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Tag: mystery

Here’s Your Fandom Fix

Game of Thrones just aired its season finale, Doctor Who doesn’t come on until September, and you’ve waited over a year for Sherlock; how are you supposed to cope?

Readalikes are your answer. Novels comparable to popular TV shows have found their way in YA fiction so now you can get for fandom fix during the hiatus of your favorite series.

Game of Thrones Readalikes:

  • false prince jennifer a nielsen coverThe False Prince (The Ascendence Trilogy) by Jennifer Neilsen-  The royal family has been murdered and in order to keep the throne out of the wrong hands, Conner, a nobleman of the court sets off to find the long lost prince who disappeared several years prior. Connor’s plan to is find, train, and groom orphans who resemble the long lost prince to keep the throne in safe hands. Sage is one of those orphans and he must fight three others to win.
  • Falling Kingdoms Series by Morgan Rhodes-The three kingdoms of Mytica fight for power and four teens from different nations are caught in the middle. Magnus, the son of the Blood King, must gain his father’s acceptance while quelling his feeling for his sister Lucia. Lucia discovers she can wield magic but is the daughter of the Blood King who condemns all magic. Cleo is a beautiful and beloved princess and has suffered a terrible tragedy and must find a way back to her rightful throne. Jonas, a rebel, vows to avenge the wrongful death of his brother. They all seek the throne and through this six book series, readers follow their favorite character on their journey to claim Mytica.
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Genre Blend: Historical Fiction and Mysteries

"Postcards and magnifying glass" by Anna - Flickr: records. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Postcards_and_magnifying_glass.jpg#/media/File:Postcards_and_magnifying_glass.jpg
“Postcards and magnifying glass” by Anna – Flickr: records. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I am a huge fan of mysteries, especially during the summer! I love a good page-turner that keeps me guessing until the very last page. A great thing about mysteries are that they also work well when they are blended with other genres.  One of my newest favorite genre blends are historical fiction and mysteries! If you are also a fan, or have yet to explore this genre blend, check out some of the titles below to get you started!

 

 

 

Death CloudDeath Cloud by Andrew Lane (2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Set in the summer of 1868, fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes is sent to live with his aunt and uncle where he uncovers two mysterious deaths that appear to be plague victims. However, Sherlock suspects that these deaths are not what they seem so he sets out to investigate and uncover the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

northern light donnelly printzA  Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2004 Printz Honor Book, 2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2004 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2004 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults)

Based on the true story of the 1906 Gilette murder case, Maggie is working the summer at a nearby inn, when one of the guests drowns.  Mysterious circumstances surround the death, including Maggie’s own involvement and interactions with the victim.

 

 

 

 

A Spy in the House by Y.S. LeeA Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

In Victorian London, Mary is saved from the gallows at the last minute and sent to a school where she is secretly trained to be a spy.  She is eventually selected to work a case where she is undercover as a lady’s companion to investigate a wealthy merchant’s shady business dealings.

 

 

 

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2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden
Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden

This past year I had the immense pleasure to serve as chair for the 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. It was a really great year for audiobooks and my committee was fortunate to consider a total of 395 audiobooks for our selection list!  After hours and hours of listening, we had to whittle down a list of no more than 30 selections that were the year’s best.  If you have not yet had a chance to checkout our list you can see it here.  It was released last week, after the Midwinter Conference.

We also had the even more difficult task of selecting our Top Ten Audiobooks of the year. Below are our Top Ten titles for 2015, along with a suggested listen-a-like, in case you are ahead of the game and have already listened to these Top Ten selections.

2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten

  • ACID by Emma Pass, read by Fiona Hardingham with Nicholas Guy Smith and Suzan Crowley. Listening Library, 2014. 10 hours, 48 minutes; 9 discs. 978-0-8041-6832-8.

The brutal police state ACID rules all, so when Jenna is broken out of prison by a rebel group she has to fight to survive as ACID’s most-wanted fugitive.  Unique ACID reports and recordings read by Smith and Hardingham’s excellent pace combine with her authentic teen voice to highlight this exciting story.

Listen-a-Like:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham: For those listeners who are looking for another title narrated by Fiona Hardingham that is packed with action and adventure and that has a strong female main character. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2012,  2012 Odyssey Honor  Audiobook)

acidaudioscorpioracesaudio

  • Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quick.  Hachette Audio, 2013.  9 hours, 30 minutes, 8 discs, ISBN: 978-1-4789-2648-1.

In the second installment of the Finishing School series, Sophronia and her classmates use their training to search for a dangerous device that may have fallen into the wrong hands.  Quick’s lively narration highlights the wit and humor in Carriger’s story.

Listen-a-Like:

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison: The Finishing School series, narrated by Quirk, is filled with sly humor but also packs a punch with Sophronia’s adventures.  Likewise, The Screaming Staircase is not only is an action-packed steampunk mystery, but Raison brings variety to her narration by highlighting the nuances of the quirky cast of characters characters, including the darkly comedic Anthony Lockwood. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014)

curtsies and conspiracies audio  screaming staircase audio

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Genre Guide: Spy Fiction

By Employee(s) of Universal Studios (Photograph in possession of SchroCat) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Employee(s) of Universal Studios (Photograph in possession of SchroCat) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Definition
Spy fiction is a sub-genre of mysteries and thrillers. For a novel to be considered spy fiction, some form of espionage must be present in the plot. This can include one person as a spy, or a whole agency of spies.  Spy fiction can be set in the present day, past, and future. When spy fictions are written for teens, the protagonist or protagonists are often inexperienced and considered amateur sleuths.

Authors to Know

Characteristics
Spy fiction must have action and adventure. Though some have it outright, others may have more of a cerebral approach.  The main character or characters have a mission that is given to them at the start of the story.  This can be a mission that they adopt themselves or one that is handed to them by a higher-up.  Oftentimes, spy fiction involves some kind of political entity, either employing the spy or working against them. In spy fiction, good and bad parties are clearly defined.  Most often, we are receiving the story from the good guy’s point of view, and that good guy is the spy.   However, readers must always beware of the double agent!  Unless part of a series, most spy fiction novels end with justice.  However, before justice is carried out the reader is usually led on a series of twists and turns and kept guessing as to if the main character will be victorious in the end.  Spy fictions are usually set in the past, alternate past, or present, and rarely are they set in the future.

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Celebrate the Day of the Dead with These YA Novels

day of the dead by violetdragonfly
Image by violetdragonfly

In just a few days, The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) will be celebrated in Mexico, other Latin American countries and a large number of U.S. cities.  Celebration dates vary from October 31st through November 2nd. On the Day of the Dead, people remember and pray for family members and friends who have passed.  To celebrate the dearly departed, it is common to visit their graves and to create altars which often include marigolds, photos of the deceased and items that were important to them in life.

Communities, libraries and schools all over are currently making final preparations for their own Day of the Dead celebrations.  I’ve attended the Santa Ana, California celebration several times, and am always amazed by the range of altars that families and local organizations create in honor of loved ones and various causes.  The festivities also include Mexican folk music, face painting, sweet bread (pan de muerto) and Mexican hot chocolate.  If you live near a Day of the Dead celebration yourself, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

You can also see The Book of Life, a beautifully crafted new animated film in current release which includes a Day of the Dead celebration.  And of course you can always celebrate by reading one or more of the following YA novels (and one adult graphic novel) in which the Day of the Dead plays a role!

tequila worm viola canalesIn The Tequila Worm (2006 Pura Belpré Award winner), Viola Canales writes a semi-autobiographical story about Sofia, a Mexican-American teen who has grown up in a Latino neighborhood in South Texas.  Her excellent work in school earns her a scholarship to attend a prestigious and mainly white boarding school over 300 miles away from her family.  Much of the novel centers on Sofia’s efforts to convince her parents to let her attend this school.  Throughout the novel, family traditions and celebrations are described, including those connected with the Day of the Dead.  There’s lots of humor in this novel, yet it also covers serious ground including discrimination, the difficulty of separation from family and death.

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Gothic, Horror, and Mysteries: YA Fiction for Fans of Edgar Allan Poe

It’s the time of year where readers start asking for creepy and the supernatural, and teens flock to stories of gothic horror and murder mysteries. There’s no shortage of young adult fiction in these genres and there’s even quite the list of Poe-inspired works. This is a list to satisfy those with an appetite for the macabre or mysterious!

young adult fiction for fans of edgar allan poe | YALSA's The Hub

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Genre Guide: Mysteries for Teens

Definition

Image by Wikimedia Commons user Alterego
Image by Wikimedia Commons user Alterego

The definition for teen mysteries seems to be slightly less strictly defined as in comparison to their adult counterparts.  First, there is usually “something” to solve.  Generally, it is a crime, but in some cases it can be a secret that is not necessarily illegal or punishable by law.  For example, why someone killed themselves or discovering that someone is cheating in a contest or academic endeavor.  Also, while adult mystery novels usually have detectives at work at solving mysteries, in teen novels it is often an average teen with an inquisitive nature–someone who is a true amateur.

Teen mysteries are similar to their adult counterparts, however, when it comes to the plot unfolding.  The clues are presented to the main character(s) and to the reader, and steps are taken as to get more information to discover the how, what, why, who, and sometimes even the where and when.  Ultimately, we are given the final reveal at the end of the novel.

Authors to Know

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The Mystery of Veronica Mars: Best Teen Sleuth Of Our Time–Or All Time?

Auntie P flickr magnifying glass
image from Aunti P’s flickr

The teen sleuth has a long history in children’s and young adult literature.  During the twentieth century,  popular children’s fiction became an increasingly profitable market.  Large companies like the Stratemeyer Syndicate and its publishing partner Grosset and Dunlap produced masses of series fiction, finding especially great success with adventure and mystery series for children and teens.  Though these titles were first published in the 1930s and ’40s, many of the characters remain well-known cultural figures.  For example, Nancy Drew continues to appear in novels, video games, and even a feature film as recently as 2007.  Kid and teen detectives from Encyclopedia Brown and the Red Blazer Girls to the Hardy Boys and Gallagher Girls continue to fly off the shelves in libraries and bookstores.

In middle school, I devoured every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on before moving on to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie and Martha Grimes. But I’ve always been looking for a new smart & savvy teen sleuth–and when Veronica Mars premiered during my final years of high school, I knew I’d found my girl.  The character and the show appealed to me then as a young adult and a mystery reader–and it continues to appeal to me now, as a fan of the genre and young adult literature as a whole. Veronica Mars is simply a terrific example of storytelling for and about young adults–in addition to being a great mystery series.

The series can trace a connection to young adult literature back to its initial creation.  Before he brought the teen sleuth back into popular culture, Rob Thomas wrote and published a young adult novel,  Rats Saw God, a 1997 Best Books for Young Adults selection, recently re-released in a new edition.   In an interview with The Austin ChronicleThomas explains that his creation of Rats Saw God–and later Veronica Mars–drew on his experiences during his first post-college job as a high school journalism teacher.   So what qualities did Thomas’ writing include that made the show work so well in the world of young adult media? 

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Put Your Trust in an Unreliable Narrator

photo attributed to Flickr user w00kie
photo attributed to Flickr user w00kie

Some of my favorite novels are those where the narrator is unreliable.  This is usually  due to an impaired mental state like schizophrenia or amnesia.  Whatever the case, unreliable narrators don’t usually present themselves right away, but when they do they seem to turn the novel you are reading upside down–and I love it when that happens!  Reading becomes exciting, because you realize that you don’t know where the story is going and you have to decide: are you going to risk it and put your trust in your narrator or are you going to be suspicious of him or her all the way to the last page?

There has been a bit of buzz about unreliable narrators recently.  Teen Librarian Toolbox recently posted about unreliable narrators, inspired by reading Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead.  Beth Revis posted a cool look at why she thinks unreliable narrators are so popular right now and why she chose to make her main character in Across the Universe unreliable.  Finally, check out this post on Stacked that talks about the mini-trend of amnesia fiction.  Generally if your main character has amnesia, there is something unreliable about them; they are missing some key parts of their memory that would definitely make the mystery easier to solve.

If you’re interested in taking a chance with an unreliable narrator, then check out the list of titles I compiled below.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Is This Just Fantasy?: A Magical Mystery Tour

Just Fantasy icon magical mystery tourYes, I went there–I titled my reoccurring feature on fantasy fiction with a lyric from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  But, I swear I have a reason beyond a personal enjoyment of seemingly random pop culture references.  Allow me to explain.  I love fantasy fiction; it’s one of the few genres I’ve faithfully read from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood.  Since my first journey into Narnia guided by my mother’s expressive reading voice, I have consumed fantasy fiction of practically every type, style, and sub-genre.  I have dressed up as Hermione Granger, nearly hyperventilated upon meeting Tamora Pierce, Susan Cooper, and Kristin Cashore, and disappeared for hours at a time into a faraway fictional world, only to emerge simultaneously invigorated and exhausted.  And that’s all just the last five years.

However, my deep affection and passion for this genre is not shared by everyone.  Last week,  I co-wrote a post with brilliant fellow fantasy fan Chelsea Condren in response to British novelist Joanna Trollope’s disparaging comments about fantasy fiction.  While we worked to counter Trollope’s specific arguments, rushing to the defense of fantasy is sadly not a new personal experience.  This genre–and its many offshoots–is all too often viewed as ‘merely escapist,’ ‘unconnected to the real world,’ or ‘lacking in substance.’  But as Chelsea and I tried to express, the depth and complexity present in fantasy fiction cannot be so easily dismissed.

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