Monday, May 23, 2011

Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

Sherlock Holmes, the world's greatest detective, hasn't yet made a name for himself. He's 14 and on break from his school. His father's off to India, so Sherlock has to stay with his uncle and aunt--two family members he's never even met. He spends most of his days outside and away from the housekeeper.

Sherlock then meets Matty, a boy living on his own who wanders the countryside. Matty tells Sherlock of a dead person from earlier...and the strange black cloud he saw float out the window after his death. Sherlock thinks he's explained it...until he sees it after stumbling upon a dead body near his uncle's home. A Mr. Crowe comes for the summer to tutor Sherlock and the three of them begin an adventure to solve two murders and unveil a plot to destroy the British Army.

There are definitely slow moments throughout the book, giving you a feel for the scenery as well as the mystery. Sherlock is well-drawn, as are his compadres. When the action starts around halfway through the book, the pace picks up a bit and it goes faster.

Surviving South Side series

Bad Deal by Susan Korman
Fish hates his ADHD medication, so when Ella, a popular girl at school, needs help staying awake to study for tests, Fish doesn't see the harm in giving her a few of his pills. Soon he's selling his meds to several of his classmates, with the demand growing every week. Until he thinks he could get caught.

Recruited by Suzanne Weyn
Kadeem is a pretty good quarterback--good enough to get the attention of scouts anyway. One scout in particular--from Teller--is especially interested. He buys Kadeem dinners, introducing him to some of the cheerleaders, and letting him know they'll help with his grades if need be. When he's asked to help expose Teller's illegal recruiting practices, Kadeem has to choose between what's right and his future.

Plan B by Charnan Simon
Lucy has her whole future planned. Her boyfriend Luke is going off to college next year on a baseball scholarship and she'll follow him a year later. They'll both get teaching degrees and teach at the same school. They'll get married and everything will be perfect.

Then Lucy gets pregnant and everything changes.

Beaten by Suzanne Weyn
Paige is dating Ty, a moody football player who has his future riding on getting a football scholarship and getting away from his abusive father. Paige tries to stay upbeat for him, but that doesn't seem to help. Then he hits her. She hides it from her mom and friends. Then Ty loses a big game and he really takes it out on Paige. Her mom decides to press charges and Paige has to accept he's never going to change.

Shattered Star by Charnan Simon
Cassie's a great singer--good enough everyone thinks she has a shot to make it big. She skips school one day to try out for a national competition, but after a day of waiting, she's frustrated. In walks Mr. King, a talent scout who promises her he'll give her a chance.

He doesn't tell her what she'll have to give him in return. Besides all her money.

There's another book in the series as well, but I didn't get a chance to read it. We own all of the Bluford High series, and I can see these will be popular with the same group of readers. They're short and full of drama. A couple of them skipped the editing process from the looks of it, Beaten is told from Paige's point of view, but the back cover has some other person named.

Invasion by Jon S Lewis

Colt's parents die in a tragic car accident and Colt has to move from California to Arizona to live with his grandfather. Colt's only solace in this is he'll be living near an old friend and his grandfather. Then at school he meets Oz, who acts like this isn't the first time they've met.

Colt finds an unfamiliar cell phone in his book bag one day at school, with a text message saying his parents were murdered. Colt agrees to meet the message-sender to learn more about his parents' death. His mother was about to expose one of the biggest corporations in the world...and they killed her for it. Now Colt's dodging assassins while looking for the information his mother hid somewhere. Unknown to him, he's drawn into a world of aliens and world domination.

He's in over his head but he'll have to catch up quick. His life and the lives of his friends depend on it. Not to mention the whole world.

A great first in the C.H.A.O.S. series. There are many other threads alluded to throughout the book, which if nothing else, tells you there's another book coming. The story ends, however, which I like. Lots of action and a good back story. I enjoyed it!

The Wild by Christopher Golden

This is the first book in the Secret Journeys of Jack London series.

Jack's 17 and definitely an adventurer. He's on his way to the Yukon River in Alaska, and the gold rush that's going on there. This trip isn't for the faint at heart--on the way to the river Jack comes across dead horses and men, and others who have already turned back. Jack meets two men on his way--Jim and Merritt--and the three spend the winter together, surviving and waiting for their chance to look for gold.

Things are not as they seem. Jack sees a wolf tracking him in the forest several times, and that wolf seems to save his life at different points during his journey. Jack, Jim, and Merritt are all captured by slavers and "pressed" into service, looking for gold. Their camp is attacked by a Wendigo--a supernatural beast. Jack survives, but barely, and is rescued by a forest sprite who also tries to imprison him. Jack has to use all of his wits and some desperate attempts to save his life.

The first in a series, some of the action is a little over the top. The characters aren't developed as much as the scenery and the action. I haven't read any of Jack London's books, so I may not see how alike or different they compare. The last half of the book went quickly. Getting there took a bit of work.

Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer

Eighth Grade Bites
Life isn't perfect for Vlad, but things are pretty good. He's got his best friend Henry, who he accidentally bit when they were 8, his aunt Nelly brings blood home from the hospital, and 8th grade could be worse. He misses his parents terribly, and believes he's the only vampire left.

This year brings about changes...especially in his need to eat and control his temper. And Mr. Craig, his favorite teacher, goes missing. Mr. Otis takes his place, and seems to know that Vlad is a vampire. Vlad finds his dad's journal and learns some startling truths--like he's not the only vampire and he's been hidden from the others his entire life. They now might know where he is and are coming to get him. To make him pay for his dad's crime.

A good start to the series. There are enough things left unexplained to lead into the next books. Vlad is a great character, but not the only one.

Ninth Grade Slays
Vlad survived 8th grade and now begins his freshman year of high school. Henry's cousin Joss has come to stay with him and Vlad is happy to have another friend--especially when Henry is busy or when Vlad's getting picked on.

Vlad also gets an opportunity to develop some of his vampire powers, which should come in useful when his life is in danger. Which is sooner than he would have thought, as an old enemy comes back determined to take him out, by any means necessary.

She Said/She Saw by Norah McClintock

Tegan was in the backseat of Clark's SUV when someone walked up and shot both Clark and Marvin, both in the front. She wasn't looking at the shooter, she was looking at Marvin, so when the police ask her for a description of the shooter, she can't tell them anything.

But no one believes she didn't see anything. Not her friends, who are shunning her, not her family, who want her to tell the truth, and not Clark and Marvin's families, who are convinced she's scared for her own life and can't be concerned with her two best friends.

Kelly, Tegan's sister, believes Tegan at first. It's entirely possible she didn't see anything. Then she finds out that Marvin, who had a crush on Kelly, told Tegan. And Tegan convinced Marvin to get drugs for the party they were at, even though he had gone clean. Not sure what to believe, Kelly also shuns Tegan.

Until Tegan decides the only way to tell the truth is to flush out the killer herself.

The story is told from Tegan and Kelly's points of view and could have been a much longer book. I found the concept pretty amazing, and enjoy the way McClintock builds suspense and doubt. Both main characters are likable but have their moments.