23. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, read by Angie, on 07/22/2014

Josie lives in New Orleans in 1950. She is the daughter of a prostitute and has no idea who her father is. However, she doesn’t get along with her mom and lives on her own above a bookstore where she also works. Charlie, the owner, has been like a father figure to her. Charlie is now sick (with dementia or Alzheimers) and his son Patrick runs the store. Josie’s second job is to clean the house of Willie Woodley, the madam of the local whorehouse. Willie is like a mother to Josie; she provides for her and protects her. Josie meets a nice gentleman in the bookstore one day and has an instant connection to him. She dreams he might be her father. So she is disturbed when he turns up murdered. The police think her mom may have something to do with it. Mom skips town with her abusive mobster boyfriend Cincinnati. Josie also dreams of leaving town and going to college. She is focused on Smith after meeting a nice Uptown girl who goes to Smith. Josie tries to figure out if her mom really did have something to do with the man’s death and how she can escape and go to Smith. 

Ruta Sepetys really has a way of making a story come alive. Once I started reading this book I was enthralled. I wanted to know how the Memphis man was killed and why. I rooted for Josie to get into Smith. Josie was such a well-developed character that you couldn’t help but root for her. She was a tad naive when it came to some things, but also very aware of the underbelly of New Orleans. I thought it was interesting that all the prostitutes who worked for Willie where shown as happy and healthy. It was a bit of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” vibe. They were all prostitutes with hearts of gold; they looked after Josie and tried to help her when they could. Really Josie’s mom was the only true whore among them. She was a murder and a thief, even stealing from Josie. I thought this book really brought New Orleans to live; it showed the fabulous parts of it as well as the nasty bits. 

22. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington, read by Kira, on 07/14/2014

livfor  Liv is a scholarship student at a rich school. You know that Liv has been killed at the start of this novel.  The question is why did she die, and why have there been so many mysterious deaths in the past.  This was a fun read, not particularly deep, but I like ghost characters.  The ending of the book leaves the possibility of sequel, but this probably won’t happen.Huntingdon-College-CC-Spyder-Monkey-e1351559840834The_Haunted_Mansion

22. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Mystery, Noelle, Teen Books

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Noelle, on 07/16/2014

Each summer the wealthy, seemingly perfect Sinclair family meets on their private island. Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat are a unit, especially during “summer 15,” marking their fifteenth year on Beechwood– the summer that Cady and Gat fall in love. Cady became involved in a mysterious accident, in which she sustained a blow to the head, and now suffers from debilitating migraines and memory loss. When she returns to Beechwood during summer 17 issues of guilt and blame, love and truth all come into play.

 

22. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Noelle, Science Fiction, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy, read by Noelle, on 07/03/2014

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

21. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Gilt by Katherine Longshore, read by Angie, on 07/20/2014

This is the story of Catherine Howard, the doomed 5th wife of Henry VIII. It is told from the perspective of her friend Kitty Tylney. Cat schemes and plots her way to court and then into the heart of Henry. Once there she brings her girlhood friends to court with her. Her schemes don’t end with becoming queen. She continues to scheme and fool around and basically doom herself by her selfish actions. Kitty is loyal to her friend Cat, but becomes disillusioned as Cat’s plots bring them closer and closer to destruction. 

You know the ending of this story before it starts. You know Cat will not make it to the end with her head intact, but the journey there is an intriguing one. Anne Boleyn seems to be the wife that gets all the attention. The others all seem to fade into the background. It is nice to see a story about one of Henry’s other wives. This was a fun guilty pleasure type book. I had no idea until the very end whether Kitty was going to follow Cat to her end or not.

18. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Velvet by Mary Hooper, read by Angie, on 07/17/2014

Velvet is an orphan who works in a laundry in Victorian London. She comes to the attention of Madame Savoya, a famed medium, and starts working in her household. Life with Madame is definitely different from the poor conditions Velvet was previously used to. She comes to like the finer things in life and is enamored with George, Madame’s assistant. Velvet starts out as a firm believer in Madame’s powers over the Other Side. However, she does come to suspect that Madame may not be quite as in tune with the spirits as she seems. Velvet has to decide what is more important: the truth or her new life. 

I sometimes find books like this difficult to read, not because they are poorly written or bad books but because the characters in them are so different from people today. Hooper does a great job making her characters into true Victorians. They are firm believers in spiritualism and there is an innocence in them that makes them less suspicious than modern people. As a reader I clearly saw that Madame was a fake and that there was something suspicious about George. But Velvet with her Victorian sensibilities is oblivious. I like the fact that Hooper really did her homework on how the mediums of this age practiced their art and how gullible their clients were.

14. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steam-punk, Teen Books

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, read by Angie, on 07/13/2014

Sophronia is being sent to finishing school. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to be exact. Sophronia would rather be figuring out how things work than learning how to curtsey, but her mother has other ideas. Her mother would be appalled at what she is actually learning at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s. Not only does Sophronia learn how to curtsey and act appropriately in social situations she also learns how to poison someone and the fine art of gathering intelligence. Her other skills come in handy when she and her friends must figure out what has happened to a communications prototype that is wanted by a lot of nefarious characters. 

I like this Victorian steampunk world a lot. I have read Souless, the first in Carriger’s adult series, but didn’t really remember it a lot. This series is set in that same world. The school is a giant balloon that floats across the moors. There are vampire and werewolf teachers. And there are flying skypirates who attack the school. I found the whole thing fun and ridiculous and really enjoyable. There is just enough steampunk, just enough historical fiction, just enough zaniness to make this a really fun read. 

Ari is a young man filled with anger and silence. He comes from a family with a father scarred by war, a mother devastated by a son’s actions and a brother who has disappeared from their lives since he went to prison. Ari has no friends and is melancholy. His only desires are for a truck and a dog. He likes to run and workout, both solitary activities. It all changes when he meets Dante. Dante is vibrant and chatty. He likes to draw and read poetry. He asks hard questions and truly wants to know the answers. Ari and Dante become best friends. Dante brings Ari out of his shell and gets him to talk and makes him realize it is ok for boys to cry. They are there for each other even when Dante moves to Chicago for a year. Their friendship holds up even when Dante confesses he would rather kiss boys than girls and would really like to kiss Ari. Ari cares so much for Dante that he saves his life and goes after a boy who hurt Dante. However, Ari is still conflicted and angry even if he doesn’t know what he is angry about. 

I thought this story was wonderful. I loved the friendship of Ari and Dante and the fact that Dante being gay really had no affect on it. Ari accepts Dante for who he is and who he loves. They are friends no matter what. I also loved the parents in this book, which is something I don’t often say. I thought both Ari and Dante’s parents were some of the best. The relationships were realistic and touching. I also really enjoyed the dialogue of this book. It is snappy and relevant and reminded me of the dialogue on some of my favorite tv shows. This is a great story about acceptance, both of others and yourself. It is a love story, a story about families, a story about self-awareness and a story about growing up into who you are meant to be. 

12. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Going Over by Beth Kephart, read by Angie, on 07/11/2014

Ada and Stefan are young and in love. Unfortunately they are separated by the Berlin Wall. It is 1981 and there are still many years before the wall will fall. Ada, in the west, works at a daycare during the day and graffitis during the night. She lives with Omi (grandmother) and Mutti (mother) in a squatters flat close to the wall. She urges Stefan to make his escape when she sees him every 3 months. Stefan lives with his grandmother in the east. His mother escaped to the west and hasn’t been seen. His grandfather tried to escape and was killed. Stefan is cautious despite his love for Ada.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It is unique, which I enjoyed. I don’t believe I have ever read a teen book about Berlin during the time of the wall. I thought Ada really represented my image of a young German Punk with her cans of paint and bright hair. Stefan seemed to be her exact opposite but also somewhat of a stereotypical reserved German. I liked their love story even if I didn’t always buy its authenticity. I also liked the secondary storyline of the Turkish women and children brought into West Germany as second-class workers. I thought it helped flesh out Ada’s character and make her become more fully realized. Stefan felt a little flat to me because of the lack of more story on his part. I also liked/disliked the writing style. I liked the sparse prose but I thought it left holes in the story. I wanted more information on who these characters were, especially the secondary ones, and what their motivations were. I felt like the story lacked the details that would have made it great. 

08. July 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald, read by Angie, on 07/07/2014

Odette lives in Paris with her mother and father. They are non-practicing Jews and have a good life in Paris. Then the Nazis come into power and things begin to change. First her father joins the French Army and is taken prisoner by the Germans. Then the Nazis start rounding up the Jews of Paris. Odette’s mother is prepared however and Odette gets sent to the Vendee countryside with several other little girls. They are going to hide in plain sight not as Jews but as Christian girls escaping the violence of Paris. Odette must learn the Catholic prayers and the sign of the cross and never tell anyone she is Jewish. Odette considers this just one more secret she must keep. Her mother soon joins her in the country which makes things even more difficult. They spend the war safely ensconced in their country cottage, but suspicions still follow them. After the war they are able to return to Paris and their home, but life will never be the same. 

I really enjoy novels in verse and thought the format really worked for this book. Odette’s Secrets is based on the true story of Odette Meyer and how she and her family survived the war. Odette was able to blend in as a Christian girl and actually came to enjoy praying and different aspects of Christian life. It is amazing how adaptable people, especially children, can be. I am always fascinated by the stories of how people survived during WWII. These stories make me wonder if I would be as strong or as brave as those who fought against the Nazis and did what they must to survive.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready, read by Courtney, on 06/19/2014

David and Mara used to have a fairly ordinary life. Then, their older brother joined the armed forces and was killed. Now, the family is a complete mess. Over the course of their grieving, David’s parents first turn to the Evangelical Church for answers. It helps, to an extent. David is “saved” and his parents start to come out of their depression. David and Mara are taken out of the public schools and put into a religious homeschooling group. Over time, the church ceases to be enough for David’s parents and they find solace in a group that believes in the end of the world. Instead of calling it the “Rapture”, this new group calls it the “Rush” and claim to know exactly when it’s going to happen. David and his sister are dubious, but their parents appear completely convinced. As the date for the “Rush” draws nearer, David’s father becomes increasingly unhinged, speaking only in Bible verses. In the forty days before the “Rush”, David and his sister are asked to give up everything worldly to prepare for their salvation. Aside from not really believing that the end of the world is coming, David has some other problems with this situation. He’s a baseball star with college scouts following his every pitch. He’s got a girlfriend that he’s absolutely crazy about. In other words, he really doesn’t want to give up his entire life.
When the book opens, it is the night of the “Rush” and David and Mara have missed it. Instead of being at home with their parents on the night that they are supposed to be taken to Heaven, David and Mara have gone to an after-prom party and missed the deadline. When they return home, their parents are gone. No messages or notes. Their clothes laid on on the bed under the covers as though they had simply vanished. Needless to say, David and Mara are concerned. They don’t believed their parents have been “Rushed”, but something is clearly not right. Now they need to figure out what happened to their parents before word spreads that two teenagers are living by themselves.
The premise of this book is fascinating to me. I’m not a religious person, so it was interesting to see how a practitioner would view the world. Smith-Ready miraculously manages to keep this story from either glorifying or vilifying those of faith, but always remains critical of those who would use faith to achieve their own ends. I’m not 100% sold on the parents’ reaction to their eldest son’s death, but a catalyst was needed and grief is a powerful one. David and Mara make a great sibling team. David is a person of faith, while Mara is a skeptic who manages to play the part of a religious person to avoid confrontation with her parents. David’s girlfriend, Bailey, provides a great foil to David. Bailey is not religious either, but is curious and considerate when the topic of religion comes up, which happens frequently. I will admit that my brain fuzzed out a bit during the baseball-heavy portions of the book, but overall, this was a very engaging take on faith and religion. Would likely make a very good book club read.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, read by Courtney, on 06/13/2014

The Midnight Dress is a gorgeously rendered tale of murder, friendship and sewing. When Rose arrives in Leonora with her father, she is not expecting to stay very long. She and her father have been driving around Australia in their RV for years, never staying in one place for very long. She grudgingly enrolls herself in the local high school and does her best to avoid everyone. She unwittingly winds up friends with Pearl Kelly, the lovely and gregarious girl who smells of “frangipani and coconut oil”. Rose is unaccustomed to having friends and her gruff demeanor is designed to keep it that way. Pearl has a way of getting under one’s skin though and, as the Harvest Festival draws nearer, Rose finds herself heading to the seamstress Pearl recommended to have a dress made. The seamstress is an elderly woman named Edie who lives in a giant, dilapidated house at the base of the mountain. She was once a dressmaker of some renown, but has since become regarded as a witch. Rose, in spite of herself, continues to come back, week after week to help Edie hand-stitch the beautiful midnight-blue dress that Rose will wear for the Harvest Festival parade. Through it all, however, the reader knows that one of these two girls will not survive the night of the Festival. Who, how and why remain a mystery.
Each chapter begins with a flashback showing a tiny portion of the fateful night, but the information is meted out so deliberately that the reader is driven to push on in order to find out how the pieces fit together. The rest of the story is told in a more linear fashion, but is no less mysterious. Pearl and Rose make such a wonderful pair. Pearl is sweetness, dreams and light. Rose is twilight, introspection and nature. Edie’s backstory expands the world inhabited by the girls. The landscape of their coastal Australian town is as much a character as any of the humans. While there’s nothing explicitly magical about this tale, there’s something about the writing that feels as though this might be magical realism. The narrative may move slowly, but this is not a novel to rush through. Readers who stick with it will be richly rewarded by the dazzling writing, vivid landscape, and memorable characters.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Multicultural Fiction, Teen Books

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, read by Courtney, on 06/07/2014

Sophie’s mother runs the only bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so vacations spent with her mother are anything but ordinary. On one of her excursions outside of the sanctuary, Sophie comes across a man with a baby bonobo in a cage. Seeing the poor physical state of the young bonobo, Sophie decides to take matters into her own hands. She takes out her spending money and barters with the man. She arrives back at the sanctuary with a lighter wallet and a very ill baby bonobo who may not even survive without its mother. Sophie’s mother is infuriated as Sophie’s action likely prompted the man to poach more of the endangered species. A penitent Sophie is determined to be the best surrogate she possibly can be. Towards the end of her scheduled trip, her mother has to leave to take a group of bonobos to a release site upriver. Due to a variety of factors, the release cannot be delayed simply because Sophie’s flight is scheduled at the same time. Sophie doesn’t mind; it will give her that much more time to bond with the baby bonobo that she’s named Otto.
A few days after her mother leaves, civil war breaks out in Congo. The president has been killed and the resulting power vacuum has caused the UN to evacuate all westerners. Sophie is told she will be leaving early. When the UN van arrives, however, Sophie cannot bring herself to leave Otto and jumps from the van as it pulls away from the sanctuary. By the time she gets back, rebels have encroached on the sanctuary. Sophie manages to hide with Otto in an electrically-fenced enclosure. She’s temporarily safe from the rebels, but the adult bonobos are another story.
It quickly becomes evident that Sophie cannot stay, so she makes a daring escape and is followed by several of the adult bonobos from the enclosure. Together they make their way across the war-town countryside as they head for the release site where Sophie’s mother went. The journey takes Sophie across dozens of miles of the DRC. At every turn, Sophie is confronted with the realities of war: child soldiers, starving families, violent militia men, death, destruction.
Endangered excels because it focuses not just on the astonishingly-human bonobos (who share nearly 97% of our DNA) and their plight, but because it refuses to operate in a vacuum. The DRC is a country with a complicated history and is also home to the largest population of bonobos in the world. When a country with vast natural resources has been traditionally mismanaged by colonial powers, however, everyone loses. Sophie’s journey is harrowing, unexpected and strangely beautiful. The narrative moves quickly without sentimentalizing. Sophie is a relate-able main character; she often acts according to her heart, which opens the doors for consequences that are often surprising and formative. Readers will appreciate the swiftly-moving narrative that utilizes popular literary elements like survival and eluding armed militias and grounds them in a very real context. The ending ties up a bit too tidily and Sophie gets extremely lucky on more than one occasion, but these foibles can be easily overlooked. The rest of the story is totally solid though not for the faint of heart.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Teen Books

Morning Glories: Deluxe Collection, Volume 2 by Nick Spencer, et al, read by Courtney, on 06/05/2014

The hit, epic series about a sinister boarding school and the kids trapped there, trying to solve the mysteries of time and space – presented once again in a beautiful, oversized, deluxe hardcover format, with copious bonus material including sketches, character designs, cover galleries, and more.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Courtney, on 06/03/2014

I’m kind of feeling like E. Lockhart lulled me into a false sense of security with her more light-hearted previous novels. This one was devastating and I’m still kind of reeling from the final moments of the book.
Cadence Eastman Sinclair comes from an extremely wealthy family. The type that summers on a private island off the coast of New England. The type that plays tennis, owns pure-bred golden retrievers, and inherits mountains of money. These summers on the island are golden. Cadence and her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, are joined by Johnny’s step-father’s nephew, Gat and all four are roughly the same age. They call themselves the Liars and set themselves apart from the rest of the family.
Something terrible happens the summer they are all 15, but Cadence can’t remember any of it. All she knows for certain is that she had some sort of head injury that leaves her with devastating migraines. Two years later, she finally returns to the island to find a lot of changes. The Liars are still there and they are very much the same as she remembers, but the main house has been rebuilt, the family tiptoes around the events of two summers ago, and the family’s patriarch is showing signs of Altzheimer’s. Cadence is determined to uncover the truth about that fateful summer, but no one wants to talk about it. Not even the Liars. Everyone wants Cadence to remember things on her own.
Gradually, the memories start coming back and Cadence is able to begin piecing together the events that have brought the family to this point. As it turns out, some things really are so painful that the brain will block them out. I don’t envy Cadence on any level.
This is one of those books with a surprise ending. Some readers may figure it out, but I wasn’t one of them. It completely caught me off guard and left my heart hurting. It’s a brilliant book with fantastic and intriguing characters, even if they’re not always likeable.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal, read by Angie, on 07/06/2014

Nalia has been brought up believing she is the future queen of Thordaval. After she turns 16 she is informed that she is not in fact the princess, but an imposter who replaced the princess because of a horrible prophecy. So Nalia, now Sinda, is unceremoniously sent to the country to live with an aunt she has never met. She has to leave everything she has known and loved behind to start a life she is not prepared for. Her aunt tries to teach her dyeing, but Sinda has no talent for it. She does find out that she has magic however. The spell that made her into the princess repressed her magical abilities. She heads back to the capital to learn how to control her magic. Sinda is unable to get into the wizard college because she is not a member of the nobility, but does find a witch willing to teach her. While in the capital Sinda uncovers a plot against the throne. It seems the princess prophecy might be more than it seems and the new princess might not be the true princess. Sinda has to figure out who is behind the plot and why before things go too far. 

I really enjoyed this story. I actually read it in one gulp for the most part. I like the fact that it is a stand alone novel and I don’t have to wait years to find out how the story plays out which is so very rare these days. I thought Sinda was fascinating. She is really thrust into situations that are completely different from what she is used to all without warning. She does fairly well dealing with them, but like anyone there are issues. She pushes away her best friend Kiernan and trusts new friends who don’t deserve her trust. But she is determined to solve the mystery and she is willing to go to any lengths to do it. I would definitely recommend this one.

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Lisa, Teen Books

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, read by Lisa, on 06/05/2014

Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether it’s discovering that the world really does stop at the end of the city’s map book, or a family’s lesson in tolerance through an alien cultural exchange student, Tan’s deft, sweet social satire brings us face-to-face with the humor and absurdity of modern life.

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Kristy, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Maze Runner by James Dashner, read by Kristy, on 06/28/2014

“If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.” 

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by Kristy, on 06/01/2014

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Mystery, Teen Books

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby, read by Leslie, on 06/09/2014

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Princess Solveig and her siblings are trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen fjord, along with her best friend and an army of restless soldiers, all awaiting news of the king’s victory in battle, but as they wait for winter’s end and the all-encompassing ice to break, acts of treachery make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst.

I found this to be a good mystery for any age, not just teens.  It’s not often that you find a well written book set in an old Nordic setting, but it was not a dry book by any means.  Solveig, the middle child between her older, beautiful sister and young brother, the heir, finds herself not only trying to define who she is and wants to be, but trying to solve the mystery they find themselves involved in.  As all well written mysteries should, this one keeps you wondering who is behind it all til the very end.