Tag Archives: mystery

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully written with achingly wrought characters, it’s hard to conceive of this novel as a murder mystery because at its heart is is a coming of age story for two unremarkable midwestern boys in the summer of 1961. Drawn more than told by 13 year-old Frank, or rather 50 year-old Frank reflecting on the disastrous events of the summer he reckoned with racial prejudice, class, bullying, sex, passion, grief, murder, miracles, and faith and was thrust into adulthood. Krueger’s descriptions of summer in Minnesota in the 1960s are so evocative you can hear the chirping of the crickets and taste the Kool-Aid on your tongue, all the while turning pages swiftly to discover the next foreshadowed disaster to befall this charming small town. Echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird are felt here, with the strong sense of place, the flawless moral bearing of Frank’s father, Pastor Nathan Drum, and the loss of innocence that comes from eavesdropping on adult conversations that are not meant for children’s ears. This one will stick with me for a long time to come. ~ Ms Dimmick

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One of Us Is Lying, by Karen McManus

One of Us Is LyingOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a review of an ARC from NetGalley.

Five students walk into detention. Four walk out – and one leaves in a body bag.

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars  (with a little Gossip Girl thrown in) in this YA thriller. Everyone in detention that day had a reason to hate Simon, the creator of Bayview High’s gossip app. Was it the golden boy star pitcher? The drug-dealer? The popular girl? The brain? (see what I mean about The Breakfast Club?) The case soon gains the attention of the national media and the kids find them selves forming an uneasy friendship as they try to prove their innocence while wondering if one of them is lying. Things get even more uneasy when someone starts sending anonymous emails across the school claiming to have planned the murder and framed the group for it.

This one is definitely more the Agatha Christie puzzle mystery than a dark Swedish thriller. The twists and turns were in some cases predictable, especially when it came to the romance, but it was a fun ride to follow along with. The book drags a bit in the middle while you’re waiting for more clues to show up, but the end was a satisfying solution that tied up the loose ends nicely. Mystery lovers and fans of the movies and series mentioned above should enjoy it. — Ms Schoen

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Student Review: Divergent, by Veronica Roth (reviewed by Framelcy C.)

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Divergent by Veroinca Roth, Tris, the main character, has to choose between staying with her family or branching off alone. Tris lives in a futuristic society that is broken into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent). On a special day all 16-year-olds must select the faction to which they devote themselves for their rest of their lives. Tris makes a decision that surprises everyone, and along the struggle she finds a romance. Divergent is an amazing book, because It is suspenseful, adventurous, and romantic. Since it has so much going on, it is hard to keep up with what’s going on in the book, but since I was so into the book it wasn’t much of a problem. You need to put the pieces together to understand. It’s not your typical “I know what’s going to happen next” books, it’s one of those books where it is hard to predict the next scene, because anything can happen. When Tris is getting tested something goes wrong and her instructor starts to freak out and states:

“’No.’” Tori kneels next to the chair now and places her arms on the armrest. Our faces our inches apart.
”This is different. I don’t mean you shouldn’t share them now; I mean you should never share them with anyone, ever, no matter what happens. Divergence is extremely dangerous. You understand”(22).

When you read this sentence you want to know what shes talking about. What’s going on? Why is it dangerous? So many questions pop up in your head and you can’t find the answer right away, because anything can happen. I recommand this book to anyone who likes suspense, adventure and romance all in one. Tris makes the biggest choice that determines how she’s going to live for the rest of her life, and you wouldn’t imagine what she chooses. Read it and you’ll find out. ~ Student: Framelcy C.

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Student Review: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote (Reviewed by Beatrice B.)

In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read “In Cold Blood,” by Truman Capote. Overall it was a great book. It follows the murder of a family and the after-math that occurs in both the small farm town where the murder occurs and the journey of the killers. It has a lot of suspence and definitely keeps you wanting to read on.

The book alternates between the investigator, the people in the town and the killers, Dick and Perry. Strangely enough, the writer is able to draw out more emotions than just resentment and hate towards the killers. The most developed character is Perry and especially towards the end of the book, I could feel sympathy towards the character. When writing the book, Truman Capote interveiwed the killers and he described feeling closer to them than he had with anyone else.

The book half way through turns from being a mystery to a man hunt, though the last few chapters focus on the trial. Capote makes you question insanity and shows you his opposition to the death penalty. This book was written very well. The language is rich and intellectual and the structure of the book is complex. I would definitely recommend this book.~Student: Beatrice B.

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Student Review: Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer (reviewed by Maria H.)

Into the WildInto the Wild by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer is a crazy journey to read about. This book is about getting rid of everything in your life. Christopher McCandless is the guy who chooses to take this path for his new life. McCandless had it all, he was a very smart kid during his adolescence. He graduated at Emory University with high grades and a Bachelor’s degree and with a double major. He had a loving family who supported him but with some father issues on the side. Christopher had the brains but what makes the readers itch is why throw all this away to go live out in the wilderness? He had the determination to hitchhike to Alaska. McCandless hiked everywhere, did some labor work, and met new people. He refused anything that people offered him. McCandless was just a drifter. But the real questions which engage the readers are why did McCandless abandoned everything? Why does he die for such an intelligent person? and why Hike all the way to Alaska?

I would definitely recommend this book to people who like to read about a journey and who could relate because I was still stumped in the end what his purpose truly was. I was not a big fan of this book but its a nice easy read and I do like the suspense that comes up in the book. Jon Krakauer did very well by retracing McCandless’ steps and figuring out this journey mystery. ~Student: Maria H.

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All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book makes it to my top 25 list, perhaps higher, and I didn’t even want to read it. It was selected for my book club, and it’s historical fiction set during WWII. I don’t enjoy reading about war, and I feel I’ve already read the some of the best WWII works of fiction: Stones from the River, The Book Thief, Suite Française. How could another top these? Plus, it’s over 500pp. That’s a commitment I wasn’t keen on making. Now, I wish it had been longer. I wish I was still reading, and living with its wonderful characters, sensing every stimulus in their unique environment. The story follows the parallel lives of two children: Marie-Laure in France and Werner in Germany. Both children are intellectually curious and consequently filled with promise, but the odds of realizing their potential are stacked highly against them. Marie-Laure goes blind at the age of 6, and Werner is growing up in an orphanage in a mining town during the rise of the Third Reich. Marie-Laure lives with her father, the locksmith and keeper of the keys for the prestigious National Museum of Natural History, who builds scale models of their neighborhood for Marie-Laure to read like Braille in order to navigate independently with her cane. On the eve of the Nazi invasion of Paris the pair evacuate to the coastal island of St. Malo in Brittany to live with Marie-Laure’s great uncle who suffers from PTSD and agoraphobia stemming from his time in WWI. Werner uses his innate gift for engineering to repair radios, ultimately securing coveted admission to a military training school for Nazi youth. The story alternates perspectives between the pair and shifts back and forth in time, gradually revealing how their paths will ultimately cross. Doerr adds to the sense of mystery and sprinkles in a touch of mysticism by sharing the provenance of a cursed diamond held in the museum and sought by the Nazis as the ultimate trophy of war. The enthralling nature of the story and the depth and complexity of characters are enough to earn this book 4 stars, but it’s the prose that secures the fifth. Doerr’s writing is exquisite and highly sensory. Having a blind character enables the author to maximize the use of the other four senses in his descriptions in such a way as to fully transport the reader into the heart of the story. The historical truths at the core of this novel are also sensitively rendered, allowing the reader to witness the psychological terror central to the Nazi apparatus. There are so many reasons to read this: to learn more about Nazi Germany and the French Resistance; to solve a mystery about a treasured gem; to spend time with enjoyable, inspiring and deeply human characters; and to read some of the most beautiful prose of our era. Try it, you won’t regret it. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Robots and Empire, by Isaac Asimov

Robots and Empire (Robot, #4)Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am on a quest to read Asimov’s Robot and Foundation books in order. The chronology is the author’s, using events that start (leaving aside the beginning of Pebble in the Sky) many thousands of years in the future and build roughly sequentially. Asimov wrote these books wildly out of this order, which makes the experience all the more fun. He wrote Robots and Empire, for example, thirty years after The Currents Of Space, a book that in the author’s chronology follows Robots and Empire by many centuries. Like I said, fun. Robots and Empire is set some 200 years after the close of events in The Robots of Dawn. The morose detective Elijah Baley is no longer with us, but his memory and methods linger in his robot partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, and his twice requited love Gladia Solaria, of the long-lived and robot-dependent Spacers. Baley’s legacy as a hero for the rival Settlers shows his role in lighting the first spark of the movement that ultimately becomes the Galactic Empire in later novels. Of course, I had no clue of all this import years ago when I read many of these books scattershot. It is only in the context of ‘order’ that the author’s ambition becomes clear. Robots and Empire is simultaneously a mystery (solving an epic crime before it is committed), political intrigue, social commentary, and, in the interaction between the robots R. Daneel and Giskard, a fascinating, moving exploration of sentience that pushes one’s definition of humanity. The interweaving threads of this plot, culminating in the tapestry of humanity described by Giskard as he imagines psychohistory, sets imagination soaring. An inspiring read. A final note. Robots and Empire is so long out of print that only one library out of dozens in nearby towns actually had a tattered copy. This is a loss for thinking readers – this book should be made available as an ebook, if not put back in to print. A classic. ~ Guest Reviewer: Mr. Dimmick

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The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni

The Caged GravesThe Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s 1867, and Verity Boone is leaving her home in busy Worcester, MA to go live with her father in rural Catawissa, Penn., where she will marry Nate, a neighboring farmer who won her heart through his letters and gifts of poetry. But when she arrives in the country, she doesn’t find the romantic reunion she was expecting. Her father is distant and busy with farm work, and Nate is nothing like his letters (which were were written based on suggestions from his sisters) and more interested in her father’s farm than her. Worse, she finds herself the subject of town gossip and rumors. Some of it is based on jealousy – Nate was one of the few eligible men left after the Civil War – but other nasty rumors reach her about her late mother and her family’s mysterious past.

Then, as Verity walks through a local churchyard, she discovers the graves of her mother and aunt, buried outside the cemetery walls, and enclosed in iron cages. As Verity tries to discover the stories of her mother’s life and death, and find the reason for the cages, she unearths more than she expected, with tales of witchcraft, strange deaths, and stolen Army gold. She also finds herself in a love triangle as she tries to deal with her complicated feelings about the semi-arranged marriage that she agreed to.

Salerni creates honest, relatable characters, especially Verity, a strong-willed girl with progressive ideas, who is not afraid to stand up for herself and for what she believes. And just as in life, most of the characters are more complicated than they appear at first, including Nate. A spooky, don’t-put-it-down thriller.

Ms. Schoen

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Student Review: Legend, by Maria Lu (reviewed by Oskar C.)

Legend (Legend, #1)Legend by Marie Lu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Legend. Not superman, or spider man, or that kind of Legend. Legend is a book by Marie Lu. A fantastic book with never ending thrill, suspense, and romance. The main character, Day, steals and commits crime to finance him and his family. One day, he makes a decision that will change his life. Day breaks into a hospital to steal medicine for the plague breakout for his family, and gets caught. In the midst of this, Day kills the person who catches him and gets away. This person is Metias, the brother of the other main character, June. The book then turns into the adventure of June catching Day, and plot turning moments throughout the book. Marie Lu’s writing style really enhances the book by using foreshadowing throughout the whole book. An example is when Day thinks, “What if it was no accident that Eden (his brother) got the plague? What if it’s no accident when anyone gets it?”(173). Marie Lu is foreshadowing a possible conflict or plot turn later on in the book. This kind of writing makes the reader want to move on through the book, which makes the novel better. The connection that I make to this book would be the novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games is a future dystopia, just like Legend. They both have main characters living in the poor “districts.” I would recommend Legend by Marie Lu to both boys and girls because it has an action aspect to it, as well as a romantic aspect. ~ Student: Oskar C.

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Student Review: Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson (review by Andy S.)

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Devil In The White City by Erik Larson leads readers on a chase for a murderer during one of the biggest fairs in American history. However, its boring beginning and many many small details make it not as exciting as it sounds. The book’s setting, Chicago in the 1890’s, is a time of hardship for the city, until they’re chosen to host a massive event, called the Worlds Fair. While the building and preparation is going on, a young man begins to murder young women attracted to the fair. This makes for a fairly interesting plot, although most of the murderer’s story is how he became to be the person he is. The beginning of the book starts out slow, and stays that way for a while. It’s not until the building of the fair is fully underway that the book gets interesting. Especially when the attractions are underway. Things like the story of the Ferris Wheel, and its journey to completion actually help the book.The same goes for the story of H.H. Holmes, the murderer. We get many details of his early life, the book filled with little facts. Once we learn about his older life in Chicago, the book picks up its pace and gets good. Although only the beginning of the book is slow, the rest of it is filled with so many names of people, sometimes unrelated to the main plot. It also keeps going back and forth between different little stories during the time of the fair and adds too many details. At one point it says: “Detective Frank Geyer was a big man with a pleasant, earnest face, a large walrus moustache, and a new gravity in his gaze and demeanor. He was one of Philadelphia’s top detectives and had been a member of the force for twenty years, during which time he had investigated some 200 killings (339).” I feel it adds too much to read and am constantly bored and not wanting to read the book. There are many other times like this, all throughout the book.–Student: Andy S.

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