The Virals are put to the ultimate test when they find a geocache containing an ornate puzzle box. Shelton decodes the cipher inside, only to find more tantalizing clues left by “The Gamemaster.” A second, greater geocache is within reach—if the Virals are up to the challenge.
While you can’t imagine any group of teens escaping from so many threats and surviving each one, their secret powers keep them safer than most. I like the geocaching addition, although it’s not typical of geocaches. A riveting, keep-you-turning-pages book. Thoroughly enjoyable!
In the not-too-distant future, huge tornadoes and monster storms are a part of everyday life. Sent to spend the summer in the heart of storm country with her father in the special StormSafe community his company has developed, Jaden Meggs is excited to reconnect with her dad after he spent years researching storm technology in Russia.
While excited to be spending time with her dad, Jaden learns some uncomfortable truths about him and what he has to do with all of the powerful storms that avoid the community that he helped build. Jaden has to decide if family is more important than doing the right thing. Very good book to recommend to my younger readers.
Ever since Tory Brennan and her friends rescued Cooper, a kidnapped wolf pup with a rare strain of canine parvovirus, they’ve turned from regular kids into a crime-solving pack! But now the very place that brought them together – the Loggerhead Island Research Institute – is out of funding and will have to shut down. That is, unless the Virals can figure out a way to save it!
I find myself enjoying this series more with each book that comes out. In this one, Tory and her pack of friends go on a treasure hunt and find themselves being hunted by others who want that treasure. I like the way she weaves the viral powers the teens find themselves with, into the storylines. This will keep you on the edge of your seat, at times.
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
The continuing adventures of Thomas and the Gladers. They escaped the maze and thought that they were safe only to wake up to a scarier and more confusing world. A few questions are answered but many more remain. Can Thomas and the rest of the boys from the maze survive their latest test through the hot, dry scorched desert terrain?
Divergent, is Veronica Roth’s first book in a trilogy. Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian world of Chicago, where society is divided up into five fractions: Candor is the honest people, Abnegation is the selfless, Dauntless is the brave, Amity is the peaceful and Erudite are the intelligent .Every year on a special day, the sixteen year old children must decide which fraction to belong to. Many stay with the one they grew up in but others leave to a stranger environment. Beatrice leaves her family to try to become a Dauntless. After going through a very tough initiation, Beatrice renames herself and begins the very hard journey into this new world.
When Irene Sauvelle’s father dies, she and her family find themselves moving to a small coastal village in Northern France where her mother, Simone, finds employment as a housekeeper for an eccentric toymaker named Lazarus. At first the small family is enchanted (if slightly caught off-guard) by the sheer volume and intricacy of Lazarus’s automatons. Village life treats them equally well. Irene quickly becomes friends with one of the house’s other employees, Hannah and then is introduced to (and quickly falls for) Hannah’s cousin, Ismael. The family appears to lead a charmed life until Hannah turns up dead in the forest near the estate. The house and its contents cease to be amusing as things take a turn for the menacing.
The narrative shifts from character to character, which means that the reader will have multiple perspectives with which to decipher exactly what sort of evil is at play here. The plot has echoes of other famous tales, most notably Wuthering Heights and Faust, though the book itself has a distinctly “Zafon” feel to it. The setting is characteristically atmospheric and the juxtaposition of the beautiful against the terrifying is also very much in keeping with Zafon’s other work. The plot is merely OK; it manages to be both a bit confusing and predictable at the same time. The end comes crashing to a close, which feels somewhat anti-climactic after the action leading up to it. It’s OK though; the intriguing setting and evocative language more than make up for any plot-based missteps.
Alina Starkov and her best friend, Mal, are orphans. When they are tested by the Grisha as young children, they are deemed to be nothing particularly special. Life goes on and Alina and Mal find themselves both working for the army, Alina as a cartographer and Mal as a tracker. On an ill-fated trip to The Fold (a vast, dark and sinister space cutting across their country, inhabited by horrible winged monsters – the volcra- and little else), Alina, Mal and the rest of their regiment are almost killed. What saved them was a flash of brilliant light that drove away the volcra and left Alina unconscious. As it turns out, the flash came from Alina, who honestly believed she had no Grisha-type powers whatsoever. Not only does she have power, she has the most rare power of them all. Alina is quickly swept up into the world of the Grisha, fearing that she will never truly fit in or feel like herself again.
I really appreciated the details that made this fantasy so different from most others. First and foremost, the country that it is set in, Ravka, has a distinct Russian feel. Many of the locations *sound* really similar to existing locales and a lot of the details point to a similar culture. The vast majority of fantasy books I’ve read have a pseudo-Medieval vibe to them (complete with Medieval-style castes and sexism). It’s quite refreshing to see a story like this. Another aspect of the book/series that stands out to me is the investigation of the caste-like system the Grisha use. This theme is frequently overshadowed by some of the more romance-y portions, but is still an interesting juxtapostion. Alina is a cool enough narrator, not particularly “strong”, per se, but one who stays true to herself throughout. This is the start of what is sure to be a fascinating trilogy. From what I’ve heard, it’s already been optioned for film rights.
At this rate, I’ll read just about anything with Bill Willingham’s name on it. The various spin-off series from the Fables franchise are no exception. This particular offering features back stories for both Briar Rose and the Snow Queen. Great balance of humor, pathos and literature. The ladies in the Fables world kick butt and I look forward to spending more time with them in the future.
Becky Randle has not lived the most exciting life. She lives in a single-wide trailer with her 400lb mother. She works as a cashier in a failing supermarket. She has exactly one friend in the tiny Missouri town they live in. Becky doesn’t really ask for much, though she dreams of more.
When her mother dies, Becky discovers a name and a phone number hidden in her mother’s things. The name is Tom Kelly, one of the most prestigious fashion designers in the world. Against her better judgement, Becky gets in touch and is whisked away to New York where she is told by Tom and his handlers that, if she wears three dresses designed by him, she will become the most beautiful woman in the world. Becky is highly dubious, believing herself to be set up for some sort of embarrassing reality show or something of that ilk. When she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees bad skin, limp hair and a body she’s less than happy with. How can she possibly become the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (hereafter “MBWitW”)?
The first dress is red and Becky quickly discovers that it does indeed make her the MBWitW, but only when she’s with other people. When she’s alone, she looks like an overdressed version of herself. She eventually begins to get used to the adulation and creates a persona to match, dubbing herself “Rebecca” and reserving “Becky” for her non-MBWitW-self. Only after she realizes that Tom Kelly’s talents are indeed exceptional, she is presented with the other half of the bargain: she has one year to meet someone, fall in love and get married. If not, she’ll go back to being Becky forever. If she can make it happen, she’ll continue to be the MBWitW for the rest of her life. Her rise to super-stardom (because extreme beauty evidently becomes famous on its own) puts her in a position to meet plenty of potential princes to enable her “happily ever after”. Imagine her surprise, however, when a very real prince takes an interest. Is a year long enough to fall in love and get married? Can Becky really fall in love when she’s living her life as Rebecca? Who is the prince really in love with: Becky or Rebecca?
It’s an interesting enough premise, but it kind of felt like a mess to me. I get the message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc., and that’s a good one to send to a teen audience. I just felt like everything was a bit of a stretch. Tom Kelly as a character is more than a bit perplexing. I’m not even entirely sure what he is, though he’s clearly modeled after Calvin Klein. Most of the characters have some sort of real-life counterpart, which points to satire, but doesn’t quite pull it off. While the twists in the book were surprising, I felt like they ultimately dragged it out even more. This really should have been a novella or a short story to maintain maximum effect, but at novel-length, it lagged in places for me. I had heard that this book was supposed to be really funny, but I wound up finding it a bit over-the-top, particularly when it came to Becky’s rabidly protective BFF. This one probably works for some folks, but I don’t think it was the book for me. Not bad, just not what I was hoping for.
Enter the dark and eerie world of Hopeless, Maine. You may notice that there are an awful lot of orphans for such an isolated place. You may also notice a girl named Salamandra who refuses to stay put in the orphanage that she’s been placed in. While this is going on, you’re probably trying to squint through the enveloping fog to see if there really are monsters crawling through the shadows. Hopeless, Maine is the type of town where anything can happen and where the most monstrous of the monsters may not even look like monsters at all.
Beautiful, atmospheric artwork and a dark sense of humor make this a comic series to watch.
Maude Pichon ran away from her home in Northern France to avoid a miserable marriage. She had hoped things would be better in Paris. After searching for work endlessly, Maude stumbles upon an ad seeking women for easy work with “propriety guaranteed”. When she arrives at her potential employers, she is thrown into a lineup with no indication of what her job will entail. She is completely shocked when she realizes that this job is not one that involves any sort of labor. It is a job where she must play the role of an ugly sidekick to a wealthy socialite and Maude is immediately singled out to work with a countess’s daughter. She later discovers that she has been hired as a “repoussoir”; a “foil” to beauty. M. Durandeau has made an exceptional living by hiring out unattractive women to wealthy families to make the women in said families appear more attractive to their equally wealthy peers. Maude has been hired to accompany a young debutante named Isabelle, but her employment has the unusual catch of not being able to tell Isabelle what she really is. Isabelle is led to believe that Maude is a distant cousin from Normandy, hence her lack of refinement and Parisian fashion sense. As time goes on, Maude realizes that keeping this particular secret from Isabelle is going to be harder than she thought as the two become friends. How long can Maude continue to maintain the charade?
I truly enjoyed immersing myself in the Belle Epoque age of Paris. Elizabeth Ross certainly has an eye for period detail, which makes this story stand out. The idea of the “repoussior” evidently came from an Emile Zola short story, but works exceptionally well in this novel even if “repoussoirs” didn’t really exist. It definitely makes for an interesting premise and easily leads to contemplation about the nature of beauty and privilege.
Conjured is one of those books that’s incredibly difficult to describe. Our protagonist (sort of), Eve, is in witness protection but she doesn’t really know why. In fact, there’s really not much that Eve remembers at all. It’s not just her long-term memory that’s missing, she continues to lose chunks of her short-term memory every time she uses magic. She does know that if she attempts magic, she will lose consciousness as well as her memory. When she loses consciousness, she has horrific nightmares that evoke images of a macabre circus, an evil magician and a mysterious storyteller. Each nightmare is vivid and disturbing yet none will make sense until the book is nearly over. Life in WitSec (the witness protection program that’s taken Eve in) isn’t easy. Eve feels compelled to lie about her memory lapses and frequently worries about how she can be a witness if she knows nothing about her case. There are others that are kind of like her in that they can perform magic and are protected by WitSec, but none of them seem to suffer from the same types of memory issues. If anything, they revel in their talents. Eve’s handlers and the other “witnesses” all seem to know what the case is all about and who they’re in hiding from, but Eve is still clueless. They all appear to hope that her memory will return on its own, but Eve has trouble making sense of anything. In the meantime, Eve is given a job at the local library, where she meets a boy named Zach who is fascinated by her. Eve’s relationship with Zach grows from friendly acquaintanceship to something resembling a romance. All Eve knows for sure is that when she kisses Zach, they float (literally) and she doesn’t pass out. It is only this new human connection that prompts Eve to try and figure out more.
Eve is not a character that readers will relate to. Most of us, if in Eve’s position, would be desperate to find out what’s going on and would demand answers of those who did know more. In that sense, the narrative might be frustrating to some readers. The unconventional plot structure will further frustrate those readers. Those who don’t mind a bit of confusion along the way will be rewarded by a truly unique tale. The reader never knows more than Eve does, so each revelation adds more to the story. As the clues slowly start to form a coherent picture of Eve’s pre-WitSec life, the story becomes more and more nightmarish. The deliberate pacing may put some readers off as well, but others will relish the mystery and macabre setting. This is not the book for everyone, but it certainly sets itself apart from the pack.
Sunny is a lovely and unusual new manga series. Sunny is also a type of car that has captured the imaginations of the children of the Star Kids orphanage. The broken-down Sunny sits in the yard of the orphanage and serves as a spot for the kids to hang out, seek refuge and imagine their ideal lives. The narrative shifts from resident to resident giving the reader not only a slice of life, but a glimpse into the hopes and dreams of the kids living at the home. It’s not a bad orphanage; the adults running it are kind and do all they can to create a home for their charges. The kids are like kids one would meet anywhere; they have good days and bad, but they have to sort it all out amongst themselves.
Sweet, sad and funny – this manga hits all the right notes without ever overdoing it.
Oh. Wow. This book is amazing. Genuinely amazing. I’m not even a huge fan of historical fiction or war novels, but this completely grabbed me and still hasn’t really let go. I felt compelled to check it out due to the bevy of starred reviews and found that each and every one of those stars is well-earned.
The story opens with a young Scottish woman (“Verity”/”Eva”/Julie) who is a Special Operations Executive that has been captured by Germans after crash landing in occupied France. She has been charged with writing out a full confession and agrees to do so in order to buy herself time. Interspersed with her “confessions” is the the story of her friendship with another young woman, Maddie, a WAAF/ATA pilot. As the novel-like confession progresses, we catch glimpses of the conditions that Julie is being kept in. She is tortured and starved, but never loses her sardonic sense of humor. She remains defiant in even the most extreme circumstances.
Just when you think that you know what’s going on, the narrative shifts and the real magic happens. I’m not going to spoil it, however. I would encourage just about everyone I know to pick this book up and dig in. The characters are timeless, brave and smart. The writing is exquisite. The pace, unrelenting. I loved this book through and through. Just go read it already!
Welcome to the town of Never Better. It’s the home of young Jeremy Johnson Johnson, a teen with the unusual ability to hear ghosts. He is presently accompanied by a rather famous ghost: Jacob Grimm (of the Grimm Brothers). Jacob has been “haunting” (yes, I’m using the term very loosely) Jeremy for quite some time, protecting him from the Keeper of Occasions (an entity only Jacob seems familiar with). Jeremy, for his part, is quite content to be constantly accompanied by this ghost. Life has been rather lonely for him. His father became a shut-in after his mother ran off years ago. Jeremy has been doing his best to keep the tiny family afloat, which is rather difficult as their sole source of income is the family bookstore, The Two-Book Bookstore. The bookstore really does have only two books, volumes one and two of his grandfather’s autobiography. Needless to say, business is not good and foreclosure is imminent.
When redheaded, gregarious Ginger takes an interest in Jeremy, the two set off a series of events that will lead them into a deadly situation that only Jacob Grimm can help undo.
Narrated entirely by the ghost of Jacob Grimm, this book is one of the most original and intriguing fairy-tale-related stories I’ve come across. It takes a moment to get used to Jacob’s manner of speaking, which is appropriately didactic and peppered with German phrases, but the narration does wonders to set up the atmosphere of the book. The town of Never Better has a slightly menacing and dreamlike quality to it. For instance, there’s a Santa-like baker in town whose bakery makes a rare type of cake with superstition on the side. Whenever the green smoke rises from the chimney of the bakery, the town then knows that delicious Prince Cakes will be on the menu the next day. There’s also the matter of the town’s runaway problem. Young folks leave and never come back, yet the townspeople are largely unconcerned. All the mysteries eventually tie in together to create a truly unique and timeless world where it seems anything might happen, particularly if you have the ghost of one of the Grimm brothers on your side.
Ender, a child, is forced into a life path not of his choosing – military leader of Earth.
Amy Fields is a poor little rich girl trying to get her daddy’s attention. Her mother committed suicide and her father immersed himself in work and then got remarried. Amy acts out by getting facial piercings, smoking during a final exam and go to clubs all night. Her father buys a yacht and decides to take the family on a round-the-world sailing trip. Amy is naturally resistant and petulant during most of the trip. Then along the coast of Somalia they are kidnapped by pirates. The Somali pirates, or Coast Guard as they call themselves, don’t want to hurt the passengers they just want a ransom.
The strength of this novel was in the characterizations of the pirates and Amy’s coming to terms with her mother. The pirates are not shown as villainous, evil men. They are shown as people just trying to make a living in a war torn nation with no economy and no jobs. Nick Lake does a great job of making them human and contrasting their living situations with those of the Fields. While this doesn’t excuse their behavior, it does give them a more human aspect and shows that to them this is just a job and everything has a value.
The novel also shows how this forced confinement forces Amy into coming to terms with her mother. Her mother suffered from OCD and severe depression and her life was not easy. Amy tended to gloss over the bad times and just remember the mom she wanted to remember. She never faced up to the fact that her mom called her before she jumped from a roof and basically told her what she was going to do. Amy starts to remember the good times and the bad times with her mom and she starts to make peace with her. She also starts making peace with her father and realizes her stepmother might not be the horrible person she thought she was.
I think the weakness of this novel is the relationship that develops between Amy and Farouz. Farouz is a young translator for the pirates and it is through him that we learn about life in Somalia. It is through his stories we learn about the endless wars that have ravaged the country. How his parents were killed in front of him, about how he and his brother fled Mogadishu and what his brother did for him so they could survive. He is a pirate so he can earn enough money to free his brother from jail. We also learn how piracy was born in Somalia and why so many of its men are pirates. Amy and Farouz are attracted to each other and during the captivity they become closer and closer. They are clearly not on equal ground however as Amy’s life is in the hands of Farouz and the other pirates. I found this relationship distasteful and unbelievable. I didn’t see the emotional connection or believe they would be relaxed enough in their environment to meet as often as they did. I don’t think the seriousness and danger of the situations was as accurately portrayed as it could have been. The good thing is that neither of them really believe the relationship is going anywhere; there is no future for them as much as they might dream of one.
Despite my issues with the book, this was a gripping, gritty read. I wanted to know how it was going to end because we kept getting hints and flashes of the outcome. This is not a happily ever after kind of story, but it is a happier now than before kind of story (for most of the characters). I appreciate the realness of the story and its ending.
I received a copy of this book from both Netgalley and ALA 2013.
In the twenty-second century, Glennora Morgan’s father has been working on a project that will allow him to penetrate the Rift border and retrieve Glennora’s mother; but now that he has succeeded the Authority is suddenly trying to kill them both, and Glennora and her friend Kevin must flee into the Magisterium to escape them.
I guess this would qualify as dystopian, although I am not really sure it takes place on Earth, it never really states that in the book. If you like books that blend the magical with the ordinary, then you will enjoy this one. Glennora has dreams of space flight to another planet but cannot forget her mother, who disappeared. Her father makes her life difficult by focusing on an unknown project that ultimately changes the course of her life forever. You will have to read it to find out if her dream of space travel ever become reality.