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Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan

Read This! - Wed, 2014-04-23 01:01

Charlotte shares this review:

“Sorry-in-the-Vale, Sorriest River, Crying Pools,” said Jared. “Is the quarry called Really Depressed Quarry?”

“Yes,” Kami answered. “Also I live on the Street of Certain Doom.”

Many young children have an imaginary friend, but not many teenagers. Kami Glass doesn’t advertise the fact that she hears someone else’s voice in her head. She doesn’t want the rest of her home town, Sorry-in-the-Vale, to think she’s crazy. She’d prefer they think of her as an intrepid investigative reporter tracking leads for her next big story. But her latest act of journalism, an investigation into the aristocratic Lynburn family—just returned to their ancestral manor after a generation’s absence—brings her face to face with someone even she didn’t believe existed: Jared, the guy who’s been sharing her thoughts for seventeen years.

For someone she’s been talking to her whole life, Jared isn’t what she expected. And although she’s predisposed to trust him, everyone else, even the boy’s mother, is warning her about his mysterious past and his violent temper. Meanwhile, something’s going on in Sorry-in-the-Vale: foxes killed in the woods, young women attacked in town. The investigation is getting deadly, and Kami really needs to know who she can trust.

Kami as telepathic Nancy Drew is a great, self-rescuing heroine with an entertaining entourage of friends. Author Brennan writes great villains of all stripes, some absolutely steeped in villainy and others conflicted with twinges of regrettable morality.

Set among the woods and lakes of the English Cotswolds, this first of a series plays with all of the elements of Gothic novels: the town full of secrets, the brooding rebel, and the foreboding house, with its motifs of drowned women and doorknobs shaped like clenched fists. If you were filming it, you’d have a hard time choosing one color palette: the atmosphere varies from lighthearted, Scooby Doo-style clue-hunting to shadow-drenched menace. The combination of adventure, smart-aleck commentary, heady emotional confusion, and one very dysfunctional family reminded me of Holly Black’s Curse Workers series, and readers of one should definitely try the other.

Check the WRL catalog for Unspoken.


Categories: Read This

The Ask and the Answer, by Patrick Ness

Read This! - Mon, 2014-04-21 01:01

Neil shares this review:

My friend and colleague Charlotte previously recommended the first book in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go. If you haven’t read that book, you ought to stop here and read it before continuing on. Spoiler alerts for anyone who reads on in this post! Still, this series is so good that it deserves a second entry.

The second book picks up with Todd and Viola waking to discover that Mayor Prentiss has arrived at Haven and holds them separately captive. The Mayor has changed tactics somewhat, and is now working to win Todd and Viola over to his cause. What follows are chapters full of subtle psychological games, as Todd and Viola try to confirm each other’s safety and reunite, while the Mayor plays both good cop and bad cop in his nasty but subtle style.

The unusual conceit of the series is that a virus left men on this planet unable to hide their thoughts from others. In their heads, each can hear what everyone else is thinking. Women don’t broadcast their thoughts but can hear those of men, an inequality that makes Mayor Prentiss particularly hard on them as he struggles to maintain control. Some residents of Haven give in quickly to his armed dictatorship, but others begin to engage in vicious guerilla warfare, hiding under the mysterious moniker of The Ask. The Mayor responds with his own Gestapo-like organization, The Answer. Not just Todd and Viola are at risk, everyone in Haven is in danger, and the future of the whole planet’s up for grabs, as another wave of colonizing ships is due soon. To make matters worse, the Mayor has discovered a method of masking his thoughts at times, using them like a weapon at others.

Todd, along with the Mayor’s bullying, ne’er-do-well son Davy, is put to work rounding up the planet’s other species, the strange Spackle, and monitoring their forced labor. Viola must recover from injuries, then begins to learn healing arts herself, all the while searching for both Todd and those with whom she could ally to fight the Mayor.

Ness writes masterfully, leaving the reader unsure of whom to trust. Todd, in particular, undergoes a dark journey in this novel, suffering manipulations that lead him to behaviors that give him great shame. The suspense of the outcome of the ongoing war becomes almost secondary to the question of whether Todd can even save his own soul. If you’ve ever wondered how people can become twisted enough to perpetrate the heinous deeds committed during wartime, this book will provide an unforgettable example. There’s drama, suspense, action, and an enduring romance at the core of a series, which should be enjoyable to all adults, whether they’re young or not.

Check the WRL catalog for The Ask and the Answer


Categories: Read This

Wait for Me, by An Na

Read This! - Fri, 2014-04-18 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Wait for Me is a novel about a Korean girl caught up in her mother’s expectations of success. Mina has no hope of achieving all that her mother desires for her. But instead of living with her mother’s angry, resentful disappointment, Mina tells lie upon lie to create the image her mother expects. It was easy to start the lies, easy to make her mother believe them, once she got the help of Jonathon Kim, the only son of the mother’s longtime friend.

Mina has a plan, based on more lies, for how she will escape from her mother once she graduates from high school. Once she is on her own, she’ll tell her mother the truth.

Mina has a younger sister, Suna, who has a hearing disability. Sometimes Suna takes out her hearing aid so she can find quiet and comfort in her own world. Suna’s observations interspersed with Mina’s chapters give another perspective to events during that hot summer before Mina’s senior year of high school, the summer Mina meets Ysrael and her perspectives change.

Wait for Me will appeal to anyone interested in other cultures, as well as anyone who has felt overwhelmed by someone else’s expectations. This is also a love story, and a story about sisters, and a story about growing up.

The book is beautifully written by An Na, who won a Printz Award for her first novel, A Step from Heaven. The audiobook is read by Kim Nai Guest. She does an excellent job in bringing Mina and Suna to life.

Check the WRL catalog for Wait for Me

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook Wait for Me


Categories: Read This

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

Read This! - Wed, 2014-04-16 01:01

Andrew shares this review:

One of my colleagues and I were looking over a cart of books when I pulled this from the shelf. “Sounds too magical-realist,” she said doubtfully. I was still intrigued by the title, and decided to give it a few pages. I took it home and immediately plunged into Clay Jannon’s world, which Robin Sloan writes with anything but magical realism.

Clay’s career is stuck in neutral, a bad place to be in cutting-edge San Francisco’s Web-design world. Along about the time the last of his savings is headed to pay the rent, Clay is desperate enough to take anything. A sign in the window of a dim little shop (overshadowed by the neon of the strip club next door) advertises “Help Wanted,” and Clay enters Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

If the store is surviving on actual, you know, book sales, Clay can’t tell it. Working the overnight shift, he rarely has any customers except a girl from the club dropping in for the latest bestseller, which Mr. Penumbra doesn’t stock. What he has, in his queerly shaped store, are tall shelves packed with volumes written in languages and letters Clay can’t decipher. Odd people sometimes duck in to pick up select volumes and duck back out after putting them on their special accounts.

With nothing much to do overnight, Clay starts building a virtual copy of the Bookstore to aid him in finding stuff from the collection. Then he starts adding data from past circulations and finds a pattern that amazes him and astonishes Mr. Penumbra. His discovery leads to another, and another, and the whole chain of discoveries leads Clay right back to the place he really started.

Sloan does a great job with the characters, from the friends who support and encourage Clay to the avuncular Mr. Penumbra. The characters play off one another, co-operating and offering their skills as Clay carries out his quest. But it’s the idea behind the story that really intrigued me—that there’s an exciting new frontier at the intersection of print and technology, and that advocates of both need to remember it. And even if writing about books on a blog is only building a little cabin on the edge of that frontier, well, that’s enough for me right now.

Check the WRL catalog for Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore


Categories: Read This

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey

Read This! - Mon, 2014-04-14 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Charlie Bucktin is a loner. He’s a smart, bookish boy who doesn’t have many friends in his small Australian hometown in the 1960s. He’s working his way through his father’s library of classics when a knock sounds on his bedroom window. Charlie is surprised to find Jasper Jones, the town’s “bad boy,” asking him to slip away into the night and lend him a hand.

The story unravels a mystery and the events lead to Charlie uncovering many adult secrets. The knowledge forces him to grow up quickly in the face of racism, adultery, abuse, and disappointment.

“I would have been free of all this. I would have stayed safe in my room. I might have read a little longer. Then I would have slept like I used to. I would have woken as I normally would have. None the wiser. Much the lighter. I’d never have known Jasper Jones, I’d never have shared his story, I’d never have known this awful brick in my stomach. Misery and melancholy and terror would just be words I knew, like all those gemstones I collected in my suitcase that I never knew a thing about.”

Jasper Jones is a Printz Honor Book. The plot is well-developed and the characters are complex. The mystery is interesting, but it’s Charlie’s personal growth that makes it memorable. There were many passages I wanted to slow down and reread in the book. Observations about how people behave, questions about his actions, doubts about what he thought he could count on. Passages that made me stop and think or just had a unique turn of phrase that made a particularly vivid picture in my head.

I started listening to this as an audiobook and loved the performance by Matt Cowlrick. Cowlrick has a lovely Australian accent that really brought Charlie to life. I was so interested in finding out how the book ended that I also checked out the book so I could finish it without having to drive around and around the block.

Reviewers have listed this as appropriate for ages 12 and up. There is some bad language and appropriately stupid puns. The topics covered are definitely of an adult nature. There’s a lot here to facilitate a good book discussion for both young adults and adults.

Check the WRL catalog for Jasper Jones.

Check the WRL catalog for Jasper Jones in audiobook format.


Categories: Read This

Witchstruck, by Victoria Lamb

Read This! - Fri, 2014-04-11 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

“If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned. If she float, she do be a witch and must be hanged.”

Fantasy blends with historical fiction and romance in this first novel of “The Tudor Witch Trilogy”. Set in England in 1554 readers are immediately placed in the time of Princess Elizabeth, who has been sent into exile at Woodstock Palace by her half-sister Queen Mary. Political tensions are running high and there is talk of treason. Just months ago young Princess Elizabeth found herself as a prisoner in the Tower of London after being accused of conspiring to overthrow the Queen. As no true evidence can be found she is instead sent faraway to crumbling Woodstock Palace. And so sets the scene for Meg Lytton, the Princess’s newest hand maiden. Meg has a powerful gift, one she must hide from all. She comes from a long line of witches and is very much one herself. But there is no room for witches in Catholic England and should she be revealed she would be hanged. However, Meg soon finds the Princess has an interest in the craft all her own and often calls on Meg and her aunt to help her see into the future and answer the always pressing question, “Will she ever be Queen”? But Meg and her aunt must exercise the most extreme measure of caution as the famed witch hunter Marcus Dent has taken an intense interest in Meg and wishes for her hand in marriage. Things only get worse as Meg learns her own family is conspiring against the Queen and her association with the Princess puts already exiled Elizabeth in further danger. When it seems all is going wrong and there is no one Meg can trust, in walks Spanish priest in training, Alejandro de Castillo and suddenly everything is beginning to look a little better and a whole lot more dangerous…

Check the WRL catalog for Witchstruck


Categories: Read This

Frost, by Marianna Baer

Read This! - Wed, 2014-04-09 01:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

What Leena expects to be a perfect senior year at boarding school begins to fall apart from the first moment she sets foot back on campus. She’s excited to be living in Frost House with her two best friends, and will have a room to herself until their other friend returns from a semester abroad. Leena can’t wait to be out of the dorm, and moving into Frost House is a special treat because it was repurposed as women’s housing just for her and her roommates. Her excitement is soon dulled, however, by the news that she will be sharing her sanctuary with a roommate after all.

Celeste is eccentric, arty, and attention-seeking. So when she starts to complain about Frost House, Leena doesn’t quite know what to believe. Leena loves living in the old house and feels completely at home. Celeste feels like she is being watched, claims her belongings are being tampered with, and swears it smells like something died in her closet. Could Celeste be making it all up or is there really a presence in the house that Leena can’t sense? Why would Leena feel so comfortable in the house if there was really something wrong? Celeste certainly has a history of being unreliable, but even Leena can’t argue with the strange, if disparate, effect Frost House seems to have on them both.

Frost is not your usual haunted house story, and you may end the story with as many questions as you began. With that said, I enjoyed the layers author Baer built, each one adding more and more depth to the story than the last. Are the events of the story the result of a character’s psychological deterioration, a haunting, or something more mundane?

Check the WRL catalog for Frost.


Categories: Read This

Sidekicked, by John David Anderson

Read This! - Mon, 2014-04-07 01:01

Lizzy shares this review:

 
Drew, the voice of the book, is a seventh grade sidekick in training. Drew, aka “The Sensationalist”, goes through middle school while fighting crime. Or at least he would be if his “super” would do anything besides drink in a bar. But besides that, life is awesome for Drew. He also has to deal with his crush on his best friend, Jenna. After getting a kickball to the face a year ago, he finally confessed he likes her. Sadly though, all those plans must go on hold as soon as a super villain escapes from prison. Is the Dealer coming back? Between listening to bad advice and learning right from wrong, Drew carries quite a load on his shoulders. With hilarious characters and great descriptions, Sidekicked is truly an amazing book.

Check the WRL catalog for Sidekicked.


Categories: Read This