Osborne, William. Winter's Bullet
January 5th 2016 by Chicken House
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Tygo, the son of a locksmith, lives in Amsterdam during WWII. His parents are both dead, and his sister has been sent off to the Nazi death camps, and he is working for the Nazi's to break into buildings to retrieve art even though he would rather not. To make matters even worse, the Resistance has targeted him as a sympathizer, telling him that everyone has a choice. Unfortunately, Tygo's choice is to not get shot! When the Gestapo officer for whom he is forced to work orders him to find a diamond, the Red Queen, somewhere in Amsterdam, Tygo makes some startling discoveries, including a girl who is hiding and might be able to help him find the gem. This novel is loosely based on the fact that Hitler had teams working on an atomic bomb, and a variety of historical personages, from Eva Duarte to Hitler himself, show up in the book.
This author, who also wrote Hitler's Secret, has a great feel for this time period. There are very few books that show people who "sympathized" with the Nazis because they preferred that course of action to death. I think that many people took that route; I had a friend who was in the Wehrmacht even though his home in Polish Silesia was taken over by the Nazis. He felt that he didn't have any other choice, and it's nice to see a literary character faced with the same conundrum.
Certainly, the Nazis are not portrayed as good in any way, and I liked how Osborne took little known historical facts and wove them into his story. There's plenty of action (including flying around in planes!) to suit readers who like to read about the fighting in WWII, as well as Tygo's suffering.
Haight, Jessica and Robinson, Stephanie. The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow
December 1st 2015 by Delacorte
Fairday and her family move from Manhattan to Ashpot, Connecticut, a small town where they move into the spooky looking Begonia house. Her parents hope to start and bed and breakfast, and there's lots of renovating that needs to be done, since the previous occupants left most of their things in the attic. Fairday, who had a Detective Mystery Society with her good friend Lizzy in Manhattan, hears weird bagpipe music coming from the attic, and starts to investigate. She uncovers several different clues about the former owner and his daughter, Ruby. She talks to a local former reporter as part of a school project, and learns that Ruby disappeared on her wedding day, and that her father died under mysterious circumstances twenty years later. When Lizzie comes to visit, the two start investigating in earnest, and come across a strange mirror that has the ability to suck them into an alternative world.
Strengths: Living and supportive parents, and a scary but not horrifying mystery. Solid friend story, and some good paranormal details. This would be good for elementary readers.
Weaknesses: Not quite as scary as my students want, and was too similar to several other stories.
What I really think: The art in this is odd. I think I will skip this and just give students West's The Shadows series, to which this is eerily similar.