As the song goes, “What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four little hours.” The events of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight take place over the course of just one day. It is a very momentous day for Hadley and Oliver. They meet at the airport, on a transatlantic flight from New York to London. Hadley might never have met Oliver if she had made her original flight. But, in this case, the four minutes she was late made all the difference.
Hadley is on her way to her father’s wedding. He left her and her mother for a job at Oxford two years ago, and never came back. Hadley is still bitter about it, but she has been told in no uncertain terms that she must attend this wedding. His wedding to “that British woman,” as Hadley refers to her soon-to-be stepmother. Add to that her crippling claustrophobia, and she is really dreading this trip. Then she meets Oliver.
Oliver is a British college student studying at Yale. He is also on his way to London for a wedding, and he doesn’t seem any more excited about the prospect than Hadley. He is very helpful in getting her through her fear of flying, however, as they talk the seven hour flight away. By the time they arrive at Heathrow they have formed quite the attachment and, even though they go their separate ways, Hadley can’t help but hope they’ll meet again.
If you’ve done the math, you know that Hadley and Oliver’s flight has only brought us to the seven hour mark of the aforementioned twenty-four hours, so there’s a pretty decent chance their story doesn’t end there. Odds are they’ve probably fallen in love at first sight.
Check the WRL catalog for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
The novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is about a freshman boy who lives on an Indian reservation. His family is very poor. His best friend is the rez bully, but he is very nice to the boy named Junior. Junior goes to a poor school on the reservation where there are not many students that ever do anything with their lives. However, Junior has promise and he wants to do something with his life and get off the reservation and find hope. After an interesting conversation with a teacher on the reservation, Junior decides to go to a school off the reservation where he thinks he will find hope and through a series of ups and downs this novel does a wonderful job of telling the story of Junior’s freshman year.
Check the WRL catalog for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
In a world filled with dozens of planets to inhabit, hover trays, and stars as far as the eye can see, the Icarus, an enormous spaceship zooming through hyperspace, carries the most lavish and privileged people in the galaxy. Among those tens of thousands of passengers is Lilac LaRoux, the red-haired daughter of the wealthiest man in the universe, and Tarver Merendsen, a war hero who feels quite out of place on the Icarus. As soon as Tarver picks up Lilac’s glove, they click like a button.
After Lilac is reminded by her cousin, Anna, that Tarver and Lilac could never be involved romantically due to his lack of money, the ship vibrates with a jolt. A quick announcement informs everyone to immediately make their way to an emergency pod.
After Lilac’s tumble over a railing, Lilac and Tarver end up inside a crew’s pod as the ship is sucked into a planet’s gravitational pull. Fortunately, Lilac manages to detach their pod from the ship, and they are forced to watch as the Icarus crumbles and falls.
As the pair make their journey across the planet, they seem to be the only survivors, so they work together to trek across the planet to find help. However, it seems like Tarver and Lilac aren’t alone on the planet, and there is mystery lurking around every corner. But they first must overcome their disdain for each other to survive on a mysterious, perilous planet.
I absolutely loved this book. The characters were phenomenal, the setting was beautiful, and the plot was completely unexpected with a major twist at the end. I couldn’t put this book down, and now I’m impatiently waiting for the sequel!
If you are a fan of sci-fi, you absolutely must pick up this book. It incorporates sci-fi, romantic, and a bit of supernatural elements into one to create a fantastic novel!
Read These Broken Stars to see if Tarver and Lilac can make it over rolling plains, jagged mountains, and mounds of debris to reach their final goal: rescue.
Check the WRL catalog for These Broken Stars
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
I was a little late jumping on the bandwagon of The Fault in Our Stars. I’m usually not one to read what is popular, but rather what appeals to me content-wise. There was about a 10% chance that I would read a book about cancer, and less so one about kids with cancer. As many people have been touched by the hands of cancer, it still is a difficult subject to think about and talk about, let alone read about.
This was my second venture into listening to audiobooks, as I felt a greater sense of story while listening to Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater than the first time I read it. So I felt that I should try The Fault in Our Stars in audio book format, as I could multi-task while listening.
However, John Green’s words had other plans for me.
The Fault in Our Stars was engaging and witty, sharp-tongued and unique. I adored the way Augustus called her “Hazel Grace” instead of just “Hazel.” I was surprised with the sincerity that John Green wrote Hazel’s character, and the honesty of Augustus’s life and metaphors. There was a true appreciation of young adults in this novel that is hard to find, and John Green does it perfectly. He wrote two extremely smart teenagers that were realistic and three-dimensional. Young adults are the intellectuals of our generation. They feel everything and say what they mean with earnestness. This book tore at my emotions, something books rarely do for me, and I do think that this was enhanced by the wonderful performance given by narrator Kate Rudd.
This was the very first book I’ve read/listened to by John Green, and I can’t be more excited for the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars to be released in June 2014.
Check the WRL catalog for The Fault in Our Stars
Or check out the audiobook
What if you built a machine that could receive messages from the future? What messages would you like to receive? Probably your first answer would be winning lottery numbers. But what if, along with the winning numbers, you also received an SOS? Tane and Rebecca receive just such a message, and they sent it to themselves. Something horrific is about to happen to their New Zealand home, and they must decipher their own messages to stop it. They follow the directions they receive to the best of their ability, but they still don’t know exactly what they’re up against. Early attempts to carry out their instructions don’t go exactly as planned, and when the threat does become clear, it might be too late.
A mist has begun moving South through New Zealand. At first, it is centered mostly over farmland, wilderness, and uninhabited land. The first reports from populated areas indicate that it rolled in without warning and then began to thicken. It moves at no consistent rate of speed and moves against the wind. The transmissions end there, and when backup is sent in, they are also never heard from again. Everyone who encounters the mist seems to simply disappear. If this is the danger Tane and Rebecca warned themselves of, how will they ever be able to stop it?
Falkner has written a suspenseful science fiction horror story that kept me turning the pages. While the reasoning behind the creation of the mist seems a bit heavy handed, I suppose that there had to be some sort of back-story for the “villain” of the piece. I won’t give it away, but it works as well as any for this type of sci-fi thriller.
Check the WRL catalog for The Tomorrow Code
I enjoy the work of children’s book author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, particularly his 1984 book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. This is not your average children’s picture book; instead, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a series of 14 exquisitely detailed, black and white illustrations, each accompanied by an enigmatic title and caption. Alternately whimsical and haunting, the illustrations in this book inspired me (and countless other readers) to invent stories to explain what was going on in the pictures. Recently, I had the opportunity to revisit a cherished part of my childhood by reading The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, an illustrated short story collection in which 14 authors, including Stephen King and his wife Tabitha King, Sherman Alexie, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, and Cory Doctorow, have contributed stories inspired by the illustrations in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.
All of the stories are original to the collection with the exception of Stephen King’s “The House on Maple Street,” which originally appeared in his 1993 book Nightmares & Dreamscapes. The stories themselves are not linked by any recurring characters or situations, so readers shouldn’t feel that the stories need to be read in any specific order. Like Van Allsburg’s illustrations, each story has its own unique tone and style; some are dark, like Jules Feiffer’s “Uninvited Guests,” while others, such as Louis Sachar’s “Captain Tory,” are sweet and poignant.
One of my favorite stories in the collection was M.T. Anderson’s “Just Desert,” the tale of a boy named Alex who, on the eve of his 10th birthday, discovers that nothing in his world is as it appears. I felt the authors did a fine job of capturing the surreal atmosphere found in Van Allsburg’s illustrations. Lemony Snicket’s introduction is also a real hoot.
The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is a good, quick read that should appeal to readers who grew up intrigued by The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.
Check the WRL catalog for The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
Check the WRL catalog for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
Emerson can see dead people. Or, to be more precise, she can see people from the past. Sometimes they are easy to identify—the Scarlett O’Hara wannabe in the hoop skirt was easy to peg—but others look just like the living. It’s not until she brushes against them, or tries to interact with them, that she realizes they aren’t really there. It has become especially problematic now that more and more of the past is bleeding into her present. Where she would once see only individuals, now objects and entire scenes from the past are visible. Emerson’s visions began just before the tragic death of her parents, and now her brother and legal guardian Thomas is determined to find Emerson some help. She’s tried shamans, psychics, therapists, and nothing has worked. When she is heavily medicated the hallucinations stop, but she can’t function in that zombified state forever.
Enter Michael, a consultant from The Hourglass, who Thomas has hired to work as Emerson’s mentor. Michael is surprisingly unfazed by Emerson’s visions, and even has terminology for the things she can see. He calls them Rips, short for Ripples, and is adamant that The Hourglass can help her. Michael is slow to reveal his secrets, but Emerson soon realizes that Thomas’s hiring of Michael wasn’t exactly coincidental. She (and her ability) would be extremely useful to Michael’s latest project.
Hourglass is the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to reading more stories set in the world McEntire has created. She spends a bit of time setting up the rules that her characters must live by, and dropping hints for future novels, but succeeded in leaving me wanting more. There is enough going on that McEntire could have left out one of the romantic rival sub-plots (which has hopefully been permanently resolved) but that ultimately amounts to only a minor annoyance.
Check the WRL catalog for Hourglass.
A teenage girl shoplifts a too-tight, red, sleeveless turtleneck from Walmart. Immediately afterwards, the only adult in her life (who turns out not to be her mother or official stepmother) drops dead in the checkout line. This roller-coaster start sets the tone for this stirring tale of Lutie and her young brother, Fate, as they struggle to survive alone.
The plot bounds along as appalling events follow closely one after another. The children end up living on the streets of Las Vegas where they are prey to a parade of unsavory characters who seem to offer a helping hand but really want to exploit them. Teenage Lutie is often flawed, sometimes to the point of not being likable, but I realized that she has adult responsibilities without any help or guidance. Ultimately, she knows she loves her shy, bookish brother and wants to do what is best for him. A series of plot twists and turns ensue including Lutie’s forays into child prostitution and drugs. I found this very plausible and and also very disturbing.
Lutie and Fate’s desperate situation and downward spiraling luck drew me into their story, but I found it increasingly difficult to believe that they would ever extricate themselves from the mess their lives had become. Readers of Billie Letts’ other novels, such as the popular Where the Heart Is, know that she leans towards tearjerking but heartwarming endings, and Made in the U.S.A. follows that pattern. Who knows, maybe some of the exploitative strangers are genuinely kind? And maybe Lutie will find a practical use for her gymnastic talents?
This book is for you if you like a fast-paced, human interest novel with strong, quirky characters, that shows the dark side of life but ultimately has a joyous ending. I was glad that their story ended how life should proceed rather than what often happens to the many real Luties and Fates alone and lost on city streets.
Check the WRL catalog for Made in the U.S.A.
Cas and his mother just moved to a new town. They move around pretty often, so Cas knows the routine: find a house, find a school, find the popular crowd, and get them to share the local ghost story. Chances are, if Cas has done his research well, the ghost everybody thinks is just a story will turn out to be real. That’s why he and his mom moved to town in the first place. Cas is a ghost hunter.
His current case is the titular Anna Dressed in Blood. She was murdered while walking to a school dance in 1958 and her killer was never found. Anna now haunts her former home, killing anyone who enters, until the day Cas comes to call. Cas is the first person to enter Anna’s home and make it out alive. In fact, not only is he alive, but he is entirely unharmed. He is the first person to enter Anna’s home who could actually cause her harm, could even destroy her, and still she chooses to let him go. Now Cas is driven to solve both Anna’s murder and the mystery of her sudden change of heart. In Cas’s experience, a ghost with a track record like Anna’s doesn’t just turn over a new leaf. But then Anna isn’t quite like any ghost Cas has ever hunted before.
Check the WRL catalog for Anna Dressed in Blood
The best fantasy writing makes you believe completely in the validity of the story, and by that criteria, Maggie Stiefvater’s young adult novel The Scorpio Races is certainly a winner.
The story is set on Thisby, a mythical island off Ireland or Scotland in an otherwise normal world. Thisby is a misty, Brigadoon-like mecca for horse lovers because it’s the place where the capaill uisce, the beautiful, terrifying water horses, emerge from the sea. For unclear reasons, they come ashore every November, when some of the most daring locals dare to capture and ride them in the annual Scorpio Races. The races are both thrilling and horrifying, a bloody spectacle in which some riders are inevitably killed as the capaill uisce charge along the beach, bite each other and anything else in reach, and frequently resist their riders to plunge back into the ocean.
The atmospheric island has little else to recommend it. Sure, it’s scenic, but it’s also a difficult place to make a life, with wild weather, little food, entrenched ways and only a few wealthy landlords who dominate the other locals. Most young people leave the island for adventures on the mainland or in America, and as the novel opens, Puck Connolly’s older brother Gabe announces that he plans to leave as well. That’s a problem because Puck, her somewhat compulsive younger brother Finn, and Gabe are orphans left behind after their parents were killed by the water horses and Gabe has been supporting them. To stall Gabe’s departure and perhaps to win enough money to save their home, Puck decides to ride in the Scorpio Races, although a woman has never competed and she’ll have to ride her speedy but undersized mare Dove instead of a capaill uisce.
One of her competitors is Sean Kendrick, a young man who has won more Scorpio Races than any other rider, but who has been trapped by Terence Malvern (the same man who is foreclosing on Puck’s house) into working in his stables. Sean loves riding Corr–the fierce red water horse on which he’s won so many races–more than anything else, but Malvern owns Corr and keeps Sean in line by refusing to sell him. Sean’s tenth share of his race winnings have made him wealthy by island standards, but not compared to Malvern who still controls the only thing Sean wants. Sean’s life is further complicated by the jealousy of Malvern’s horrible son, Mutt.
The lives of these two riders become entwined as the book continues and they rise from mutual frustration to grudging respect to romance, but their survival is constantly threatened, their personal problems seem insurmountable, and their final goals are in conflict. Surrounding them with quirky islanders, a mysterious American visitor, and the sometimes thrilling, sometimes terrifying water horses, Stiefvater weaves a tale that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. I felt like I’d run in my own Scorpio Race by the time I was done, and I certainly came away a winner.
Check the WRL catalog for The Scorpio Races
Or try The Scorpio Races as an audiobook
Three’s the charm for the novella-length short stories in this young adult collection, centered around three kisses. Some kisses are promises and some are threats; some could make you lose your soul, and others might help you get it back again.
In “Goblin Fruit,” the handsome new boy in school has eyes only for Kizzy, which would be a good thing, if he were human. (Kizzy ought to know better: her grandmother gave her a stiletto for occasions just like this.) A contemporary take on Christina Rossetti’s creepy poem, “Goblin Market,” which you certainly don’t need to know to enjoy it, this story ends in an unsettling place… or makes you want to start writing the next chapter.
“Spicy Little Curses Such as These,” set in India at the height of the British empire, was my favorite of the three stories. An elderly woman, “with a stare that could shoot laughter from the air like game birds,” serves as an ambassador to hell, taking tea with demons to ransom souls back to the living. (I notice that most summaries of this story focus on the beautiful young girl, cursed with silence lest she kill anyone who hears her voice, and the young man who falls in love with her. But young couples in love always get the headlines. Old ladies who take tea in hell: that’s what I’m talking about.)
In “Hatchling,” a brown-eyed girl wakes up with one blue eye and her mother freaks. Taylor unfurls the story of the mother’s past in a fantastically-detailed mountain eyrie court, ruled by a heartless queen who keeps children as pets and feeds her cats to bridge trolls. This involving story is something like watching Narnia’s White Witch get a second chance.
Taylor’s prose is lushly descriptive, but among her poetic similes are also short, pointed, painful sentences, like thorns among roses. She’s a fantastic storyteller. Readers of folk and fairy tales will recognize elements of Orpheus, Sleeping Beauty, Andersen’s Little Mermaid and other motifs. These stories incline to the darker side, full of blood and menace, and will appeal to older teens. Each of the stories is introduced by a wordless mini-graphic-novel by illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, setting the scene in fine gothic style.
Check the WRL catalog for Lips Touch: Three Times.
Michael has experienced a lot of stressful changes. His sister was born prematurely. Although she was released from the hospital, she isn’t doing well at home. Everyone is worried about her health, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for Michael. Additionally the family has recently moved to a new house, which needs a lot of work. Once his dad gets a chance to get the rooms painted and the garden cleaned up, it should be great for their growing family. But now… all Michael can think about is how far away he is from his friends.
One of the features of the property is a dilapidated garage that Michael is not supposed to go near for fear it will collapse—but of course, he does. There he discovers a strange-looking old man hiding behind a tea chest in the corner. Michael is scared, but instead of telling an adult about his discovery, he goes back a second time to get a better look. Then a third time to bring the man food and aspirin. At last he decides to confide in his neighbor, Mina, and brings her to meet Skellig.
As Michael’s sister returns to the hospital for another surgery, he and Mina move Skellig to a safer place. They agree that he is an extraordinary being, but is he a man, angel, owl or ghost? And is there any chance he can save Michael’s sister?
I found this to be a great story about friendship for all ages. Mina is wise beyond her years and the lessons in the book will stick with me for a long time.
Check the WRL catalog for Skellig
Almond also recently released Mina’s story in My Name is Mina.
It’s Christmastime in New York City, and both Dash and Lily are spending the holiday without their families. Being a bit of a Scrooge, Dash is on his own by choice, as he tricked each of his divorced parents into believing he is spending Christmas with the other parent. Lily, however, loves everything about Christmas. She was left at home with her older brother (who is at first too busy to be festive, and then too sick) while her parents and grandfather vacation in warmer climates.
Needing something to occupy her time, Lily leaves a red Moleskin notebook in the Salinger section of the Strand, a used bookstore. The notebook contains instructions for the finder to follow, if he is a teenage boy, with clues leading around the store and perhaps into Lily’s heart. Dash finds the notebook and, after following Lily’s clues, decides to continue the game. Rather than leaving his phone number for Lily to find, he leaves instructions to travel to a nearby pizzeria.
The game continues past Christmas and into New Year’s as Lily and Dash send each other to a variety of well-known New York locations. They use the notebook not only to leave each other clues, but to get to know one another. They write about how they are spending the holidays, what they want for Christmas (“No, really, don’t be a smart aleck. What do you really really really supercalifragiwant?”), and their best and worst Christmas memories. They do hit some roadblocks along the way, such as when Lily misses her opportunity to pass the book on to Dash and when they unexpectedly meet under less than ideal circumstances. But surely everything must come out alright in the end, right? After all, it is Christmas.
Check the WRL catalog for Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares.
This is a great set of wintery short stories. Set at Christmas, during the worst snowstorm in fifty years, these stories are as light and fluffy as the snow itself. John Green, author of Paper Towns (another great book), Maureen Johnson, author of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and Lauren Myracle, author of Bliss and Rhymes with Witches (which I also enjoyed) offer three short stories with overlapping settings, characters, and events.
In “Jubilee Express”, a Christmas Eve train derailment leads Jubliee (“Julie” when she doesn’t feel like explaining her name) to take a harrowing trek through the snow to find shelter at a nearby Waffle House. The presence of fourteen over-enthusiastic, over-caffeinated cheerleaders in the Waffle House prompts her to trudge through even more snow and across a frozen river to find shelter at the home of her new friend, Stuart. She may well not make it through the holiday alive, and all because her parents were arrested while waiting in line to buy the latest limited edition house for their Flobie Santa Village collection.
In “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle,” the presence of the aforementioned cheerleaders at the Waffle House results in a race through the ice and snow to deliver a game of Twister. Friends Tobin, JP, and the Duke (real name – Angie) were enjoying an evening of James Bond movies, when their plans for Christmas Eve changed. Waffle House employee Don-Keun makes a late night call to Tobin’s house and makes the following announcement:
“The greatest night of my life has just begun. And I am inviting you to join me, because I am the best friend ever. But here’s the catch: after I get off the phone with you, Mitchell and Billy will be calling their friends. And we’ve agreed in advance that there’s only room here for one more carful of guys. I cannot further dilute the cheerleader-to-guy ratio. Now, I am making the first call, because I’m acting assistant manager. So you have a head start. I know you will not fail. I know I can count on you to deliver the Twister. Gentlemen, may you travel safely and swiftly. But if you die tonight, die in the comfort that you have sacrificed your lives for that noblest of human causes. The pursuit of cheerleaders.”
Tobin and JP manage to persuade the Duke to accompany them with the promise of hash browns, as the Duke is a girl, and therefore not particularly interested in seeing cheerleaders. But the night doesn’t quite go as expected.
In “The Patron Saint of Pigs,” it’s the day after Christmas, and Addie reports to work at Starbucks at 4:30 am. She’s been miserable since Christmas Eve, when her boyfriend Jeb failed to meet her at the coffee shop. His absence sends a clear message; he doesn’t forgive her for the “Charlie Thing.” To make matters worse, the sink breaks and causes a flood, she forgets a very important errand she was supposed to run for a friend, and another friend accuses her of being completely self-involved. Not a very Merry Christmas. Luckily, Addie has a Christmas angel who changes her perspective on the universe, and the day begins to look up.
Check the WRL catalog for Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances.
Karou is just like any other 17 year-old girl. She goes to school. She hangs out with her friends whenever she’s free from work. She’s recovering from the heartbreak of first love. But Karou is also different as much as she is the same. Her blue hair isn’t just a dye job, it grows from her head that way. Karou attends art school in Prague and hangs with her friends at the Poison Kitchen, a place known for its WWI gas masks and tables made from coffins. As for her first love, she’s getting over him even though he keeps trying to win her back by jumping from the shadows pretending to be, what else, a vampire.
As for her parents, well that’s where things get interesting. Karou doesn’t exactly have parents, she has the Chimaeras. Brimstone is larger than life with rams’ horns and the ass of a lion. Issa is apparently a Victoria’s Secret model on top but her bottom half is a little cold-blooded, being mostly serpent. Twiga has trouble with low ceilings, having the neck of a giraffe and Yasri might snap with her sharp beak. Not the kind of family you bring your friends home to meet. But the Chimaeras are the only family Karou has known and she loves them and works for them gathering teeth from all over the world using portals to move from city to city…
By this point, I hope you’re at least a little intrigued by Karou because I certainly was and am glad I opened the pages to this wonderfully fantastic and lyrical novel. With its old world aura, Prague’s atmosphere suggests that any shadowy doorway may open to an unknown and unexplored world. Adding to Prague’s mystery, and layering her story, Taylor’s exquisite writing and turn of phrase draws the reader in with her expressive style, flashes of humor, and empathy. It is easy to get lost in the pages and wake up Elsewhere… Whether in our world or another, it’s always important to find acceptance and make your own place. This book is followed up by Days of Blood & Starlight.
Check the WRL catalog for Daughter of Smoke & Bone
The last thing you want to do with a cheating ex-boyfriend is take a ten day trip through Italy. Only one thing would be worse – missing out on the trip of a lifetime because you’re avoiding him. Jessa has just caught her boyfriend, Sean, with another girl. The next day, when some girls would be curled up crying in bed with massive amounts of chocolate, Jessa leaves on a drama club trip abroad, with both Sean and his new girlfriend.
To help her get through the next week and a half, Jessa’s best friend, Carissa, has put together 20 envelopes with directions that Jessa should open two on each day of her trip. Each envelope provides a reason Jessa is better off without Sean and an instruction. Some of the envelopes instruct Jessa to be introspective, some instruct her to reap her revenge on Sean, and some offer revelations about her ex-boyfriend that Jessa would never have imagined.
Carissa’s envelopes are intended to help Jessa get over Sean and enjoy her trip. That might be too much to ask. Rome, Venice, and Tuscany are all romantic locales which are not intended to be visited with an ex-boyfriend and your replacement.
Check the WRL catalog for Instructions for a Broken Heart.
It is a truth universally acknowledged by babysitters and horror film directors: there is nothing scarier than cute little kids. At least, as Henry James explored in The Turn of the Screw, than cute little kids whose innocence is just a front for unutterable evil.
And what does Henry James have to do with this psychological thriller? Just enough, starting with the title, to allow literature students to nod their heads knowingly at the resonances to James’s classic ghost story. But not enough, don’t worry, to make homework out of this fast, spooky read.
Seventeen-year-old Jamie has a cushy job for the summer: au pair for a wealthy gentleman who’s leaving her in charge of his summer house on the resort island of Little Bly. Responsible for his young niece Isa, Jamie is relieved to get away from the calamities of the last year: a painful sports injury, a dangerous flirtation with an older man, and a spiral downwards into what her mom calls “mopiness,” without recognizing how sinister Jamie’s moods have really become. But her relaxing summer away starts unraveling with the unexpected arrival of Isa’s handsome older brother, just kicked out of school. Acts of vandalism around the house. And revelations about her predecessor, last summer’s au pair, who died in a tragic airplane accident with another local teen. Funny… because Jamie saw them just the other day. Or did she?
As readers of Turn of the Screw have wondered for years: is the governess seeing ghosts or having the vapors? We know that Jamie isn’t a reliable narrator (or babysitter!). The last thing she did before leaving for Little Bly was to steal handfuls of pills from her parents’ prescription stash. Alternately obsessed with the mystery of the last au pair and the side effects of whatever pill she last popped, Jamie careens toward an ending twist that will have you flipping back through the pages to discover exactly how you’ve been led astray.
Check the WRL catalog for Tighter.
Kate and her mother have just relocated to Eden, Michigan, the town where her mother grew up and where she intends to die after an unsuccessful battle with cancer. Kate is having trouble coming to terms with saying goodbye, and starting over as a senior at a new school compounds her worries. Ava, the school’s resident beautiful, blonde mean-girl, has taken an instant dislike to her and plays a prank that goes horribly wrong. Ava dies, and when a mysterious man suddenly appears saying he can bring her back to life— for a price— Kate is faced with a choice. Some people would think this was a no-brainer. Ava was awful to Kate, and deserved what she got. Kate, however, is wrought over the impending death of her mother, and cannot stomach someone else dying when she could prevent it. She agrees to the strange man’s request, and Ava is alive again. What has she traded for Ava’s life? The man tells her to read the myth of Persephone, and expect a visit from him on the autumn equinox. A man who has power over life and death, and has a connection with the mythical Persephone, Queen of the Underworld…three guesses who that could be.
As the story unfolds, we learn that Hades (or Henry, as he is known in this story) has been left alone and lonely in the Underworld. He always loved Persephone more than she loved him, and finally she fell in love with a mortal and Henry had to let her go. That means he’s looking for a new companion. He’s been searching for nearly a hundred years, with no luck. Love in the Underworld is harder to come by than it is on Earth. He’s not just looking for someone to love him and put up with him, he needs to find someone who can pass the seven tests, and gain the approval of the council. Eleven girls have tried, and none have succeeded. “Some of them went mad. Others were sabotaged. None of them reached the end, let alone passed the tests.” Henry is asking Kate to be his last chance. He must find a Queen soon, or fade from existence. What Henry offers in exchange is the only thing that could tempt Kate. He will keep her mother alive.
Carter takes some creative license with the traditional characteristics of the Greek gods and goddesses, but the mythological elements keep the story interesting. They’re what set The Goddess Test apart from the typical boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl stories. If you’re not too much of a stickler for accuracy, fans of Greek mythology will find this an entertaining read. Check out the sequel as well, Goddess Interrupted.
Check the WRL catalog for The Goddess Test.
Pay no attention to the top hat on the cover of this paranormal mystery; it looks Victorian, but the action takes place in the present day. And you’d think, if a Jack the Ripper copycat killer were going to strike in present-day London, he’d have no chance of escaping the CCTV cameras surveying the streets from every angle.
But he does.
Rory Deveaux, fresh from Louisiana, is a little starry-eyed to be spending a year abroad at Wexford, a London boarding school. Jammy Dodgers! The Tube! (“Welsh is an actual, currently used language…. It sounds like Wizard.”) But when murder victims are found near campus, marking the anniversaries of the Whitechapel killings in 1888, English history starts hitting a little too close to home.
What’s more, Rory thinks she’s seen the killer—but her roommate, who was standing right next to her, didn’t see a thing. Whatever it means, her newfound ability to see the un-seen makes her really valuable to the police investigation, and especially to its ghost-hunting unit, the Shades of London (also known as Scotland Graveyard). Unfortunately, it makes her an asset to the killer, too. And the anniversary of the last Ripper killing is only a few days away…
A more serious, suspenseful read than Johnson’s screwball Suite Scarlett series, this adventure has ghosts, historic true crime, and confrontations in unused stations of the London Underground. It’s the first of a series, the Shades of London, and is followed up by The Madness Underneath
Check the WRL catalog for The Name of the Star.
People are thought to be pretty complex, but in the world of Divergent everyone is categorized into groups based on one of five personality traits. Each person is best suited to life in one group. If you are brave, you are Dauntless. If you are selfless, you belong in Abnegation. If you are smart, you are an Erudite. If you are friendly, you are Amity. If you are honest, you are in Candor. Your faction dictates where you work, what you wear, how you spend your free time, and who you spend it with.
Beatrice has turned sixteen and it is time for her to choose her faction. She has been raised in Abnegation, but never really felt like she belonged. That feeling is confirmed when her aptitude test reveals that she is an aberration, a Divergent, who is not well suited to any single group. Her results indicate she could be Abnegation, Dauntless, or Erudite. The Dauntless who administers her test instructs Beatrice never to reveal these results to anyone. Not even her family can know that she is Divergent. Her life may depend on it.
Nevertheless, Beatrice must still choose a faction. Without test results to guide her choice, or the ability to talk about her results with others, she must make the choice alone. Feeling that Erudite is not the faction for her, she is torn between her longing to be Dauntless and the pressure she feels to yield to expectations and stay in Abnegation with her family. She leaves her decision to the last minute. When the Choosing Ceremony begins, and her name is called, Beatrice makes the decision that will change her life. Will she be brave, or will she be selfless?
Choosing a faction is only the beginning of Beatrice’s story. Life in her chosen faction does not quite go as she planned. How can she learn more about what being Divergent means if she cannot discuss it with anyone? Divergent is the first in a trilogy and is followed up by Insurgent.
Check the WRL catalog for Divergent.