Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A group of kids have to prove their library benefactor, Luigi Lemoncello, hasn’t stolen intellectual property in a high-stakes trivia scavenger hunt.

What made me pick it up: It was recommended to me by a young reader from the library.

My favorite parts: This book is incredibly fun! Not only does Grabenstein weave in details from other children’s books but he makes his characters continuously profess their admiration for libraries and librarians. I’ll read any book that is essentially a love letter to my profession. But more than that, this book is wildly entertaining. Outlandish? Sure, but we’re dealing with a fictional bazillionaire here. I really liked how even though I expected things to turn out ok in the end, I wasn’t really sure they would and remained on the edge of my seat down to the final pages. It also has a nicely done information literacy storyline that emphasizes over and over to the characters the need to search for reliable sources and consider alternative explanations before jumping to conclusions. Since this is book #3, I’ll head back to the beginning and work my way through the other two books.

Who it’s great for: Upper elementary readers on up.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Set in the politically charged late 1960s Chicago, a young girl struggles to solve the mystery behind the death of her strange and alluring upstairs neighbor. She lives her life through monsters and horror films, desperately trying to escape the reality of her family’s struggles and her own outcast status.

What made me pick it up: I read a preview of this that made it sound incredible. (It was.)

My favorite things: First, let me just say that I was so pleased to find “Book One” written on the spine because this volume opens up far too many threads to close. The story is mysterious, heavy, exciting, and grim, and it pulls you in from the beginning. The art is made up of these beautifully crosshatched panels made up to look like the notebook of a young girl, and Ferris effortlessly recreates classic works of art in her own style.

Who it’s great for: Fans of graphic novels looking for monsters, murder, mystery, or history.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A fictionalized account of a 1979 murder that took place in the author’s hometown while he was in high school. Told through 6 different narrators – including the killer.

What made me pick it up: I was intrigued by the plot, but when I realized it was based on a real murder from my hometown’s past I knew I had to read it.

My favorite things: Wolf changed the name of the town and the people involved, but he kept the names of streets, events, and local businesses. For a native of the town where the murder occurred, reading this was a bizarre experience but still engaging. I love the variety of voices, used to paint a more complete picture of the events that took place, with each of the narrators trying to discover ways they could have prevented the senseless murder.

Who it’s great for: Older teens and adults who crave mysteries or suspense. The short chapters and rotating narration make this a great choice for reluctant readers.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Originally published in: 1962

What it’s about: Merricat, Constance, and Uncle Julian are an odd, reclusive family, ostracized by the people of their community after the rest of their family die of arsenic poisoning.

What made me pick it up: This was a deep dive into my TBR backlist, but the audiobook was available on OverDrive so I went for it.

My favorite things: This isn’t a complex story, but it is elegantly told. Merricat’s narration is simple, uncomfortably direct, and quietly unsettling. And yet – her fears and anxieties feel valid and worthy of consideration. More sinister than odd, the Blackwood family still demands pity. Jackson was a master at creating creepy but believably human characters.

Who it’s great for: I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a reading slump, or really any kind of slump, I need a creepy story or two to kick me back into gear. If that’s true for you then you should definitely grab this the next time you need a pick-me-up. Good for fans of gothic novels, horror, and mysteries.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

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Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (2016)

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What it’s about: A modern Sherlock Holmesian story, where the Holmes character is actually his teenage great-great-great-granddaughter Charlotte who happens to meet and partner with teen great-great-great-grandson of Watson (also Watson) to solve the murder mystery they stumble upon.

What made me pick it up: I discovered this when someone put in a request for similar books in our online reader’s advisory service. It sounded great once I realized it wasn’t a typo so I checked it right out.

My favorite things: This book is a true caper and sucks you in from the beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed going along with these characters and discovering  details as Watson did (Holmes is always many steps ahead). I liked the juxtaposition of Holmes being a woman and the thoughtful incorporation of Holmesian vices in a teenage landscape. A planned trilogy, I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

Who it’s great for: Teens or adults. Anyone willing to suspend disbelief and turn in for a very entertaining jaunt.

Erica’s Rating: four-shells