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Randalee Gross

Randalee has a flare for adventure in life and literature. After traveling around the world she has recently settled in Baltimore to explore all the city has to offer. Having received an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and a Master's degree in Library Science from Emporia State University she is excited to utilize her experiences at Baltimore County Public Library. She loves discussing literature from OK! magazine to Crime and Punishment though her favorite genres are teen fiction, general fiction, mystery, suspense, and science fiction. Her favorite work perks are reading to children and talking books with patrons and coworkers. After work she spends her time at the gym, playing pool, watching movies and reading of course. 

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Bloggers

 

Nordic Crime Fiction

Nordic Crime Fiction

posted by:
January 30, 2014 - 10:20am

Death of a NightingaleLene Kaaberbøl’s Death of a Nightingale begins with Olga and Oxana, two sisters growing up in the Ukraine during the time when Stalin was considered their uncle, whether they liked it or not. During that time, it was hard to tell what was right and what was wrong because regardless of what one did, there was someone who said it was wrong. Olga and Oxana‘s family did what it had to do to get by during famine, but it’s not until years later that the reader sees the ripples of the sisters’ actions.

 

In the current day, Nina, a Danish nurse with the Red Cross, has taken charge of looking after the asthmatic daughter of Natasha, a woman who was convicted of attempting to kill her abusive fiancé. When Nina agreed to take extra care of this young girl, she didn’t realize protecting her from harm could include keeping her safe from people trying to kill or kidnap her. She becomes entangled in a situation far more dangerous than she could have imagined.

 

The timing coincides with Natasha’s escape from custody as she sets off to find her daughter and right the wrongs of her past. It is after Natasha’s escape that her ex-fiancé is found tortured and killed in a similar fashion to her ex-husband’s. Although police suspect Natasha, Nina has suspicions that something more is going on. Now she becomes ensnared with keeping Katerina safe at all costs, even if that means saving her from her own mother.

 

It’s not until the end of this roller coaster of a novel that the reader sees how Olga and Oxana’s past actions have created this tense situation. Though this novel can be read as a stand-alone book, it’s the third in the Nina Borg series. Those who enjoy Nordic crime novels such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are sure to find edge-of-your-seat satisfaction with this series as well.

Randalee

 
 

Gothic, Punk Wonderland

Unhinged by A.G. HowardA.G. Howard creates a new twist on an old tale in her Splinte  red trilogy. Unhinged is the newly released second installment of this gothic and modern rendition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Howard plays on the fact that Carroll based his novel off of a girl he knew, Alice Liddell. In Howard’s debut young adult novel Splintered, the reader is introduced to Alyssa Gardner who is a descendant of Alice Liddell.

 

When Alyssa was young she began to hear insects and plants talking to her, causing her to fear that she would go crazy like her mother and the other women in her family. The only way she can break the curse and free her mother from the binds of insanity is to jump down the rabbit hole and right the wrongs of Alice Liddell. Her adventures in Wonderland leave a lasting impression, and Alyssa becomes forever tied to the ethereal realm.

 

Unhinged picks up one year after Alyssa’s return to the mortal world, where she is doing her best to live a normal life. Because she is so consumed with preparations for prom, graduation, college and planning her future with her boyfriend Jeb, she tries to ignore the whisperings of trouble in Wonderland. When her wonderland mentor Morpheus comes to explain the dire situation, Alyssa is forced to acknowledge that there is a problem. Despite initially feeling like it’s not her problem, she quickly changes her tune when Wonderland begins to spill over into the mortal world.

 

Howard manages to weave together a rich combination of dark and gothic with colorful and creepy to create a unique world Tim Burton fans are sure to appreciate. This trilogy is one of those series that has the ability to cross over from young adult fiction to adult, so don’t hesitate to pick it up for a paranormal adventure.

Randalee

 
 

FBI Teen Task Force

FBI Teen Task Force

posted by:
November 13, 2013 - 7:55am

Cover art for The NaturalsJennifer Lynn Barnes, author of the Raised by Wolves series, has a newly released book, The Naturals. This novel is the first installment in a new Young Adult series. Barnes has a penchant for writing in the paranormal genre, but The Naturals is borderline realistic crime fiction.

 

Cassandra Hobbes is a “Natural,” even if she doesn’t know it yet. When she was very young, her mother Lorelai claimed that she was a psychic, when really she just profiled people based on small details she could glean from their appearance and comportment. Lorelai taught her daughter the tricks to profiling people so that she could help with her mother’s act. It is this ability to read people that sets Cassie apart.

 

After Lorelai’s disappearance and presumed death, Cassie had to move in with her grandmother because her father was serving in the military oversees.  Cassie has never felt like she fits in with her family, so when she is confronted by an FBI agent who asks her to move to Washington D.C. and join a special team of talented teens, she jumps at the opportunity. The eclectic group of gifted teens is brought together under one roof where they can hone their skills and help the FBI by working on cold cases.

 

The Naturals is equal parts Shadowlands by Kate Brian and the television series Criminal Minds, with interactions that are reminiscent of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. The crime, action and sometimes gruesome depictions of murder scenes will take the reader on a wild ride, while the character development and smattering of romance will help to ease the tension.
 

Randalee

 
 

In the Spirit of Spook

Cover art for ZombelinaCover art for Vampirina BallerinaZombies and vampires have been all the rage lately, but not like this. Zombies who eat brains? Okay, sure. Vampires who suck blood? Makes sense. But vampires and zombies in tutus? Huh? Authors Kristyn Crow and Anne Marie Pace bring to life two adorably spooky characters with wonderfully supportive families.

 

Zombelina has a love of dance that she just can’t contain. She twirls through the house from one dance to the next. To her pleasant surprise, her mother says it’s time that she becomes a true ballerina. She takes her shopping for all of the ballet accoutrement and even signs her up for lessons. When she begins her class, it’s plain to see that Zombelina may be a little different from the other girls, but she practices hard and gains praise for her unique spin on ballet. Will the practice pay off for her big recital? Crow uses rhyming in combination with Molly Idle’s illustrations to create a story wholly unique. This book is a clear choice for any young reader with a passion for dance or who is looking for something to get them in spooky spirits.

 

Another book to go with the theme is Anne Marie Pace’s second installment of Vampirina Ballerina, titled Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover. In this story, Vampirina shows just what to do to create the very best sleepover. It’s not all about work, though, as the little girls come over and frolic in this uncharacteristic house filled with mummies, monsters and spiders, oh my. Not everyone enjoys the slumber party when one little girl is spooked by an unexpected mummy appearance. Will Vampirina be able to save the party she worked so hard to plan?

 

Other picture books to celebrate the spooky season are Bone Soup by Cambria Evans and Gibbus Moony Wants to Bite You! by Leslie Muir.

Randalee

 
 

Hard Knox

Hard Knox

posted by:
October 21, 2013 - 7:55am

Cover art for CartwheelAmanda Knox is back in the news again with her retrial underway, and Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois couldn’t have come at a better time. duBois maintains that her book isn’t an actual account of Knox’s experience, but the story was inspired by the case.

 

Much like Knox, Lily studies abroad for a semester, though her experience is in Argentina and not Italy. Lily and another student, Katy, live with a host family. Initially, Lily is enthralled with her new surroundings in Buenos Aires as she goes to class and people-watches at cafés, but eventually she becomes bored and takes on a job at a local bar. After Katy is found stabbed to death, Lily, a coworker and her boyfriend are all implicated in the murder, and Lily is taken to jail.

 

The story is told from the perspectives of several key characters. The reader first sees Lily’s point of view as she arrives in Buenos Aires and starts to explore her new surroundings. The perspective then changes to her parents, the prosecuting attorney and Lily’s boyfriend, Sebastian.

 

Readers will feel like jurors at Lily’s trial. The conclusion to this story is more resolute than Knox’s, but the reader is still left to make up his or her own mind, and no two readers will have the same experience. Interested in a reading about the real Amanda Knox? Checkout her new memoir titled Waiting to be Heard.

Randalee

 
 

Halloween Heart Warmers

Fly Guy and the FrankenflyA Very Witchy Spelling BeeTwo new books are designed for young readers and on the shelf just in time for Halloween. With Frankenflies and witches these books seem made for this time of year, but are designed to celebrate the season without too much of a scare.  

 

Tedd Arnold is the author of the bestselling series Fly Guy. Fly Guy and the Frankenfly is his spooky new installment. This book is a beginning reader with short manageable chapters for those young readers who are starting to read on their own.

 

After a night of crafting monster costumes, Buzz is lying in bed and before he drifts off to sleep he sees Fly Guy working away at the desk. As Buzz falls asleep he begins to dream that Fly Guy is Dr. Frankenstein in fly form and creates a Frankenfly. This Frankenfly is huge and Buzz is understandably frightened. Pick up this installment of Fly Guy to see how Buzz handles Frankenfly.
 

A Very Witchy Spelling Bee is written by George Shannon and illustrated by Mark Fearing. This picture book follows Cordelia, a young witch with a penchant for spelling. Not only does she spell words, but with the flick of her wrist and the addition of a letter she can turn a cow into a crow. She does these spells to pass the time, so when the Witches’ Double Spelling Bee is advertised, Cordelia can’t contain her excitement.

 

Cordelia feels she has been practicing for this very thing for her whole life. What she doesn’t know is that the long running champ Beulah Divine is a fiend who will stop at nothing to win. Beulah is even looking forward to winning against a child. How will Cordelia handle the pressures of competing with someone who is not only ruthless, but much older and more experienced as well?

 

This picture book is a combination of entertainment and education. The plot mixed with adorable illustrations create an entertaining story, and the subject of the book allows for the opportunity to practice spelling with your young reader.

Randalee

 
 

From The Hunger Games to Picture Book

Year of the JungleThe bestselling author that brought you The Hunger Games series is showing her versatility with Year of the Jungle, a picture book about Suzanne Collins as a little girl whose dad serves in the Vietnam War. Collins collaborates with illustrator James Proimos to bring this touching picture book to young readers.

 

This book follows young Suzy as she sees her dad off to Vietnam without truly understanding the ramifications of his going away. While he is gone she looks forward to his postcards and feels the loss more deeply than she is able to express. Days go by and turn into months as holidays and seasons pass without her father. She can’t understand the concept of a year and has to just keep waiting for his return with no idea as to how long she will have to wait.

 

Collins seeks to capture the impact that serving in the military can have on the children of those brave soldiers. She reached back to remember how she felt as a 6-year-old coping with the loss of her father. Collins talks in this short video about her experience writing Year of the Jungle. This picture book is honest and heartfelt, though not too graphic or intense for young readers, especially if they have a loved one serving in the military.

Randalee

 
 

Amusing Murder Mystery

Amusing Murder Mystery

posted by:
September 26, 2013 - 7:55am

Cover art for Cloche and DaggerJenn McKinlay has come out with a new series, Hat Shop Mystery. The first installment of this series is Cloche and Dagger. The novel follows Scarlett Parker as she uproots her life and travels to the U.K. to help her cousin Vivian run the hat shop that they inherited from their grandmother.

 

Scarlett’s move isn’t so much voluntary as necessary, since her boyfriend turned out to be a married man. Scarlett discovered this when she stumbled upon him throwing an anniversary party for his “beloved” wife. Though she prides herself on being a people person who can handle any sticky situation, she lost it and began hurling anniversary cake at her boyfriend. The whole act is caught on camera and posted online where it goes viral. Everyone pesters Scarlett for the inside scoop on the cake throwing debacle, from the average Joe on the street to members of the media.  

 

To avoid the fallout, Scarlett escapes to London. When she arrives in London she discovers that her cousin has neglected to pick her up, and the mystery begins. Where is Viv? Why is a person associated with the hat shop dead?  Scarlett finds herself the subject of the investigation and must discover who the real culprit is in order to clear her name.

 

This quick and quirky read is like Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series with a little less grit. Cloche and Dagger has an endearing amateur detective trying to get by, and a dash of love and intrigue to keep the reader engrossed.

Randalee

 
 

Seeking Solace in Revenge

Seeking Solace in Revenge

posted by:
September 18, 2013 - 7:00am

Cover art for Premidiated What would you do if someone caused your best friend to attempt suicide? Josin L. McQuein’s upcoming novel Premeditated describes just how far one devastated teen goes to exact revenge for her comatose best friend. Claire is more than Dinah’s best friend; she is her 14-year-old cousin too. Claire attempts to kill herself leaving her best friend and close family wondering why. Though her attempt was unsuccessful, she unfortunately hits her head on the sink as she passes out and is living in a coma, teetering on the brink.
 

Dinah is devastated when she hears about her cousin and she searches Claire’s room to find her diary and discover what caused her to feel like she needed to commit suicide. After reading the diary, Dinah uncovers that it was because of a 17-year-old prep school boy she’d been spending time with. Upon learning this, Dinah decides that she is going to destroy his life like he destroyed Claire’s. Before she can set her plan in motion, she must transform her edgy and alternative persona into a prep school Barbie doll for the covert mission.
 

This book follows Dinah in her efforts to find retribution and solace in bringing her own special kind of justice. The novel unfolds the story of Dinah’s transformation as well as Claire’s secret past and how she came to feel that suicide was her best option. Readers who enjoy Premeditated, may also enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak, which unfolds much like Claire’s story.
 

Randalee

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Back to School

Back to School

posted by:
September 4, 2013 - 7:00am

Chamelia and the New Kid in ClassIt’s that time of year again. With kids going back to school there are no doubt many new and exciting experiences. Chamelia is back to school as well and she is in for a surprise. Checkout Chamelia and the New Kid in Class by Ethan Long for that student in your life.

 

Chamelia has always been the center of attention and as the star of her class she’s not used to sharing the spotlight. On her first day of school she is stealing the show with an engaging story of her summer vacation when, much to her chagrin, a new boy is introduced to the class. Suddenly, attention is focused on someone other than Chamelia and she has to learn how to deal with the new class dynamic. Will she rise to the occasion or sink to new lows in order to regain her status as the center of attention?

 

This book is great for kids getting back into the groove of school, though it’s not the first book about this endearing character. If your child likes this book, checkout the book titled Chamelia as well. According to Long’s website, there is a television series in development. So look for more Chamelia to come.

Randalee