Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters April 20, 2014

Shadow of BlackbirdsThe year is 1918. The county is at war both overseas and at home. The boys are fighting in the trenches in Europe and the citizens on the homefront are battling the deadly Spanish influenza. After her father is taken away to jail for  traitorous talk, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black heads to San Francisco to stay with her aunt. What she finds is an atmosphere of fear, with faces covered in gauze masks and home remedies mean everyone reeks of onions and garlic. Mary Shelley seeks out news of her sweetheart, away at war, to find his brother running a bustling spirit photography business. She doesn’t believe in ghosts, until after an accident, she finds one in her bedroom. Will her skepticism about capturing the spirits of loved ones on film be overpowered by her desire to know the truth about her beloved Stephen?

While this story took place in a time period I enjoy and it piqued my interest about the devastation of influenza in the United States, I didn’t love this book. It was nominated for 2014 Teens’ Top Ten award, so it appears I’m in the minority. I could see this well-researched, historically accurate story paired nicely with some nonfiction titles about the era for teens.

3 out of 5 stars


Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride June 28, 2011

Sam, officially Samhain Corvus LaCroix, is a college-dropout turned fry cook at Plumpy’s.  After a break-time game of potato hockey ending in a broken taillight, he gets his first look at Douglas Montgomery.  After being attacked in the Plumpy’s parking lot, he gets his second look.  You see, like Douglas, Sam is a necromancer.  Douglas is powerful and evil; Sam is clueless about his paranormal powers.  Suddenly, Sam has to deal with Douglas’s basement, a hot werewolf girl, and Ashley the Harbinger.  Sam is about to get a lesson in necromancy.

Have you been looking for the next Twilight?  Perhaps a tale of teenagers with paranormal powers… that’s well written and clever?  Look no more.  Sam has a smart mouth, good friends, and a powerful enemy.  Will he figure out what powers he has and how to use them to save the day before it’s too late?  Includes an ending that could nicely segue into a sequel.

William C. Morris Debut Award finalist


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman March 4, 2011

A baby wanders out the open front door, away from his family that has just been murdered in their home.  He toddles into an old, abandoned graveyard, away from the killer.  A dark, shadowy figure keeps the killer away; the wispy figures the graveyard vote to keep the baby there, safe from harm.  And so Nobody Owens grows up in the graveyard and spent his days learning about history from those who were there and ghostly skills like Fading and Dreamwalking.  As he gets older, he learns lessons about the dangers of the outside, specifically the killer who continues to search for the boy who got away.

An interesting tale of a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard.  There are a few spooky parts, but overall the story is endearing; the ghosts love and protect Bod as their own child.  Highly recommended for upper elementary or middle school.  Good book for boys.

Newbery Medal Winner


The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold November 9, 2010

Susie Salmon is in heaven.  She is watching life on Earth continuing on without her after she was raped and murdered at age 14.  Everything in Susie’s heaven is things she dreamed about and desired while she was alive, but the only thing Susie really wants is to live.  So she does the next best thing, she watches everyone she cares about on Earth and sees them grieving, changing, growing, and healing.  Susie watches and waits.  Will her father recover from his deep, encompassing grief?  Will her little brother grasp the concept of “gone forever”?  Will the police capture her killer?


Twilight: The Mediator by Meg Cabot

Suze Simon is a normal teenage girl… kind of.  She goes to school, is embarrassed by her parents, and gets excited about dances.  The only thing different about Suze is that she’s a mediator.  She can communicate with the dead and see ghosts.  She’s not alone; her classmate Paul is also a mediator, but he always seems to be doing more harm than good.  And then there’s Jesse- Suze’s boyfriend.  There’s just one catch- Jesse is a ghost of a man that was killed in the 1800s.  Everything is going as normal as it goes for a mediator until Paul makes a threat to do something that Suze couldn’t even imagine.  Paul find out that he can travel back in time and change things in the past.  Things like Jesse being killed.  Which would mean that Suze and Jesse would have never met.  Suddenly, Suze has to decide – does she allow the man she loves to have the life he’s always longed for or keep him anchored forever in half-life at her side.


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