I had figured it out there was new evidence that changed everything!  I thought Mickey was a good character even though he may have done some unrealistic things for a 15 year old.  Ema was one of my favorite characters, she started off as a sterotypical Emo kid from highschool but as she and Mickey became closer, her true nature comes out and she helps solve the mystery.  Spoon is also a very likeable character, he’s quirky, geeky and very random but he a has good heart and only wants to help his new freinds.

The ending was action packed and while the mystery surround Ashley’s disappearance is resolved, there are still a lot of questions that Mickey has to find answers for.  I guess I’m going to be reading the next book, Seconds Away, to find out what happens next!!