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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

Sleuth or Dare Book 3

Framed and Dangerous (Sleuth or Dare, #3)
by Kim Harrington

Who’s the culprit?

Norah and Darcy are still in a fight, but crime doesn’t stop just because the girls aren’t speaking. Someone has set fire to their school’s brand-new field house. And the prime suspect is Zane Munro, the cute boy Norah can’t help crushing on.

When Zane asks Partners in Crime for help, Norah and Darcy must band together to investigate. Norah knows Zane is innocent, but the clues are not in his favor. Can she and Darcy mend their friendship, crack the case, and clear Zane’s name before it’s too late? (goodreads.com)

October means Halloween! Therefore October requires many The Right Mood sort of books. Mysteries, suspense, thriller, etc. I finally made myself pick up and finish the last of the three Sleuth or Dare books that I had. It’s short and fun so I knew it wouldn’t take long. So I put the school stuff away one night and just curled up in bed and read this for an hour.

Although this is probably my lest favourite of the three books, Framed and Dangerous is still a great mystery and a fun read. I didn’t like it as much because there was a little too much of a focus on Norah and her crush on Zane and that’s just not something that interests me in books – BUT! (and yes, there is a BUT!) I found the entire crush scenario to be completely realistic and spot on for that age.

That’s one of the things I really like about these books is how I can believe that 12-year olds are the protagonists. Kim Harrington is excellent at bringing pre-teens to life in her writing. From the girl reactions to the boy reactions. They don’t all do miraculous things above and beyond their ability. It’s all very real… and FUN at the same time. They all just started Junior High, right, so they have Jr High characteristics and feelings and dialogue. (Except written in a very Rated G fashion. I know too many 12-year olds who swear like sailors in real life. Ugh.)

I can absolutely say that I would have read and loved this series when I was 8-11 years old. I loved Nancy Drew, but she was a teen who could drive a car and did get away with some seriously unbelievable things.  Also her stories were mostly about the mystery itself and didn’t really deal with high school life. These Sleuth or Dare books combine solving mysteries with trying to get through your pre-teen years. Jealousy among friends as you both grow older and your world encompasses more than just each other. The fight between Norah and Darcy is so freaking believable and true on so many levels. Finding out the popular kid is nice, that the boy you like might like you and how hard it is to speak without blushing when he’s around.

I felt like a kid again going through all of these things (and thinking, Thank GODS I am not 12 anymore!) but also feeling wistful for now Big! and Important! and New! everything you did or said back then was.

In Quebec, High School starts in 7th grade (so I was 12 going in) and ends with 11th grade  (I was 17 going out). But whether your starting high school or junior high, at the age of 12 everything is SO REAL and just in your face. You learn, you grow, you obsess over what the right thing to wear or say is. You feel SO MUCH, you feel ALL OF  THE THINGS at the same time.

And you know what? Norah and Darcy are great role models for that age because although they are nerdy and different they are HAPPY WITH WHO THEY ARE and have each other. It’s a learning experience for them to suddenly find that other people do like them even if they call them nerds or geeks. They are themselves and the lesson they impart is that it’s ok to not follow the crowds and be sheep. If you stay true to who you are you might be surprised about how many people will eventually accept that and embrace you for it.

Seriously, read these little mysteries if you like middle grade – or have middle graders. They are worth it.

Sleuth or Dare

  1. Partners in Crime
  2. Sleepover Stakeout
  3. Framed and Dangerous

Mini-Reviews: Scars, Sleuth or Dare Books 1 & 2

Yeah, so, you may have noticed that I have been a slacker-pants and haven’t posted anything in forever. Well, I have been so bucy I just don’t have TIME for anything. But the OCD part of me can’t let this blog go without having a post for every book I read, so I’m combining some into one. Weird mix because, well, YA ISSUE NOVEL and MIDDLE GRADE MYSTERY aren’t exactly the same thing.

Scars
by Cheryl Rainfield

Kendra, fifteen, hasn’t felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can’t remember the most important detail– her abuser’s identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it’s her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who’s becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra’s abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. (goodreads.com)

(Read September 3) You know me and my issue novel obsession, so of course I really, really wanted to love this one. I just couldn’t get into it fully though. I find I am very picky when I read novels about cutting. Sometimes I feel like it’s just so forced that it seems like it was written just for shock value. I didn’t quite feel that way about Scars, but it flirted the line between real and over-the-top in my mind. I think my main problem with the book was how it seemed as though there was too much going on at once. Kendra had a ton of issues, including being followed and threatened by some mystery person. I couldn’t decide if this book wanted to be a mystery/suspense or an issue novel. Have to say I was completely surprised by the ending though and for that I liked the book much more than I would have.  Also, I’m not belittling the emotional seriousness of the topic, but my own personal history just makes me a lot more picky about how these issues are presented in a book. Yet, I can’t seem to get enough of them. 😉

Partners in Crime (Sleuth or Dare, #1)
by Kim Harrington

Whodunit?

When best friends Darcy and Norah have to create a fake business for a school assignment, they come up with a great idea: a detective agency! Darcy loves mysteries, and Norah likes helping people, so it’s a perfect fit.

But then their pretend agency gets a real case. Someone is missing, and it’s up to Darcy and Norah to take on the search. Unfortunately, there’s someone else out there who doesn’t want the two detectives stirring up any trouble. . . .

With the help of hidden clues, spy gadgets, and trusted friends, can Darcy and Norah crack the case in time? (goodreads.com)

(Read September 13) If you’re looking for a fun, cute middle grade mystery for your kids (or your grown-up self), look no further than these Sleuth or Dare books by Kim Harrington. If you recall I raved about her YA series (Clarity & Perception) earlier this year. They were honest-to-goodness fun mysteries à la Nancy Drew or Buffy. The lovely Gail from Ticket to Anywhere picked up the three MG books for me at an event near here this summer. I found the mystery in the first book pretty interesting and original and I was enjoying it immensely. One thing did bother me though and it has to do with the ending so I don’t even know how to explain it without spoiling the end of the mystery. It was something that REALLY bothered me though. Maybe I’ll post it in comments and you can not read it if you haven’t read the books.

Sleepover Stakeout (Sleuth or Dare, #2)
by Kim Harrington

WHO’S OUT THERE?

Norah and Darcy’s detective agency, Partners in Crime, is taking on a new and chilling case. The girls’ classmate, Maya, is hearing strange, crackling voices coming over the baby monitor while she’s babysitting late at night. Maya is worried someone might be in danger.

To help investigate, Norah and Darcy join her for a sleepover stakeout. In between eating snacks and watching TV, the girls are on high alert for anything suspicious. Soon, they stumble upon a mysterious secret they never could have imagined — but Norah and Darcy clash over how to interpret the new clues.

Can the girls get past their differences to see their way to the truth? (goodreads.com)

(Read September 23) This series continued to entertain me and make me long for the days of reading The Babysitter’s Club and Judy Blume books. They are short and the mysteries are well written so you think you’re onto something dark and dangerous but not too scary! I did, however, find this book much scarier than the first (and I say scary in a light-hearted way). Hearing voices through a baby monitor is something that freaks me out though, so I was just as nervous as Darcy, Norah and Maya while they were out late at night. There’s something about this series that just makes me happy. I’d likely have loved them all when I was under 10. The dialogue is realistic, the characters are very imaginable as middle graders (with the discovery of first crushes, cool crowds, fitting in) and they are pretty likable, too. I had totally planned on finishing all three books in September but that didn’t happen. Which is sad because these aren’t very long books! I just have so little time to focus on anything anymore.

And that’s all she wrote, folks. I have two more books to blog about and I will give them each their own posts. At some point. Maybe this weekend. It’s a long weekend here (oh, hi, post-dated post! Look at me writing from the future!) but I have a group project and research paper to work on, so… we’ll see.

Clarity & Perception

Clarity (Clarity, #1)
by Kim Harrington

Don’t close your eyes. Except when the truth is too dark to bear.Clarity “Clare” Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It’s a gift.And a curse.When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case — but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare’s brother — who has supernatural gifts of his own — becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most? (goodreads.com)

I don’t normally write about multiple books in one post, but since I finished both Clarity and Perception right after each other, I thought I’d double up!

First things first, I am now having some harsh words with myself about not having picked up Clarity last year when it came out. It was one of the books I put on my 2011 Debut YA Author Challenge list, but for some reason, I was too chicken to pick up the hard cover. I was so worried that I would be disappointed and have spent money on the hard cover for nothing. Yet, I knew that I wanted to read this book. I heard so many great things about it! I was a big ol’ chicken pants and for that, I am mad at myself!

However, when I received Perception from Scholastic Canada in the fall, I made myself put Clarity on pre-order for the paperback. I would read this and then the sequel.

I did that this past weekend. In a day I’d gone through both the first and second books and let me tell you, I am HOOKED.

Eat your heart out, Nancy Drew! This book is high on the mystery and thrill and has some paranormal elements written in, but not in your typical Supernatural Creature of the Week way. Sure, Clare and her family have some sort of fancy mental abilities, but there’s also murder! And kidnapping! And intrigue!

I loved so much about Clarity that I was almost kicking myself for waiting so long as I was patting myself on the back for waiting until I had the second book within reach so I could pick it up as soon as I was done with the first.

Clare Fern is strong, witty and smart. She’s been picked on her entire life, but that’s made her a better person I think. She’s able to verbally spar with her taunters. Witty comebacks and whatnot. It’s awesome. She’s got a complicated relationship with her ex, but wins mega points in my books for dumping someone who cheated on you – even if it was an accident.

There’s a love triangle (yawn) that is only in the early stages in Clarity, it’s much more prominent in Perception, so I tried to ignore it the best I could. I did sort of feel like all of the boys Clare spoke with has some sort of undying torch burning for her – including her brother’s best friend, Nate, but whatever. That’s just the way books are written these days and I have to accept that.

What really, totally rocked for me was the writing and pacing of the story. It’s been ages since I read a good mystery that kept me changing my mind time and time again over who the Big Bad was going to be.  Just when I was sure it was going to be Person A, I’d be suspicious of Person B and then on to Person D and so on.  When I exclaimed “Ah HA! I KNEW IT!” at the end, well, I didn’t really. Not until just before all was revealed. Since I had almost everyone we’d met on my list of suspects, I was pretty sure I’d be yelling “Ah HA!” no matter who it had been. heh

I’d picked up Perception even before I’d updated Goodreads that I’d finished Clarity. You have to understand that I am completely OCD about updating my blog and GR when I am finished a book. I do it in real time. I don’t wait. But this time? I waited. Why? Because I had to read THIS:

Perception (Clarity, #2)
by Kim Harrington

When you can see things others can’t, what do you do when someone’s watching you?

Everybody knows about Clarity “Clare” Fern. She’s the psychic girl in school, the one who can place her hands on something and see hidden visions from the past.

Only Clare would rather not be a celebrity. She prefers hanging back, observing. Her gift is not a game to her.

But then someone starts playing with her head . . . and heart. Messages and gifts from a secret admirer crop up everywhere Clare turns. Could they be from Gabriel, the gorgeous boy who gets Clare’s pulse racing? Or from Justin, Clare’s hopeful ex-boyfriend who’d do anything to win her back?

One thing is certain. Clare needs to solve this mystery, and soon. Because the messages are becoming sinister, and a girl in town has suddenly disappeared. (goodreads.com)

Yes, I was totally suspicious of everyone in this book, too! In fact, I was actually surprised by the ending because I was sure it was going to be one of two other characters and I was WRONG. I was so hoping that I’d be right with one of them, though, because I think that would have been really original and I would have applauded Kim Harrington’s daring! Alas, my suspicion was fruitless though I was completely skeeved out by the actual culprit. I even shuddered at one point. Rare for me while reading.

I’m impressed by how Clare manages to handle the bullying and taunting that she goes through in both books. She’s a pretty strong character and though it obviously bothers her, Clare seems to have a dignity that many of us lack in her response. I hate that she’s picked on and used, but each and every time I think “Wow, I’m impressed” when she turns away rather than hides or lashes out.

The one downfall to this story was the very obvious love-triangle aspect. I tried my best to ignore it but I was becoming rather frustrated each time it popped up. I’d have enjoyed much more focus on Perry and his problems than which boy Clare thought she had feelings for. Oh, well.

Both Clarity and Perception were such exciting reads that I am a little bummed out that I don’t have any more books in this series to read right now. They were exactly what I needed this weekend to get me out of my funk and help me unwind.

I love(d) Nancy Drew books growing up and though I find them a little hokey now that I re-read them, these books by Kim Harrington are filling that void. I LOVED these books and truly appreciated the delightful mysteries that they solved. In fact, for the beginning of Perception, I even felt like the narration sounded similar to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. It made me laugh and the characters voice was just right.

I cannot wait for more books in this series! Completely unrelated, I love that the author’s last name is the same as my best friend’s last name. heh. I support all things Harrington!

Clarity series

  1. Clarity
  2. Perception

 

In My Mailbox #51

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

All my IMM posts can be found here!

First week back on the picket line wasn’t so bad, except for the cold I seem to have caught. Obviously some of the Canadian publishers thought they’d help cheer me up by sending me some surprises! Cannot wait to read all of these books!

For review:

The Scholastic Canada books were gifts from the event I attended last weekend (post here). I swear I feel like Christmas came a month early for me. I can’t wait to read all of these books! Trying very hard to hold off on the spring 2012 ones though. I don’t know if my willpower will be strong enough.