Harlem is home to three multi-ethnic kids. Jen watches life from the window of her family’s bodega. Alex wants to help the needy but keeps herself closed. An attack on Elvin’s grandfather has left him surviving on the streets alone. They come together to find out the truth about the grandfather’s attack. Their sleuthing leads them to a mysterious artist whose missing paintings are worth a fortune. A fortune that could save the neighborhood from development by an unscrupulous politician who wants to turn Harlem into a theme park. This exciting mystery explores what defines community, how art has the power to show truth and how we need to protect history and home.
Tessa Picks, 4th-7th grade, People of Color, Mystery, Fast paced, Friendship
Tina and her mother fled the Congo when she was five. She doesn't remember much of her life there, and her mother never talked about it. They lived as refugees, working on the estate of a rich family, the Greyhills, in Kenya until Tina's mother was murdered. Tina knows that Mr. Greyhill is the one who killed her, and she's spent the last five years since her mother's death training to become a thief with a local gang and plotting her revenge. But when that day finally comes, she's caught red-handed by Mr. Greyhill's son, her former best friend. He's convinced his father didn't kill Tina's mother, so they strike a deal to find proof. Even if that means smuggling back into the depths of a war-torn Congo.
City of Saints and Thieves is part heist, part murder mystery, and 100% thrilling. I was completely absorbed by the setting and the characters' search for justice in a place where morality is murky and hard to find. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for an absorbing, page-turning adventure.
Fighting vampires is in Micheline's blood. It's been the family business ever since Van Helsing fought Dracula, and her bloodline gives her a distinct advantage: the ability to see the aura of the undead. For her, exorcising ghosts and shooting vampires is just another day in the office. Micheline and her crew respond to emergency calls armed to the teeth with weapons both mundane and specialized, including a modified camera that can capture the spiritual energy of ghosts. But for Micheline a bad day at the office doesn't mean a paper jam. It results in her and her crew getting infected with a soulchain that will kill them in a week or less, unless they can exorcise the ghost that cursed them. With new purpose and higher stakes than ever before, Micheline does what her family has been doing for centuries: she hunts.
This is a fantastic horror story. It pays homage to Dracula while creating its own world. The explanations of the science behind the supernatural elements is satisfyingly detailed. The horror elements are truly terrifying and the plot fast-paced, except for a few passages of backstory. I particularly enjoyed that it's set in the SF Bay Area.
Hardwicke Academy: the school of choice for the children of the DC elite. It's exclusive, it's secure, and it's about to be completely rocked by its newest student. Tess Kendrick is the younger sister of infamous political fixer Ivy Kendrick. Caught in a messy affair? Need to make a story disappear? If you're lucky, and you can afford it, you'll hire Ivy to take care of all your needs and keep your secrets. Tess grew up on a farm with her grandfather, about as far away from political intrigue as you can get. But her sister's reputation has preceded her and it isn't long before Tess is fixing problems for students on campus. Their parents are power players, and their problems go beyond school drama. Soon, Tess has uncovered a major scandal that even her sister might not be able to fix. With her life on the line and her world turned upside, she needs to decide where her loyalties lie and what she's willing to risk.
The plot is relentless and full of betrayals, twists, and high stakes. Tess is a very sympathetic character as she's thrust into a world she's completely unprepared for and tries to do her best. A fantastic political thriller.
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Erica's Pick 8th grade Tags: Contemporary Fiction, Family Life, Fast-Paced, Romance, School Stories
This book, while non-fiction, reads like an adventure novel. The story of Minamoto Yoshitsune is larger than life and the bravery, betrayals, and brutal ending felt like the best kind of Hollywood epic. When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father was killed by a rival clan. Raised in a monastery, Yoshitsune was determined to escape and learn the way of the Samurai. Despite a late start in training, he became one of the most famous samurai of all time known for his fearless leadership in battle and the fierce loyalty he inspired among his men. But not everyone loved Yoshitsune, and when he was finally betrayed his death by seppuku would solidify the practice in Samurai tradition. Don't miss this thrilling tale!
Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner, Illustrated by Gareth Hinds
Erica's Picks 6th & up Tags: Adventure, Biography, Fast-Paced, History, Nonfiction, People of Color
Death can be cured and aging reversed. The need for politics and politicians has been erased by a benevolent, all-seeing artificial intelligence dubbed the Thunderhead. The only thing humanity won't let the Thunderhead dictate is who dies. So how do you ensure the population doesn't surpass what Earth can provide? Scythes. These elite arbiters of death are apprenticed in adolescence and trained in how to kill from martial arts to poison. No one is entirely sure what methods they use to select who they glean and everyone is eager to get in their good graces. But in a world beyond politics, factions are rising within the Scythe ranks and radical splinter groups are forming that enjoy the art of killing a bit too much. They are orchestrating tragedies on a scale that hasn't been seen for centuries. In the midst of this chaos two rival apprentices appear who are destined to change everything.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman Erica's Picks 7th & up Tags: Dystopian, Fast-Paced, Science Fiction
Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a tradition of practicing folk magic: hoodoo; using potions and charms to evade evil and bring good luck. A mysterious Stranger comes to town bringing evil shadows and dark nightmares. He wants something from Hoodoo and threatens the entire town to get his ends. Everybody says that the little heart shaped birthmark under Hoodoo's eye is a sign. Can he find the courage, the magic and most of all the heart to save those he loves and himself? Hoodoo learns that "Having heart is being brave, even when everything looks dark as night....Having heart is believing in yourself, if you didn't know."
Tessa's Picks, 4th grade, Horror, 3rd&4th summer 2016, People of Color.
When World War III ravaged the world a small group managed to survive in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Juneau is one of the children of these survivors and has learned how to live off the land and tap into the heart of nature to work magic. When her tribe is taken while she's out hunting she ventures out of the safe zone for the first time and what she discovers shakes her to the very core: a whole city, completely untouched. Is everything she was ever told a lie? But her tribe is still missing and she must find them. Now she has to survive in an environment she is completely unprepared for in a world where she has no idea whom to trust.
This story is told in the alternating perspectives of Juneau and Miles, the son of a pharmaceutical exec who wants to find Juneau to unlock the secret of why the adults in her tribe never age. The pacing is quick and fans of Katniss will enjoy the capable Juneau. Fans of supernatural stories will enjoy Juneau’s nature-based magic and animal lovers will enjoy Juneau's pets (dogs and a bird.)
After the End by Amy Plum
Erica's Picks 7th & 8th Grade Tags: Fast Paced, People of Color, Supernatural, Survivor
When Maisie's father gave her the middle name 'Danger' he thought he was being funny. He didn't know how apt it would turn out to be. Maisie has wanted to go to astronaut camp ever since she was a little girl, so when she sees the contest on her cereal box she figures that it couldn't hurt to apply. She is shocked to win and even more so when she's selected to be part of an elite group that gets to visit the space elevator built by the eccentric genius who runs the camp. But what starts as a prize loses its luster when things go horribly wrong. All of their lives will be changed forever as they come to grips with new abilities and try to decide who, if anyone, they can trust.
Aliens, superheroes, cool gadgets, and epic fight scenes: this book has it all. The characters are diverse and resist easy categorization into good and evil. If you’re looking for a sci-fi thriller with a super hero angle, look no further.
Dangerous by Shannon Hale
Erica's Picks 7th -8th Grade Tags: Family life, Fast Paced, Makers, People of Color, Romance, Science Fiction