Monday, August 31, 2015

A small town with a mystical past and a magical present

Utopia, Iowa by Brian Yansky
Brian Yansky (Alien Invasions and Other Inconveniences, and Homicidal Aliens and Other Disappointments) has created a unique town in Utopia along with some very unique residents. Jack Bell can see and communicate with ghosts, his grandmother is a powerful witch, an elderly neighbor spends his time rocking on his front porch but seems to have some special insights that he shares once in a while with Jack, and his little sister is just beginning to exhibit some rather special gifts (or curses, depending on your point of view). Jack is an aspiring script writer for the movie world, and he sees his world through the lens of past favorite movies. But lately all is not well in Utopia. Two young girls have been apparently murdered and both have come to Jack for help.  There are actually two worlds existing simultaneously in Utopia, and they will very soon collide.  
Image result for utopia iowaThis is not just fantasy, or romance, or murder mystery, but a combination of all three with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. It is a story of a boy about to graduate high school finding his way in both worlds and learning that sometimes you have to leave to get where you want to be.  I would recommend this book to both boys and girls who like strange quirky stories.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

For horror fans!

Image result for amity micol ostowAmity by Micol Ostow
If you love quietly building horror, then this is one you should read!  Told in two voices, this is the story of two families who have lived in Amity on the Concord River in Massachussetts. Connor has been diagnosed by psychiatrists as a sociopath after several disturbing incidents at school. His family has moved into the secluded house to escape a troubling past that includes violent behavior and an obsession with his twin sister Julianne.  Nightmares begin for Connor almost immediately, and he spirals downward quickly. 
Ten years later Gwen and her family buy Amity and move there in the hopes that the quiet country will be therapeutic and restorative for Gwen, who has recently been hospitalized for mental illness. The nightmares begin soon after for both Gwen and her previously gentle and supportive brother Luke, who becomes obsessed with the mysterious boathouse on the shore of the river. 
It turns out that Amity has a dark and violent history, and perhaps a sentient existence of her own that is reaching out to the teens. 
The book jacket states that this story is based on a true crime story, but does not elaborate. I recommend this book to lovers of horror stories who appreciate quiet tension and buildup and have rather strong stomachs!  I read this one in one sitting!  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's been a busy summer, but I'm back with a great book for you!

Image result for devoted mathieuDevoted by Jennifer Mathieu
There seems to be a new trend in teen literature: teens living in repressive fundamentalist families yearning to escape and find new lives for themselves.  A few current examples are Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle, No Parking at the End Times by Brian Bliss and Rapture Practice, a memoir of growing up in a fundamentalist family by Aaron Harztler.  When I picked up Devoted (Mathieu's second novel for teens) I expected more of the same, but this one surprised me. It is a gentle book about Rachel, a seventeen year old girl growing up in a very large fundamentalist Christian family, taking care of her younger brothers and sisters and her depressed mother, who dreams of the world outside her closed little life and yearns to be able to read books and learn about the world around her. The confusion and guilt is palpable and throughout the book. She never looses her faith, it just changes gradually when she contacts an older girl, Lauren, who escaped from her repressive home life and eventually earned her GED and returned to her home town for a job opportunity. Lauren sends her a poem by Mary Oliver, the last line of which serves as the theme for this story: "What is it you will do with your one wild and precious life?" Rachel leaves her home and moves in with Lauren, whose family attended the same church Rachel's family attends. Rachel's growth is slow and steady throughout the book, her relationships with new found friends believable. This book is full of hope, as you will surely cheer Rachel on in her journey towards self discovery.  It's not an easy journey, and it is not one that Rachel undertakes in anger or bitterness. She truly misses her family and grieves when she realizes she will never be allowed to visit her home again. She continues to have faith and begins attending another church with her new friends and develops a new understanding of her own precious gifts and how to use them. I would recommend this book for high school students who like Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

An unusual and important book for teens

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

Kristin is a senior in high school and a track star (she runs the hurdles) with scholarship offers from colleges, a cute boyfriend, a great relationship with her widowed father and 2 very close friends.  She is happy and secure until everything changes after her first sexual encounter with her boyfriend causes her excruciating pain.  Upon visiting a gynecologist she is diagnosed with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or AIS, a form of intersex.  Her world and relationships are turned upside down as she begins the journey toward accepting and living with her diagnosis.  This is a sensitive highly readable book that also serves to educate about different types of intersex conditions.  Read the author's note at the end too, as in it she explains the inspiration for writing this book and includes information on various support groups throughout the country.  Books like this serve to remove the stigma and increase understanding and acceptance of those with differences of all kinds.  HIGHLY recommended!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A scifi fairy tale series

 Begin your adventure into this futuristic take on popular fairy tales with Cinder, the story of a cyborg (part human, part machine) with a not-so-nice stepmother who keeps her locked in the basement when she is not doing chores or earning money. Cinder is a mechanic who finds herself caught up in court intrigue between handsome Prince Kai and evil Queen Levana of Luna.  Earth is in the throes of a massive plague that threatens to wipe out the Earthen species altogether, and on the brink of violent takeover by the Lunars led by their queen.  Cinder is the futuristic version of, well, guess who? 

Continue the saga with Scarlet, a young farm girl from Earth who is searching for her grandmother who has been kidnapped by a weird Lunar race of part wolf part Lunar.  Her grandmother harbors important secrets about the identity of the missing Princess Celine, who is the rightful heir to the throne of Luna and therefore a threat to Queen Levana.  Scarlet's path (along with possible ally Wolf) crosses with that of Cinder and Thorn from book one.  Can you guess the fairy tale counterpart to Scarlet?
 On to part three in Cress, who is a hacker for Queen Levana's army and who has been trapped since birth in a satellite orbiting Earth. Cinder, Thorne, Scarlet and Wolf attempt to rescue her from her prison to convince her to help them in their plot to overthrow queen Levana.  This unlikely band of heroes may be Earth's only chance. Look at the cover, it's pretty obvious who Cress's fairy tale identity is!

Fairest is a prequel that tells the story of how Queen Levana came to power over Luna.  A good story to read while you're waiting for the final installment of the Lunar Chronicles to come out!

Be patient! Winter, the final installment, isn't coming out until November!  Winter is the step-daughter of Queen Levana, and has been trying to undermine her for years. Can she join Cinder, Scarlet and Cress to bring about the revolution that will end the queen's reign for good? 

See author Marissa Meyer's descriptions of the main characters from the first three books here:

Want Cinder to be made into a  movie?  Vote for who you would want to play each part here:

Monday, June 15, 2015

What if you knew what day you would die?

Denton Little's Death Date by Lance Rubin
 Denton lives in the very near future (everything will be familiar except one crucial detail).  A group of scientists have figured out how to determine everyone's exact date of death and the government has made it mandatory that that date be determined at birth. Therefore, Denton and his family have always known that he would die in his senior year of high school, at the age of 17.  This book opens the day before Denton's death date, on the day of his funeral. (you get to plan your own funeral and speak at it too! ) Denton's best friend Paolo has a death date 26 days later.  Despite the morose topic, this is a funny and entertaining book, very fast paced and easy to get into. Denton sees more action in the last 48 hours of his life than in the past 17 years, with Paolo right beside him all the way.  The fact that he is turning purple with animated red dots all over him is just the beginning.  Prepare for a wild ride with this book!  (there's a sequel planned for next year too that I eagerly await!) 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Roland Smith's new thriller! Beneath.

Pat's older brother Coop disappeared after a huge fight with their parents. Coop has always been a little different, interested in underground tunnels, both those existing and digging his own dangerous ones.  One year after his disappearance Pat receives a cryptic message from Coop and travels to New York City in an attempt to find his brother. But his brother has joined a secret society that lives under the city and finding him proves to be terrifying and very dangerous.  A thrilling read, set aside a few hours to read this one in one sitting!