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Great Young Adult titles from Williamsburg Regional Library
Updated: 52 min 36 sec ago

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud

Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

This is the first installment in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Stroud.  The story focuses on young Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice, beginning his training in the art of magic. From the very beginning he shows incredible promise but is unfortunately paired with a sub-par and rather boring instructor. Out of boredom and internal motivation, Nathaniel begins his own private studies, quickly gobbling up book after book in the old magicians study. Things would have continued slow and steady for Nathaniel but a fateful and humiliating event leaves him burning with rage and a desire for revenge. And so begins his summon of a powerful djinni, one who can help him to get retribution on the very magician who caused him so much hurt. But the djinni, called Bartimaeus, is more formidable and cunning than Nathaniel could have imagined and his rival magician, Simon Lovelace is even more dangerous than he expected.  A simple plan turns into a catastrophic ordeal when Nathaniel orders Bartimaeus to steal a priceless token from Lovelace, the Amulet of Samarkand. Now, around every corner lurks unseen threats and hidden perils. And worst of all, Nathaniel has done the one thing a true magician is never supposed to do…he has lost control, not only of his djinni but everything around him.

Check the WRL catalog for The Amulet of Samarkand.


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Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Wed, 2014-05-21 01:01

Laura shares this review:

On the surface, this is a familiar story: teenage angst about life intertwined with a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Gloria “Glory” Fleming is a teenage piano prodigy who is dealing with the pressures created by her talent and her career while still trying to cope with the loss of her mother several years before. She meets and falls in love with Frank Mendoza, a teen from Argentina who has recently moved in next door. Their relationship intensifies as their respective lives crumble. At the start of the book you find out that Glory has disappeared after slipping away from a rest home for musicians. The reader then traces back over the previous 18 months to find clues to where she went and why.

The actual process of reading the book is in itself a unique experience. That Chopsticks is bound like a book is indisputable but there are few words contained on the pages. Nor is it presented like a graphic novel with blocks of drawings and pops of dialogue. Instead we are asked to flip through a collection of concert programs, wine bottle labels, screenshots of IM conversations, album covers, newspaper clippings, photos, school progress reports, paintings, and more. The narrative more closely follows flipping through a stranger’s scrapbooked diary.  It is intimate but incomplete, as the characters are not asked to explain themselves or put their words into the context in which they were meant to be taken.  Are the angry words just flashes of emotion stemming from the frustration of existing in a world where you are supposed to be either an adult or a child, but not both?  Or do they expose some deeper trouble within the teenager’s psyche?

The voyeuristic view into the character’s private thoughts is slightly uncomfortable yet fascinating. There are no answers here, or at least none that are tidy or even concrete.  Individual readers will find different answers to the plot questions based on their own interpretation of the evidence presented. I found myself going back over sections multiple times after I had initially completed the book, seeing how my own view changed over time.  The only thing I knew for sure is that Glory had disappeared, and I was left with the extraordinary ache created by the human-shaped hole left behind.

Any reader, but especially those interested in the complexities of  both teens and human relationships and who don’t mind the ambiguity will be richly rewarded by investigating this book.

Check the WRL catalog for Chopsticks.


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False Memory, by Dan Krokos

Mon, 2014-05-19 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Here’s a good fast-paced young adult novel to try.  The main character is a warrior girl, but instead of living in the time of knights and ladies, this story takes place closer to modern or near future times.

Miranda finds herself in a mall, with no memory of anything beyond her name.  When she asks the mall cop for help, he thinks she’s just playing games with him.  As she tries to explain, her head begins to hurt until at last the pain radiates outward.  She is horrified to see people flee in fear.  Unsure what’s going on, she scans the panicking crowd until she sees  a guy her age just watching her.

He tells her his name is Peter, and that he knows her.  Because he says he can explain what just happened, Miranda follows him to an underground bunker in the forest.

She discovers that she is part of a team of four genetically engineered kids who are being trained as “crowd control weapons.”  One of the side effects of the gene therapy is memory loss, which is countered by taking medicine.  She was taken off the medicine without her knowledge by one of her teammates, Noah.  Noah and the fourth member of their team, Olive, have gone missing.

Miranda and Peter must locate their missing comrades and bring them back to the facility.  But in the process they uncover the lies they have been told about their true purpose and how they came to exist.  Lots of twists and turns and double-crosses keep the action moving.  And the fight sequences are engaging and detailed.

Check the WRL catalog for False Memory


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Kill Me Softly, by Sarah Cross

Fri, 2014-05-16 01:01

 

Jennifer D. shares this review:

The town of Beau Rivage is filled with fairy tale characters.  There are princes and princesses, beasts and mermaids, fairies and wolves, huntsmen and match girls – but they all take the form of average citizens. All that would distinguish the teens in this tale from normal teens is a “märchen mark” or birthmark that identifies their role and destiny. Mira has a birthmark on her back that resembles a wheel, but never knew its meaning until she traveled to Beau Rivage, the town where she was born.

The only life Mira can remember is living with her extremely overprotective godmothers.  Her sixteenth birthday is only a week away and she is determined to spend it in her hometown and to find her parents’ graves.  Having concocted an elaborate plan to elude her godmothers, Mira arrives in Beau Rivage and quickly makes the acquaintance of two brothers, Felix and Blue Valentine.  While they couldn’t be more different (Felix is helpful and attentive, Blue is rude and obnoxious), Mira finds herself strangely drawn to both of them. Felix promises to help Mira find her parents’ graves, but Blue is focused on getting Mira out of town, and away from Felix, as fast as possible. Mira, however, will not be swayed from either her task or Felix’s attentions. It does seem strange, though, that no one will explain the meaning of the Valentine brothers’ heart-shaped märchen marks. What fairy tale roles do they play? What role will Mira play in their stories?

In Kill Me Softly, Sarah Cross puts a contemporary and highly entertaining spin on traditional fairy tales. Fans of the Grimms’ most gruesome stories will find much to enjoy in this modern mash-up of some of their greatest creations. While Mira’s story comes to a close in this book, the intricate mythology Cross has created for the town of Beau Rivage could potentially lend itself to a sequel.

Check the WRL catalog for Kill Me Softly.


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Alanna, The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce

Wed, 2014-05-14 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Tamora Pierce is an award-winning and bestselling fantasy author of young adult literature.  She has written stand alone books and short stories as well as multiple series.  Her first young adult novel, published in 1983, was Alanna, the First Adventure.

This story opens with Alanna and her twin brother Thom unhappy about their father’s decision to send them away for school.  It’s not that they don’t want to leave home and have new experiences, it’s that they wish their father would consider what they want to do.

Alanna doesn’t want to go to a convent and learn all the boring necessities of being a lady.  She wants to be a knight, a warrior maiden.  And Thom really doesn’t enjoy sword fighting and battle strategy, he’d rather be a great sorcerer.

The two decide to take their fates into their own hands and switch places.  With the help of two dedicated servants, Alanna heads to Duke Gareth of Naxen as “Alan of Trebond” to serve as a page while Thom goes to the City of Gods to study magic.  Their negligent father is none the wiser.

Alanna pays attention and learns her lessons well.  She also shows she has a strong character and doesn’t let others fight her battles.  Mixed in with the lessons and sword fights are court politics, sorcery, and the continual stress of hiding her true nature from her friends.  I kept expecting her secret to be revealed at every new scene — how long would the boys believe that “Alan” was just a small-framed boy with a fear of swimming with the group?

Alanna is a great role model — she embodies all the good qualities of a knight — but the book ends before she completes her training.  You’ll have to keep reading the series!  And don’t think just because Alanna has the makings of a hero that she’s boring.  There is plenty of mischief to keep the story clipping along.

Check the WRL catalog for Alanna, the First Adventure


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172 Hours on the Moon, by Johan Harstad

Mon, 2014-05-12 01:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

The first thing you have to do before reading this book is accept its hard-to-believe premise. Set in the present day, NASA scientists want to boost interest in the fading space program by sending three teenagers into space. If you can get past the fact that NASA scientists would never think this was a good idea, much less that it actually comes to pass, then you’ll enjoy this book. What makes the plot a bit easier to swallow is that NASA actually has a hidden agenda. They need an excuse to send another team of astronauts to the moon, and the media circus surrounding the worldwide teen astronaut contest will mask the true purpose of the mission. NASA needs to find out if what Armstrong and Aldrin encountered in 1969 is still up there.

The three teens, Midori from Japan, Mia from Norway, and Antoine from France are chosen, trained, and sent into space along with a crew of five astronauts. The majority of the plot takes place after the team has reached the moon, however one significant event occurs to each of the three teens before takeoff. They each have an experience that is unexplained and unsettling and which almost convinces them not to go through with the mission. Someone (or something) doesn’t want humans back on the moon, and from the moment the team lands things begin to go horribly wrong. Events occur at a breakneck pace and the suspense builds to a stunning conclusion.

172 Hours on the Moon is an excellent sci-fi horror story/psychological thriller and one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read. It continued to occupy my thoughts for days after I finished reading. The atmosphere is intense, drawing from the isolation of being alone on the moon accompanied by only a few others with extremely limited resources. And then the enemy reveals itself.

Check the WRL catalog for 172 Hours on the Moon.


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Vitro, by Jessica Khoury

Fri, 2014-05-09 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

Seventeen-year-old Sophie Crue lives the life of any normal teenager…she argues with her father, questions her parents’ divorce, and has a bit of trouble fitting in with her step-mom and half siblings. But everything changes when Sophie receives a mysterious and alarming email from her mother. According to the note her mother is in trouble and needs her help immediately. Sophie doesn’t think twice before hoping on a plane and heading to Guam, her childhood home, the one she shared with her parents when they were still married and working together as doctors. But from the moment she lands things start to go wrong. None of the local pilots will fly her out to the feared and isolated Skin Island her mother works on. In fact, none of them will say a word about it, other than a warning to steer clear.

When Sophie finally finds a young and daring pilot who might accept, she realizes he is her best friend from childhood, Jim Julian…though in a very grown-up and attractive form. He begrudgingly agrees to the trip but when they land on Skin Island he immediately knows they’ve made a terrible decision. Sophie’s mother is nowhere in sight and there’s no indication she was expecting them…not to mention the plane was damaged on landing by something on the landing strip.  As they branch from the plane and get closer to the islands activity hub they stumble upon an even more startling discovery. The scientists are experimenting on human embryos, and creating Vitros; humans that have been altered and raised in tanks until their teenage years when they emerge fully grown. But as more and more questions begin to arise and the danger for Sophie and Jim becomes all too apparent the reader has to ask…how will these two ever survive all that the island and the morally questionable Corpus company has to throw at them?

Also, check out Khoury’s previously published YA novel, Origin.

Check the WRL catalog for Vitro.


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The Selection, by Keira Cass

Wed, 2014-05-07 01:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

The country of Illéa is divided into thirty-five provinces whose citizens are divided into one of eight castes. They range from Ones – the country’s royal family, to Eights – those who live on the street and have no way to support themselves. America Singer of Carolina is a Five – those with a creative ability such as singing, dancing, or acting. She has no particular aspirations of upward mobility. She only wants to perform, help support her family, and hopefully become the wife of secret love Aspen Leger. The only problem with her plan is that Aspen is a Six – a servant, and doesn’t want to be responsible for bringing America down a level. Then, when Maxon Schreave, Prince of Illéa announces that he will be choosing a wife, suddenly everything changes. It is time for the Selection.

By law, Maxon must marry a “Daughter of Illéa,” in other words, a commoner. One woman from each province will be chosen to travel to the castle to be courted by Maxon, and one will become his wife and eventual Queen of Illéa. Both Aspen and America’s mother are adamant that she enter the Selection. America eventually agrees, both to appease Aspen and because her mother has offered a very attractive bribe. She is certain the odds of being selected are extremely low, but if that were the case, we wouldn’t have much of a story to read, would we?

America becomes one of the Selected and must cope with being away from her family, her friendly and not so friendly fellow contestants, the rebels who routinely attack the castle, and the fact that portions of the Selection are televised for the nation to see. Oh, and that she likes Maxon much more than she ever thought she would. Making matters even more difficult, Aspen dumps her before she leaves Carolina, but she is still very much in love with him. One thing America has going for her is that she is no shrinking violet, which Maxon finds quite appealing. Readers will find it appealing, too. You will root for her, feel her pain, and be proud when she stands her ground.

Check the WRL catalog for The Selection.


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Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Mon, 2014-05-05 01:01

Lizzy shares this review:

Divergent is a novel that drags you to the future of the world. It describes how after a war people divided themselves into five groups. Each group has a quality they represent (Abnegation: The Selfless, Candor: The Honest, Erudite: The Intelligent, Amity: The Peaceful, Dauntless: The Brave). The story centers on a 16 year old girl who lives in Abnegation. When she goes to take her test (to see what faction she tends towards) she learns she’s special; she’s Divergent. The test proctor tells her to never tell anyone. The characters that form are un-believably amazing. Readers are easily attached to them thanks to the author spending time developing them. The setting helps the reader understand the personalities of the factions they are in. Abnegation members are known as “Stiffs” and live in plain houses. The Dauntless live in a dark pit which leads to a tense atmosphere. The plot seems to keep you hanging over a building as you wait to be dropped. The mix of danger and emotion keeps the reader wanting more. In conclusion, Divergent is an excellent book for young adults and older.

Check the WRL catalog for Divergent.


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Ashen Winter, by Mike Mullin

Fri, 2014-05-02 01:01

Jan shares this review:

A very important question for people who love to read is, can the sequel ever be as good as first book? And in this case the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’!

I blogged on Mike Mullin’s debut novel Ashfall previously, and I have been anticipating reading the sequel Ashen Winter ever since. In Ashfall a supervolcano erupted under Yellowstone National Park and sixteen year old Alex sets off on an odyssey from his home in Iowa to find his family in Illinois. The ash has destroyed the plants, killed the livestock (from breathing the ash), and poisoned the water. In Ashfall  some people are kind, and Alex meets Darla who will become the love of his life. Ten months on in Ashen Winter people’s desperation is growing. No summer came, possibly presaging the beginning of an unbelievably long and cold volcanic winter. Stored food is running out, and the last supplies of necessities we take for granted like antibiotics and gasoline are also running out. Alex struggles to stay true to the values he didn’t even know he had. In a world full of human cruelty and even cannibalism  he wants to save everyone who is innocent. Even his previously mild, spineless father resorts to violence leading Alex to think, “The disaster had warped the landscape of our minds – perhaps even more than it had altered the physical landscape.”

Ashen Winter is as dark as Ashfall and goes at the same breakneck pace. The problems of survival are just as intense, and the characters continue to change and grow in a believable way. I find some apocalyptic books, movies or TV series fascinating in the beginning as the characters deal with how to survive their disasters. Then too many of them descend into soap opera, where the story centers around who is hooking up with whom, rather than who will actually be able to survive to be able to hook up with anyone.

Like its predecessor, Ashen Winter is an apocalyptic read that is a good choice for both teens and adults. Try it if you enjoyed The Hunger Games or even less well known books like Monument 14.

Check the WRL catalog for Ashen Winter


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Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Wed, 2014-04-30 01:01

Charlotte shares this review:

Forty years before this young adult fantasy opens, a truce ended a bloody conflict between human and dragon kingdoms. For the generation that has grown up in peace, dracomachia—the art of fighting dragons—has been forgotten and knights have been sent into exile. Despite old prejudices, lingering hatred between species, and the occasional street riot, nobody’s been burnt to a crisp in ages.

Well, a prince has been recently decapitated. In a suspiciously dragonish manner.

Seraphina Dombegh is assistant music master to the royal court, where the festivities marking the 40th anniversary of the truce place her in the thick of intrigue among the ruling family and visiting ambassadors. The celebrations must go on… even while Seraphina, with Lucian Kiggs, the captain of the Queen’s Guard, investigates signs that Goredd’s remaining heirs are also in danger. Unfortunately, Seraphina, having grown up with a heavy load of family secrets and parental disapproval, has learned to approach life through layers of disguise and deception, including a habit of lying that comes between her and the charming Kiggs… who’s engaged to someone else anyway.

Hartman’s contribution to this traditional fantasy setting is her entertaining take on dragon kind, highly intelligent but essentially other, gifted at higher math but with a Vulcan disdain for human emotions and the way that passions dictate human lives. “They’re nothing but feral file clerks,” complains one character, “they used to alphabetize the coins in their hoards.” Dragons can take human form, and the most entertaining characters are the ones who pass for human, but without really understanding what makes people tick. Dragons who become too human are policed by censors, and if they’re determined to be emotionally compromised, they may need to have their brains excised. The conflict between logic and art, left brain and right will be a familiar one for veterans of original Star Trek.

Seraphina has her own psychological complications: repeating visions of 17 figures, which she’s learned to control by a sort of lucid dreaming she calls “cognitive architecture.” As lives and the uneasy peace are threatened, the figures from her visions start to surface in real life, and her search for the remaining mystery characters is sure to continue in the sequel.

Check the WRL catalog for Seraphina


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Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Mon, 2014-04-28 01:01

Michelle B. shares this review:

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, is a unique epistolary novel which begins with the letters of Verity, an English spy being held captive in France by the Gestapo during World War II. Under duress, Verity is ordered to recount her role in the war effort through a series of letters which are consequently read by the Gestapo. She fiercely and with a great deal of cheek, writes about why she joined the war effort as well as her “sensational” friendship with fellow soldier and female pilot, Maddie. Verity’s courage and anger shines through these letters which range from tragically funny (Verity’s cover was blown when she looked the wrong way when crossing the road in Nazi occupied France) to solemn and poignant (Verity’s tales from the warfront). The more Verity writes, the more readers, and the Gestapo, get the feeling that there may be more to her story than she is telling.

An espionage story, Code Name Verity is a tightly plotted roller coaster
with the bonus of a fully realized portrayal of a strong female friendship,
something rather special when so much of popular Young Adult fiction
heavily focuses on romance. Elizabeth Wein is a master of detail and
everything from the mechanics of flight (Wein is a pilot herself) to the
incredible characterization of Maddie and Verity make the story feel alive.
This spy novel contains an immense amount of compelling humanity not
usually found in the genre, making Code Name Verity a potent combination
which will keep readers guessing as they are reading and stay with them
long after.

Check the WRL catalog for Code Name Verity.


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Between the Lines, by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

Fri, 2014-04-25 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

This is a fairy tale romance, but with a twist.

Mother/daughter team Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer explore what it might be like for characters when the book closes. Do they just stand around and wait for the reader to pick up where he or she left off, or do the characters have their own lives between the pages? In this story, the answer is that the characters live out their own lives until the book opens and they play their parts.

Delilah’s “real life” isn’t that great. She is in high school now, but still doesn’t have many friends—and her mom is always busy with work. Her main pleasure is reading. She particularly loves the story of Oliver and his quest to save Seraphima from a wicked magician. Even though the fairy tale is really meant for younger readers, Delilah reads the book again and again. It makes her happy to read how Oliver overcomes various challenges by using his wits. What she finds particularly appealing is that Oliver had to grow up without a father and so did she.

One day she is more than surprised when she notices a change in one of the illustrations.  She’s certain she would have remembered that design in the sand in the hundreds of times she read the book before…

When Oliver realizes that Delilah noticed the chess board he accidentally left in the sand during a break in the reading of the story, he is determined to make a connection to her. He shouts out—and Delilah hears him! At last he has a chance to leave the story and make his own adventures.

The rest of the story is Delilah and Oliver building a relationship despite coming from such different backgrounds (he is a prince, after all) and exploring ways for Oliver to leave the confines of the story. Can the magic of the story be altered to let a character escape to live his own life—or, once something is written, is it always the same?

I admired the story for not making a simple solution to the problem. Oliver can’t just write himself out of the book. And it doesn’t work out so well when Oliver tries to write Delilah into the story. On top of all that, Delilah is talking to a character in her book like he’s a real person—is she going crazy?

Between the Lines is an original, entertaining story about young friendship/love and a quest to be together. The story is cleverly split three ways: the original fairy tale story, Oliver’s point of view, and Delilah’s point of view. It is obvious when you’re reading the book which person’s perspective is being told. I also listened to this on audiobook and was easily able to follow the different voices. I hope to see more collaborative efforts from this team of writers!

Check the WRL catalog for Between the Lines.

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Between the Lines.


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Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan

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.


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The Ask and the Answer, by Patrick Ness

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


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Wait for Me, by An Na

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


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

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

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

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

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