08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Circle of Stones by Catherine Fisher, 304 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/27/2014

Three interwoven, spine-tingling historical thrillers from the New York Times bestselling author of Incarceron.

Suspense, mysticism, and history encircle three separate but related narratives in this fantasy novel. Today, Sulis, a teenage girl with a mysterious past, arrives in Bath with a new identity, trailed by the person she’s trying to outrun.  In 1740, Zac is apprenticed to an architect obsessed with Druidic mysteries, but has his own secret—and destructive—agenda.  In ancient England, a druid king discovers the healing waters of a magical spring, where he founds a great city, and the heart of Fisher’s story. Through each voice, the mysteries are revealed, linking Sulis, Zac, and the king through the circles of time.

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

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki (Illustrator), 320 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/19/2014

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

In This One Summer two stellar creators redefine the teen graphic novel. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of her teen age—a story of renewal and revelation.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, 208 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/18/2014

Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party.

But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car?

It’s true. Ask ANYBODY.

Rumor has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control.

In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students—the girl who has the infamous party, the car accident survivor, the former best friend, and the boy next door—tell all they know.

But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 8 by Bill Willingham, 232 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/17/2014

Flycatcher is drawn into the spotlight as he discovers the startling truth about his own past as the Frog Prince. At the same time, he learns that the Adversary plans to destroy his foes once and for all. How can the meek Flycatcher stop this deadly foe?

This deluxe edition collects Fables issues #60-63, 65-69

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, 440 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/14/2014

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again .

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, 371 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/11/2014

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Horror, Teen Books · Tags:

The Infects by Sean Beaudoin, 384 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/04/2014

A feast for the brain, this gory and genuinely hilarious take on zombie culture simultaneously skewers, pays tribute to, and elevates the horror genre.

Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back.

Serving up a cast of irreverent, slightly twisted characters, an unexpected villain, and an ending you won’t see coming, here is a savvy tale that that’s a delight to read—whether you’re a rabid zombie fan or freshly bitten—and an incisive commentary on the evil that lurks within each of us.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Transmetropolitan, Vol. 10: One More Time by Warren Ellis, 144 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/02/2014

The final volume in the saga of outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem written by comics superstar Warren Ellis.

At last, it’s the final showdown between Spider and the absolutely corrupt President of the United States in this new printing of the finale to the classic dystopian saga from Vertigo.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, 599 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/06/2014

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Romance

Transmetropolitan, Vol. 9: The Cure by Warren Ellis, 144 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/27/2014

The forces of darkness are closing in on outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem and his merry, filthy band but now they’ve got their own rope around the neck of corrupt President Callahan, and it’s time to start tightening the noose.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN: THE CURE is the ninth volume reprinting the acclaimed series written by Warren Ellis (PLANETARY, RED) with art by Darick Robertson (The Boys). Jerusalem and his cohorts step up their investigation into Callahan’s misdeeds and turn up some startling evidence…not to mention a sole surviving witness to the President’s depravity. The problem, as always, will be getting the word out before the massive forces of the Executive Branch black out everything ? and everyone ? involved.

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: Courtney, Memoirs, NonFiction

Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life by Tom Robbins, 384 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/18/2014

I’ve been a Tom Robbins fan since the age of 15, when I picked up a copy of Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas at an airport gift shop. It was the only thing that wasn’t a thriller/mystery/romance and I’d heard of Robbins before, so it seemed like the thing to do. As it turned out, that book was something of a revelation; it was unlike anything else I’d ever read. So I began acquiring his other novels. And read and reread them. Naturally, when I heard that Robbins had a memoir/autobiography out, I felt almost obligated to read it. I felt I owed it to myself and to Robbins to meet the brain behind the fiction. I was not disappointed. Robbins has lived a fascinating life and his anecdotes are laced with his trademark wordplay and sense of humor. I’m not sure that someone who had never heard of Robbins would enjoy this particular book, but those who are fans will find this quite entertaining. My only real issue with this memoir is the lack of a structured narrative. Each chapter is more a short story or vignette detailing a specific period of time in Robbins’ life. They’re more or less arranged chronologically. It’s best not to go into this expecting the traditional memoir/autobiography format, because, much like Robbins’ novels, experimenting with the form is par for the course. The stop-and-go nature made it very difficult for me to read this in a short period of time. Rather, I just read a few chapters and would then put it down for a few days. Needless to say, it took me an eternity to read and, while I more or less enjoyed the process, it did get tedious from time to time. For those wanting to know more about Robbins’ early life and works, this is an ideal place to start.

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.

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: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Mystery · Tags: ,

Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman, 112 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/18/2014

A young man is stranded in LA around Christmas time. After a brief tryst with an old acquaintance, the man feels like he isn’t ready to go back to the place he’s staying. He sits on a bench for a smoke when an older man walks up to him, asks him for a smoke and then offers him a story. The story is about a time before humans when the angels were still working out things like the concepts of “green” or “love”. The angels all lived in beautiful city in the sky. Each has their purpose as dictated by God. One day, an angel is found dead. It appears that the death is not from natural causes. Some say it might be suicide, but Raguel (the angel of vengeance and justice) thinks otherwise. Who could possibly have killed the angel and why?
This isn’t just any murder mystery. It’s the original murder mystery. The first murder, ever. And since it’s Neil Gaiman writing it, you know it’s going to be tragic and slightly humorous. The artwork is gorgeous and this particular edition has bonus features with commentary by artist P.Craig Russell, as well as early drafts of the artwork. Just because you think you know how it might end, doesn’t mean that there won’t be some completely unexpected twists and turns by the end. It’s a lovely graphic novel, even if it is a touch disturbing.