Category Archives: YA

Book Review: Wabanaki Blues by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel – Magnificent YA Mystery

Wabanaki Blues

Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

327 pages

Wabanaki BluesMona Lisa LaPierre is a complex teen. She is the daughter of a Native American mother, who has turned her back on tradition and her family. Mona’s father is older than her mother, is ignorant or oblivious to Mona’s needs, other than basic food and shelter.

The teen retreats into her music. She is a talented guitarist and blues singer, writing her own music, drawing from her own experiences. These experiences include hearing her dead grandmother’s voice advising her and seeing  a girl that was murdered years ago in her high school.

Mona is shipped up to New Hampshire to stay in a cabin with her grandfather, appropriately named Grumps while her parents go to an archaeological dig in Russia. Not only does she miss her high school graduation, but Grumps lives off the grid. No cell phone, no electricity, no Beetle (a guy she would love to spend more time with) and no one to talk to except Grumps. This is not how Mona planned to spend the summer after her high school graduation.

Things begin to look up for her when she meets Del, a guy her age. He plays in a band and asks her to jam with them, and surprisingly Grumps encourages them to hang out together.  When she discovers he is the son of the dead girl that has been urging her to bring her killer to justice, Mona becomes obsessed with the case. And she might just be falling for Del.

Danger lurks in the woods and in unlikely places that would normally be considered safe. Mona has angered people by uncovering long buried secrets. The deeper she digs the more help she needs from Grumps and her extended Native American family.

Zobel created one of the most memorable characters I’ve read about in a long time. Mona develops from a snarky teen to a mature young woman over the course of this novel – but she still has rough edges. She learns about herself while digging into her family’s history and culture.

This Young Adult Mystery was so much more than a “whodunit”. The mystery of the murder developed along with the characters, making Zobel’s novel fast paced and interesting. I loved the rich history and tradition that I learned along with Mona.  This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to read the next two books.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Blues, Book Review, Mystery, Native American, YA

Book Review: Shadow of Seth – Strong Characters and Plot – A Must Read!

The Shadow of Seth coverThe Shadow of Seth

By Tom Llewellyn

174 pages

It is apparent from the first few pages that sixteen-year-old Seth Anomundy has been alone for years, despite the fact that he lives with his mother. She is a hard worker, but a free spirit. Often that freedom means making poor choices and either forgetting about Seth, or dragging him along on some adventure that isn’t necessarily one a kid needed to take.

Now that he is in high school, she works nights cleaning businesses, so he comes home to an empty apartment over a boxing gym in a less than desirable neighborhood. Seth is surprisingly ambitious and centered, willing to pick up jobs here and there to make a few dollars. He goes to high school, making decent grades and most of the time keeps out of trouble.

Then his world spirals out of control. When picking up a clock for repair from one of the wealthiest families in town, Azura Lear answers the door. She is rich, beautiful and wants to spend more time with him. Seth brushes her off, takes the clock back to Nadel, an old-fashion clock repair man to be fixed.

Azura won’t leave him alone. At school she flirts with him and shows up in the most unlikely places to see him. This infuriates her previous boyfriend, who now is out to teach Seth a lesson about dating rich girls that “belong” to someone else.

Then the tenuous thread of stability Seth has snaps. His mother is found dead and the police are not really concerned about another junkie biting the dust. All evidence points towards murder, but they have other cases to solve and figure she put herself in a bad situation one too many times, therefore not much effort was involved in the hunt for her killer.

The only suspect they have is the owner of a diner that his mother used to clean who has turned up missing. Therefore, the case is not being worked until they find Miss Irene. Seth is sure Miss Irene is not guilty, so he begins searching for her, on the assumption that she must know something about the real killer.

Seth’s troubles explode. One of the neighborhood bullies is out to kill him and he doesn’t know why. He is falling hard for a girl that wants to be with him, but her ex-boyfriend and father will do anything to keep them apart. And worst of all he has to figure out how to make enough money to stay in the apartment so he is not homeless.

So this sixteen-year-old’s life becomes a game of cat and mouse while he works in the boxing gym as a sparring partner, runs errands for the clock maker, works in the kitchen at Miss Irene’s diner and becomes the barista for Choo-Choo, the owner of the gym. All this is happening as he continues to search for his mother’s killer.

This fast paced novel turned and twisted through the rough areas of Tacoma, Washington faster than a freight train. Llewellyn takes the reader along for this gritty ride with interesting characters doing sometimes appalling and/or comical things.

Each character is constructed as a whole person, the backstories interesting as well as the mixture of jobs and interests of each. I was especially amused by the barista info. Seth is taught how to make a perfect cup of coffee, so the reader also learns. The little things are important when making an exquisite cup of brew and none of them are lost on Seth. The unlikelihood of the perfect coffee in a boxing gym – good enough for Choo-Choo to come back in the middle of the night to see if there is a cup left – puts such a realistic feel to this book I felt like I could go to Tacoma, find the gym and enjoy a cup with him.

This is a YA novel, but like so many these days, is well worth reading if you are 16 or 61. It is a great whodunit and so much more.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

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Filed under Book Review, books, Coffee, Mystery, YA

Mr. Samuel’s Penny YA Book Review

Mr. Samuel’s PennyMr. Samuel's Penny

By Treva Hall Melvin

254 pages

Lizbeth Landers and her younger sister Lena are spending the summer with relatives in a small North Carolina town. Far from their home in Queens, fourteen year-old Lizbeth thinks she will be bored, but soon learns that small towns and relatives have secrets, some of which can be deadly.

Soon after arriving, there is a horrific car accident in which a man and his daughter drown. A mystery surrounds the accident, and deepens as the penny the dead man clutches in his hand disappears from the evidence gathered at the scene. Lizbeth is determined to find the rare 1909 penny, sure that the person with possession of it will be the one that caused the accident and consequently the deaths of the driver and his toddler.

On her search, she learns about life and herself while interacting with her relatives and other residents of Ahoskie. The teen makes assumptions about life and people in her 1972 world. She learns that things are not always as they seem and you have to really get to know people before judging them or supposing you know their motives for how they react.

Mr. Samuel’s Penny is more of a coming-of-age Young Adult book than a Young Adult Mystery. It shows the growth of Lizbeth during the summer into a young lady that is much wiser than she was before she left New York. She learns of life, death and the definition of family that reaches much further than blood ties.

The mystery of the 1909 penny and the car accident is brought to light in the final chapters, but it almost seems to me this is the subplot, not the plot. Lizbeth’s search for the penny brings her into situations that allow her to connect with other characters that she might not have had contact with, but the mystery and penny take a back seat to her growth.

The only plot point that bothered me was Lizbeth’s nine year-old sister. She was mentioned coming to meals, wearing outfits that were not hers, and getting into dangerous situations that leave the reader breathless. But she is not mentioned at the beginning during the accident. Lizbeth, her aunt and uncle are at the scene – where is this younger girl? Lena was told to go play at a little girl’s house while Lizbeth and Aunt Alice go to the laundromat; did she spend the whole summer over there unless she was needed as part of the “action”? I know that the focus of the novel is on Lizbeth, but after introducing a little sister, she has to be accounted for in the rest of the book, especially key scenes at Aunt Alice’s home.

This is Treva Hall Melvin’s first book, and well worth searching out to read. It is a quick read, with an underlying story of growing up told subtly and smoothly along with the mystery. Touching on topics you would not expect adds another layer to this novel that is deceptively complex, yet still easy to read.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Book Review, family, Mystery, YA

Book Review: Melody Jackson and the House on Lafayette Street – YA Sci Fi Gold!

Melody Jackson and the House on Lafayette StreetMelody Jackson and the House on Layfayette Street

By B.M.B. Johnson

285 pages

Johnson’s Melody Jackson novel is YA Sci Fi gold. Snappy dialog and a solid storyline make this book a winner.

Melody and her unlikely friend/accomplice in this adventure are thrust together by meddling mothers. Most, if not all teens and tweens can relate to meddling parents who mean well but totally miss the mark. Flutter’s mother and Melody’s mom were connected via a community college class, and when Flutter’s parents had to go out of town for the weekend, Melody’s mom saw a perfect (in her eyes) opportunity for Melody to spend less time alone and maybe have a friend.

Strange things began to happen on the way home from the art class the girls shared. Given the task of fundraising, Flutter was all in. Melody could care less about the whole thing until Flutter approaches the house next to the Jackson’s where the creepy old man lives. This begins a chain of events that cannot be contained.

The Jackson family is odd. Melody’s mom puts on a happy face, hiding secrets and her dad is paranoid and at times a bit disconnected from reality. All of this hinges on something in their past that Melody doesn’t know about, but soon will.

Strangers begin to mill about the neighborhood, cats are missing and most disturbing, Melody’s dad becomes zombie-like and begins on a mission known only to him. Out of fear and curiosity combined with the strong pull of love and family loyalty, Melody, her mom and Flutter are in for the duration with him.

The girls were vastly different, but the tension between them drove the story well. With all of the supernatural happenings and fear of the unknown the girls learn to work together and yet still don’t like each other very much.I don’t see them willingly hanging out at the mall together after this ordeal is over. This is much more likely than these two girls becoming best friends.

In addition to the meddling mothers, there are everyday events that occur during the craziness of the unknown that are relevant and allow the reader to relate to the characters, bringing them to life. Personally, I loved the off brand toys that line Melody’s pristine room.

This was a fun read. I’m looking forward to more of Johnson’s books.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under family, Quick Nav, Sci Fi, YA