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Getting His Start: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

It is time for another book review!

This one is an audiobook and I listened to it as part of the 2012 YA Audiobook Challenge  Death Cloud by Andrew Lane.  Death Cloud, is actually the first book in the Young Sherlock Holmes series detailing where and how the famous British detective got his start.  Also, I received this review copy of the audiobook from the super nice people at MacMillan Audio- thank you!

Death Cloud by Andrew LaneThe year is 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. His life is that of a perfectly ordinary army officer’s son: boarding school, good manners, a classical education – the backbone of the British Empire. But all that is about to change. With his father suddenly posted to India, and his mother mysteriously ‘unwell’, Sherlock is sent to stay with his eccentric uncle and aunt in their vast house in Hampshire. So begins a summer that leads Sherlock to uncover his first murder, a kidnap, corruption and a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent . . .

Okay. So I have to be completely honest here; I haven’t read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,  but I have always been intrigued by the character and I do own a copy of them all.  So, I’m not a complete classic fiction failure right?!

Can we also talk about the idea of looking at classic fictional characters as teenagers?! How fun is that?!   Let’s get working on a teenage Elizabeth Bennett or a young Hercule Poirot!  I would seriously read them! This is why I was drawn to Death Cloud when I first saw it- come on a teenage Sherlock Holmes?  YES!

Lane creates a cool collected, level-headed, although sometimes incredibly stubborn teenage boy who has all the reasoning skills, without the knowledge (enter is new American tutor).  What I found really interesting about Lane’s portrayal of Sherlock is that he is kind of a social outcast in school.  He knows the other students and sits among them in classes, but doesn’t really have any friends. In fact, Sherlock has never really had any friends growing up, and because of it he is a bit socially awkward at times.   This is incredibly interesting as one would think that those who grow up privileged in an area where you are the wealthiest family, one might not be allowed to know the other children.  But there also seems to be the fact that Sherlock’s precociousness seems to put him on a different plane than the other boys in his school.

My boys at school are usually not into historical fiction (although some of my girls are) so I’ve been debating whether or not to add Death Cloud to my Media Center catalog or not.   My students just don’t have much interest in historical fiction (arrgghh the truth hurts my historical fiction loving heart!)  That being said  this story is pretty action packed, especially once Sherlock and the mystery get underway, so I think I’m going to give it a try and talk it up to some of my boys who enjoy the Alex Rider books, because there are definitely similarities between the two.

Overall, I really enjoyed the audiobook narrator, Daniel Weyman, who apparently mostly does theater work. His voices and accents were consistent the whole way through, although his American accent was slightly humorous to me because it was such a stereotypical southern accent.  I guess that’s how we sound to everyone else! haha

I really enjoyed this book and if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan or a fan of historical fiction you’ll probably have fun with it too!  It is intended for readers 12 and up, so I’d say that anyone who likes a good mystery would appreciate Death Cloud.

Author: Andrew Lane

Publisher: MacMillan Audio (February 1, 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 7 hours and 17 minutes

Narrator(s): Daniel Weyman

Series: Book 1 in the Young Sherlock Homes series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Death Cloud (Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins)

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Waiting On Wednesday: Bitterblue

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Hi there everyone!

Bitterblue by Kristin CashoreWaiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I just finished Fire by Kristin Cashore, the second book in the Graceling Realms series. I adored Graceling (the first book) and loved Fire just as much if not more! Cashore’s writing is so smooth and poetic and draws you without you even realizing how hooked you are!

Now, Kristin Cashore’s third book in the series, Bitterblue, is scheduled to be released on May 1, 2012. Its just a few weeks away! It seems that everyone is excited about reading Bitterblue, and I’m no different!

Here’s the summary for Bitterblue.

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Ohh the idea of a grown up Bitterblue is so intriguing. She’s a young girl in Graceling so I’m excited to see her as an older and wiser character…and as queen!

The book trailer is pretty good too and sums up the whole series as well.

What books are you trying to patiently wait for?

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Just Enough: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Hello, and how are you today?  Lets talk The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is pure dystopian fiction; and I love it!  My husband and I listened to the audiobook together (just like we did for The Hunger Games series) and we’re pumped to start the sequel, The Scorch Trials!

So, as much as I hate doing this I must make a comparison to The Giver by Lois Lowery, but its a super positive comparison, so never fear!  One aspect I loved about The Maze Runner, and also appreciated in The Giver, is the way in which the reader and the narrator are finding things out at the same time.  Because Thomas wakes up in an elevator with no memory except his name (I mean just imagine that!) he knows absolutely nothing about the situation he’s about to enter, which is exactly how it is for the reader.  In some way, this technique made me really feel as though I was actually Thomas experiencing everything about The Glade for the first time.

Dashner’s writing completely captures you from the very beginning.  Here see for yourself,

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale dusty air.  Metal ground against metal; a lurching shudder shook the floor beneath him.  He fell down at the sudden movement and shuffled backward on his hands and feet, drops of sweat beading on his forehead despite the cool air.

Boom!  I was hooked!  Dashner had me concerned for the main character within the first few sentences.  Plus, the world he creates in The Glade is so well thought out he even introduces new vocabulary (shuck, greenie, shank, slopper) that is used by The Gladers, further sucking you into this new and creepy world.   My husband and I loved the Glader slang so much we even started incorporating into our own conversations (we’re not nerds or anything!).

In The Glade, the Gladers never really feel safe because they have no idea why they were there and who was watching.  As a reader you completely get this feeling of danger and insecurity around every corner because  you’re there right alongside the characters, learning everything as they do. This ties in to how strong a writer Dasher is.  He manages to tell you just enough, without telling you so much that it ruins it.  Just enough to creep you out and make you want more at the same time.  For example, Dashner never over describes the way the Grievers look.  He writes just enough detail and information to give you the basic idea of them and let your mind do the rest.  It’s like he understands that our minds can form more horrific images than anyone could ever put into words.  The creators of Signs, (you know the Mel Gibson alien movie) should have taken some tips from Dashner and never have shown us exactly what the aliens looked like because that was the exact moment it stopped being scary for me.

Okay, I have to make a comparison to another classic book; The Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  In Lord of the Flies, you have teenagers on their own forced to create their own mini society with no adults, which is exactly what you have in The Maze Runner.  Golding’s approach has the society swiftly falling apart and melting into mass chaos, where as Dasher does the exact opposite.  The society that forms in The Glade, is one based on organization and hard work.  The older teens, who’ve been in the Glade the longest, know that without this organization and work, everyone would go crazy with fear, so it’s a necessity to keep them all sane and alive.  I like this take on an only teen civilization.  Although I work in a middle school and sometimes believe the Lord of the Flies scenario is much closer to what would actually happen if adults suddenly ceased to exist, I appreciated the idea that maybe I’m wrong.

Honestly, I hope a production company picks The Maze Runner up and makes it into a movie.  I really think the style of this book could easily work into a film; as long as they don’t show me too much of the Grievers!  If you’re a fan of dystopian lit, definitely don’t pass up The Maze Runner. I think it could be slightly scary for younger middle school readers, but could be enjoyed by anyone older.

I’m excited to read the rest of the series!

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Listening Library; Unabridged edition (October 6, 2009)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 10 hrs, and 50 mins

Series: First in a trilogy

YA/MG: Young Adult

Buy the Book: The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1)