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

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 4 by Jinsei Kataoka, Kazuma Kondou, 200 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/07/2014

Ganta is recruited into the Scar Chain, an antiestablishment group planning a mass prison escape. After a brief meeting with Shiro, he stands at a crossroads, but Nagi persuades him to take part in the escape. However, a traitor has already leaked the plan to the Undertakers, a unit specially formed to stamp out the rebels.

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: 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.

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.