08. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Deadman Wonderland Volume 3 by Jinsei Kataoka, Kazuma Kondou, 200 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/07/2014

Ganta enters the Carnival Corpse, a battle between two Branch of Sin users. Ganta’s next opponent is a timid girl; can he even take her on? Meanwhile, deep in the bowels of the prison, the warden stands face to face with the Red Man. Who really murdered Ganta’s friends?

08. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Deadman Wonderland Volume 2 by Jinsei Kataoka, Kazuma Kondou, 200 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/07/2014

While on the hunt for the Red Man, Ganta is thrown into a battle exhibition called the Carnival of Corpses, in which he is matched up against the powerful Senji. The battle is intense, but even if Ganta wins, is he prepared for the consequences?

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline, Romance, Teen Books

The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall, 384 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/10/2014

From the highly acclaimed author of The Book of Summers comes a tale of love, lies and innocence lost.

For Hadley Dunn, life has been predictable and uneventful. But that is before she spends her second year of college abroad in Lausanne, a glamorous Swiss city on the shores of Lake Geneva. Lausanne is imbued with the boundless sense of freedom Hadley has been seeking, and it is here she meets Kristina, a beautiful but mysterious Danish girl. The two bond quickly, but as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes.

Driven by guilt and haunted by suspicion, Hadley resolves to find the truth about what really happened that night, and so begins a search that will consume her, the city she loves, and the lives of two very different men. Set against the backdrop of a uniquely captivating city, The Swiss Affair is an evocative portrayal of a journey of discovery and a compelling exploration of how our connections with people and with places, make us who we are.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers, 444 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/25/2014

Mortal Heart concludes the amazing “His Fair Assassin” series. This time it’s Annith’s story. Annith was brought to the convent of Mortain (a pagan god of death) as a baby and has been living and training there ever since. She’s easily one of the most accomplished initiates, particularly in archery. Annith has been frustrated lately as her sisters Ismae and Sybella were sent out before her in spite of their minimal training. When a 15-year-old initiate is sent out instead of Annith, Annith begins to seriously question the abbess’s judgement. Then Annith finds out that the abbess intends to make her the next Seeress, a role that will necessarily sequester Annith in a closed room for the rest of her life, she is livid. The abbess gives her only one other option: if Annith won’t do as she’s bid, she will be forced to leave the convent for good. After a brief stint nursing the current Seeress back to health, Annith leaves the convent to track down the abbess, who is seeing to the duchess’s affairs. It’s time the abbess knew what Annith really thinks about the plans for making her Seeress. Of course, there will be more than a few surprises, revelations and adventures along the way. I’ve been loving this series from the moment I heard “assassin nuns”. Each one has centered on a different sister in the convent of St. Mortain and all three stories center around the court of Duchess Anne and their struggles to maintain Breton independence from the French. What is even cooler is that Anne was a real person and her fictional character dovetails nicely with her historical one. There are a few minor anachronisms/liberties taken with the course of historical events, but these are noted in an author’s note at the end of the book. Annith’s story was everything I had hoped it would be. She is every bit as strong, intelligent and skilled (even more so, really)as any of her predecessors, though her story is completely her own. It is, of course, fun and edifying to see Ismae and Sybella again, though through the eyes of someone else. Part of the joy of this series is how well-constructed and well-written it is. The books are long, but the pacing is swift. The voice of each character rings true and distinct. For fans of the previous two books, this is a no-brainer. For newcomers, well, they’ll be missing out on a couple of levels, but this book would even work as a stand-alone.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Teen Books

Mortal Gods (Mortal Gods #2) by Kendare Blake, 341 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/21/2014

Mortal Gods is the second book in the Goddess Wars trilogy and, as such, picks up shortly after Antigoddess ends. At this point, the gods are not doing well. It turns out that forces more powerful than Hera and Poseidon are at work and continuing to drive the gods into their painful physical decline. Athena et al. may have won the first battle (barely), but the war is just beginning. Cassandra wants revenge on Aphrodite. Athena wants to find the other human weapon, Achilles, before Ares and Aphrodite do. What Athena and her crew don’t know yet is that Hera isn’t actually dead. In fact, she’s been healing ever since the battle. Which goes to show: never assume a mostly-immortal being is dead, even if it seems like they couldn’t possibly survive whatever befell them. Odds are good they’re still alive and plotting how they’re going to get you once they get their strength back. As the gods feel their bodies giving up on them, the reincarnated versions of Cassandra, Hercules, Odysseus and Achilles seem to be getting stronger and faster.

While I didn’t hate Mortal Gods, I didn’t really love it either. I do enjoy the characterization of the Greek gods, even though it’s really nothing new at the point. Blake’s versions feel much more true to their origins than other incarnations I’ve come across. There’s plenty of fighting and action, but now, easily a year after reading Antigoddess, I’m having trouble remembering what the whole war thing is about in the first place. I spent the first half of the book struggling to remember what happened in the first book and the second half waiting for something exciting to happen. There’s a lot of travel, speculation and training for fights throughout this installment, which is all fine and good, but I guess I felt like I needed more from this series. This is absolutely a “middle book” in the series; I doubt it would work as a stand-alone. Perhaps I’m just tired of series at this point, but it almost always feels like the second book in a series/trilogy/quartet/etc. winds up being somewhat disappointing. Time will tell if I decide to pick up the final book in this series.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, 208 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/21/2014

>Through the Woodsb kicks off with an introduction that evokes the age-old fear of the dark and things that go bump in the night, which effectively sets the tone for the rest of this illustrated collection. They’re a gorgeously illustrated set of short stories with a distinctly disturbing vibe. Many of them feel like they could be fairy tales, but there are assuredly no happily-ever-afters here. From spiritualism gone wrong to fratricide, the themes of the stories are dark and uncomfortable though the tales are never gory. It’s an ideal collection for dark and stormy night and it’s short enough to actually be read in one sitting (just be sure to leave the light on).

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Teen Books

Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr, 358 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/18/2014

Blackwell, SD is not your average small town. For one, it’s populated almost entirely by descendents of the Norse gods Thor and Loki. Matt Thorsen and his classmates Laurie and Fen Brekke are no exception. As far as Matt is concerned, the Norse myths are really cool, but they’re just stories. No one really believes them, right? Except that Matt’s grandfather does and apparently, so do many of the other town’s elders. When Matt dreams of Ragnarok (the end of the world, according to Norse mythology), he begins to realize that there might actually be some truth to these stories. Then, at a town meeting, everyone is informed that Ragnarok is real and that all the signs have been pointing to it happening soon. Descendents of the gods will be acting as their stand-ins as the battle commences. Unfortunately for Matt, he has been named champion. Now he needs to gather the rest of the godly descendents, starting with Laurie and Fen, distant descendents of Loki. Did I mention that Loki and Thor were enemies at Ragnarok? Yup, things are going to get really interesting for Matt.
Loki’s Wolves is a fun middle grade series opener in the vein of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Parallels abound: a trio of magical kids (two boys and a girl, no less), one of whom is made leader by circumstance (technically against his will) and everything will be devastated if they don’t complete their quest. This is not to say that it’s derivative or anything like that, but it will certainly appeal to readers of both series. I personally had some trouble with the writing and a few plot points, but my middle grade readers loved the book through and through, so I suppose my issues are mere trifles. Overall, an entertaining and fast-paced read.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 by Jinsei Kataoka, 215 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/04/2014

A teen, Ganta Igarashi, finds himself the lone survivor of the mass slaughter of his middle-school classmates. He alone saw the “red man” that laid waste to his peers. Needless to say, he is utterly shocked when he is accused and then convicted of the crime of killing all of his classmates. In this version of the future, Tokyo was previously destroyed by a giant earthquake, leaving the country devastated both functionally and economically. Somehow this lead to the construction of the first-ever, for-profit prison, Deadman Wonderland. There, prisoners are forced to run deadly gauntlets and engage in fights to the death (or debilitation) with their fellow inmates, all for the entertainment of the masses. In essence, Deadman Wonderland is not just a prison, it’s a demented amusement park where the prisoners are the main attraction. Prisoners have no choice but to participate or they’ll be poisoned by the suicide collars around their necks. Only by earning enough CPs (company points)can the antidote be obtained. Ganta quickly finds himself fighting for his life.

This is a truly bizarre and violent manga series, but it’s equally engrossing. Sure, the setting requires some suspension of disbelief, but it never fails to simultaneously entertain and horrify. It gets bonus points for introducing the concept of Foucault’s panopticon to manga readers. Definitely one of the more original manga series I’ve come across in recent memory.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry, 274 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/03/2014

Before being taken from her home by the town’s resident war hero, Judith had a promising life. She had decent, respectable home life and the love of her life showed signs of reciprocating those feelings. Now, she is the town pariah. She was able to eventually return to her community after being held captive for a couple of years. No one knows what exactly happened to her and she can’t tell them either – her tongue was cut out by her captor. Another girl was taken as well, but she came back dead. The townsfolk assume all kinds of things about Judith – that she was raped or otherwise defiled and that her lack of speech equated to a lack of intelligence. Complicating matters is the fact that the man who kept her in his rustic and remote cabin is the father of the boy Judith loves, long presumed dead after his disappearance. Judith’s own father died during the long search for his missing daughter and her mother’s heart has hardened after both ordeals. Judith is considered bad luck; few will even make eye contact, let alone speak to her. When word comes that the Homelanders are mounting an attack, however, Judith takes matters into her own hands. The town is saved, but not without exposing some deadly secrets.
Julie Berry has written a genuinely unique variation on the traditional historical novel. The time and place are both unspecified, though the signs all point to Puritan New England. The narrative is decidedly different, being broken up into brief vignettes, all addressing the boy she loves. As her story continues and her world broadens, so too does the narrative. The reader will not know exactly what happened to her up in that cabin and is thus left to draw their own conclusions, much like the townspeople who presume the worst. Bit by bit, however, past and present are revealed and intertwined to expose some of the hard truths surrounding this small community. I personally found this novel to be dark but refreshing for its quirky structure and setting. My teen readers (we read this for our high school book group) were of dramatically varying opinions. Some despised the structure and narration while others enjoyed reading something that challenged them a bit. Either way, we definitely had an interesting discussion.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue Book 3 of the Raven Boys Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, 391 pages, read by Kira, on 12/01/2014

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Maggie Stiefvater hits another out of the stadium!  Wow, this book is so much better than the last title I read by Stiefvater – that being Sinner.  Stiefvater creates so much atmosphere and the setting itself is sort of alive.

Blue’s mother, Maura, is missing, she went underground looking for Artemis (Blue’s father), but hasn’t returned for weeks.  The Professor from Britain, whom Gansey studied with, has joined the boys on their hu
nt for Glendower.  Gray Man’s boss, Greenmantle comes to town, along with his wife Piper, looking for vengeance against Gray abandoning the job he was supposed to complete for him (in the last book).  Adam and Ronan work together on a project.  And where is Neve?

I thought this might be the conclusion to the series, however, the epilogue lets you know differently.  I’m so glad there will be more to this series!

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04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Marie Antoinette Serial Killer by Katie Alender, 296 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/30/2014

16139598 Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

I enjoyed this story more than I thought I might.  A definite first for me, bringing back the ghost of a queen to take revenge on the descendants of those she thought of as friends.  While they did not exist in her real life, it makes for a great storyline.  Definitely will appeal to girls more than it will to boys, not enough blood and gore to make up for the definite female storyline!

03. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Inhuman by Kat Falls, 375 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/16/2014

13517617 America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral.

Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.

Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy.

Lane is a typical teenage girl, lots of friends, worried about school and peer pressure.  She and her friends don’t think too much about what’s on the other side of the wall that surrounds their half of the country, but when she is arrested after helping her friends send a drone camera over the wall, she thinks, she learns more about the other side than she ever thought she would.  All her life, her father has trained her how to survive, without explaining why.  After being told that he has been arrested for going through the wall and given the option to go on a mission to save him, she knows why she was trained.  Things are not as she imagined on the other side of the country and she finds herself torn between two boys, one with connections and one with street smarts.  A good start to a series, both boys and girls will find themselves enjoying this story.

03. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Rapunzel Untangled by Cindy C. Bennett, 294 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/06/2014

16225157 For one thing, she has a serious illness that keeps her inside the mysterious Gothel Mansion. And for another, her hair is 15 feet long. Not to mention that she’s also the key to ultimately saving the world from certain destruction. But then she meets a boy named Fane, who changes all she has ever known, and she decides to risk everything familiar to find out who she really is.

In this Rapunzel story, the author approaches it as if there was never a fairy tale, at least from the characters’ view.  Rapunzel has the long hair, she is kept isolated from the world, and she is, unknown to her, a kidnap victim.  Rapunzel is home schooled because of a supposed illness, but she has the Internet to connect herself to the outside world.  She finds herself investigating FaceBook and ends up friending Fane, a boy her own age.  Without any friends, this proves too tempting to her to resist.  As Rapunzel begins to question her loneliness and her life up to this point, she learns more about her mother than she could have ever imagined.  After a while, her luck in keeping her mother in the dark, runs out.

A definite winner for girls to read, it is different enough to keep the reader engrossed.  A good read to recommend.

03. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Tandem by Anna Jarzab, 431 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/01/2014

15829686  Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather’s stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real–until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.

If you’ve ever spent time wondering if there was a parallel universe and you might have a better life, this might be the book for you.  Sasha is taken to a universe that isn’t quite the same as the one she lives in.  She is a match in looks to a princess in this other world, but it’s nothing like she could have imagined.  Sasha spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to get home again but finds herself caring for some of the people she meets, including the boy who kidnapped her.  A thoroughly enjoyable story, very imaginative and appealing.

02. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Kristy, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Specials by Scott Westerfeld , 384 pages, read by Kristy, on 11/28/2014

24765I greatly enjoyed the last book in the Uglies Trilogy. I love how Tally transforms in each book, and seeing her as a fierce and beautiful Special was intriguing. The end of the book wrapped up the series quite nicely. I can’t believe I waited so long to read these books! They are definitely one of my favorite dystopian series to date.

30. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Kira, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Made for You by Melissa Marr, 368 pages, read by Kira, on 11/24/2014

index4I have loved Melissa Marr’s fairy series (Wicked Lovely) and I really liked Graveminder.  This title had a lot of potential, the protagonist is now able to experience other people’s deaths by touching them.  This happens after she almost dies in a car crash, a crash the police suspect may have been an intentional attempt to kill her.She winds up in the hospital quite disfigured.

Then her boyfriend who stood her up, and thus led to her walking home at dusk, doesn’t come visit.  At first she is relieved, but then she starts to wonder, when there is No word from him at all.  Then the killer starts targeting her acquaintances, and then her friends.  Some of the chapters  are narrated by the killer, and you get to see into his twisted mind, he believes he is getting messages from God to purify her, that she was “made for him”.  I kept on waiting for her to find out about the murders he committed.  Afterwards, some part of my mind felt the need to turn the news on, to see if any further kills had been announced – it was a bit disturbing.  I am Not fond of such high tension/suspense.  So though it was an engaging read, I will be more careful in selecting books from Marrs.  If you like thrillers though, you’ll probably like this one.

28. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan, 320 pages, read by Kira, on 11/16/2014

51LMS-eZloL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This selkie tale (tail) is told from a couple of perspectives.  The intro shows the young boys gathering clams (or something like clams) for the dinner table and introduces us to the scary witch  on the beach Misskaella, who is the main character.  Then perspective shifts back to the young girl Misskaella as she grows up and is treated poorly by her family and the island’s populace because she is different, because she has a gift with the seals.  She takes her revenge by creating selkie brides for the male populace.  She becomes the richest most powerful person in town.  She can transform male seals into human lovers (for a time).  We feel sorry for Misskaella and then angry that she could be so cruel.  This was a very engaging read, something of a downer, though the island returns to normal at the tales end.
Seal pups
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21. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy, Teen Books

Where she Went by Gayle Forman, 264 pages, read by Tammy, on 11/17/2014

where she wentThe sequel to If I Stay, the story starts three years after the last book. This time the story is told entirely from Adam’s point of view as well. Adam is still dealing emotionally with what happened after Mia’s accident. The story tells how he is coping (or not) with his band’s sudden fame and his own popularity in the midst of his sadness and anger. A moving work that has a lovely ending.

 

18. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Teen Books

Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho, 366 pages, read by Lisa, on 11/18/2014

What if you live for the moment when life goes off the rails—and then one day there’s no one left to help you get it back on track?

Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since they were six; she’s the fist-fighting instigator to his peacemaker, the artist whose vision balances his scientific bent. Now, as their junior year of high school comes to a close, Althea has begun to want something more than just best-friendship. Oliver, for his part, simply wants life to go back to normal, but when he wakes up one morning with no memory of the past three weeks, he can’t deny any longer that something is seriously wrong with him. And then Althea makes the worst bad decision ever, and her relationship with Oliver is shattered. He leaves town for a clinical study in New York, resolving to repair whatever is broken in his brain, while she gets into her battered Camry and drives up the coast after him, determined to make up for what she’s done.

Their journey will take them from the rooftops, keg parties, and all-ages shows of their North Carolina hometown to the pool halls, punk houses, and hospitals of New York City before they once more stand together and face their chances. Set in the DIY, mix tape, and zine culture of the mid-1990s, Cristina Moracho’s whip-smart debut is an achingly real story about identity, illness, and love—and why bad decisions sometimes feel so good.

17. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley, 368 pages, read by Sarah, on 11/16/2014

  Sarah Dunbar is one of 10 black students that are integrating into the white high school in Virginia in 1959.  She is a brilliant senior, but gets placed in the remedial classes because they don’t want the black students holding their white students back.  Linda Hairston is a white senior at the school who is oppposed to integration.  In their French class, they are forced with another white student to work together for a class project.  How can they meet without letting Linda’s father know that she is working with a black girl?  How can Sarah make Linda understand that the black people deserve an equal shake at education and other civil rights?

This was a coming of age story that was disturbing to read at times because it mirrored the turmoil that was going on during the civil rights movement.  Told alternately from the perspective of each girl, it puts you in their shoes to see how their background and family helped to shape their beliefs.  Pretty good book, but it had some alternate themes that weren’t what I expected.