Second Sight by Gary Blackwood

Second Sight follows Joseph Ehrlich in 1864, the time of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.  Joseph is just an average boy living in a boardinghouse with a struggling family. However, Joseph and his father are steadily working on a clever mind reading act (a hoax) that rises up to amaze all of Washington, DC. He and his father use an elaborate verbal code to stun audiences, including the great actor John Wilkes Booth and President Lincoln.

Meanwhile, a strange, quiet girl named Cassandra and her strict father come to the boardinghouse. Joseph, curious about her shy behavior, befriends her. He discovers that Cassandra gives advice about the future as “Mademoiselle Delphine.”  Joseph suspects that her act, like his, is all a fake, but upon further searching and help from the little spy next door, he finds that Cassandra has true second sight, meaning that she can look into the future or past.

Cassandra and Joseph become the closest of friends, and Joseph’s act keeps getting better and more elaborate. Just when Joseph thinks life is the best it could be, Cassandra reveals a vision that is so unheard of that no one but Joseph believes her. She uncovers a divination that suggests that President Lincoln will be assassinated. However, her vision is very vague, so that combined with the extraordinary topic she is suggesting, not one person takes her seriously. Cassandra and Joseph struggle to save President Lincoln’s life, and change the world.

This novel blends what happened and what would have happened in this great historical fiction book. The author also manages to fit in some fantastical elements such as seeing into the future, or “Second Sight”.

Good for: 10 & up, historical fiction lovers, adventure fanatics


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The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Dwelling alone in the walls of a busy 1931 train station in France, Hugo Cabret is an orphan, a thief, and a clockmaker, living a lonely life. When Hugo finds his father’s old automaton, Hugo uses his knowledge of clocks, gears and his father’s old notebook to try to rebuild it. He dreams that the automaton has a message from his dead father, telling him more.

He decides he needs to thieve gears from the toy shop for necessary parts to the automaton, and when Hugo is caught stealing, his precious notebook are taken by the old, grumpy, owner. Even without his notebook, he tries to fix the automaton. Desperate to get his notebook back, he offers to work for his book.

Hugo is drawn to a bookshop, where he meets a bookworm, Isabelle, who promises to get the notebook back. The unlikely friends have good times together, until a single thievery leads to messes of lies and secrets tear them apart. Through the accusations, Hugo fixes the automaton, and a mystery of an important secret is revealed involving everyone around him. As he struggles to find sense in the mystery, and as many more lies and secrets unfurl, he discovers himself along the way.

Brian Selznick blends pictures and words to create a wonderful story in an interesting creation. It is the first novel to win the Caldecott Medal.

Good for: Ages 10 & up

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Crooked House by Agatha Christie

Crooked House begins by introducing our main character and detective, Charles. He is a young man that fell in love with Sophie Leonide, but, due to unfortunate circumstances, they cannot marry. Now, years later, Sophie’s grandfather has been murdered by poisonous injection. Charles, along with his police officer father and an investigator, troops to the Leonides’ house to solve the crime. However, he discovers that Sophie’s relatives are all crooked in some way and they all live together in a crooked house.

As Charles goes around the Crooked House, he discovers that all the suspects seem to have a reason and are capable of murdering poor Aristide Leonide. Everyone knew that the medicine could be dangerous and fatal. Who could it be? Everyone assumes it must be Brenda, the spoiled wife of Aristide. She could want all his riches to herself, and get her old husband out of the way. There is a possibility that it is Laurence, the tutor of the youngest Leonides, Eustace and Josephine. Rumor has it that Laurence is in love with Aristide’s (now) widow and would like to have Brenda all to himself. But maybe it is Roger, the seemingly harmless son of Mr. Leonide who has a terrible temper. Roger might have argued with Aristide Leonide about Roger’s business and taken drastic measures to win it. Yet another murder suspect is Magda, the daughter of the murdered man. Magda is a very dramatic lady who stars in many plays and perhaps wishes to add some drama to her life with a murder. She also wants her play to go public, but her father, Aristide, will not let her. The young Leonides, Josephine and Eustace, both have physical and mental problems. Eustace suffers from polio and has temper issues and Josephine is obsessed with detective novels and writes everything down in her “detective” notebook.

The plot thickens as detectives discover more murders and attempts, and their discovery shocks all, including the reader. Agatha Christie, an mystery author loved across the world, crafts a well developed and amazing novel.

Good for: 11 & up and murder mystery lovers

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Eragon by Christopher Paolini


Eragon is a fifteen-year-old farm boy, but when he goes hunting in the woods, he discovers something centuries old, something that would change his life. He finds, to put it simply, a blue rock. But this rock isn’t a rock, he later discovers, it is an egg. A dragon’s egg, at that. And only 3 dragon eggs exist, and Eragon’s egg was stolen from an evil king. With only a sword that has an ugly past, and the teachings of an old storyteller with some secrets, Eragon, his dragon, and a secret anti-Empire group must fight the evil Empire and its’ allies against all odds to save the world.

Eragon, book 1 in a trilogy, is an awesome book. It’s action packed, has great characters, and will leave you itching for more Eragon. There’s a great plot, and Paolini is a very descriptive author.

Good for: 10 & up, action lovers, fantasy addicts, adventure likers

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Silent to the Bone by E. L. Konigsburg

by Madeleine

silenttothebone2        When Branwell goes silent while talking to the 911 operator after his baby sister’s myserious accident when she stopped breathing, he is blamed fully on the accident by the family’s British nanny for dropping the baby and he is placed, temporarily, in a Juvinile Detention Center. It’s now all up to Connor, Branwell’s best friend, to solve the mystery of who made the baby stop breathing and to get Branwell to talk again. Connor uses cards with names and letters to figure out who to talk to or investigate next, but in the end, ends up turning to his sister, Margaret, who is the main character in E. L. Konigsburg’s The Outcasts of 19 Schuylar Place, which was published 3 years later. After chasing down everyone from pizza men to house cleaners, will Connor be able to prove Branwell innocent and break Branwell’s silence?

I loved Silent to the Bone because during the entire book, you can collect clues right along with Connor and try to crack the mystery even before Connor does.

Good for ages 12 and up

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The 39 Clues by Rick Riordan

The noted authothe39cluesr (Rick Riordan, see The Lightning Thief)  did not write the whole series, but he did write the first book. One of the fun things about this series is that a different author writes each book. Rick Riordan the first, Gordon Korman the second, and so on.

The begins begins as two kids, Dan and Amy Cahill, lose their grandmother Grace. She sends them a message that they can either go on a scavenger hunt against other  unfriendly, bloodthirsty extended family members, or take a million dollars, no questions asked. But if they win, and find the 39 clues that lead to the end, they will have world domination. Of course, they chose the possibly death threatening choice, or I wouldn’t be writing this review.

Dan and Amy have to search the world on basically nothing but their memories from Grace, their knowledge, and of course, from following other players. They Discover that there are different branches of “The Cahills” and that their anscestors include  Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, Edison, Houdini,  Marie Curie, and other famous and powerful people. But they are also related to the evil people too, like Napolean. Amy and Dan learn to trust no one, and are betrayed many times.

This book series is very good, and so far there are five. Since there are many authors, they come out quicker than regular books.

The 39 clues is action packed, and Dan and Amy get into a lot of life threatening positions. They travel around the world, to Germany, to Japan, to Egypt. This is one of my favorite series.

Good for: ages 8 & up, action lovers.

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What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

by Madeleine

what i saw and how i lied

 Evie’s life was about as normal as any other teen aged girl in the late 40’s, her mom made up rules like no lipstick until you’re 18, Evie and her best friend practiced smoking with candy cigarettes, and Evie’s step-dad, Joe Spooner, just came back from being a GI in World War II. Everyone was just getting into the post-war swing of things, when Evie’s step-dad drags her and her mom to Palm Beach, Florida to relax and enjoy life for a while, or at least that’s what Evie and her mom think. When Evie’s family “accidentally” runs into “movie star handsome” Peter Colerage, who served as a GI with Joe, Evie finds herself falling for Peter. After Evie gets tangled in a web of lies and when the time comes, she will have to decide if she should keep wrapping herself in lies or untangle her lies and come out with the truth, no matter how hard it might be.

I loved this suspensful, romantic mystery book so much that I couldn’t put it down. I think that every teenager can relate to Evie’s problems, from trying to find out who she is to trying to get a great guy to going against her parent’s word.

Recommended for: 13 and up

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