Clue in the Trees by Margi Preus – Second in what is shaping up to be a nice little YA mystery series, Clue in the Trees finds Francie from the author’s earlier Enchantment Lake, settling in to life in Minnesota. She’s a senior in high school, and is living in a sweet apartment paid for by her grandfather who seems to think she’s safer in Minnesota than in New York. How little does he know! Francie starts school, thinking she’s in for a quiet, uneventful year but is right away blindsided by the return of brother Theo AND the discovery of a dead body at a local archaeological site. Of course, Francie gets involved in solving the mysterious death, but she’s also drawn into a bigger mystery surrounding her mother, who may or may not be alive. The writing here is straightforward and uncomplicated, perfect for upper middle grade and reluctant teen readers. The story is compelling and suspenseful, and full of all the things you expect in high school. There is some subtle humor here as well, which adds a nice kick to the story, and the reveal of the villain was wonderfully creepy. I was reminded a bit of my own early teen years reading Nancy Drew and thought more than once that Francie and her friends are Nancy and the Gang for the 21st century. Recommended.
A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne – I love immersing myself in a well-constructed world, and Kevin Hearne took me there in A Plague of Giants, the first in a new fantasy series, Seven Kennings. No stranger to world-building, Hearne begins his story with the story of how the kingdom was invaded by giants and introduces us right away to the characters who will carry to story forward. For sure, this is dense, epic fantasy replete with unusual place and person names and people blessed with special gifts. The complex language and landscape alone will likely put off casual fantasy readers, but die-hards will lap this up. I look forward to the next entry in the series. Recommended.
The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley – The prospect of a new Flavia de Luce book has always quickened my heart, but the last two books have been slightly disappointing. I had high hopes for this one, which were somewhat met. I think that Bradley has had a hard time transitioning Flavia from precocious child to teenager and that the last two books were awkward in the way real life is awkward when that transition happens. With The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, I feel as though Bradley is finally starting to bring Flavia out of that awkward stage. While this was not the kind of clever, multi-layered mystery we’ve come to expect from the author, it was interesting and fun. Most importantly, it was a bridge to the next chapter of Flavia, her sisters, Dogger, and Buckshaw. I really enjoyed the bigger role here for Dogger, as well as the peek into his past, and I am totally looking forward to the adventures of Arthur W. Dogger & Associates – Discreet Investigations.
The Witches’ Tree by M.C. Beaton – Speaking as one who has not been a fan of the Agatha Raisin series I thought I’d give it a try again after watching the hugely entertaining series on Acorn.TV. I am very glad I did. The series is formulaic, to be sure, but the writing is witty and crisp, and the characters are a hoot. Recommended for fans of British cozy mysteries.
What the Hell Did I Just Read. By David Wong – This is the first David Wong novel I’ve read and, OMG, it was fabulous! The action started immediately and never let up, and the writing is that kind of weird, twisty style I associate with graphic novels. Usually, that kind of writing doesn’t translate to a full blown novel, but it does here with no problem. The adventures of Dave, John, and Amy, residents of Undisclosed, reminded me of the cast of Eerie Indiana, all grown up. The monsters were irreverent and terrifying, and the trio of monster-hunters was hilarious and not as incompetent as Dave would like us to believe. I seem to be reading a lot of middle entries in series, and this is another one where I’m going to have to go back and read the earlier books, with pleasure. I would *love* to see this in movie or TV series form. Recommended.