Wow, I have really been neglecting postings. I've finished 2 books since I posted last. I've been scrambling to get ready for Teen Summer Reading and been on the road as I've visited a bunch of the local middle schools to talk up the program. Anyway, I finished Mary Hoffman's The Falconer's Knot: A Story of Friars, Flirtation, and Foul Play. This one takes place in Italy in 1316, not a common book setting. It's got multiple murders, love triangles and unrequited love, and most of it takes place in a convent and a friary. It's a nice light read, perfectly fine for middle-schoolers of any age. In addition to a good murder mystery, you also get a bit of an education on the master painters of that period and how they did their work. I'm usually not much for history or the fine points of art (I know what I like and I don't need to analyze it) but I actually found the part about the artists quite interesting. All in all, a good read, again, suitable for any age.
I also read Mark Walden's H.I.V.E. The Higher Institute of Villainous Education. It's another one about a group of kids who are taken to a remote location to learn things that, let's say, aren't ordinarily taught in school. Most of this genre has the institution being run by the government and the kids learning espionage techniques. This one is a little different in that the institution is run by master criminals and the kids are being taught how to become criminal masterminds, not to be confused with your everyday common criminal. The kids are also abducted and taken there, rather than being given a choice, although their family's have generally consented to it. The story centers around a new batch of students who don't want to be there and are planning an escape attempt. It's full of some of the campier James Bond stuff. I actually liked this one better than Spy High. It was written a little better and the characters were more interesting. This is another one that would be fine for any middle-schooler, but could still be enjoyed by someone in high school as a fun break.
Check 'em out!