Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sound Bender

Oliver, Lin and Theo Baker. Sound Bender.
1 November 2011, Scholastic.

When Leo and Hollis' parents are both killed in a plane crash, they must move in with their uncle. Crane is a bit odd-- he buys and sells rare artifacts and may or may not be a criminal. Leo tries to settle in to his new life, but is unsettled when he receives a package for his 13th birthday... from his father. It includes an odd recording. Leo loves sounds, and frequently hangs out at Jeremy's used record store, so takes the disk there. He finds out that he was not in fact born in New York, but on one of the islands where his parents traveled for his father's work as an ethnomusicologist. Apparently, Leo was given special abilities by the native tribe there and is a sound bender-- he can touch objects and know information about their past. When one of the artifacts that his uncle has makes him even more curious about his father's work, he takes off for a remote island to meet with a friend of his father's who is studying dolphins and may be able to shed some light on the legality of his uncle's dealings.
Strengths: Leo was a very well developed character, and the first part of the book was oddly intriguing, with the vintage recordings and life in New York.
Weaknesses: The plot was a bit of a let down. Oliver's writing is fantastic and absorbing, but I somehow couldn't quite buy the evil experiements with dophins thread.

Wood, Maryrose. The Unseen Guest. (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #3)
27 March 2012, HarperCollins

Penelope Lumley and her charges are back. In this installment, Lord Frederick's mother finally comes to visit her son at Ashton Place, where she could not bear to return after the death of her husband. She has with her a new beau, Admiral Faucet (who not only wants to marry her, but wants to set up an ostrich facility at the manor!), and brings some interesting news-- her husband also had trouble with howling at the moon on occasion, as does Lord Frederick. Admiral Faucet is intrigued by the children and thinks that showing them off might be even more lucrative than ostrich breeding or racing. Penelope tries to keep up with the children's education, overcome her fear of the woods, and find out the secrets about her own parentage as well as that of the children. Another installment is surely due, since many questions are left unanswered.
Strengths: This is a great series for students who love Lemony Snicket, Barbara Brooks Wallace, or Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. The beautiful prose and English country house setting is great fun. I love Penelope!
Weaknesses: These books require a certain mood, which I was not in when I read this. As a result, I found myself getting slightly annoyed with the tone at times.


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