07. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Elemental by Antony John, read by Courtney, on 03/09/2014

Thomas lives in an extremely small community on Hatteras Island (adjacent to historically mysterious Roanoke Island). A plague has wiped out the majority of the world’s population. The few survivors now live in remote communities or on board ships. Thomas is unique in an unusual community. He is the only one who was born without a power over the elements. Everyone else has a power, some weaker than others. When a hurricane blows into the region, Thomas and the other four younger residents are sent to Roanoke for shelter from the storm. When the bad weather passes, the kids realize that all the adults (Guardians) have been taken captive by pirates. Worse yet, their tiny settlement has been burned to the ground. It’s now up to Thomas and the others to rescue the Guardians, but Thomas realizes that the Guardians have been keeping secrets from Thomas. Secrets that change everything and drive Thomas to question everything he’s ever known.
I really wanted to like this book. I honestly did. I like Antony John a lot, both as an author and as a person. Or, at least I like his work when it’s grounded in reality rather than a speculative setting. The world building in Elemental is shaky at best. There’s no hint of why these “elemental” powers exist or how they connect to Roanoke/Hatteras (a far too specific choice of locales to be random). Thomas and company fall flat as protagonists. Thomas comes across as both exceedingly naive and remarkably obtuse. The two primary female characters don’t have much more going for them, though they do show signs of personal growth in the absence of Guardians. The only standout character is Griffin, Thomas’s deaf younger brother who also appears to have the power to see the future, a power that no one else in the colony possesses. I personally had problems with a few details that weren’t really integral to the plot, but bugged me endlessly anyway. For instance, do the Guardians really believe they can sustain/grow this colony with only 14 people?
Predictably, by the end, there are more questions than answers, which sets the reader up for the next installment. I probably won’t be along for the ride.

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa · Tags:

One For the Murphy's by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, read by Lisa, on 03/29/2014

Twelve-year-old Carley Connors can take a lot. Growing up in Las Vegas with her fun-loving mother, she’s learned to be tough. But she never expected a betrayal that would land her in a foster care. When she’s placed with the Murphys, a lively family with three boys, she’s blindsided. Do happy families really exist? Carley knows she could never belong in their world, so she keeps her distance.

It’s easy to stay suspicious of Daniel, the brother who is almost her age and is resentful she’s there. But Mrs. Murphy makes her feel heard and seen for the first time, and the two younger boys seem determined to work their way into her heart. Before she knows it, Carley is protected the boys from a neighborhood bully and even teaching Daniel how to play basketball. Then just when she’s feeling like she could truly be one of the Murphys, news from her mother shakes her world.

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, read by Angie, on 03/30/2014

Alina grew up an orphan in Ravka. She joined the army with her best friend Mal. Mal became a tracker and Alina a cartographer. On a mission to cross the Fold, an evil darkness filled with monsters, they are attacked and saved by Alina. Alina suddenly has powers she didn’t know she had. She is the one and only sun-summoner Grisha and must be protected at all costs. She is taken to the Little Palace by the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha in Ravka, to be trained. She falls under the spell of the beautiful Grisha and the intriguing Darkling. But when she is told everything isn’t as it seems she runs away to save herself and Ravka.

I really enjoyed the Russian feel to this book. I was very glad I listened to it instead of reading it so I didn’t have to worry how all the Russian-sounding words were pronounced! However, I found the book fairly formulaic and didn’t feel like it covered any new ground. I was bored by Alina’s continued doubts about herself and her obsession with the beautiful Grisha. I did like the fact that the love story didn’t really become a love triangle and I enjoyed Mal and Alina’s relationship. There were some exciting battle scenes and the ending was fairly satisfying, but I didn’t think there was anything special about the book and don’t feel compelled to read any of the others in the series.

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.

06. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, read by Angie, on 02/06/2014

Sage is an orphan and a thief. After he is caught stealing a whole, cooked roast he is purchased by Lord Connor, one of the regents of Carthya. The king, queen and crown prince have all been poisoned and Connor is determined to put a new prince on the throne. Prince Jaran has been presumed killed by pirates for the past four years, but Connor has a plan to put an imposter in his place. Sage wants nothing to do with the plan, but not going along with it surely means death. Attempting to thwart Connor at every turn, Sage nevertheless does what he needs to do in order to become Connor’s choice. Along the way secrets are revealed and motivations exposed. Does Sage have what it takes to become Prince Jaran and save Carthya?

Sage’s story is a compelling one. Sage is such a rascally smart aleck that you can’t help but root for him. I love the fact that no one is really who they seem to be nor are they who they start out as. Connor isn’t a villain in the stereotypical way, but he is a magnificent one nonetheless. Connor isn’t your typical hero either, but he makes a marvelous prince.

2014-15 Truman Nominee.

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, read by Angie, on 12/03/2013

There is something about this books that really sucks you in. I love the story of Elisa the reluctant princess with the godstone in her belly who becomes the symbol of a revolution and its leader. This is a coming of age story; a story about a girl who becomes the woman she was meant to be. It is not an easy journey for Elisa, but she endures, she perseveres and she triumphs.

I love the fact that Elisa is not your typical heroine. For one thing she is fat. There is never a fat princess main character in teen books. She is fat and she really doesn’t care in this book. She likes food and she eats it. She isn’t really happy with her body but she doesn’t bemoan the fact that she is fat. She is who she is. Sure she eventually slims down, but that is because of the lifestyle she comes to lead. She is forced to become a different person than the pampered princess who she started out as. I think her journey is amazing. She grows so much in this book. You can see the changes in her and those around her as her circumstances change.

I like that Carson is also not afraid to make hard decisions in her writing. She kills main characters, she makes people have questionable motives, she makes us as readers ask questions, and she makes her central plot all about religion. This may turn some people off, but it is essential to the story. This is a book that revolves around a religion. Elisa is the bearer of the godstone which means she is connected to God. Even though the plot is religious it doesn’t get heavy handed or preachy. It is just part of the plot which I appreciate.

I also appreciate that even though this is part of a planned trilogy this book can stand on its own. It ends in a good place and really doesn’t need more books if you don’t want to read more about this world. However, the rest of the series is just as amazing and you won’t want to miss it. Rae Carson has created a world and a heroine you can truly root for. She is as badass as Katniss with just a little bit more emotional depth. She is proactive and smart and brave and you believe she can lead a rebellion or become a queen.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fiction, Paranormal · Tags:

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, read by Courtney, on 08/13/2013

Kate remembers the last time she saw her parents and remembers her mother telling her to protect her younger siblings. Michael and Emma, the younger two, have no recollection of their parents; the only life they know is fending for themselves in orphanage after orphanage. Kate is positive that her parents are coming back, but even she has to admit is seems less and less likely. When an adoption opportunity goes sour, the kids are sent to the most remote orphanage they’ve ever been to. When they arrive, they realize it’s the strangest one they’ve ever been to as well. In fact, they’re the only kids in the orphanage. Not only is the orphanage strange, the town is too. The inhabitants are grim and there aren’t any children.
One day, the children stumble upon a book in the basement of the old orphanage and shortly thereafter discover that the book has magical properties. The book is, in essence, a portal through time. Thus begins and epic and decidedly non-linear adventure to save the world of magic.
This was an especially charming, if slightly confusing middle-grade adventure story. The three children, Kate, Michael, and Emma, all have very distinct personalities. Kate is the headstrong leader. Michael is the bookish one (who is also obsessed with dwarves) and Emma is one of the most adorably sassy young ladies I’ve ever come across. My main criticism for this book is that there are a lot of moments when characters get separated and, upon regrouping, demand to have events recounted. Not only does it get repetitive, it feels like a crutch for the author. Still, high adventure and lots of fun. My middle-school kids loved it.

18. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Cloaked by Alex Flinn, read by Angie, on 07/15/2013

Johnny works for his family shoe repair business in a swanky hotel in South Beach. One day Princess Victorianna comes to stay. She is rich and beautiful and Johnny is enchanted. Turns out so is her brother; Prince Philipe has been turned into a frog by a witch and Victorianna needs Johnny’s help to rescue him. Of course, she promises to marry him if he succeeds. So Johnny sets of on his quest to find the frog prince; to help him along the way he has a magical cloak that will transport him anywhere, magic earbuds to speak to animals who were once people, and lots of talking animals who were once people. His best friend Meg turns up just when he is captured by the evil witch and together they continue the quest. Of course, once the curse is broken (by Meg) Prince Phillipe promises to marry her and Johnny realizes he is in love with Meg not Victorianna.

This book combines a lot of obscure fairy tales that readers may nto be aware of, like the six swans or the golden bird and the fox. They tie together nicely in this story. It is a fun, fantastical romp that will keep readers interested throughout. My problem with it was that it seemed to be written by a man and aimed at young males. Everyone is “hot” and the story is very much a teen fantasy: Poor boy meets princess who promises him love and riches. I didn’t think it was the best written even though the story itself was ok

07. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books · Tags:

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby, read by Leslie, on 05/22/2013

Lost in the River of Grass

When two Florida teenagers become stranded on a tiny island in the Everglades, they attempt to walk ten miles through swampland to reach civilization.

Of the books of hers that I have read, I enjoyed this one the most. I liked being able to see exactly what it would be like to have to endure that trek, it was so real.  And the little twist at the end made it worth the read, it makes you go back and think if there were any tells at all to it during the story.  Although I did wonder why they didn’t even talk about getting the airboat out of the water!

05. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books · Tags:

Legend by Marie Lu, read by Leslie, on 05/07/2013

Legend (Legend, #1)

In a dark future, when North America has split into two warring nations, fifteen-year-olds Day, a famous criminal, and prodigy June, the brilliant soldier hired to capture him, discover that they have a common enemy.

If you liked Hunger Games, you may enjoy this book.  What interests me is finding out what created the split in the nation, which is not really addressed in this book, hopefully in a future book.  I think the mystery of who, what and why are done very well and just enough is answered to create the need to read more.

05. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books · Tags:

Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans, read by Leslie, on 05/04/2013

The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey, #1)

To everyone at Meridian High School, fourteen-year-old Michael Vey is nothing special, just the kid who has Tourette’s syndrome. But in truth, Michael is extremely special–he has electric powers. Michael thinks he is unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor has the same mysterious powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up with their abilities, and their investigation soon brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric teens–and through them, the world.

Another teen angst but this time with super powers book.  I enjoyed it but don’t know that I will read any of the sequels.  Isn’t this what we all would wish for, if we are the student who is bullied every day at school, to have a secret super power?  In this case, a few teens that have acquired electrical powers, of different scope, who can either take over the world or become it’s savior.  Teens will enjoy the fantasy involved but as I said, I doubt I’ll read the sequel.

14. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Joyce, Teen Books · Tags:

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby, read by Joyce, on 04/11/2013

Lost in a River of Grass is in the tradition of survival stories like Hatchet or On My Side of the Mountain, where the young protagonist finds herself as she struggles to survive in an unforgiving wilderness. In this case, the setting is the Everglades, and Sarah, the 13-year-old narrator, sneaks away from an overnight school field trip for what was supposed to be a quick airboat ride with Andy, a boy who lives in the preserve. Naturally, disaster strikes and they’re forced to walk out of the Everglades (they’ve got a knife, a small amount of Gatorade and some suspicious Spam). The author also skillfully layers in a story about overcoming prejudice. Sarah is black and Andy is the son of a Confederate-flag waving self-described redneck.

10. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Variant by Robison Wells , read by Angie, on 05/10/2013

Benson is excited to be escaping foster care and joining the Maxfield Academy. But when he gets there his excitement quickly disappears. He is dropped off at the doors after traveling through two fences to get to the school. Immediately he is warned not to trust some of the students and he finds out why when he has his orientation. Turns out there are no teachers, groundkeepers, cafeteria workers, administrators or really any adults at the school. It is run by three gangs, who joined together because of some serious violence in the past. The Society runs the admin, medical and security portion of the school; Havoc takes care of food service and grounds; Variant are the janitors. Of course Benson joins the Variant group. He is determined to escape this strange school even if everyone else seems content to follow the rules and keep their heads down. Because of course if you break the rules you get detention which apparently means death. Benson keeps pushing and one night he finds out one of the schools big secrets which changes everything. Now he must force the others to realize what is going on and try to get out of there.

The premise of this book is really interesting. Very much a Lord of the Flies mentality. Unfortunately the execution is a little sloppy and filled with holes. Benson isn’t the most likable character in the world. I like that he kept questioning the system, but he continued to do it at the expense of others. He had really no regard for those around him or for the history of the school. He had been there a day and was already trying to escape and within a couple of weeks he is starting a gang war. I really wish the author would have spent a little more time filling in the holes of this story. The entire school system just screamed questions with no answers. And then you had the big mystery/plot twist….What!??!? There was no explanation for that and the ending was horrible. It basically forces you to read the next book in the hopes that it will answer your questions. I literally was left trying to figure out what just happened, which is not a good thing when you have just finished the book. Even with all the problems, this book was fun in parts and a very fast read.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books · Tags:

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, read by Leslie, on 02/22/2013

The Eleventh Plague

Twenty years after the start of the war that caused the Collapse, fifteen-year-old Stephen, his father, and grandfather travel post-Collapse America scavenging, but when his grandfather dies and his father decides to risk everything to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen’s life is turned upside down.

A quick read for me, I do enjoy reading dystopia novels.  There were a few things about the book that made me go “hmm” and  a couple of times it didn’t seem plausible, but then again, that’s why I don’t write because I don’t think my stories would necessarily flow smoothly.  I might just read the sequel.

 

11. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Girl, Stolen by April Henry, read by Angie, on 02/10/2013

Griffin thinks things are looking up when he sees the Escalade with the keys in. After he has stolen the car he discovers he has also kidnapped a 16-year-old blind girl with pneumonia. Cheyenne was laying in the backseat waiting for her stepmom to get her prescription. Cheyenne is scared and sick and has no idea what is going to happen to her. Griffin is afraid of what will happen when he brings her and the stolen car home. Then the news reports start talking about the kidnapped daughter of the Nike CEO. Suddenly, Ray, Griffin’s dad, has other ideas. They are going to get lots of money for Cheyenne.

What a compelling read. Even though Griffin starts out as a villain (car thief and kidnapper), I never saw him as such. He was always a sympathetic character trying to live up to the nefarious expectations of his father. I thought it was interesting how he kept trying to protect Cheyenne and how their relationship developed. Cheyenne was definitely a character who tugs on your heart strings. Blinded in an accident that killed her mother, sick with pneumonia and then kidnapped. I really enjoyed her ingenuity and resourcefulness. 2012-13 Truman award nominee.

07. January 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books · Tags:

Heist Society by Ally Carter, read by Angie, on 01/04/2013

Katrina Bishop has always lived the life of a thief; it is her family business after all. But she wanted to take a break and conned her way into one of the best schools in the country. Everything was fine until she was pulled back into her old life. It seems her father is accused of stealing five paintings from a really bad guy, Arturo Taccone. And Taccone wants them back. Only problem is her dad didn’t steal the paintings. Kat has to find the paintings and return them to Taccone or else her father and maybe her life will be forfeit. Kat assembles a crack team of some of the best teenage thieves to help her on this job.

This book was just fun to read. Kat and her team are awesome, smart, witty and extremely talented at what they do. The story made me want to travel to Europe (on a private jet of course) and see all the places they went. It also made me more interested in the Nazi theft of art during WWII (the paintings are masterpieces that disappeared during WWII). I’ll definitely keep Ally Carter in mind when I need another fun read.

07. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, read by Angie, on 01/06/2013

Jessica was a star track athlete with everything going for her. Then there was an bus accident when they were coming back from a meet. One student was killed and Jessica lost her leg. Jessica’s running days are over. You can’t be a track star with only one leg. But her team does not accept that and they pledge to raise the $20,000 needed for a special running leg. Jessica is determined to walk and run again.

I don’t know if I was really emotional when I read this book or what but it definitely got to me. I will freely admit that I got teary-eyed several times (and I don’t get that way over books). There was just something about this story that really did me in. I will admit that there is a Lifetime movie aspect to this book, but it was a really good Lifetime movie! Jessica is what I would expect a girl in her situation to be like. She is sad, depressed, angry and defeated. But she does find her purpose and her spirit again. I really enjoyed her friends and how devoted to her they were and her family was great. I would definitely read this book if you want something to tug at your heartstrings.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick, read by Angie, on 09/02/2012

Jeffrey is a cancer survivor, but he is also your typical 8th grade boy. He has problems with homework and parents and girls. His best friend is also a cancer survivor and he and Tad bond over the after effects of their disease and treatment. Neither came away normal. Jeff walks with a limp and has problems remembering stuff. Tad is in a wheelchair. Jeff has a lot going on this year. A new girl has moved to town and she is totally HOT and Jeff really likes her. There are new standardize tests that decide if a student graduates 8th grade and Jeff is hopeless at tests and math. His brother, who he really depends on, ran away to play drums in Africa. And Tad is hiding something from him.

This is a book that will tug at your heartstrings, but also make you laugh. I loved the sarcastic interplay between Jeff and Tad; it seemed perfect. Do I think 8th grade boys really talk like that? Not really. Tad especially has some zingers that I don’t think a real 8th grader would say, but they are perfect for the book. I really enjoyed the adults in this book as well. They seemed very realistic in how they dealt with a lot of the situations. Jeff’s parents especially are well-written. I just might have to check out the previous book about these characters.

26. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Paranormalcy by Kietsten White, read by Melody, on 03/23/2012

So often when you read an award nominee you think “why was this nominated?” but Paranormalcy is very deserving.  Evie lives and works in a paranormal detection center, finding and neutralizing the things that go bump in the night before they can harm others or themselves.  She yearns for all the things that “normal” teenagers have; lockers, proms, and driver’s licenses.  All she has ever known is the agency, who she is and where she is from is a mystery.  All that she knows for sure is that she can see things that no one else can see.  A mystery boy drops into her world and changes how she thinks of her world.  Is he connected with the rash of paranormal murders?  What hasn’t the agency that is her whole life told her?  And who and what is she really?  Wonderful characters and great action.  I highly recommend Paranormalcy.

13. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Romance, Teen Books · Tags:

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, read by Courtney, on 03/12/2012

A fun take on the paranormal genre. Evie has spent most of her life living with and working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. She’s got a special talent that enables her to see through the glamours projected by paranormal beings. Which is handy, since her job entails tracking them down, knocking them out and tagging them so that they can be tracked (or killed if they attempt to do any harm). Most of these paranormals wind up living at and working for the IPCA, so they make up that majority of Evie’s company. All Evie really wants is a chance at being a normal teenager, not that it’s going to happen. One night, a strange shape-shifting being breaks in and life as Evie knows it begins to change.
It’s certainly entertaining enough. The storyline is considerably different from the rest of the paranormal genre, which is refreshing. Evie’s a fun character with a good sense of humor and her relationship with Lend is sweet and squeaky clean. While this is a book with fairly broad appeal, it’s not particularly thought-provoking and the cover is atrocious. I have a hard time envisioning any boys picking this one up, but since it’s on the Truman Awards list, maybe they will. Still, it’s a pretty girly pick.