Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan
Author: Nancy Springer
Series: Enola Holmes (Book 4)
Publication: Puffin Books (September 18, 2008)

Description: Enola is thrown into a tailspin when she receives a desperate message from her old friend, Lady Cecily. Enola knows she must help her friend before it's too late - but she doesn't know how! This complicated case has Enola hunting down clues all over London until she finally discovers the awful truth: Lady Cecily is being held prisoner! Enola must risk her own freedom and join forces with her brother, the famed Sherlock Holmes, to free Cecily. Can Enola trust her brother, and can they save Cecily in time?

My Thoughts: Enola stumbles onto Lady Cecily in a public lady's restroom and sees that she is in distress. Lady Cecily uses her pink fan - which doesn't at all match her trendy outfit - to send Enola a plea for help. However, before Enola can follow her, she runs into her brother Mycroft - literally, runs into him. She manages to escape him but loses track of Lady Cecily and is at a loss as to how to find her and help her.

Lady Cecily has managed to leave the fan with Enola who deciphers a clue written in code and with invisible ink but the clue is cut short and doesn't give Enola enough information. However, the fan itself does once she tracks down the source of it.

While doing investigating, she stumbles on and rescues her brother Sherlock who has been put on the case by Lady Cecily's mother. They agree to a truce: she'll help him if he doesn't try to catch her and send her to a proper boarding school to be turned into a proper young lady.

The story was exciting and filled with codes, disguises, and various villains who want to force Lady Cecily into an arranged marriage. It takes Sherlock and Enola working together to rescue Cecily. I liked that Sherlock seems to be on her side at the end of this one rather than Mycroft's. I also liked that she is coming to betters terms with the way her mother abandoned her.

Fans of the series won't want to miss this episode but it wouldn't be a good place for a beginner to enter the series. I would recommend starting at the beginning to really get to know Enola and follow her adventures.

Favorite Quote:
"Enola, come here! I'll not leave without you."

He quite meant it, I could tell, as indeed I should have realized all along, for Sherlock Holmes was a true gentleman -- that is to say, incapable of sensible behaviour under such circumstances.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: The Case of the Bizarre Boquets by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
Author: Nancy Springer
Series: Enola Holmes (Book 3)
Publication: Puffin Books (January 31, 2008)

Description: Everyone knows Dr. Watson is Sherlock Holmes's right-hand man -- so when he goes missing, it's a shock. Even Sherlock hasn't the slightest clue as to where he could be. Enola is intrigued but wary; she's still hiding from her older brothers, and getting involved could prove to be disastrous. But Enola can't help but investigate, especially when she learns that a bizarre bouquet -- with flowers all symbolizing death -- has been delivered to the Watson residence. Enola knows she must act quickly, but can she find Dr. Watson in time?

My Thoughts: In this third Enola Holmes middle grade mystery, Enola is hunting for a missing Dr. Watson. Of course, she also has to keep herself hidden from her older brothers Mycroft and Sherlock so that they won't be able to force her into the mold of a proper Victorian young lady.

This mystery plays into Enola's strengths as she gets one major clue in the form of a bouquet of flowers delivered to Mrs. Watson in the aftermath of Dr. Watson's disappearance. The language of flowers is one that many young women of her social class are quite familiar with. In fact, she and her mother sometimes communicate in it when sending messages to each other via the Personals columns of London newspapers. But it is a language that is completely foreign to confirmed bachelors like Sherlock and Mycroft.

This story gives a really good look at the way London was in 1898 with the vast gulf between the rich and the poor. It also says a lot about the lack of rights for women at the time when it was easier for a man to have his wife committed to an insane asylum than it was to divorce her.

The story has exciting bits as Enola has to elude both her brothers and the villains and winds up climbing over London rooftops. It also has bits where Enola comes to terms with the mother who has abandoned her. Despite her intelligence and independence, I can't help but feel sorry for Enola who longs for a family and people to care about her and who has only an absent mother and brothers with preconceived notions of what would be good for her to fill the gap.

I am eager to read more of Enola's adventures.

Favorite Quote:
Neither of my brothers could accept or understand a woman unattached to some man as wife, daughter or sister.

Both of them dismissed women as beyond the comprehension of logical thought. Neither of them could imaginatively enter the mind of any woman.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
Author: Nancy Springer
Series: An Enola Holmes Mystery (Book 2)
Publication: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (May 15, 2008)

Description: Sherlock Holmes's sister, Enola, is back on another case!

Enola Holmes is being hunted by the world's most famous detective -- her own brother, Sherlock Holmes. But while she is on the run in the world's biggest, darkest, dirtiest city, she discovers a hidden cache of charcoal drawings and feels as if she is a soul mate to the girl who drew them. But that girl, Lady Cecily, has disappeared without a trace. Braving the midnight streets, Enola must unravel the clues to find this left-handed lady, but in order to save her, Enola risks revealing more than she should. Will she be able to keep her identity a secret and find Lady Cecily, or will the one thing she is trying to save -- her freedom -- be lost forever?

My Thoughts: The Enola Holmes series are wonderful historical mysteries. Enola is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft and has run away to London to avoid the fate of gently-bred young women in Victorian times. She has no desire to be an ornament to some deserving man and spend her day doing feminine things. She was raised by her mother to be independent and now at age fourteen is on her own in London.

Enola's second case has her looking into the disappearance of another gently-bred young woman. Lady Cecily has disappeared from her home. Her mother and father suspect that she has eloped with a very unsuitable young man who is a clerk in a department store.

Enola looks into Lady Cecily's life and discovers that she has a secret life too. Despite the outward appearance of a perfect Victorian young lady, Enola discovers some hidden charcoal drawings that show Cecily is quite interested in social justice. Enola seeks out Lady Cecily's clerk to see if he knows where she is. Meanwhile, her brother Sherlock is doing his own search for the missing Enola.

The story has wonderful descriptions of Victorian London and the life demanded of a young woman of Enola's class. It also has codes, a mystery, and a heroine who is determined to make her own choices but still filled with an aching loneliness and sense of abandonment. 

Favorite Quote:
When the urge to sketch seized me, I could have drawn Ivy Meshle if I wanted to, or Mum, or Sherlock or Mycroft, or just about anyone I knew except Enola Holmes. My true self I could not quite capture on paper. Odd.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Heart of the Storm by Michael Buckley

Heart of the Storm
Author: Michael Buckley
Series: The Undertow Trilogy (Book 3)
Publication: HMH Books for Young Readers (February 7, 2017)

Description: After seven months as a captive of Minerva, the insane Alpha queen, Lyric Walker has escaped to the surface. Her only goal is to warn the world about the Great Abyss. When she finally arrives back in Coney Island, she discovers a world she never expected, one where humans and Alpha are finally working hand in hand to rebuild the country. But she soon discovers that an old enemy allied with an old friend may kill them all before the monsters get their turn.

Where will Lyric’s loyalties, and her heart, lead her? With nail-biting action and romance, Michael Buckley’s epic trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

My Thoughts: The Undertow Trilogy comes to an amazing conclusion in The Heart of the Storm. Lyric has returned to land after being held captive by the insane Prime Minerva until she managed to kill her and become a very reluctant Prime herself. She gathers some very unlikely allies and encounters a brand new enemy who might just be enough to wipe out everyone if she can do the unthinkable and turn enemies into allies.

Lyric has gone through a major change during the course of this series. From a carefree, live-for-today kind of kid to someone who has to make decisions that will cost and save millions of lives. Luckily, she has her friends especially Bex and a variety of allies. She also has her parents while so many of the other hybrids have lost theirs.

There was a bit of romance in this one but there wasn't time for much between the gathering allies and fighting invaders. Lyric makes the decision that is right for her about her love triangle.

Readers will enjoy this fascinating science fiction/dystopia trilogy and enjoy getting to know Lyric and all the various kinds of beings who come from the sea.

Favorite Quote:
"Yeah, still waiting on that upgrade you promised," I snarl. "Three months late."

"Is that what you think?"

"It's what I know. Oh, wait! It's one of those bogus powers little girls get in movies, you know, the kind where they learn the greatest magic of all is family, or friendship, or was in their hearts all along."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

To Catch a Killer
Author: Sheryl Scarborough
Series: Erin Blake Series (Book 1)
Publication: Tor Teen (February 7, 2017)

Description: Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case―which remains unsolved―fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.

My Thoughts: TO CATCH A KILLER was an entertaining mystery. Erin Blake has an interest in forensics. She has a personal reason for her interest. When she was a toddler, her mother was killed by an unknown assailant leaving Erin to spend three days with her mother's body. She was taken in by her mother's best friend Rachel who has raised her since. But Rachel doesn't want to share any information about Erin's mother and Erin's past and Erin has lots of questions.

Erin's high school biology teacher also has an interest in forensics and agrees to help Erin answer some of her many questions about her past. When Erin drops off some objects to do DNA tests on late one evening, she find her teacher Miss Peters dead in a way that is like her mother's death. She also sees her high school crush Journey running away from the scene.

She pairs up with Journey and her two best friends Lysa and Spam to investigate but she is keeping lots of secrets from them. Her friends are concerned that she might be too obsessive about solving hr mother's and her teacher's deaths.

I liked that each chapter begins with a quotation from Miss Peters or from Erin's uncle Vincent Flemming who is with the FBI and is an expert on forensics. I liked that she finally gets to meet and spend time with her uncle during her investigation.

There was all sorts of interesting information about forensics and collecting evidence to solve crimes. Teens with an interest in crime fighting will enjoy this mystery. I'm hoping that Erin and her friends have more adventures.

Favorite Quote:
I'm pretty sure my interest in Journey is not the same as everyone else's. I'm oblivious to the way the sunlight plays off the caramel streaks in his hair. And I hardly even notice how his thin, white T-shirt clings to his athletic abs.

Okay, that's a lie. I appreciate both of those things. It just that that's not all there is for me. What intrigues me most is how he moves through all those people. He almost makes it look smooth, as though he's completely comfortable in his skin. Almost. But I'm convinced his cool-kid moves are a lie.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

ARC Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
Author: F. C. Lee
Publication: Amulet Books (August 8, 2017)

Description: The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.

Enter Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie’s outrageous transformation—sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively—as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn.

This epic YA debut draws from Chinese folklore, features a larger-than-life heroine, and perfectly balances the realities of Genie’s grounded high school life with the absurd supernatural world she finds herself commanding.

My Thoughts: This epic fantasy draws heavily from Chinese mythology for its heroes and villains. Genie Lo is a very ambitious high school sophomore who is determined to leave her sleepy California town for the rarefied airs of a top-notch college. However, Quentin Sun arrives and throws a real monkey wrench into her plans.

In fact, he tells her that he is Sun Wukong the Monkey King and that she is his famous weapon reincarnated as a mostly-human girl. He runs into a slight problem when he learns that she has never heard of him. Chinese mythology not being on the SAT or a requirement for the college of her choice. He also has a problem because she doesn't want to be a demon fighter which will interfere with her studying.

Soon though, Genie and Quentin are fighting demons and interacting with the Chinese pantheon while trying to keep Genie's friends and family safe.

This was an entertaining story with a heroine who doesn't want to be one and a really annoying Sun Wukong who does manage to grow on Genie through the course of the story. The dialog between Genie and Quentin was crisp and humorous. The story was fast-paced. The information about Chinese mythology well-integrated into the plot.

Favorite Quote:
"It doesn't matter whether you're 'adjusting'," he said. "Pull this crap again, and we're gonna have a talk with the faculty."

With the last word firmly in hand, he exited stage left, continuing his journey onward to wherever it is heroic hot guys go during Sixth Period.
I received this one for review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Bad Blood
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals (Book 4)
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (November 1, 2016)

Description: When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI's Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother's murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful-and dangerous-than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.

My Thoughts: The Naturals was an amazing mystery series with wonderful characters who have abilities that make them useful to the FBI. Dean and Lia are extraordinary profilers. Michael and Lia can read emotions and tell if people are lying. Sloane has a talent for math and for solving puzzles. They all have some sort of emotional trauma in their pasts too. Their FBI mentors use them to solve difficult cases while trying to protect them. Although they are young, seventeen and eighteen mostly, they are not children.

Cassie was recruited to the program to try to find answers to her mother's death or disappearance when Cassie was 12. The investigation leads the team to a cult of murderers that have been in existence for generations. When they determine that Cassie's mother has been captured by the cult, they are determined to find her and rescue her.

I love the distinct voices that each of the characters have. I love the relationship that is building between them all. The story is full of danger as they follow leads to the mysterious cult. This book makes a wonderful conclusion to the four book series but leaves room if the author wishes to revisit the Naturals.

Favorite Quote:
"Because the one person that Michael will listen to when he's spiraling out of control is an authority figure," Lia chirped. "There's no possible way this could go badly, especially if you start issuing orders. Heaven knows people who've spent their lives as punching bags do best when they have absolutely no control over a situation and someone else dominates them completely."

Lia's finely honed sense of sarcasm was all the more effective when she made the words sound completely sincere.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.