06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank, 272 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/27/2014

This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.

Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

Far From You by Tess Sharpe, 352 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/25/2014

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her?

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King, 320 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/20/2014

Glory O’Brien has just graduated high school and she has no idea what her future holds. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was just five years old and Glory is worried that she’ll end up like her mother. They already have a lot in common. Glory’s mother was a famous photographer with an offbeat worldview. Glory prefers to hide behind the camera and doesn’t even particularly like her best and only friend. Everything changes when Glory and her friend, Ellie, drink a concoction consisting of a powdered, dessicated bat and some beer. It’s a strange thing to do, but the aftermath is even stranger. The morning after the bat-drinking incident both girls begin to see visions whenever they meet another person’s eye. They see that individual’s past, present and future. Not just that of the person in question, but that person’s ancestors and successors. It is in these visions that Glory begins to see a pattern of events that will eventually lead to a horrifying future. The future she sees indicates that a second civil war will take place. Women will lose all of their rights. Glory is having a hard enough time seeing a reason to live beyond tomorrow, but if this is the future she has to look forward to, what’s the point?

This is a fascinating experiment in form and genre. A.S. King is easily one of my favorite YA authors. Her work is never, ever ordinary. Her newest novel is no exception. The characters are unique and well-developed. Glory is maudlin, but never overly depressing. Her friend Ellie is the daughter of hippies who live in a commune across the street from Glory and her father. Ellie continually gets herself into terrible situations that Glory has trouble reconciling. Glory’s father is still mourning the loss of his late wife. He’s a painter who hasn’t painted since she died. There’s history between Glory and Ellie’s parents that slowly reveals itself. Everything is significant in the worlds of King’s novels, even the smallest details. I honestly had some difficultly believing in the future world presented here, but thematically, it makes for an interesting thought experiment. The discussion of feminism is prevalent throughout, but never feels heavy-handed. I genuinely enjoyed this book, even if I didn’t totally love the “History of the Future” part. This book is just so delightfully strange and emotionally compelling to be angry about the technicalities.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins , 560 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/14/2014

Matthew Turner is an atheist. He might have believed in God if his brother was still alive. But his brother committed suicide after the persistent harassment and hostility he faced when he came out as gay. In Matthew’s mind, if there really was a God, that God wouldn’t have let such terrible things happen to his brother, who was, by all accounts, a kind and wonderful human being. In fact, when it comes right down to it, Matthew doesn’t have faith in anything. His parents don’t get along; his father is a philanderer. His girlfriend is deeply religious, which causes serious problems when she decides she needs to get closer to God instead of Matt. School is even a bit of a mess; his essays raging against Christianity get him in trouble. What’s a kid to do when there’s nothing to believe in?

I’m ultimately kind of split on how I feel about Hopkins’ latest effort. On many levels,Rumble is great. On others, it feels heavy-handed and slightly contrived. The discussion of guilt and culpability is an important one for teens to read about, but Matthew is not a likeable character. He’s full of vitriol when it comes to the religion issue and he’s incredibly disrespectful of the faith of others. Of course, this really only pertains to Christianity, not other faiths. I’m honestly not sure that I buy the relationship between Matthew and his girlfriend. I have a lot of trouble believing that a girl so deeply religious would want to be around someone so exceedingly hostile toward a major aspect of her life. I might have bought it if one of the characters was more middle-of-the-road, or at least in a questioning phase. In this case, it feels like she exists more as a plot device and foil rather than a fully-realized character. That all having been said, I still found the overall message of the book to be a good and necessary one. While I saw the ending coming, I’m sure it will still satisfy many readers and give them plenty of food for thought.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Steam-punk, Teen Books

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, 378 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/09/2014

Joel has always wanted to be a Rithmatist, but he wasn’t chosen. He still gets to go to the prestigious Armedius Academy and, while he can’t take the courses that the Rithmatist students do, he can still sneak into the occasional class. His obsession with Rithmancy earns him a summer assistantship with his favorite Rithmancy professor, Fitch. When students studying Rithmancy start disappearing with no trace save for some drops of blood, the whole school is in an uproar. It’s believed that someone or something is targeting Rithmatists. The likely weapon is a set of oddly drawn Chalklings that have the ability to attack physical forms rather than chalk lines, the sort that are typically only seen far away on the war-torn isle of Nebrask. Professor Fitch is charged with assisting in the investigation and Joel is eager to help. The artistically-gifted-but-geometrically-disinclined Melody, also assigned to help Professor Fitch over the summer, teams up with Joel as they work to solve the mystery of their missing classmates.

Author Sanderson has created a fascinating and original world where battles are drawn in chalk. A working knowledge of geometry is every bit as important as a steady hand. Joel excels in geometric strategy, but ultimately can do little more than watch from the sidelines. The ability to become a Rithmatist is not one that can worked towards; either one is a Rithmatist or one is not. The setting is the United Isles of America (a detailed map of which appears at the beginning of the book). The Rithmatist is interspersed with illustrations featuring chalk-drawn defenses and Chalklings. Joel and Melody both break the mold of the middle-grade magic novel. Joel has no magical abilities. Melody, while a Rithmatist, is at the bottom of her class. She doesn’t particularly enjoy being a Rithmatist either. She is, however, an excellent artist, which winds up being far more useful than she had previously believed. This book works on a number of levels: it’s a mystery/fantasy/steampunk/action/adventure story. And it does all of these things quite well.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Sabriel by Garth Nix, 292 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/07/2014

Sabriel has been living on the safe side of the wall, far from the flowing free magic and the undead denizens of the Old Kingdom, for many years. She’s in training to be a mage and her mettle is about to be tested. Sabriel’s father, Abhorsen, has gone missing. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t worry Sabriel too much, but her father sent her his bells and sword. Which means he’s either dead or trapped in the underworld. Which means there’s now nothing preventing the dead from rising back up and wreaking havoc on both sides of the wall. Sabriel at once decides she needs to go and find her father, which means not only crossing the wall, but facing some of the biggest undead threats she’s ever encountered. Armed with her father’s bandolier of bells, each of which holds its own type of power, and her wits, Sabriel heads off into the unknown. She’s eventually joined by a cat-like creature, Mogget, and a young man she’s recently freed from the mast of a long-docked ship.

I’m a big fan of the Abhorsen trilogy, but there’s naturally a soft spot in my heart for Sabriel. Nix does a fantastic job with his world-building. The magic in this trilogy is one that must be learned and directed. Sabriel is clever and self-possessed, in spite of her absentee father and her longing to be on the other side of the wall where she was born. Her bitterness turns to determination as she navigates the river of the underworld and the dangers of the Old Kingdom. Sabriel is a richly imagined and original fantasy suitable for a wide audience.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, 480 pages, read by Angie, on 10/05/2014

So aliens have invaded the earth. First they set off an emp that took out everything electrical, then there were the tsunamis that took out the coasts, then came the red death that killed billions, and then there were the silencers (aliens who look like humans). Now the survivors are just trying to survive and prepare for whatever comes next. Cassie has survived with most of her family. Cassie, her dad and her brother are at a refugee camp when military vehicles arrive and take the children away (adults are supposedly leaving later). Of course the military lies and kills everyone else at the camp except Cassie. She is determined to keep her promise to her little brother Sammy though and find him. But in a world where anyone can be the enemy who can you trust? Ben has recovered from the red death and has been recruited into the new military at Camp Haven. All the recruits are kids, some as young as five, and are all being trained to kill. Ben takes young Sammy under his wing and promises to protect him. Meanwhile Cassie has been shot by a silencer but rescued by hotty Evan Walker. She isn’t sure she can trust him but he sure is dreamy with his beautiful eyes and soft hands. She is still determined to rescue Sammy and decides she might need Evan’s help.

There were times when I really wanted to quit reading this book. I think it started about the time Evan appeared and Cassie lost all sense. It is the end of the world and she has seen so much death and destruction. I liked her when she was the crazy person in the woods, but once she started thinking about how dreamy Evan was I was pretty much done. He is basically a stalker and a killer who had no real redeeming qualities other than the fact that he saved her life. I hate when a romance element is forced into a story and this one was more egregious then most. It just really didn’t make any sense in the plot of the book. The plot itself, while not original, was at least a bit entertaining. I am not sure why teen books always have to use the child soldiers theme but whatever. The aliens are out to get us all and make us do all the work ok sure. The end of the book where everything comes together and Cassie and Ben meet up in their quests to save Sammy made the book at least a bit worth the read.

02. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Jane, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Game by Barry Lyga, 520 pages, read by Jane, on 09/04/2014

Billy grinned. “Oh, New York,” he whispered. “We’re gonna have so much fun.”

I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jazz, the son of history’s most infamous serial killer, Billy Dent.

In an effort to prove murder didn’t run in the family, Jazz teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo’s Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help, he can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force–running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.

01. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

The Selection by Kiera Cass , 336 pages, read by Kristy, on 09/25/2014

While this book was by no means a literary masterpiece, it was nice and fluffy and a fun read in general. The main character gets drafted to be one of the 35 selected girls from across the country to compete for the prince’s hand. However, she is in no way interested in the prince because she has a love back home. The Selection felt rather Hunger Games-ish without the bloodshed and with lots of estrogen.

If you’re looking for a book with substance, turn away. But if you want an easy, fluff-filled read with lots of romance, this is the book for you.

30. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Jessica, Paranormal, Romance, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Providence by Jamie McGuire, 485 pages, read by Jessica, on 09/29/2014

91UPFBetXiL._SL1500_In the old world shadows of Providence, Rhode Island, Nina Grey finds herself the center of a war between Hell and Earth.

Struggling with her father’s recent death, Nina meets Jared Ryel by chance…or so she believes. Although his stunning good looks and mysterious talents are a welcome distraction, it soon becomes clear that Jared knows more about Nina than even her friends at Brown University. When questions outnumber answers, Jared risks everything to keep the woman he was born to save—by sharing the secret he was sworn to protect.

When her father’s former associates begin following her in the dark, Nina learns that her father is not the man she thought he was, but a thief who stole from demons. Searching for the truth behind her father’s death, Nina stumbles upon something she never expected—something Hell wants—and only she holds the key.

05. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

The Darkest Path by Jeff Hirsch, 320 pages, read by Leslie, on 08/28/2014

17381993  A civil war rages between the Glorious Path–a militant religion based on the teachings of a former US soldier–and what’s left of the US government. Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe and his younger brother, James, were captured and forced to convert six years ago. Cal has been working in the Path’s dog kennels, and is very close to becoming one of the Path’s deadliest secret agents. Then Cal befriends a stray dog named Bear and kills a commander who wants to train him to be a vicious attack dog. This sends Cal and Bear on the run, and sets in motion a series of incredible events that will test Cal’s loyalties and end in a fierce battle that the fate of the entire country rests on.

I did like this story, of what could happen should extreme religious beliefs take over in our country.  Sometimes I felt the storyline could have delved a little deeper but overall, a very good story and moral to take heed of.  It wasn’t until the end that I even understood why the dog was such a focal point of the story.  Some of the characters seemed shallow and fairly unnecessary at times but added to the plot in their own way.  I don’t know that younger readers will understand the implications of such a story but older teens will find it a good read.

05. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Paranormal, Teen Books

Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead, 380 pages, read by Leslie, on 08/13/2014

8709524 In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists.

Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.

Book #5 in the Bloodlines series, we are once again drawn into the periphery world of vampires and their society.  Adrian, searching for his love, Sydney, bounces between despair and euphoria.  Sydney hedges all her bets on being saved by her friends, and they do not disappoint.  The two manage to find a way to stay together, but the road may not be as smooth as they hope.  Looking forward to the next installment.

05. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, 336 pages, read by Leslie, on 08/06/2014

13326831  Sixteen-year-old Malencia (Cia) Vale is chosen to participate in The Testing to attend the University; however, Cia is fearful when she figures out her friends who do not pass The Testing are disappearing.

Very similar to the Hunger Games in how the country is divided into groups, how the Testing is conducted, the potential romance between 2 of the characters.  Though there was enough difference that is was not an exact copycat version, still close enough to make it not as interesting, to me, at least.  Rather than expecting the citizens to live in poverty, education and science are encouraged.  Citizens live fairly well but cannot live outside their areas unless needed elsewhere for their knowledge, due to the environmental disaster that has ruined the land.  Where in the Hunger Games, there is only one expected winner, no one is encouraged to kill, but it isn’t discouraged and Cia finds out quickly that she can only trust certain members of her potential class.  Teens will enjoy the read.

05. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Ruins by Dan Wells, 464 pages, read by Leslie, on 08/01/2014

Ruins (Partials Sequence, #3) There is no avoiding it—the war to decide the fate of both humans and Partials is at hand. Both sides hold in their possession a weapon that could destroy the other, and Kira Walker has precious little time to prevent that from happening. She has one chance to save both species and the world with them, but it will only come at great personal cost.

Just had to read the last installment of the trilogy, but though it tied all the strings together, I just did not feel the ending did justice to the storyline.  Some people died, the opposing forces finally worked together to stop fighting and try to survive, but I feel they left a lot out that could have been addressed.  Maybe another book is forthcoming?  Teens will enjoy this if they like the Hunger Games and similar books.

 

 

04. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Jane, Mystery, Teen Books

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, 359 pages, read by Jane, on 08/30/2014

What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal’s point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

03. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Kristy, Romance, Teen Books · Tags:

Matched by Ally Condie, 369 pages, read by Kristy, on 08/30/2014

Matched, the first book the the Matched series, concerns a futuristic society where the government (“The Society”) controls nearly every aspect of human lives. Cassia never questions this way of life until her Matching goes awry. Cassia slowly begins to question everything, which gets negative attention from The Society and completely changes her perception of the world.

While this book was well written, I found Cassia’s constant thought stream to be a bit boring and redundant. I would have enjoyed if more action was added and if more characters were fleshed out. 

On the plus side, I love the covers of the books in this series. The cover was what drew me into the book in the first place. 

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

That Summer by Sarah Dessen, 240 pages, read by Kristy, on 08/15/2014

That summer is a novel about a 15 year old girl who is dealing with her parents divorce, her sister getting married and moving off, and being abnormally tall. But don’t you worry, all of her issues are neatly resolved at the end of the book. While I really like Sarah Dessen’s writing, I found this book rather dull and unrelatable.

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno, 231 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/28/2014

Here’s one with an unusual premise (for a YA book, anyway). Molly has been losing large chunks of time for the last year and she doesn’t know why. She’ll be doing something and then, the next thing she knows, it will be hours later and she will be somewhere else doing something else with no memory of how or why she’s there. She’s scared to let anyone know about her problem though, so she tries desperately to keep it all to herself. She sees a therapist, but is convinced that if she tells him what’s going on, he’ll give her medication, which she doesn’t want. One day, when Molly has one of her episodes, she witnesses a boy on a motorcycle get hit by a car. She feels compelled to sit with him in the street and later go to the hospital with him. He’s fatally injured, but seems to know who she is, though he initially calls her “Mabel” before calling her “Molly”. Molly is sure she’s never seem him before though he seems equally sure they’re actually quite close. On the ride to the hospital, Molly agrees to call the boy’s brother, Sayer. He too, seems to know who she is and, when he arrives at the hospital, Molly finds herself inexplicably drawn to him. She’s also convinced he knows far more than he’s letting on and she needs some answers.
I kind of had a hard time deciding how I felt about this one, but it ultimately didn’t have much of an emotional pull on me. It will come as no surprise (and thus doesn’t count as a spoiler) that Molly suffers from a Dissociative Identity Disorder. Her “alter” is named Mabel. Molly has no clue that Mabel exists though Mabel seems to come out quite a bit. The narrative does shift from Molly to Mabel. Molly is skittish and depressed; she has a habit of leaving her sentences trailing off in the middle of them and acts awkward around just about everyone. Mabel, on the other hand, is more outgoing, speaks in complete sentences and has the distinct advantage of being able to remember everything, not just the moments when she is the dominant personality. Added to the mix of dealing with two identities is a kind-of mystery – how do Lyle and Sayer know her? Why are they so loyal to her? Why does the family tip-toe around Molly? It all makes sense in the end, even if the memories recovered in the wake of the accident are revealed in reverse chronological order. The end, however, feels a bit cheesy and contrived, so that was a bit of a letdown. Otherwise, the book was swift and compelling and just different enough to keep my interest.

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books

Fluff Dragon by Platte F. Clark, 384 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/25/2014

Max Spencer has just finished saving the world from Princess the unicorn, but that was in the future. Now, they’re back in the present, but still in the Magrus, a magical realm. Max and his friends, gaming nerd Dirk, comic shop owner (and dwarf) Dwight and Sarah, the brains of the operation and resident kick-boxer, are would love to go home, but the revelation that there are forces far more dangerous than Princess are at work and will still destroy the future if this rag-tag crew doesn’t take matters into their own hands. Someone is hard at work killing all the dragons and if the dragons go extinct, the Magrus will grow cold and barren. Also, the Codex of Infinite Knowability is on the fritz, and, since they need it to tell them how to perform the magic to get home, they really can’t go anywhere anyway. Not until they can take the Codex to the place where it was written. In the meantime, Max and Co. pick up a few new companions, including the titular Fluff Dragon, Puff and a pair of Fire Kittens named Moki and Loki. Of course, there are also villains galore. Since Princess was defeated in the future, she’s still around causing trouble. Then, there’s Rezermoor Dreadbringer and his zombie duck, not to mention the insidious Maelshadow who’s truly pulling the strings. Max and his friends have their work cut out for them.
So, I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, but this one isn’t nearly as funny or engaging. Which is not to say that it isn’t enjoyable; it is. Just not *as* good as the previous one. It may, perhaps, be because there are far fewer excerpts from the Codex, which typically have a kind of Hitchhiker’s Guide feel to them. It may also be because the plot feels murky – there’s a lot going on and much of the humorous world-building is lost in the mix. It is, however, nice to meet some of the creatures that were only mentioned in the first book, but never encountered, like the fire kittens. Other characters don’t get to spend much time with our primary characters, so one can only hope that they’ll be back for the conclusion of the trilogy. This winds up feeling more like a traditional fantasy book (with a sense of humor, of course), rather than the surprisingly clever mashup of fantasy and sci-fi/time travel of the first book. I’m having trouble putting my finger on what exactly is was about Fluff Dragon that didn’t quite do it for me, but I still can’t help but look forward to the concluding book to this trilogy.

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Dystopia, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The Violet Hour by Whitney A. Miller, 312 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/15/2014

Harlow Wintergreen is the daughter of VisionCrest’s patriarch. VisionCrest is one of the fastest spreading and most pervasive religions in the world. Fully a quarter of the world’s population adheres to the tenants of the faith. Harlow doesn’t consider herself a believer, but being in the public eye forces her to maintain a semblance of solidarity. Further complicating her life, Harlow also suffers from horrific and violent visions and hears a voice encouraging the violence. She’s been able to hide the visions from her friends and family, but when her father takes a group of high-ranking VisionCrest members and their families to Asia, the visions intensify. On her 17th birthday, Harlow undergoes the initiation and eventually tells her father about her visions. Her father freaks out and calls her an abomination. The next day, the group moves on to China. Without her father. They stay at a high-ranking official’s compound and Harlow quickly discovers that there are factions within VisionCrest that seek to unseat her father. There’s also a resistance faction that believes both groups have strayed from the true faith. Harlow isn’t sure what side she’s on, but she knows it has something to do with the voice and her visions. Either way, things will get worse before they get better.
The Violet Hour has a unique plot and style. The cult is based out of the United States, but the vast majority of the action takes place throughout Japan, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. It’s vaguely dystopian, but the world still looks very similar to the world we are familiar with. Harlow and her BFF, Dora have a sweet, solid friendship. There’s also a bit of romance involving a boy named Alex whose family was kidnapped by unknown forces (as, apparently, many other VisionCrest families have been). Alex was returned, but his family is presumed dead. Their relationship is frustrating, to say the least. Alex is involved with a girl that Harlow hates and acts alternately hot and cold with Harlow. His motivation is unclear until the end of the book. The world building in this falls a bit short. The reader discovers little about VisionCrest, with the exception of a ritual or two and discussion about the politics of its members. What they actually believe and ask of their members is unclear. Nevertheless, many readers will be willing to overlook these flaws since other aspects of the book are relatively strong.