12. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Apocolyptic, Classics, Dystopia, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Rachel, Science Fiction, Teen Books

1984 by George Orwell, read by Rachel, on 04/12/2014

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.

09. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kristy, Paranormal, Teen Books

The Diviners by Libba Bray, read by Kristy, on 03/09/2014

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

09. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, read by Kristy, on 03/16/2014

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

09. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Kristy, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, read by Kristy, on 03/22/2014

Incarceron — a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology — a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber — chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison — a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device — a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn’s escape is born .

07. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Divergent by Veronica Roth, read by Courtney, on 03/02/2014

Finally, a novel that lives up to its hype. I’d been hearing tons about this book and just got ahold of it last week. And then finished it in less than two days. Blazing fast narrative and a great protagonist make for a wonderful, um, diversion from everyday life.
This is definitely a dystopia, but there’s clearly much more to it than is presented in this book. Beatrice is born into the Abnegation faction where members are more or less ascetic. When citizens turn 16, however, they must make a decision to either stay with their faction or join a new one. Beatrice finds that she cannot choose her old faction; she doesn’t feel the selflessness required to fit in and thrive in the community. Her test results are inconclusive which makes deciding even tougher. Thing is, she’s not really able to be categorized as easily as the rest of the population and that makes her dangerous. She winds up joining the Dauntless faction, one that thrives on danger and bravery. She’s already ruled out the other choices of Erudite (the clever ones), Candor (where honesty is the best quality) and Amity (the nice, friendly, peaceful folks). Joining Dauntless isn’t as easy as it sounds though and even is Beatrice does make it through initiation, will she be able to keep herself safe from those who would be threatened by her divergence?
Ends on a cliff-hanger. I expect the world to become more fleshed out as the series develops. Good stuff.

07. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Elemental by Antony John, read by Courtney, on 03/09/2014

Thomas lives in an extremely small community on Hatteras Island (adjacent to historically mysterious Roanoke Island). A plague has wiped out the majority of the world’s population. The few survivors now live in remote communities or on board ships. Thomas is unique in an unusual community. He is the only one who was born without a power over the elements. Everyone else has a power, some weaker than others. When a hurricane blows into the region, Thomas and the other four younger residents are sent to Roanoke for shelter from the storm. When the bad weather passes, the kids realize that all the adults (Guardians) have been taken captive by pirates. Worse yet, their tiny settlement has been burned to the ground. It’s now up to Thomas and the others to rescue the Guardians, but Thomas realizes that the Guardians have been keeping secrets from Thomas. Secrets that change everything and drive Thomas to question everything he’s ever known.
I really wanted to like this book. I honestly did. I like Antony John a lot, both as an author and as a person. Or, at least I like his work when it’s grounded in reality rather than a speculative setting. The world building in Elemental is shaky at best. There’s no hint of why these “elemental” powers exist or how they connect to Roanoke/Hatteras (a far too specific choice of locales to be random). Thomas and company fall flat as protagonists. Thomas comes across as both exceedingly naive and remarkably obtuse. The two primary female characters don’t have much more going for them, though they do show signs of personal growth in the absence of Guardians. The only standout character is Griffin, Thomas’s deaf younger brother who also appears to have the power to see the future, a power that no one else in the colony possesses. I personally had problems with a few details that weren’t really integral to the plot, but bugged me endlessly anyway. For instance, do the Guardians really believe they can sustain/grow this colony with only 14 people?
Predictably, by the end, there are more questions than answers, which sets the reader up for the next installment. I probably won’t be along for the ride.

07. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel, read by Courtney, on 03/15/2014

Peggy Fitzroy, an orphan with a wealthy extended family finds herself in a most unusual position when she encounters the rotund Mr. Tinderflint, who offers her a top secret offer of employment. Through a series of unfortunate mishaps, Peggy finds herself in no position to refuse. It turns out that Mr. Tinderflint is something of a spymaster. His previous charge, Lady Francesca, has recently died. The plan is to send Peggy in her place to the court of King George I. There, she will play the role intended for Lady Francesca; she will be a maid to Princess Caroline. It’s a difficult charge. Tinderflint and his accomplices refrain from telling Peggy what they hope to get from her while she’s at the palace. They also fail to tell her about the interpersonal intricacies that would make her ruse more believable. Peggy, to her credit, excels being a quick wit and assumes the position with minimal obvious difficulty. The longer Peggy stays at court, the more convinced she is that Lady Francesca’s death may not have been a natural one. Peggy will need to maneuver quickly in order to avoid a similar fate.
Palace of Spies is an intricate tale of intrigue. The reader has no more idea of what Francesca was up to than Peggy does. Peggy is tons of fun as a main character. She’s witty and savvy when it comes to dealing with the elite. The language is rich and suits the time period well. The court of King George is brought to vivid life here. The denizens of the court are simultaneously frivolous, conniving and, on occasion, deadly. Readers will sympathize with Peggy, who just wants to survive the ordeal and live life on her own terms.
To say that this book is flawless would be remiss, however. It’s difficult not to take issue with the idea of a stranger being able to literally take over the life a well-known court personality. Francesca had friends, enemies and lovers at court. While it’s not totally unbelievable that she and Peggy could look alike enough to be mistaken for one another (particularly with the amount of makeup and accessorizing that accompanies the era’s fashions), it’s hard to believe that even those close to Francesca fail to notice the difference in both appearance and personality. If the reader is able to suspend their disbelief enough to make this work, there’s still the issue of following the dizzying plot. It takes forever for the reader to figure out what’s exactly going on. There are almost too many mysteries going on at the same time, enough to make the otherwise delightful narrative lag in places. Still, it’s important to note that this is the beginning of a series, so many answers will likely come in upcoming installments. Hand this one to fans of feisty and clever female protagonists. There’s a lot to like here.

07. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson, read by Courtney, on 03/17/2014

Laila has just arrived in America, but she’s not the average immigrant. Her father was the ruler of a Middle Eastern country who has been killed in a bloody coup led by her uncle. Laila, her mother and brother have relocated to the US with the aid of the CIA. It doesn’t take Laila long to discover that just about everything she thought she knew about her father was inaccurate. Where she and her little brother had thought him a king, the rest of the world regarded him as a corrupt and brutal dictator. Still reeling from being torn out of the only life she’s known, Laila finds the US to be overwhelming. Laila is unused to being able to walk about without body guards. She’s never attended school. Never had friends. Laila is immediately befriended by her peer ambassador, Emmy, who helps to introduce Laila to American teenage life. All the while, Laila’s mother is in contact with local refugees who were once targeted by her father, her uncle (now the new dictator) and the CIA. Who is helping who? Will this family’s life ever be peaceful? Can Laila ever atone for her father’s transgressions against their people?
This unique novel puts global conflict into context. The country Laila’s family hails from is unnamed, but feels very similar to several other oppressive Middle-Eastern regimes. Laila’s family has a lot to deal with, ranging from dealing with the death of their patriarch to coming to terms with a man they thought of as a gentle family man, rather than a brutal dictator responsible for innumerable deaths and atrocities. Laila is a fascinating, complex character. Her mother is quite interesting as well. They have both come from a culture where women had few rights and now live in a country where they are expected to take care of themselves and their family. Laila’s mother does it the best way she knows how: manipulation and bargaining. The plot will keep readers on their toes, because the motivations of the players that shape Laila’s world are unknown even to Laila. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

07. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, read by Courtney, on 03/21/2014

Leonard Peacock’s 18th birthday will go down in history. If all goes as planned, that is. Leonard’s plan is relatively simple: visit his four favorite people so that he can give them a parting gift, track down a former friend named Asher, shoot Asher and then shoot himself. Leonard has in his possession his grandfather’s WWII-era Nazi handgun, which he takes to school with him on that fateful day. Leonard begins his rounds, delivering his personalized parting gifts to the few people that mean anything to him: his elderly Bogart-quoting neighbor, an Iranian classmate who is also a musical prodigy, a Christian home-school girl who hands out pamphlets in the subway station and Leonard’s Holocaust teacher, Herr Silverman. Each and every one of these characters (and a few more along the way) notice something is going on with Leonard; he’s chopped off all his hair, he’s giving away treasured possessions, he’s acting differently. Leonard manages to dodge their questions and concerns and continues to work through his plan. All the while, he can’t help but hope that at least one person will remember that it’s his birthday or that someone will try to stop him. The ultimate question, however, is will Leonard follow through with his plan to end the life of a fellow teen as well as his own? Is there any way for him to come back from the brink?
There are a lot of books out there that address teen suicide, as well as teen shooters. Leonard makes for an interesting protagonist. He’s not particularly likeable, but he’s also not completely despicable. He’s really smart and has serious difficulties relating to people his own age. His attitude towards the rest of his school and society at large is reminiscent of a modern-day Holden Caulfield. What sets Leonard apart as a character is the added element of his relationship to Asher, the former-friend Leonard is determined to kill. It takes a good deal of time to understand the motivation behind his target, but when it comes up, it’s pretty serious. The reader will rarely agree with the actions that Leonard takes, but they will likely have some similar frustrations in their lives. My only real issue with this is the attitude regarding the vast majority of the adults in this book. Only two of them are trusted by Leonard; the rest of the adults are only doing their duty, or, in the case of Leonard’s mother, completely shirking it. Leonard’s story is angsty and sad, but with good reason. The action is interspersed with “Letters From the Future”, which adds a hopeful note, even when things appear bleakest. Hand this one to fans of 13 Reasons Why and Everybody Sees the Ants.

07. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang, read by Courtney, on 03/26/2014

Anda spends the vast majority of her free time playing the MMORPG, Coursegold. She is thrilled when she is invited to join a girls-only guild. Her life feels complete. One of Anda’s guild members encourages Anda to do some side work killing off gold farmers in exchange for some quick cash (the gold farmers just collect gold and rare prizes to sell on the online marketplace for real money). Believing the fundamental idea of gold farming to be wrong, Anda is at first happy to kill off these low-level players. Then she realizes that they’re not fighting back. She lingers behind to chat with one of the gold farmers and discovers that he is actually employed by a company in China. The farmer calls himself Raymond and explains to her that he spends extremely long hours working to help pay his family’s bills. The pay is low and the conditions are grim, but no one dares to complain for fear of losing their jobs. Anda is appalled and encourages Raymond to organize against his employers, only to find that her worldview is distinctly privileged and that her encouragement may have done more harm than good.
In Real Life has a lot going for it. The protagonist is a smart, plus-sized gamer girl and the artwork depicting the game world and the real world is both charming and nuanced. The subject matter is important for those in the gaming world to know about and is rarely discussed in popular culture. I wish, however, more time had been spent on the lives of the Chinese teens who work in these internet cafes/sweatshops and how the process itself works. The concept of gold farming is more comprehensively addressed in Doctorow’s novel, For the Win, so those wanting to know more will want to read that next.

07. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

The Hit by Melvin Burgess, read by Courtney, on 03/29/2014

Take it. Live it. F*** it.

A new drug is out. Everyone is talking about it. The Hit. Take it, and you have one amazing week to live. It’s the ultimate high. At the ultimate price.

Adam is tempted. Life is rubbish, his girlfriend’s over him, his brother’s gone. So what’s he got to lose? Everything, as it turns out. It’s up to his girlfriend, Lizzie, to show him…

03. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Paranormal, Teen Books

Snakeroot by Andrea Cremer, read by Leslie, on 03/28/2014

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Bosque Mar haunts Adne and Logan’s dreams, trying to turn Adne to the dark side as he attempts to escape the Nether, where Calla, Shay and the other Guardians trapped him in the final battle of the War of All Against All.

If you enjoy this series, you will like the way she continues the story of this world. I was hoping that the trilogy was not the finish and this book does not disappoint.  Now I can only wonder how the wolves will play a role in this next chapter of the saga.

01. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Horror, Teen Books

Daylighters by Rachel Caine, read by Brian, on 04/01/2014

daylightersMorganville, Texas not really a fun place to live, sure they have a college but that’s about it, unless, you like vampires.  In this chapter of the Morganville saga, a group called the Daylighters Foundation have gathered up the vampires to either cure them or kill them. The normal people like this idea of freedom from the vamps but Claire, Shane and Eve feel different about the vampires and feel humans and vamps can live in peace.

 

01. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Courtney, Teen Books

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, read by Courtney, on 03/07/2014

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. History will show that the world actually ends with 6-foot-tall carnivorous praying mantises that displace humanity from the top of the food chain. Austin Szerba is interested in the ways in which events, however small, coalesce into what we later call history. Through a fascinating intersection of circumstance and chance, Austin is in the prime position to present a detailed history of the end of the world.
Ealing, IA is your average dying Midwestern small town. The factory that once kept the town afloat shut down years ago. The local mall is nearly vacant. There’s really not a lot for teenaged boys to do. Austin and his best friend, Robby, hang out (skateboard, smoke) in the area behind the mall in the spot they’ve named “the Grasshopper Jungle”. Up until this point, the most challenging thing that Austin’s ever had to deal with is the possibility that he might just be in love with Robby, who came out of the closet in middle school. But Austin really loves his girlfriend, Shann, too. The three of them are best friends, but no matter what the situation, hanging out with them invariably leaves Austin both horny and confused.
One day, Robby and Austin are beaten up in the Grasshopper Jungle by a quartet of bullies. This is the beginning of a chain of events that put Robby and Austin in a prime position to witness the beginning of the end. It just takes them awhile to put all the pieces together and to understand their own role in them.
I’ve been struggling to figure out how to even describe this book. The plot is unusual, to say the least. On one level, it’s a darkly humorous apocalyptic tale. On another level, it’s story about teenagers figuring out who they are and how they fit into this world. On yet another, it’s about all the connections, seen and unseen, that turn seemingly isolated incidents into a greater understanding. Grasshopper Jungle is hilarious and heartfelt, apocalyptic and profane, realistic and completely outlandish. The writing is reminiscent of earlier Kurt Vonnegut works, which is a major bonus point for me. I can say with certainty that I’ve never read a book quite like this one. It’s honestly the kind of book you’ll just have to read and experience to see what I mean. I loved it.

01. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Paranormal, Teen Books

Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer, read by Leslie, on 03/23/2014

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Calla Tor, the alpha member of her shapeshifting wolf pack, must decide if her illicit love for the human Shay is worth the ultimate sacrifice.

The final book in this trilogy does not disappoint in the end. So as not to spoil the ending, I won’t say who dies, if they save the world, or what happens to the characters in the end.  Suffice it to say that it’s a good read, especially for those who enjoy paranormal type of books.  Young adults and teens will definitely enjoy it.

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy, Teen Books · Tags:

Beautiful Chaos: Caster Chronicles # 3 by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, read by Tammy, on 03/28/2014

beautiful chaosEthan and Lena have survived her sixteenth birthday without Lena being claimed by dark magic in spite of her family’s curse. Then on her 17th birthday she claims her self as both dark and light magic but this choice has far reaching consequences. Both the mortal and the caster world is thrown out of order. Now, before someone’s 18th birthday a choice and a sacrifice must be made to save both worlds. Lena and Ethan’s family search for the answer of who or what will need to be sacrificed and if it’s a who, can they be saved?

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, read by Angie, on 03/30/2014

Alina grew up an orphan in Ravka. She joined the army with her best friend Mal. Mal became a tracker and Alina a cartographer. On a mission to cross the Fold, an evil darkness filled with monsters, they are attacked and saved by Alina. Alina suddenly has powers she didn’t know she had. She is the one and only sun-summoner Grisha and must be protected at all costs. She is taken to the Little Palace by the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha in Ravka, to be trained. She falls under the spell of the beautiful Grisha and the intriguing Darkling. But when she is told everything isn’t as it seems she runs away to save herself and Ravka.

I really enjoyed the Russian feel to this book. I was very glad I listened to it instead of reading it so I didn’t have to worry how all the Russian-sounding words were pronounced! However, I found the book fairly formulaic and didn’t feel like it covered any new ground. I was bored by Alina’s continued doubts about herself and her obsession with the beautiful Grisha. I did like the fact that the love story didn’t really become a love triangle and I enjoyed Mal and Alina’s relationship. There were some exciting battle scenes and the ending was fairly satisfying, but I didn’t think there was anything special about the book and don’t feel compelled to read any of the others in the series.

20. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, read by Angie, on 03/18/2014

I loved Eleanor and Park so of course I had to pick up the next Rainbow Rowell book. Her stories are wonderful and so very realistic. Fangirl is about Cath. Cath is headed to college and not really ready for it. Her twin sister Wren has told her she doesn’t want to be roommates and wants to meet other people. Cath has always had Wren to rely on so this makes going to college even harder. Cath also worries about their dad who isn’t the most stable man around especially without Cath and Wren to keep an eye on him. Cath’s roommate doesn’t help either. She is snarly and rude and has an adorable boyfriend who keeps hanging around the room. Cath isn’t interested in socializing or having the college experience. She doesn’t want to meet new people or party and is scared of the cafeteria. All she really wants to do is work on her Simon Snow fanfiction and finish Carry On Simon before the next book comes out. Cath is an uber Simon Snow fan and her fanfic has thousands of followers online. Cath is more comfortable in that magical world than she is in the real world.

So for the first part of the this book I could do nothing but feel sorry for Cath. She is completely anti-social and one of the most scared people you will ever meet. Regan and Levi do slowly bring her out of that shell but it really takes a lot of effort. I thought the fanfic would be weird but it really kind of worked and in a way made me wish there really were Simon Snow books; even though they are really just Harry Potter fanfiction in themselves. I really appreciated Cath’s journey through these books. She grows up a lot and really comes into her own. And of course I loved Levi. He is the perfect first boyfriend in almost every way. As long as this book was I could have actually read more of this story. I can’t wait to see what Rainbow Rowell comes up with next.

20. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Rachel, Teen Books

Friday Never Leaving by Vikki Wakefield, read by Rachel, on 03/19/2014

In this wrenching, exquisite coming-of-age novel, Friday discovers what makes a family-and a home.

Friday Brown has never had a home. She and her mother live on the road, running away from the past instead of putting down roots. So when her mom succumbs to cancer, the only thing Friday can do is keep moving. Her journey takes her to an abandoned house where a bunch of street kids are squatting, and an intimidating girl named Arden holds court.

Friday gets initiated into the group, but her relationship with Arden is precarious, which puts Friday-and anyone who befriends her-at risk. With the threat of a dangerous confrontation looming, Friday has to decide between returning to her isolated, transient life, or trying to help the people she’s come to care about-if she can still make it out alive.

10. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books · Tags:

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott, read by Angie, on 03/08/2014

Oh Elizabeth Scott, how you break my heart every time I read one of your books. They are almost always books that make me think and make me want to cry. Heartbeat definitely falls into that category. Emma is a teenager living with her stepfather. Her mother is in the hospital dead, but being kept alive for the baby she carries. Emma blames her stepfather Dan for only thinking about the baby and not about what her mom would have wanted. She believes her mom was scared to be pregnant and knew something was going to happen to her. She doesn’t believe her mom would ever have wanted to be kept in a vegetative state like she is. Emma is mad at the world and has given up on all the things she had before her mom died. She was a straight A student on track to become valedictorian and attending a top 10 school. Now she is failing all her classes because she can’t be bothered to do homework. Every day she goes to the hospital and sits with her mom because even though she is dead she is still here. It is at the hospital where Emma meets Caleb Harrison, the local bad boy. Caleb knows what it is like to lose someone because his little sister died. His parents blame him for her death and he blames himself. In the three years since she died he has fallen into trouble through taking drugs and stealing cars. His latest escapade was driving his father’s car into the lake. Emma and Caleb bond over their shared grief and the relationship helps Emma come to terms with her situation and start to move forward.

I usually hate weepy books, but there is something so compelling about the stories Scott tells that I can’t help but devour them all. I loved the fact that this story seemed ripped from the headlines even though she had to have started writing it long before the Texas case became a story. This story of course ends differently than that one did, but I thought Scott did a fantastic job of portraying the realities of the situation. Emma was also a fantastic character. You could feel her rage and grief oozing out of the pages. You wanted to help her stop self-destructing, but there was no way. I want to be sucked into a story I read and not want to come up for air. This was one of those stories.