28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, read by Courtney, on 02/15/2014

Hollow City picks up almost exactly where book one left off. Jacob and his peculiar friends have left their loop with Miss Peregrine (who is still stuck in bird form) in tow. They’re not sure where they’re headed, but they definitely know that they need the help of another ymbryne to Miss Peregrine return to her human form. Without her, they cannot get Jacob back to his time and they will have no one to protect them from the hollows and wights. In their quest to get help, they meet a bunch of other peculiars from other loops. Along the way, they find that the hollows are collecting the ymbrynes in London for their own needs. In spite of the fact that London (and most of the rest of Europe) are deeply embroiled in WWII, the gang heads off to London.
Overall, this wasn’t really as good as the first book in the Peculiar Children series. It becomes readily apparent that some of the pictures are now requiring a bit more suspension of disbelief to accept them as part of the story. The other loops were interesting, particularly the all-animal loop. The pace, however, drags from time to time and the initial novelty of the format starts to wear thin. This book follows a lot of second-book-in-the-series formulas. The first book set up the world; this book has them hitting the road and leaves their world worse than its beginning. The ending clearly sets us up for the next book in the series. I didn’t hate it; I didn’t love it.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags:

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, read by Courtney, on 02/11/2014

The False Prince starts out with a teenaged orphan named Sage stealing a slab of meat for the others in his orphanage. On his way home, Sage runs into a man called Connor who shows a great deal of interest in Sage. After a discussion with the lady who runs the orphanage, Sage finds himself along with three other orphan boys his age in the custody of Connor and his henchmen. Connor tells the boys he has a plan. That plan involves one of the boys becoming wealthy and powerful beyond his wildest dreams. The boy that is chosen will be part of a massive and dangerous secret. The boys that aren’t chosen? Well, no one seems to want to say out loud what will become of them. Escape is a tempting option, but when given the chance to leave, one of the boys does and is promptly killed for his decision. Sage decides he will go along with Connor to see just what he is plotting, as much out of self-preservation as his own curiosity.
Once at Connor’s estate, it is revealed that the royal family is, in fact, dead. The eldest son and his royal parents had all been poisoned some weeks prior, but no one outside the king’s inner circle knows. Connor is one of the king’s advisers and is thus privy to such information. Connor decides to take matters into his own hands. His plan is dangerous. There was once a second son in the royal family. The younger of the two boys had been sent away years ago by his parents due to behavior-related incidents. Instead of going to the boarding school he was supposed to attend, the young prince ran off, only to wind up on ship that is overtaken by pirates. According to the official narrative, the prince did not survive. Since no body had ever been found, however, Connor decides that he will create an alternate story where the prince was secretly in hiding. Lacking an actual prince, Connor is determined to train the orphans that he’s tracked down to be as much like the real prince as possible. Then, when the public has been informed that their beloved king and queen (and heir) are dead, Connor will present the rest of the advisers with his version of the prodigal son. Naturally, the boys not chosen will be privy to treasonous secrets, which puts their chances at long and happy lives at a minimum. Sage decides that, even though he really doesn’t want to be the king, he would prefer not to die just yet, so he sticks around and attempts to play Connor’s game.
The False Prince is a delightful series opener. Sage is a fantastic character with wit and cleverness to burn. The rest of the cast of characters are equally intriguing and nuanced. The playful tone of the narrative counteracts the more serious questions of political intrigue and personal identity. The pacing is impeccable and a massive twist at the end will leave readers reeling and hankering for the next book in the trilogy (if they don’t go back and reread the book with different eyes). I had my middle-schoolers read this one for our most recent book group and they all loved it.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Mystery, Teen Books

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale, read by Courtney, on 02/09/2014

Kippy Bushman has lived in Friendship, WI for her entire life. It’s a nice, small, cozy town. The kind of place where everyone goes out of their way to be nice and they’re polite even if they’re upset. Thus it is a considerable shock when Kippy’s best friend, Ruth Fried, is found dead. In a cornfield. Strung up from a tree like a scarecrow. It’s a particularly vicious murder by any town’s standards, but for Friendship, it’s downright unthinkable. The town is paralyzed with the loss. Kippy is given the unsettling task of deciphering Ruth’s terrible handwriting in her journal so that she can redact “the sex parts” for Mrs. Fried’s benefit. Bit by bit, we learn more about Ruth, who, as it turns out, is not a particularly nice person. Kippy is stunned by the terrible things Ruth wrote about her and is left feeling rather conflicted. Ruth was, after all, everything that Kippy was not. Ruth was the party girl; the one who would steal another girl’s boyfriend just for the fun of it. There were plenty of people who weren’t sorry to see Ruth dead, in spite of their crocodile-tear-filled TV interviews to the contrary. The police are so anxious to put the case to rest that they quickly arrest Ruth’s boyfriend and keep him in custody. While Kippy doesn’t like the boyfriend, she is forced to admit to herself that the facts don’t add up. The killer is still out there and it’s very likely that he wasn’t a stranger. Kippy teams up with Ruth’s brother, Davey, and her neighbor, Ralph, to do some investigating of their own, much to the chagrin of the Friendship Sheriff’s department.
I picked this one up because it was billed as a sort of “Fargo-meets-Mean-Girls” premise, but I don’t know if that’s really accurate. It is most definitely a darkly comedic whodunit, so it bears at least some similarity to Fargo (minus the woodchipper, mercifully), but that’s where the similarities end. Honestly, I can’t really compare this to anything else I’ve read; this book takes some very strange turns. I did enjoy Kippy as a character, even if she was a bit hard to relate to. She has a sweet relationship with her father. Many of my favorite characters in this book, however, were introduced very late in the book and left me wishing they’d turned up earlier. While this is relatively straight-forward mystery, the plot takes some very unexpected paths to get there. I kind of wish that the pacing had been more even, but I was reading while on vacation, so my attention may not have been as consistent as usual (which is, of course, my fault and not the book’s). Overall, a very original and darkly humorous twist on the teen murder mystery.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, read by Courtney, on 02/03/2014

Until he was 10, Jasper “Jazz” Dent lived with his father, Billy. Then his father was caught and arrested for the brutal murders of scores of women. Now, Jasper lives with his grandmother and tries his best to live as normal a life as a kid can live when said kid spent his formative years being raised by a serial killer. His grandmother is completely insane and blames Jazz’s long-absent (likely dead) mother for Billy’s violent tendencies. The rest of the town of Lobo’s Nod regards Jazz with unease. Everyone suspects he’ll turn out just like his father. The only two people who are willing to treat Jazz as a person wholly different from Billy are his girlfriend Connie and best friend Howie (who happens to suffer from extreme hemophilia).
Jazz’s upbringing makes him eternally convinced that he might still be just like his father, even though most signs point otherwise. Instead, Jazz uses the skills he learned from his father to investigate a local murder that seems strikingly similar to one his father might have committed. If his father wasn’t already in jail, that is. Unfortunately, local law enforcement doesn’t seem too keen on having the teenaged son of a serial killer helping them out with their current case load, so Jazz and his friends are more or less on their own. Then the body count starts rising and even the police realize that they might just need Jazz’s help to stop the killer before he can claim anyone else.
I Hunt Killers is a fun, bloody, fast-paced thriller. Comparisons to Dexter/Castle/Hannibal are inevitable, but not entirely accurate. Jazz knows the mind of a serial killer, but he comes across as far too empathetic to be a killer himself. Connie and Howie are great characters; they also have the bonus qualities of being about the last two people Jazz would ever hurt if he did ever turn to killing. The plot is a bit on the preposterous side, but it’s still an intriguing concept. I assigned this to my high school book club and a great discussion ensued.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by Courtney, on 02/01/2014

Up until recently, Hayley and her father have been living on the road. Hayley’s father, a veteran with PTSD, has been trucking and picking up odd jobs to earn a living. They never stayed in one place very long, so Hayley hasn’t much in the way of traditional schooling. At long last, Hayley’s father decides to settle down in his hometown so that Hayley can go to school and graduate like a normal teenager. While not exactly enthused, Hayley settles into a life than is indeed more or less normal. She makes friends, even starts falling for a boy. The only problem is that she’s not exactly sure that being here is helping her father. He’s not always getting out of bed in the mornings, he gets drunk and angry at unpredictable times, he still wakes up screaming in the middle of the night…Even if Hayley does find a way to live a normal life, who will take care of her father?
The Impossible Knife of Memory takes on the tough subject of a parent home from war and still bearing the scars, physically and emotionally. Hayley has never had a stable life, but it is the only one she knows and she would rather be at her father’s side than anywhere else. The downside to her life with her father is that she is ill-equipped to deal with her own life. She too seems to suffer from a form of PTSD. Hayley’s internal struggles add a sense of immediacy to even the everyday hurdles she encounters. The relationship between father and daughter is nuanced; there’s a lot of love and a lot of anger. Hayley also must try to understand the drama of her friends and their situations, something she is unaccustomed to. It takes some time for her to realize that life-altering struggles are a part of everyone’s life, not just hers and her father’s. Hayley will definitely say and do things that will make readers want to yell at her, but in the end, Hayley’s growth as a person satisfies.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan, read by Courtney, on 04/28/2013

The final deluxe hardcover collection of Brian K. Vaughan’s spectacular series mixing politics and superheroes.

In this last deluxe EX MACHINA hardcover, Mayor Mitchell Hundred descends into the NYC sewers to learn why he was given the strange powers that helped him become the heroic Great Machine while a powerful new foe reveals a terrifying plan that’s been in the works since the series began.

Then, in the very last EX MACHINA adventure, will Mitchell Hundred’s new archenemy, a dogged reporter with powers far beyond those of the Great Machine, finally bring down his administration? Will the tragedies that Mayor Hundred warned about from the beginning finally come to pass?

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill (Illustrator), read by Courtney, on 05/07/2013

In the grim cold of February surfaces a thrilling new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book - Nemo: Heart of Ice, a full-color 48-page adventure in the classic pulp tradition by the inestimable Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. It’s 1925, fifteen long years since Janni Dakkar first tried to escape the legacy of her dying science-pirate father, only to accept her destiny as the new Nemo, captain of the legendary Nautilus. Now, tired of her unending spree of plunder and destruction, Janni launches a grand expedition to surpass her father’s greatest failure: the exploration of Antarctica. Hot on her frozen trail are a trio of genius inventors, hired by the megalomaniacal Charles Foster Kane to retrieve the plundered valuables of an African queen. It’s a deadly race to the bottom of the world – an uncharted land of wonder and horror where time is broken and the mountains bring madness.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

DMZ, Vol. 7: War Powers by Brian Wood, read by Courtney, on 05/24/2013

The story of Matty Roth, the ultimate embedded war journalist trapped in a most unlikely war zone: the street of New York City, or as the world nowknowsit,the DMZ.

In this seventh volume in the graphic novel series, the status quo of the series is tossed out the window as Matty, back from his misadventure in Staten Island, finds Parco Delgado in office as provisional governor of the City of New York and details his first 100 days at breakneck speed redraws what you know about DMZ. Matty’s first task under the Delgado regime involves tracking down the source of one of the DMZ’s greatest urban legends.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

DMZ, Vol. 8: Hearts and Minds by Brian Wood, read by Courtney, on 05/24/2013

The world and characters of the DMZ — a futuristic, war-torn Manhattan — are expanded and enriched in this eighth volume of the acclaimed series. Journalist Matty Roth redefines his role in the DMZ following the tumultuous events of the past year No longer content to be merely a citizen journalist or a mouthpiece for Parco Delgado’s struggling city government, he now rolls with his own private security force and self-defined mandate to heal the city. Is this the start of a brand-new day via the barrel of an gun – or will this “Rise of Matty” end with the fall of just another petty warlord? Plus, you’ll discover the truth behind the mysterious death cult that is housed in the city’s tallest building. These violent killers hide behind masks and heavy clothing are always the vanguard of death and destruction. Now you’ll find out just who they are and where they come from.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

DMZ, Vol. 9: M.I.A. by Brian Wood, read by Courtney, on 05/24/2013

The ninth volume in the critically acclaimed series that looks at life during wartime – America’s 21st century Civil War.

After the shattering events of DMZ VOL. 8: HEARTS AND MINDS, M.I.A. takes Matty to a remote and desolate section of the city. Self-exile forces him to take a good, hard look at himself and his conduct since he entered the DMZ, and he doesn’t like what he’s seeing. His discovery presents him with an opportunity that he’s tempted to take, but is the price too high?

This volume also includes a pin-up gallery with art by Jim Lee, Dave Gibbons, Eduardo Risso and others.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

DMZ, Vol. 10: Collective Punishment by Brian Wood, read by Courtney, on 05/25/2013

In this collection of five single-issue stories, citizens and soldiers – new characters and old – weather the storm of a brutal “shock and awe” bombing campaign on the DMZ.Includes a story concerning the enigmatic Wilson, the self-professed protector of Chinatown and confidant to series star Matty Roth who has always said he’d own the DMZ in the end. Now, with the U.S. poised to steamroll its way into the city, it’s do-or-die time for the old man. In another, Matty lends his Liberty News secure phone line to DMZ citizens to reach out to loved ones outside the city – a direct violation of his contract. Is this the beginning of a new, compassionate Matty looking to atone? Or are more cynical motives at play? Find out in this newest collection of the acclaimed series.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

DMZ, Vol. 11: Free States Rising by Brian Wood, read by Courtney, on 05/27/2013

With all his allegiances wiped away by the mistakes he’s made, embedded journalist Matty Roth watches as the Free States of America and the US wage civil war on the island of Manhattan – also known as the DMZ. As Matty covers the battles on the ground, old allies and enemies resurface and Matty must prove that after all he’s been through that he is a changed man. Will the choices he makes reflect this?

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

DMZ Vol. 12: The Five Nations of New York by Brian Wood, read by Courtney, on 05/27/2013

As New York City starts the healing process, the political realities on the ground are impossible to ignore. Matty’s seen to it that everyone’s voice is being heard, but will the social order devolve into anarchy, or is there a new New York to be discovered somewhere underneath the rubble?This final volume of DMZ collects issues 67-72.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga, Akemi Wegmüller (Translator), read by Courtney, on 06/02/2013

In Edo period Japan, a strange new disease called the Red Pox has begun to prey on the country’s men. Within eighty years of the first outbreak, the male population has fallen by seventy-five percent. Women have taken on all the roles traditionally granted to men, even that of the Shogun. The men, precious providers of life, are carefully protected. And the most beautiful of the men are sent to serve in the Shogun’s Inner Chamber…2/7

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga, Akemi Wegmüller (Translator), read by Courtney, on 06/05/2013

In this 17th Century Japan the Shogun is a woman…and the harem is full of men. R to L (Japanese Style). Curious about why female lords must take on male names, the Shogun Yoshimune seeks out the ancient scribe Murase and his archives of the last eighty years of the Inner Chambers–called the Chronicle of the Dying Day. In it’s pages Yoshimune discovers the coming of the Redface Pox, the death of the last male Shogun, and the birth of the new Japan; In Edo period Japan, a strange new disease called the Red Pox has begun to prey on the country’s men. Within eighty years of the first outbreak, the male population has fallen to a quarter of the total female population. Women have taken on all the roles traditionally granted to men, even that of the Shogun. The men, precious providers of life, are carefully protected. And the most beautiful of the men are sent to serve in the Shogun’s Inner Chamber.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel

House of Mystery, Vol. 4: The Beauty of Decay by Matthew Sturges, read by Courtney, on 07/10/2013

A new storyline, “The Beauty of Decay,” begins with this volume!

The House of Mystery has been temporarily relocated to the Space Between, where death rules and the body count continues to rise. Meanwhile, Fig, Peter and Jordan venture out into the city of ghosts to visit the long-abandoned Pathfinder’s Academy where the most desperate specters wail and gnash. But the Pathfinder’s Academy holds more than ghosts – it also contains ancient dark secrets that will change Fig’s life forever.

Will Fig and Peter find a way out? And to make matters even worse, the House of Mystery’s previous owner has returned to reclaim what’s his.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison, Sean Murphy (Illustrator), read by Courtney, on 07/28/2013

Joe’s mother has gone out to attempt to prevent the bank from foreclosing on the family home that the two have been living in alone since the death of Joe’s father. Joe heads up to his room in the attic, forgetting his backpack on the stairs. This wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but Joe is extremely hypoglycemic and the nearest sugar is in his bag. After hanging out in his room for awhile, he begins to either hallucinate from the hypoglycemic shock or his toys have all come to life. Either way, he begins an epic quest to save the “kingdom” from evil forces. Accompanied by his pet rat and various other “heroes” he picks up along the way, Joe is armed only with his wits as he begins the long and arduous journey downstairs to the kitchen where salvation awaits in the form of carbonated high-fructose corn syrup.
The artwork in this is amazing. Joe’s bedroom is filled with all the toys one might expect a teenaged boy to have accumulated over the course of his short life. All of these details inform the auxiliary characters that Joe encounters throughout his journey. On occasion, the panel will show Joe in his own house, looking increasingly worse for the wear. Joe himself is unsure what is real and what isn’t, but he knows he’s on a mission and he’s determined to follow it all the way through. I love that this is a self-contained comic (it was originally printed as a mini-series); it’s a refreshing change to read the whole thing in one sitting rather than having to wait for each subsequent installment to come out. The story feels fresh and original all while paying homage to the classic adventure stories we all grew up with.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Who Is AC? by Hope Larson, Tintin Pantoja (Illustrator), read by Courtney, on 07/27/2013

In this breakthrough graphic novel from the award-winning author of Mercury, there’s a new superhero in town—and she’s got kick-butt cyberpowers.

Meet Lin, a formerly average teenage girl whose cell phone zaps her with magical powers. But just as superpowers can travel through the ether, so can evil. As Lin starts to get a handle on her new abilities (while still observing her curfew!), she realizes she has to go head-to-head with a nefarious villain who spreads his influence through binary code. And as if that weren’t enough, a teen blogger has dubbed her an “anonymous coward!” Can Lin detect the cyber-criminal’s vulnerability, save the day, and restore her reputation?

With ingenious scripting from graphic novel phenom Hope Larson and striking art from manga illustrator Tintin Pantoja, this action-packed story brims with magical realism and girl-power goodness.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Golden Girl by Sarah Zettel, read by Courtney, on 07/27/2013

In volume two of the American Fairy series, we catch up to Callie LaRoux in Hollywood, the seat of power for the Unseelie Court. Callie and Jack obtain jobs with MGM studios, which seems to be the best way of going about finding Callie’s parents and settling this whole prophecy business. Things start to go awry when Jack and Callie witness a young starlet, Ivy Bright (think Shirley Temple), about to be kidnapped by fairies. They rescue her with the aid of a well-known singer, Paul Robeson, who, in spite of being human, seems to know an awful lot about fairies. In the meantime, Shake is back, but not nearly as powerful as he was. Callie and Jack know they must be getting close to Callie’s parents, but there’s so much going on with Callie’s arrival in Unseelie territory that they get stalled just trying to keep themselves alive.
I was really excited about this sequel since I loved the first book in the series. This one just fell kind of flat for me. The plot has a lot of action, which will surely keep many fans entertained, but it seemed to lose some of the historical detail in exchange for action sequences. I’m still more than a little confused by the Paul Robeson and his role in the whole thing. He appears near the beginning of the book and then disappears from the plot for nearly half of the book. The Ivy Bright storyline is predictable at best, annoying at worst. Overall, the heavy reliance on action makes the book feel convoluted and considerably less magical than its predecessor. Here’s hoping the third book can manage to pull everything back together; I would really like to see the series redeem itself, especially since the concept is so good.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins, read by Courtney, on 07/24/2013

In spite of the fact that “Burned” was not my favorite of Hopkins’ books (a statement which will likely get me in trouble with many of my teens, for whom this is a much-beloved favorite), I was still anxious to read “Smoke”, its sequel. It had never occurred to me that there might even be a sequel to “Burned”, which so clearly stood on its own, but then, well, Ellen went and wrote a sequel.
This picks up more or less where “Burned” left off. Pattyn Von Stratten is now on the run after the death of her father. She has nowhere to go and no one left to turn to. She meets a girl her age who agrees to put her up for the night. There, Pattyn meets the rest of the girl’s family- all immigrants. In spite of the cultural differences, Pattyn begins to feel more at home with this new family than her real one.
In the meantime, Pattyn’s sister, Jackie, is still at home with the rest of the family and dealing with the aftermath of what happened in the family garage that fateful night. With Pattyn gone, Jackie has no one left to turn to. She’s not even remotely upset about what happened to her father, but she cannot accept her mother’s failure to acknowledge the trauma that Jackie has endured. The family’s continued adherence to the LDS church means that the family secrets are not to be discussed. Gradually, Jackie’s pain turns to anger as she begins to heal with the help of a new boyfriend.
This is a relatively tame book for those who are familiar with Hopkins’ oeuvre. The main themes center around the aftermath of abuse. This is, ultimately, a survivor’s tale. Pattyn and Jackie each have very different approaches to healing their psychological wounds, but each does so in a way that feels true to their character. There are times when the narrative drags, but readers who loved Burned will undoubtedly love meeting back up with the Von Stratten sisters and will rejoice in their triumphs over their troubling family situation.

I received this ARC from the publisher at the ALA Annual Conference. Smoke officially publishes in September 2013.