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All the Sherlock Week posts in one place for you to easily get to them.

MG Lit Reading List for Sherlock Fans
YA Lit Reading List for Sherlock Fans
I am Sherlocked Program Outline/Craft Ideas
Discussing The Woman: Irene Adler
Discussing Sherlock Fanfiction
A Newbie Talks Sherlock and Elementary
Sherlock and the Case of the Diversity Problem
The Curious Case of the Doctor’s Wardrobe
On Loving Two Different Sherlocks, a guest post by…
On the BBC’s Sherlock: A Study in Character, a gue…
Sherlock Week: On Moriarty, a guest post by Jayla
A Newbie’s View on Sherlock, from guest poster Mar…
Sleuthing the Sleuth: Discussing The Sherlock Holm…
A Sherlock Holmes Themed Community Reading Event, …

Book Review: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Friendship, Wisconsin is a quirky little town.  And completely safe, at least that is what everyone thought before Ruth’s body showed up in a corn field looking remarkably like a creeptastic scarecrow.  Now the town is on edge, and the police are definitely in above their heads trying to solve this grisly murder.  But Ruth’s best friend, Kippy, won’t rest until she figures out who killed her BFF.  Armed only with Ruth’s diary, and engaging in a lot of breaking and entering, Kippy sets out on her mission.  But she might not like the truth that she learns about her town when she peels back its darker layers.

In the beginning, I was completely hooked on this book.  It’s a grisly opening scene and you can’t help but want to know the whodunnit and why.  But somewhere in the middle, the book kind of starts to spiral out of control.  Much like the movie Fargo, Friendship is presented as a quirky little town full of quirky characters with lots of super precious quirks, and some really dark ones.  I didn’t overuse the term quirk there, there are a lot of quirks involved here.  It mostly works, but it does sometimes get a little, shall we say, precious.  And distracting.  And a smidge over the top annoying. But just a smidge, and others will definitely like it as it will definitely be a matter of personal taste and preference.

In the end, the whodunnit and why is a complete shocker.  Slightly underdeveloped, in part because the author seems to be going for the shocking twist.  And although I was completely shocked – even though looking back there were a few clues – I wasn’t necessarily completely satisfied, though I was a lot heartbroken.  And the how and why of it does work once you put all the pieces together.

Having said all of that, I do have to say that I think this is a very engaging mystery.  Kippy herself is an interesting young lady who is presented as having a long history of loss and grief issues as well as some quirky ways of handling her emotions.  The revelations in Ruth’s diary present a fairly complex portrait of friendship and the juxtaposition between outward behaviors and inner thoughts.  Kippy goes on a very emotional journey through both the revelations in Ruth’s diary and learning more about her town.  And it is a very interesting look at small town life.  Some of it veers into the absurd, particularly when Kippy is first committed into a facility and breaks out of it with a merry band of misfits, but even this absurdity has its charms.  There are lots of interesting nuggets here, and it is compulsively readable.

This is a fun whodunnit for those who want a little quirk in their murder mysteries, think Carl Hiaasen.  Kippy’s dad gets bonus points for being an engaged and attentive father, and part of the story.  There is some drug and sexual activity references, for those who need to know.  Recommended, I give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Released in January from HarperTeen.  ISBN: 9780062211194

TPiB: STEM Projects with Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab

Just as I was thinking to myself, “self, you need more sciency things in your programming”, Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by “Science Bob” Plugfelder and Steve Hockensmith showed up on my doorstep.  It was like a gift from the STEM fairies.  And the Tween spawn of me saw it and immediately grabbed it to read (she is the original book thief I tell you).  She really enjoyed reading this.  I asked her and this is what she said: “It was a lot of fun.  I liked it.  I especially liked . . .” Well, I can’t tell you that part because SPOILERS.  Let me just say, this is a great Middle Grade read that combines fantastic fun, zany inventions, and a little science to help readers add a little mystery to their day.I highly recommend it.

The best part, the book has its own science experiments built in and outlined right there in the book for you.  Who doesn’t want to learn how to build rockets and robots?!  The science projects outlined in the book include:

  • Low-Tech (Practically No-Tech) Bottle Rocket and Launcher
  • Mints-and-Soda-Fueled Robotcat Dog Distractor
  • Semi-Invisible Nighttime Van Tracker
  • Christmas-is-Over Intruder Alert System
  • Do-It-Yourself Electromagnet and Picker-Upper

I can totally see (and am in the process of actually planning) hosting a MG book discussion group of these titles and doing the activities outlined inside the book.  There is another book coming soon, Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage (February 2014) and you can find more science fun at NickandTesla.com.  This series is a lot of fun and I can’t wait to read more.

Here are a few more ways you can incorporate science into your programming (or at home):

Strawberry DNA Extraction
I recently took Thing 2 (now 5) to the Dallas Arboretum and they have added an entire science garden.  I’m not going to lie, this was the best thing ever and I want to write a grant to remake the entire library into an interactive science space like this.  If you can get to the DFW area, I highly recommend that you visit.  While there, we did an experiment where we extracted Strawberry DNA and viewed it up close over an overhead projector.  You can find instructions to duplicate this experiment here.

Tech Take Apart/Robot Building Days
The simplest tech programming I have ever involved included a two-day workshop.  The first day, we took apart a bunch of donated tech we had collected (cell phones, computers, printers, etc.) to explore what they looked like inside.  One of our staff members was able to identify the various internal parts for us.  The second day, we used the components to make various “robot” creatures.  We didn’t make actual electronic robots, although with the right tools you certainly could.  But this allowed our tweens and teens to tap into their creative side while exploring tech innards.  Plus, it was a great way to get rid of all of our outdated or non functioning technology.

To give tweens and teens a simple chance to explore electronic science, you can always just purchase these basic Snapcircuits kits.  We have one at home and you can do over 300 things with it.  There are various different kits you can buy, so choose wisely.

Legos and Tech
I outline some great ways you can use Legos to help tweens and teens explore technology at this Makerspace post.

Raspberry Pi
School Library Journal recently ran an article that outlined how to get started exploring tech using Raspberry Pis, which are these small little motherboard things.  I also have one of these at my house (spurred on by the article), but we have yet to do anything with it.  The tween wants to use it to create an alarm system for her room.  I’m pretty sure her little sister is somehow involved in this desire.  Christie and I have gotten the funding to add a Raspberry Pi component to our Makerspace, which I will share with you next week.

As part of Quirk Books Week, Quirk Books has generously donated a prize package for one lucky winner that will include 2 of the above cookbooks, a copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, the first book of the Lovecraft Middle School series, and a copy of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. I’ve tried to give you as many ways as possible to enter so pick the one (or ones) that work best for you and do the Rafflecopter thingy below.  The giveaway closes on Saturday, December 14th and is open to U.S. Residents.  The books will be sent to you from Quirk Books and they are worth it.

Take 5: It’s Elementary (YA Fiction for fans of Sherlock)

While reading The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, I couldn’t help but think that fans of the BBC Sherlock (or the CBS show Elementary) would enjoy reading it.  Which got me thinking: What other YA books would Sherlock fans enjoy?  Below is a list of 10 titles that fit the bill and I recommend.  You may have your own recommendations, so please feel free to join the discussion.  P.S., in case you didn’t know, I am absolutely obsessed with Sherlock.  I am also convinced that the BBC has some of the best television happening right now.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Cassie is a natural born profiler, enlisted in a special FBI program that seeks to hone the special talents of teens.  The Naturals get drawn into an active case when a package shows up at their dorm making it clear that this case is personal.  Cassie is no longer safe and she doesn’t know who to trust.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Mary Russell #1) by Laurie King

“You cannot help being a female, and I should be something of a fool were I to discount your talents merely because of their housing.”

The retired Sherlock may have met his match in the form of one teenage girl named Mary Russell. Soon she is his pupil and they two are put to the test by a new, elusive villain.

A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y. S. Lee

“Calmly, slowly, she reached behind with her left hand and came up against — yes, fabric. Fine linen, to be precise. So far, so good: she was inside a wardrobe, after all. The only problem was that this linen was oddly warm. Body warm. Beneath the tentative pressure of her palm, it seemed to be moving…”

Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is the cover for an all female investigative unit called The Agency.  Mary Quinn is given one assignment: infiltrate a rich merchants house to find missing cargo ships.  Is there anyone in the house Mary can trust? Want more historical fiction with female spies? Check out Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

“Keep calm and carry on.
Also, stay in and hide because the Ripper is coming.”

Rory arrives in London the day a serial killer starts taking lives in a way that eerily resembles Jack the Ripper.  Rory spotted a man she thought was the killer, but she seems to be the only one that saw him.  Now, as the only witness, will she be his next victim?

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

“Maybe there is something when it all ends. Maybe there is memory, memory of the person you loved, when you lived. Maybe this is the white-light-tunnel deal, and I’m pressing toward it, and it’s pressing back, until we become the same thing.”

Since her brother disappeared, Lo’s desire to collect things has turned into obsession.  When she discovers a butterly pendant, it may be a clue to help her find her missing brother.

Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan

What happens when Momento and Mullholland Drive meet M Night (but when he was still considered good)? This happens. Daniel is dragged to a camp/resort/vacation spot with his father.  He feels drawn to the mysterious Lexi, but wonders why her bruises keep getting worse every time he sees her.  A dark figure stalks them both and Daniel has to solve the mystery of Lexi before it is too late.

Hemlock (Hemlock #1) by Kathleen Peacock

“You can’t lose what you never had.”  

When her best friend dies, Mackenzie vows to hunt her killer – a white werewolf.  In this world, werewolves live in plain sight. But there are dangerous secrets lurking in Hemlock that may make it hard for Mackenzie to keep her promise.

Eye of the Crow (The Boy Sherlock Holmes #1) by Shane Peacock

Granted, putting a young Sherlock Holmes title on the list may seem like cheating.  But it is good and you should read it.  Also, I feel like that is all I really need to say about this series: Young. Sherlock. Holmes.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley

“I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Flavia de Luce is an 11 year old aspiring chemist that has a passion for poison.  Don’t they all? First there is a dead bird with a postage stamp on its beak.  Then there is a dead man in the cucumber patch.  To Falvia the investigation is the stuff of science. 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

“I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.”

Technically, Code Name Verity is not a mystery.  It is, in fact, a marvelous piece of historical fiction full of friendship, spies and female pilots.  But you’ll have to pay attention while you read because the little things matter and you will be stunned by the amazing way Wein pulls all the pieces together to tell the details of this story – much like Sherlock solving a case.

Also, check out these programming ideas to celebrate all things Sherlock.

I know you have some titles to add to the list, right?  Please share in the comments.

Book Review: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

I walk past the revolving lights of the ambulance.

Past the security vehicles, the police officers, the chatter of voices over shortwave radios.
“Do you need a ride?” the gate guard says.

“I’m good,” I say.

“Tough day,” he says.

“Terrible,” I say.

“It happened on my watch,” he says, shaking his head. “But they can’t blame me, right? I’m not God. I don’t get to decide when and where.”

Not true. You don’t have to be God to decide when and where. You only have to take action and be willing to deal with the consequences.

“Take care of yourself,” he says.

“I always do,” I say.

He opens the gate for me, and I’m out.

I walk down the street slowly, like someone who is traumatized. But I’m not traumatized. I’m already thinking about what comes next. I’m reviewing my exit strategy.

And maybe, just for a moment, I’m thinking about Jack.

He was my best friend for four weeks.

But not anymore.

He might not like it much that I killed his father. Not that he’ll know. The drug leaves no trace. Jack’s dad had a heart attack. That’s what the autopsy will show, if there is an autopsy. Strings will be pulled. Or the modern equivalent- computer keys pressed.
If an autopsy is done, it will show nothing at all.

Natural causes.

That’s my specialty. People die around me, but it never seems like my fault. It seems like bad luck following good.

Good luck: You meet a great new friend at school.

Bad luck: A tragedy befalls your family.

The two don’t ever seem connected, but they are.

Jack didn’t know that when we became best friends a month ago. I slipped into his life easily, and now I’m slipping out just as easily.

I’ve broken another guy’s heart, changed the course of his life. Lucky for me, I can do it and not feel it.

I don’t feel anything.

Not true.

I feel cold, I feel hungry, I feel the fabric of a new shirt rubbing against my skin, and I feel gravel beneath my feet.

But those are sensations, not feelings.

I had feelings once, too. I think I did. But that was a long time ago.

That was before.

Boy Nobody is the perfect assassin:  blending in to the school to befriend the target’s teenage kid, getting into the house of the target and making the kill, and getting out again under the cover of a tragedy of his own ‘parents’ before anyone is any wise. Always moving from target to target, he’s too busy and buried in his own missions to wonder about his past and what really happened to his parents, or to question the motives of his superiors.

Until now. His newest assignment takes him to New York, where in 5 days he’s to befriend Sam, the daughter of the mayor of New York, and take out her father. When Sam gets under his skin, and her father starts reminding him of his own family, everything that Boy Nobody has depended on starts to turn upside down, and his ever-present Watchers from The Program add to the pressure. Can Boy Nobody figure out who he wants to be and break his programming?

A true anti-hero book, boy nobody will remind modern readers of both James Bond and Jason Bourne with the mission completions and the pressure from both sides. Falling for Sam is the least of his worries when tests and pressure from The Program come into play, especially when Boy Nobody starts to suspect that the mission he is on is the wrong one. His examination of himself and his morality, as well as the speed and direction of the plot, keeps readers guessing, and the twists and turns will keep you on your seat. Recommended for reluctant readers for the short chapters, shorter paragraphs, and high action. There are scenes that are extremely violent, and some stereotyping (which is discussed below). Definitely pair with I am the Cheese (for the antihero) or Proxy (for suspense). 3.5 stars out of 5. As of July 21, 2013, Goodreads has Boy Nobody has rated as 3.96 stars

Enter to win an ARC of Boy Nobody… What is your favorite spy/assassin YA book in the past few years?  Tell us in the comments to be entered to win.  Be sure and leave a Twitter @ or email so we can contact you if you win.  Enter by Friday, August 2nd at Midnight.

I was *SOOOOO* excited to get this book. I love action/adventure, and have seen every Bond movie (including On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which is the one NO ONE will claim to have seen). I’ve seen Jason Bourne, and watched the new Bourne movie, and was really hyped about a book embracing this theme and culture- something that I could get into the hands of my teens who love these same movies but keep telling me “MISS, READING IS BORING!!!”

And I really loved the book! I loved the premise, and I loved the backstory, and was flying through the book. And I think professionally it deserves the rating I gave it above.

However, I have personal issues with it.

I didn’t have a problem with the violence. Or the fact that we’re attacking New York. Or that Boy Nobody’s father may have been involved in The Program and gotten out, or that he may still be alive somewhere after all.

I got to the last quarter of Boy Nobody where it is revealed that Sam, the daughter, is plotting to kill her father with her boyfriend from Israel. 

The American father is being plotted against by his half American half Israeli daughter with her full Israeli boyfriend.



We need this stereotypical characterization in the world right now?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!

I get the angst- she’s pissed because he let her mother die. And I get that the boyfriend played on her grief and emotions. But did we really need a book that made a POC (person of color), in fact a female POC who was intelligent and witty and funny, be out for revenge and blood debt? It wouldn’t have been better had it been a POC SON out for revenge, either. It just feels like extending, inflaming, and perpetuating the hatred that is still in this country from the attacks of 9/11. There had to have been another way to get the same situation and the same tension without making Sam’s heritage a nationality that already has a lot of hatred going against it in America.

Book Review: Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison

They say first love never dies…

From critically acclaimed author Kate Ellison comes a heartbreaking mystery of mental illness, unspoken love, and murder. When sixteen-year-old artist Olivia Tithe is visited by the ghost of her first love, Lucas Stern, it’s only through scattered images and notes left behind that she can unravel the mystery of his death.

There’s a catch: Olivia has gone colorblind, and there’s a good chance she’s losing her mind completely—just like her mother did. How else to explain seeing (and falling in love all over again with) someone who isn’t really there?

With the murder trial looming just nine days away, Olivia must follow her heart to the truth, no matter how painful. It’s the only way she can save herself.” (Summary from Goodreads)

Music, art, mental illnes, first love . . . they all come together beautifully in this haunting mystery.

Kate Ellison is the author of The Butterfly Clues, another haunting mystery that looks at the world of OCD with an artistic flair that is hard to describe, but is mesmerizing.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  And Ellison does it again in this new mystery, Notes from Ghost Town.

With only a few days left until her mother’s trial for murder, Olivia (Liv), is visited by the ghost of her best friend and first love, Lucas – the boy they say her mother has killed.  The ghost of Lucas leads her to make a chain of discoveries that may prove that her mother is innocent of this crime, but she is by no means in good mental health.  In fact, even she doesn’t know if she is guilty or not.

An aspiring artist, Olivia finds herself suddenly and inexplicably color blind.  Now she can only see the world in shades of gray.  Does this mean that she will finally descend into the madness that has always haunted her mother?

Notes from Ghost Town is powerful, emotional, and haunting; a touch of Jane Eyre gothic romanticism wafts from page to page as Liv follows the ghost of her first love.  There is a slow build up of tension and then that snap of release as you begin to realize just exactly what happened, and by whom.  There is heartbreak and betrayal.

Where Ellison exceeds, hands down, is in her continued look at mental health issues. It is no small feat to capture what it is like to grow up under the wing of a mentally ill parent and to make the fear that you yourself may be afflicted so incredibly tangible – which Ellison does more successfully than most.  And when Liv loses her ability to see colors, you sense her fear and desperation; it would be to use like becoming suddenly blind or deaf.  If she can no longer do art, then who really is she?  There is such a loss of sense of self that occurs here, palpable and relatable.

Liv is not an easy character to like at times, and she makes a lot of self defeating decisions, especially when it comes to her loss of color sight.  But then it is important to remember that she is in a place of breathtaking fear, both about who she is as a person and what is happening with her mother.  It would be such an overwhelming place to be emotionally.  She develops another relationship with a young man named Austin that is at times hard to embrace, but he plays a critical role in our tale.

Ellison also excels at her sense of timing.  It is just as the two young friends are about to confess their love that Lucas is gone, it is just as she is about to go to college to pursue her art, it is always just as . . . at the most critical moment, the most critical things happen and compel the story forward in interesting and satisfying ways.  Although the timing of individual elements was precise, some of the pacing slows down at points.  Not enough to make you close the book, but enough to make you want for something to happen at times.  Yet at the same time, it is part of that gothic romanticism feel that our tale is wrapped up in so it is hard to be overly critical of this element.

Overall, an intelligent, beautiful and haunting mystery.  3.5 out of 5 stars, definitely recommended.  Definitely pair this up with The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee.

Take 5: Mystery and Horror Cross-Overs for YA’s Wanting More

Last time I wrote about teens who were searching beyond the teen area for science fiction and fantasy cross overs, and showcased 5 authors who’s series are real hits with my teens. This time I thought I’d talk about mysteries and horror books.  These are always a difficult one to pinpoint, because what we think of as a YA mystery ( Gallagher Girls or Heist Society, Code Name Verity or books by Lois Duncan) or horror (Anna Dressed in Blood) doesn’t translate all that well into the world of adults (with the exception of Daniel Kraus, Patrick Ness and Andrew Smith, who Karen thinks does horror well and it translates for adults). And depending on your system, your mysteries can also include bits of the paranormal (I’ve seen Darynda Jones’ Charlie Davidson series- where Charlie is a living Grim Reaper – in both fiction, mystery and science fiction), while horror may not be separated at all. So be prepared to look in various categories for these authors.

Janet Evanovich

In case you don’t know, Janet Evanovich has written the extremely popular Stephanie Plum series (One For the Money, Two for the Dough) that has some of my readers comparing the thinking and antics of Stephanie to Sookie from the Sookie Stackhouse series.  They really enjoy the writing as well as the situations that Stephanie gets herself in- which I think helps make her more human and believable to teens who are always finding themselves in trouble for something.

Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs has been growing in popularity with a small group of my teens; whether it’s the popularity of the TV show Bones (which is on regular TV as well as on syndication) or they’re really getting into the forensics of her writing, I can’t say.  I can say that those who have a strong interest in the science and police investigation behind crime really enjoy her books. Karen’s note: Reichs teen series, Virals, is actually very popular at my library.

Stephen King

My teens love the earlier books by Stephen King: Cujo, Carrie, Firestarter, It, and Mystery are ones that are continuously gaining legs and moving throughout my library, to be hidden in a variety of new and interesting places.  Interestingly enough, they don’t seem to like the newer books (the ones published since his car accident in 1999), but anything before then seem to be perfect.

Dean Koontz

My horror loving teens have just recently found Dean Koontz, and I can’t keep them in his books.  They’re currently going through his Frankenstein series (which seems to be a trend with science fiction fantasy in YA as well), and are just inhaling them.  He’s “creepy” and “keeps you guessing” says one teen, which is what you definitely need is your horror.

Robert Kirkman

Robert Kirkman is the writer/creator of The Walking Dead graphic novels and produced the TV pilot of The Walking Dead, which is responsible for sucking away many of Karen’s nights during it’s seasons. My teens keep an eye out for the boxes of new books, eagerly awaiting the day when we get a new bound edition of The Walking Dead, and there are fights over who gets to read it first. The comics are definitely very graphic and not intended for a teen audience (rated M for mature, and there are VERY graphic scenes in there), but those who are in desperate need of their zombie fix are definitely going to get it here- they are very well written  and the story lines are wonderful, as well as deviating somewhat from the TV show (from what I’ve been told by the teens- I haven’t seen the show) so that adds to the excitement.

It’s a Mystery, how to find mysteries with an inspriational message

When young mystery lovers plow through Ladd Family Adventure Series and the Boxcar Children, it becomes harder to find appealing books in the genre without a dark mix of violence, sex and the occult.

Some Christian authors, however, are striving to fill that void through mysteries that delicately weave biblical principles into the plot. Among them is Virginia Ann Work, author of the Jodi Fisher Mysteries, and Robert Elmer, author of The Adventures Down Under series.
Work’s book, The Mystery of the Missing Message, is the tale of Jodi Fischer and her friend Lexie Marshal, who find a missing wallet and baby’s sock while riding their horses. They also discover a mysterious cabin they would have thought was deserted — if not for the sound of a footstep inside.
Jodi’s mom and dad are missionaries to the Indians in Canada, which lends itself easily to sharing biblical principles.

Work also has written The Secret in the Silver Box, another story about the adventures of Jodi and her friend Lexie, this one involving an old prospector and his silver box in Central British Columbia.
Elmer kicks off his series about Australia with Escape to Murray River, a gripping tale targeting middle-grade readers. It’s appeal is wider. I’m the parent of a teen and I could hardly put it down! Although the main character, Patrick, is 12, readers easily can identify with his mom or older sister Becky, 14.
In this book, Patrick’s father is framed for a crime he did not commit and sentenced to 10 years in an Australian prison. Unbeknownst to him, his family follows, only to learn he has escaped to elude the man responsible for his imprisonment. The book is captivating to the very last page. I didn’t want it to end yet!
Two more series Christian teens may find interesting are the Jenny McGrady Mystery series by Patricia Rushford and the Casey and the Classifieds series by Tracy Groot.
The Jenny McGrady series starts with Too Many Secrets, a tale about the disappearance of Jenny’s grandmother along with a million dollars worth of stolen diamonds.
Casey and the Classifieds for 10 to 14 year olds includes The Mystery of the Stolen Statue and The Mystery of the Forgotten Fortune.
The Swipe Series, by Evan Angler, is a dystopian series that looks at Christian beliefs about getting “the mark”.  Set in a future North America, every person is required the mark at 13 and you must swipe the mark for everything, from getting food to transportation.  But what happens if you refuse to get the mark?

As the mother of a 14-year-old boy, I’ve begun writing a series aimed at preteens and teens called Bible Camp Mysteries. The series, in digital format, is about a community church and its youths’ adventures in the Florida backwoods.
The first book in the series, Lost in the Woods: A Bible Camp Mystery is about 13-year-old Zack, who disappears in the middle of the night during the group’s back-to-nature retreat.
In the story, the group of inexperienced campers experience no-see-ums at dusk, an illness that strikes more than half of the campers and an impending hurricane that takes an unexpected turn in their direction.
Readers learn along with Zack how important it is to be obedient and do what God says. More importantly, they learn through Zack’s example the biblical path of salvation.

About the writer: A former newspaper reporter who came to know the Lord as an adult, Cheryl Rogers publishes the New Christian Books Online Magazine, which includes new book announcements and excerpts. She writes both fiction and nonfiction for varying age groups. For the teen market, she has written Lost in the Woods: A Bible Camp Mystery, Just Like Jonah Wail Tales, a short story collection featuring modern Jonahs, and Fast Track to Victory, A Christian Guidebook, a book with 40 devotions teaching how to truly love and forgive others, why it’s important to set aside pride, how to deal with tragedy and death and more.
Contact her at:
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=51864408&trk=tab_pro 

What Makes a Mystery GOOD (guest post by Jennifer Rummel)

Get a Clue!

What Makes a Mystery GOOD? I’m a sucker for mysteries. I like the murder mysteries best and I’m always on the lookout for more teen mysteries. The bulk of mysteries I read are adult cozies, often from a series.  Here’s what I like about mysteries.

The Top 10 Clues to a Mystery

A Great Cover

The cover (and the title) draws the reader in initially. With so many books, the few teen mysteries might lose out to other genres. Having a great cover will draw readers to the book, even if they aren’t necessarily mystery readers.  One of my favorite teen mystery covers and titles is Death by Bikini.
       A Believable Plot
The mystery has to be something significant. For me, a murder is ideal; however a kidnapping or theft can be entertaining as well. I don’t like to be tricked, so I feel let down if the mystery turns out to be not a mystery at all. There also has to be a plausible reason the main character is looking into the mystery and not leaving it for the police, as most people would do. Those reasons might include: feel responsible, friend or family in trouble (either the accused or the victim).  In Clarity, Clare can see memories by touching objects. When a murder disrupts her sleepy touristy town, she’s asked to help solve the mystery. As an added incentive, her brother becomes the lead suspect.
            A Side Story
Many mysteries are the main aspect of the story, but there’s more to it: family drama, work drama, relationship drama. Something else has to be happening.  In The Night She Disappeared Gabie’s co-worker goes missing during her shift.  Gabie feels responsible for her disappearance and attempts to uncover her whereabouts. Parts of the book occur at school and at the pizza point where both girls work.
You can download this poster at https://www.box.com/s/2tt2obzzoo7u30o9247a
      Fun Main Character
Many main characters have to poke around, sometimes making a nuisance of themselves when asking questions. I like the ones who aren’t too forward or too pushy. There has to be a reason the suspects would be talking to this person rather than the police, otherwise there’s no point to the mystery.
      Side Kicks
Three-dimensional characters make for a more rounded story and thus a better reading experience. Sick-kicks often provide comic relief from an otherwise tense story.  A great sick kick example is Seth from The Liar Society. He’s nerdy, amusing, and helps the story along.

Multiple Perspectives

These aren’t necessary, but they give the book a different feel than just seeing the story events from the main character. Plus, if the culprit is one of the perspectives, it heightens the tension in the book.
Fast paced mysteries make me turn the pages without setting the book down. I prefer the body to turn up in the first 30 pages of the book. I don’t mind a little back story, but I draw the line at being half the way through the book without any action. After the murder (or kidnapping/theft) occurs, significant clues are needed to keep me entertained.


I want to be scared, for at least a few moments. There has to be danger: danger from being caught snooping, danger for asking one too many questions, or danger from uncovering the truth behind the mystery. There must be a few heart-stopping moments.
      Red Herrings
I want to go on a reading adventure, guessing and second guessing the culprit.  With a cast of characters, the murderer (or culprit) should be well hidden.  The rest of the characters will need to look guilty to throw off suspicion. Harlan Coben’s two books for teens, Shelter, and Seconds Away both leave me guessing right up until the end. Plus, they both raise questions that will be answered further along in the series, making me long for the next installment immediately.

Unexpected Ending

      I don’t want to figure out the ending until the very last pages. I don’t want to see the massive plot twist coming. Plus, I also want the mystery wrapped up nicely. I want to know why the culprit thought s/he might get away with it. I want to know what happens to the other characters as part of the aftermath.  I like reading series, which sometimes end on a cliff hanger relating to the characters, not the mystery. 

Tell us your favorite mysteries in the comments.  What makes them GOOD?
      Jennifer Rummel is a YA Librarian at Otis Library in Norwich, CT.  She blogs at YA Book Nerd: http://yabooknerd.blogspot.com/

SOHO Teen Presents…Deviant by Helen FitzGerald

When 16-year-old Abigail’s mother dies in Scotland–leaving a faded photo, a weirdly cryptic letter, and a one-way ticket to America–she feels nothing. Why should she? Her mother gave her away when she was a baby, leaving her to grow up on an anti-nuclear commune and then in ugly foster homes. But the letter is a surprise in more ways than one: Her father is living in California. What’s more, Abigail discovers she has an eighteen-year-old sister, Becky. And the two are expecting Abigail to move in with them.

After struggling to overcome her natural suspicions of a note from beyond the grave (not to mention anything positive) Abigail grows close to her newfound sister. But then Becky is found dead, the accidental victim of an apparent drug overdose. As Abigail wrestles with her feelings and compiles a “Book of Remembrance” of her sister’s short life, she uncovers a horrifying global plot aimed at controlling teen behavior: one that took her sister’s and mother’s lives, with vast implications.

I’ve only read an excerpt of this one so far and my mind is already buzzing around the possibilities!  First off, Abigail is a Scottish foster teen.  And from the way she describes it, it pretty much resembles the crumbling foster system that I am used to working with with my foster home youth.  She was abandoned as a baby and given to a woman to live with who was the only family that Abigail had ever known.  At the age of nine, the woman tells Abigail she has cancer and within a week, she is dead, thrusting Abigail into the System.

Now, seven years later, Abigail finds out her birth mother has died and left her a large sum of money, a letter telling her her father is alive, and a ticket to Los Angeles.  So many questions for a young girl who trusts no one…

I cannot wait to read the rest of this one!!!!  I’m already on pins and needles wanting to know what will happen next!


Today is the last day to enter the SOHO Teen giveaway!!!!  We will announce the winners on Monday!  Good luck and have a great weekend!

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