Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Lost Twin: A boarding school whodunit

the lost twinScarlet & Ivy: The Lost Twin, by Sophie Cleverly, (May 2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492633396

Recommended for ages 9-13

Ivy is still grieving the death of her twin sister, Scarlet, when the letter from the school comes: a spot has opened up, and she can expect to be picked up immediately. Ivy is indignant – how rude and cold, to be referring to her sister’s death as an “opening” – and it only gets worse once the imperious headmistress, Miss Fox, comes to collect her. Miss Fox tells her that Ivy’s expected to become Scarlet – a face-saving measure for the school. Once at the school, Ivy finds herself in the thick of a few mysteries, all having to do with Scarlet and her disappearance from the school. Can Ivy unravel all the mysteries surrounding the school and learn what really happened to her sister?

Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin is a well-paced, consuming boarding school mystery, set in 1935 England. The characters are interesting and the intrigue keeps pages turning, while getting readers riled up at the injustices Ivy endures. There are so many little mysteries entwined with larger ones – once a thread gets pulled, you’ll be consumed with following it to see where it goes. Fox is an awful human being that loves corporal punishment a bit too much to be in charge of children; Ms. Cleverly has given us a truly hissable villain here (she and Professor Umbridge would get along swimmingly). You’ll root for Ivy and her friend, Ariadne, and the ending leaves you bouncing up and down with the knowledge that we’ll be getting more adventures in the future.

According to Sophie Cleverly’s Twitter, the third Scarlet & Ivy book is out – pretty sure it’s only out in the UK, but let’s be really, really nice to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Ms. Cleverly, so they’ll bring the further adventures of Ivy, Ariadne, & Co. to us here in the States.

The Lost Twin is a good summer reading choice for middle grade readers who enjoy a good mystery with a few well-placed plot twists. I’ve got a lot of kids asking me for good mysteries, so I’ll add this one to my booktalks, along with The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee and Audacity Jones.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Mother Jones is on her way to Oyster Bay – join the march!

on our wayOn Our Way to Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children’s Rights, by Monica Kulling/Illustrated by Felicita Sata (Sept. 2015, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771383257

Recommended for ages 7-11

Eight year old Aidan and his friend, Gussie, want to go to school, but they have to work instead, to help their families. When the millworkers go on strike, Aidan and Gussie join the picket line; that’s when they meet Mother Jones, a feisty activist who wants to take action against child labor. She organizes a children’s march that will take them all the way to President Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home in Oyster Bay, New York!

In 1903, child labor was a harsh reality for many children like Aidan and Gussie. Instead of going to school, children toiled for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, in factories; they experienced unsafe conditions and many were injured, disfigured, or even died doing their work. On Our Way to Oyster Bay is a fictionalized account of the very real story of activist Mother Jones’ March of the Mill Children, beginning in Pennsylvania and going all the way through the streets of Manhattan, ending up on President Roosevelt’s Oyster Bay lawn. While the President refused to meet with Mother Jones and her brigade, the march raised awareness of child labor, leading to the 1904 formation of the National Child Labor Committee.

On Our Way to Oyster Bay is a great story for younger kids about a period in history that doesn’t get as much love as it should. If you ask any given kid you encounter whether or not they know Mother Jones, you’re likely to get a blank stare, and that needs to be remedied. We still work in a world where child labor is a reality for many – I constantly remind kids that kids have fought and died for the right to go to school and do the same things they complain about every day – and a book like this lends itself to some important discussions about our own history of child labor and unsafe conditions, as well as the chance to brainstorm some ideas about what kids can do to help other kids around the world. Being a CitizenKid book – an imprint I love – there’s loads of information about child labor, suggestions for getting involved, and discussion points. Kids Can Press has a winner with this imprint; the books bearing the CitizenKid stamp empower kids to learn about the world around them and to take action, just like the kids in their books do. These books give them the information and the tools to take action, putting the power in their hands.

The artwork is vibrant, with movement coursing through the illustrations. The march through Manhattan thrums with activity, and I found myself bouncing up and down on my seat as Mother Jones made things happen! This is great for a read-aloud or a read-alone, but it needs to be read. Add this to your collections, read it to your kids, and make things happen. Talk about social justice, everyday activism, and being a good citizen, globally and locally.


Posted in Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Night Flower series continues with Blood Orchid

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Blood Orchid (Night Flower #2)
by Claire Warner

Genre: Historical Fiction/Paranormal/Romance
Release Date: June 2016

Blood Orchid

Summary from Goodreads:

Tied to Justin with bonds stronger than blood, Melissa De Vire heads into her new life with fear and anger. Anger at Emily, at Katherine and most of all, anger at Justin, fuels her resolve to find a cure for the curse. From the English court in 1752 to the fires of the French Revolution, Melissa struggles to survive her new existence and find forgiveness for Justin as clues to a cure begin to surface.

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Excerpt from Blood Orchid:

“Move,” Emily’s voice barked out the order and she began to run. Melissa followed as best she could. Her feet skidded on the slick messy cobbles that lined Paris’ streets and she slowed her progress, trying to stay upright.

“What the hell are you stopping for?” The blonde turned to face her, blue eyes angry beneath the large hat and hastily scraped back hair. Dressed in muddy breeches, an oversized shirt and carrying a long bloody dagger at her waist, she was a far cry from the poised, seductive creature she usually portrayed. At Emily’s insistence, Melissa had also ditched the long skirts and corsetry and was trying to keep pace with her lithe companion. “Come on,” Reaching out a hand, she seized hold of Melissa’s wrist and dragged her forward, across the unsteady surface with the grace of a cat. From some distance behind them, they could hear the catcalls and cries of the crowd that milled through the streets. The shouts bounced off ancient stone walls and the echoes produced amplified the sound so that it appeared to surround and envelop them.

“Why are we running?” Melissa choked out as Emily pulled her along an alley. “We won’t die,”

“Because I’d rather not know what decapitation feels like…” Emily’s voice was terse as she released Melissa’s arm and began to clamber over the wall. “You can stay and find out for me if you like,”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Melissa called as she reached up and found the first foothold. Pulling herself up the stone face she pondered how she had ended up with Emily as her companion for this mad dash through Paris.

“Then don’t talk nonsense,” Emily’s hands reached the top of the wall and she levered herself to the top. “And get a move on… I don’t want to get caught because you have the movement rate of a snail,”

Melissa gritted her teeth and pulled herself upward, her limbs stiff and uncoordinated since the loss of her last donor. Cold trickles of sweat rolled over her skin and she grunted with the effort of climbing. Emily reached down a hand and pulled her upwards, until they both straddled the top of the wall. Melissa stopped briefly and stared out across Paris. Fires flickered in the distance as shouts and screams echoed through the air of the ancient city. Emily had no such time for wool gathering as she began to lower herself to street level.


Also in the Night Flower series…

The Black Lotus ebook coverCheck out the promo for The Black Lotus (Night Flower #1) here, then head over to GoodReads for more info!


claire warnerAbout the Author

When I was a child, I made up games and characters when my sister and I played with dolls. As I grew older, I would make up scenarios and scenes, fully intending to write them down but never finding the time. In my late teens, I discovered the world of role playing and settled into an avid ‘geeky’ life of D&D, comics, sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Years passed and I finally gave voice to the stories in my head. I write romance, fantasy, action and adventure. I love tales of steampunk and history, tales of magical powers and dark curses lurking in the shadows. Though The Black Lotus is not my first attempt at a novel, it is the first I have finished.

And some fun facts about me:

I sew.

My favourite Disney film is Atlantis.

I’ve been a film extra and stood 5 feet away from Sam Rockwell.

Babylon 5 is my fave sci-fi show.

I cried at the end of Toy Story 3.

Author Links:



Info to come.


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Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Ruby Lee and Me looks at friendship and social change

ruby leeRuby Lee and Me, by Shannon Hitchcock (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $16.99, ISBN: 9780545782302

Recommended for ages 8-12

In 1969, a segregated North Carolina town is facing integration, and not everyone is happy about it. Set against this backdrop is the story of 12 year-old Sarah Beth, who is plagued with guilt when her younger sister is hit by a car while under her watch. Sarah’s family moves to a house on her grandparents’ property to save money, which means a new school – one that’s about to undergo integration. On the plus side, that means that Sarah will be able to go to school with her friend, Ruby Lee, an African-American who will be a student at the integrated school. Enthusiastically, the girls decide that they will be best friends in public – something not very common in the area – just like the Freedom Riders; but the girls have a falling out, leaving Sarah feeling more alone than ever. She’s lost her best friend, she’s facing a new school alone, and she’s certain her sister’s accident is her fault.

A work of both historical and realistic fiction, Ruby Lee & Me is a good coming-of-age story set against a time of huge social change.While this is Sarah’s story, first and foremost, friendship and integration amidst the upheaval of segregation and prejudice is a strong subplot. An upsetting incident involving the school’s first African-American teacher is a powerful moment in the story.

The history of race relations speaks volumes in the relationship between Sarah’s and Ruby’s grandmothers: they “gossip like best friends” when they’re together on the farm, but merely nod politely to one another in town; Sarah’s grandmother says, “The creek don’t care what color feet wade in it, but the town pool surely does. It’s easier to be friends away from wagging tongues”. Sarah’s ambitious daydream of she and Ruby being public friends sends both grandmothers into a tizzy; they discourage the girls from inviting trouble into their lives. Ruby Lee is annoyed when she sees her grandmother “trying too hard” around whites; Sarah sees Ruby as trying to be “the boss of her” in their interactions, yet always seeks her out when she needs someone to talk through a problem with.

A note from the author on historical accuracy briefly explains her connection to events in the story and points out little bits of tweaking made for creative license.

Ruby Lee and Me received a starred review from Booklist. The author’s website offers discussion questions for educators.

Posted in Historical Fiction, Horror, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Divah takes New York!

divahDivah, by Susannah Appelbaum (March 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781634506748

Recommended for ages 12+

Itzy Nash is not looking forward to this summer vacation. Her dad is sending her off to her stuffy aunt, who doesn’t even like kids, while he goes off to Paris to do some research. But when Itzy arrives at New York’s elite Carlyle Hotel, she gets the strange feeling that something’s not right – for starters, Aunt Maude isn’t around, either; she’s left word that she’s hired a governess to keep an eye on Itzy. Plus, there’s a weird sound coming from one of the closets, and there are tons of flies. And that’s just the beginning.

Itzy learns that the Queen of the Damned – the Divah – is at the Carlyle, and she’s trying to open the gates of Hell itself. With the help of a fallen angel that she may or may not be able to trust, an aging star, and a host of colorful New Yorkers, Itzy also discovers that it’s up to her to save New York – and the world – from the Divah and her minions. Better hope she’s up to the task.

I loved this book. There’s a bit of historical fiction with a twist, some horror, and through it all, a fantastically witty thread of the darkest humor. It’s a sendup of high New York society and celebrity, a thrill ride in a book, with an End of Days bent. There are well-developed characters and a backstory that comes to fruition over the centuries. Ms. Appelbaum takes pop culture and weaves it into her story’s history to establish the ubiquity of demon and demon hunter culture in our world, from Evian water to Hermès scarves.

Add this to collections where YA thrillers/paranormal fiction is popular. Booktalk New York touchstones like the Carlyle Hotel in New York, particularly the Bemelmans Bar within the hotel; show art from the Madeline books to link the readers to Bemelmans’ work. For teens, booktalk Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, for similar New York-based horror.

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Audacity Jones to the Rescue: New Historical Fiction Fun!

audacity jonjesAudacity Jones to the Rescue (Audacity Jones #1), by Kirby Larson (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $16.99, ISBN: 9780545840569

Recommended for ages 8-12

A spunky orphan with a sense for adventure, a faithful cat, and a home for wayward girls are all the right ingredients for this fun new historical fiction series from Scholastic! Audacity Jones lives with her friends at Miss Maisie’s Home for Wayward Girls. Miss Maisie is no Miss Hannigan (it’s a Little Orphan Annie reference, and I’ve really  just dated myself), though – she’s more benign than awful, more concerned with sweets than school, but the girls do just fine, largely thanks to Audacity’s keen sense of keeping things in order. School benefactor Commodore Crutchfield visits one day and tells the girls that he needs an orphan for a very special mission, and before she realizes it, Audacity is on her way to a very important adventure – before she’s done, she may have the gratitude of some very important people!

What Little Orphan Annie was to previous generations, Audacity Jones could well be for this generation. An smart orphan with a natural talent for knowing when something’s fishy, she and Min, a cat she’s befriended at Miss Maisie’s Home for Wayward Girls, find themselves pulled into a plot to kidnap President Taft’s niece. There’s intrigue, there’s excitement, and while Audacity is clearly the main character, her friends are very much integral to the plot. The characters are well-thought out and just plain fun to read about; the villains are bumbling, mustache-twirling goofs, easily outwitted by Audacity & Co. Audacity herself is just a great character: she’s upbeat, she loves books (the “Punishment Room” at Miss Maisie’s is a library, and Audacity finds herself being sent there often), and she’s always thinking – or trying to think – a few steps ahead.

This is a great new historical fiction series for middle grade readers – I loved it, and think it’s a must-have for collections. The book has received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. I’ve got a lot of kids asking for historical fiction in my library, and this is a great period to introduce to readers who usually end up with the Old West or World War II. If you’re going to booktalk this, make sure to check out the author note at the end of the book – this story was inspired by a real-life event involving a distant relative of then-President Taft, which the author tweaked into this story.

Kirby Larson is the author of the 2007 Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky; its sequel, Hattie Ever After; The Friendship Doll; Dear America: The Fences Between Us; Duke; and Dash. She has also written a number of picture books, including the award-winning Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA Cover Reveal: Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor!

Nora & Kettle
Release Date: 02/29/16
Clean Teen Reads
Summary from Goodreads:
What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid  just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese- American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to—the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having “one drop of Japanese blood in them”—things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to naïve, eighteen-year-old Nora—the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting.  But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores
the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.
About the Author
Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology. 
She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing. She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.
Author Links:
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Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Clean Teen Publishing Presents Queen of Tomorrow!

I’ve very excited to present a book I received news about from Clean Teen Publishing. Ever since I read School Library Journal’s article on serving conservative teens, I’ve made a concerted effort to keep an eye out for books I can keep on the shelves for the teens and tweens in my libraries, who prefer a more conservative read. I can’t wait to find out more about Queen of Tomorrow – enjoy!

The Queen Has Arrived!

It’s true what they say, royalty waits for no one. and so we are excited to announce that Queen of Tomorrow, the highly anticipated follow-up to Queen of Someday, is now available everywhere books are sold–a full two weeks early!

Queen of Tomorrow


Sophie—now Catherine, Grand Duchess of Russia—had a tough first year at Imperial Court. Married at sixteen to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne, and settled in their own palace, things start to look up. As a new day dawns, Catherine thinks only of securing her future, and the future of their country, during one of the greatest political upheavals of her time. Fighting desperately against forces that try to depose the Empress Elizabeth and put the young Prince Ivan on her throne, Catherine soon finds herself in the middle of a war brewing between her beloved Prussia and her new empire. While navigating the fragile political landscape, she quickly realizes that she has only begun to discover the tangled web of deceit and infidelity woven over the lavish court of Oranienbaum Palace.

When a strange and delicate alliance forms between the young couple, Catherine glimpses a future of happiness, only to see it vanish at the hands of those who still seek to end her life—and prevent her reign. Out of favor with the empress and running out of options, Catherine must sacrifice her own innocence on the altar of Russia if she is to save the nation and herself. To survive, she will have to do the unthinkable, betray those closest to her and become something greater and more dangerous than she ever imagined she could be… a queen.

“A must-read romance!” -The USA Today

“Addicting.” -Goodreads

“A sequel that will surprise!” -Hit Or Miss Books


Queen of Tomorrow is a YA historical fiction based on the life of young Catherine the Great. Fans of the hit TV show REIGN will devour this scandalous glimpse into the life of one of the most dynamic women in history.



Grab your copy today!

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For more info on this series and for a free book club reading guide, visit the author at
Posted in Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Hi-Lo Historical Fiction from Lorimer: Mystery in the Frozen Lands

cover62877-medium Mystery in the Frozen Lands, by Martyn Godfrey (2015, Lorimer) $12.95, ISBN: 9781459408425

Recommended for ages 12-16

It’s 1857, and teenager Peter Griffin joins a sea mission to solve a world-famous mystery: what happened to his uncle, Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. Franklin and his crew of 128 men had sailed from England twelve years earlier in search of the Northwest Passage, a sea route through the Arctic between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Mysteriously, the entire Franklin expedition disappeared without a trace. Subsequent expeditions have yet to recover any of the ship’s crew or discover what happened; Peter signs on to be ship’s boy for the latest expedition, hoping to solve the mystery. Mystery in the Frozen Lands is Peter’s fictional journal.

Based on true events and real people, Peter’s fictional first-person account brings this Arctic adventure to new life. His journal details the long, dark days cooped up on the ship, the ever-present dangers lurking in the forbidding, icy landscape, and the sadness that he and his shipmates experience as they come closer to realizing the Franklin and his crew’s ultimate end. The book includes an introductory background on the 2014 discovery of the wreck of Franklin’s HMS Erebus, a timeline of events, and additional resources for readers.

Lorimer’s Hi-Lo Readers are excellent for readers who are ready for deeper material. The books are over 100 pages, but the storytelling is accomplished with direct sentences that maintain a vivid level of description and information. Give this one to your historical fiction fans and watch them tear through it, then show them this Daily Mail article, which identifies through facial reconstruction, a member of the Erebus crew.

Canadian author Martyn Godfrey died in 2000, but lives on through the annual Martyn Godfrey Young Writer’s Award presented by the Young Alberta Book Society, through the Albert Weekly Newspapers Association.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

World War II fiction reminds us that there are stories outside of Germany and the U.S.

A lot of WWII fiction takes place in Germany or the U.S., with good reason – Germany and the U.S. were two big players in the war, after all. But how many people remember that the Nazis occupied Norway? Or that Anne Frank wasn’t the only little Jewish girl with a story to tell, coming out of Amsterdam?

I recently read two great books taking place during World War II, both nominated for the first round of Cybils consideration.

Odins-PromiseOdin’s Promise (2014, Crispin Books, $13.95, ISBN: 978-1-883953-65-2) by Sandy Brehl, looks at life in Norway under Nazi occupation. All signs of nationalism are illegal, but young Mari’s family finds a way to resist – and it becomes a family-wide effort.

Mari and her dog, Odin, find themselves under Nazi scrutiny on a few occasions. Fiercely protective of Mari, Odin is severely beaten by the soldiers, which only strengthens Mari’s resolve to get these men out of her country.

Odin’s Promise is a novel that also gives us a glimpse – briefly, but skillfully – into what life was like for young Nazi soldiers, shuttled to a country where they were actively hated, and “assigned” to families. Not every soldier wanted to be there, and not every soldier was personally detestable, no matter how awful their agenda was.

The story is a slow build to several outcomes – some bittersweet, some awful, some happy – and it’s the story of a young girl’s coming of age in a brutal time.

Sharon E. McKay’s The End of the Line (2014, Annick Press, end of the line$12.95, ISBN: 9781554516582) is based on a true story that I’ve never heard before, but blew me away.

Beatrix, a 5 year-old Jewish girl in Amsterdam, is on the run with her mother. Her Christian father has been taken away, and her mother tells her to trust no one. But when her mother is taken off the train by soldiers, what is she to do? Two elderly brothers, Lars and Hans, who work for the railroad, take the girl home and feed her. They realize what’s happened to her mother and see the heartbroken, malnourished little girl, and decide, with the help of their neighbor, Mrs. Vos, that they will keep her, telling neighbors that she is their niece.

This is an amazing story of what happens when a community comes together to take care of a child. The brothers and Mrs. Vos protect, feed, and clothe Beatrix. They make sure she receives an education, including a religious education, so that she can answer Christian questions if she’s pulled aside at any time.

The End of the Line is one of those stories that makes your heart feel like it’s beating out of your chest with each turn of the page. It’s wonderfully descriptive with emotion, and brings home how the people the Nazis supposedly felt kinship with (like the Norwegians) suffered under their watch. You’ll be angry, you’ll be horrified, but ultimately, you will feel incredible love and relief. I loved this book.

I’ve had a recent spate of middle graders coming into my library and asking for historical fiction related to both the Holocaust and World War II. In addition to Jane Yolen’s Devil’s Arithmetic and Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, I’ll be recommending these titles.