Steel Trapp: The Academy by Ridley Pearson

Steel Trapp the Academy Disney Hyperion Books, 2010.

Steven “Steel” Trapp has it — a mind like a steel trap, that is. His mind has gotten him into a fancy private boarding school, but it’s also getting him into trouble. On move-in day at school his prodigious memory is helping him navigate the campus when Steel happens onto a shady lesson. Steel just thinks it’s cool — a school where you get taught to use blow guns? Bring it on! But he finds out pretty quickly that this was a secret lesson when the students and instructor attempt to chase him down. When Steel discovers that his good friend Kaileigh is also a new student, they set out to solve the mystery of the school that isn’t what it seems. Before they know it they’re embroiled in international espionage.

I went looking for a kid spy novel at the library and I found it in Steel Trapp: The Academy! It’s actually the second book in a two book series, but unlike some series I’ve started in the middle, I had no difficulty catching up with the story. This story has enough suspense going to keep even reluctant readers reading and enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing. It’s a very fun read and exactly what I was looking for. This book would be a great addition to classroom and school library shelves.

I’m a Boston native and found that the author changed the geography of the city in a few significant ways. That was puzzling as I tried to link my own knowledge with the story and some things were just physically impossible. Also, the author had the kids pull the cord to signal a stop request on the bus. I had to chuckle. I loved the detail, but it’s been at least 15 years since I’ve ridden on a bus here that had pull cords for stop requests. Despite these curious changes, it was fun to read a book that featured Boston. I’ll be looking for Steel Trapp: The Challenge so that I can read about Steel and Kaileigh’s first adventure.

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The Kingdom Within by Samantha Gillespie

The Kingdom WithinMystic Harbor Press, 2014.

Princess Meredith dreads her eighteenth birthday. She is bound by a marriage contract written at her birth in order to unite two kingdoms against the kingdom of Talos. It is her duty and, though anxious about marrying someone she’s never met, she is resigned to the union. But months before her birthday she learns that assassins have been sent to kill her. Her father and the family of her betrothed arrange for her protection. In this new arrangement, Meredith finds a modicum of safety, and an overabundance of love, considering she is soon to be married to another. It will take all of her strength and a good bit of luck to survive to her wedding day, but will that day be the worst day of her life?

I was a little nervous about reading this book. I’d been given a review copy and a copy for a giveaway, and I was afraid that I would find it lacking. But something in the description appealed to me, and I decided to go ahead. I’m glad I did.

The Kingdom Within presents a familiar premise for teen romances, but it doesn’t feel stale. Gillespie’s Princess Meredith is spunky and appealing, and the world building is interesting. There’s intrigue and danger and violence. It was a fun read and engrossing enough to make me finish in two evenings. The cover and back cover text do their job well, too. My teenage daughter picked the book up and declared, “I want to read that when you’re done!”

This is the first of a series. I’m looking forward to the next one!

I received a copy of The Kingdom Within from Mystic Harbor Press in exchange for an honest review.

Giveaway! The Kingdom Within

The Kingdom WithinI’ve got one signed hardback copy of Samantha Gillespie’s The Kingdom Within to give away.

Use the Rafflecopter Link to the left to enter!

The Details: The giveaway is for United States addresses only. The winner will be announced here and on Twitter. I will also attempt to notify the winner by email. The winner has 48 hours to respond to the winning email before a new winner will be chosen. (Please be sure to check your spam folder!) I am not responsible for the book once it has shipped.

Roomies by Tara Attlebrando and Sara Zarr

RoommiesLittle Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013.

I only vaguely knew the music of The Supremes when I went off to college. By Christmas break of freshman year I could sing every word of every song they ever recorded. Actually, to be honest, I could probably do that by Columbus Day. I could also sing “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To,” but I didn’t, though I occasionally succumb to temptation these days, principally to annoy my kids. Adjusting to living with a stranger–and their music–is a huge part of the freshman year experience.

Lauren and Elizabeth are about to be college roommates. Their lives show little in common: Lauren’s from California, where they’ll be going to college, Elizabeth is from New Jersey. Lauren’s looking to get away from roommates; she has a room full of siblings at home. Elizabeth, an only child, is looking for that sister experience. The roommates get in touch after their room assignment letters arrive. Over the course of the summer they carve out the beginning of their roommate relationship, even as they begin to discover who they are in a post-high school world.

I found Roomies an engaging read. I enjoyed bouncing back and forth between the two characters and their different worlds. The story and characters felt very real in their expectations, their questions, and their fears about what was to come. Both young women changed immensely over the course of the summer. The book leaves the reader at the threshold of the school year with two new roommates who have not yet met—a lovely ending for readers who like to hold on to the possibilities in their own imaginations.

Roomies by Tara Attlebrando and Sara Zarr brought an astonishing number of freshman year memories back to me. It captured perfectly that on-the-cusp feeling of kids who have graduated from high school and mentally moved on but not yet become college students. I think this book will become a favorite high school read.

I received Roomies as a promo galley courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley.