The Cipher by John C. Ford


Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages:  374

RAC:  Yes

Robert “Smiles” Smylie is the son of a very wealthy and important man who began a computer software company when Smiles was a baby.  Smiles has always felt like a disappointment to his father since he is not a math genius.  His mother ran out on him when he was a baby and his loving stepmother died suddenly in a car accident shortly before the story begins.  He is struggling to find his place when his quiet neighbor, Ben, asks for his help getting to an encryption conference.  Once there, Ben cracks a previously thought to be uncrackable code that if sold could breach the top secrets of every organization while also bankrupting his father’s company.  Ben creates an elaborate plan to protect the code but still get him and Ben some of the profits from discovering such a code.  Is this his shot at greatness?  Can he and Ben pull off such a big plan and get away with it?

This title reads like a heist movie in that there are lots of aspects to their plan and there are many players in the game who have plans of their own.  Smiles learns a lot about his dad’s past and the truth about the beginning of his company and why his mother really left him.  There are many surprises and plot twists, but the story definitely has some slower moments as well.  Recommended for fans of heist movies.

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

divided we fall

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  374

Iowa High School Award Winner 2015-16

RAC:  Yes

Daniel Wright enlisted in the Idaho National Guard as soon as he was eligible, which means he is still a senior in high school.  He lives with his very needy mother, plays football, and has a girlfriend.  The national guard is only supposed to be one weekend a month until he graduates from high school, but then a law is passed that many people do not agree with including the governor of Idaho.  When he refuses to comply with the law he calls in the national guard to combat any possible rioters and Daniel Wright is one of those soldiers called in to defend the capital.  Unfortunately, his gun accidentally fires and it begins a terrible riot that results in some civilian casualties.  In the aftermath, the President of the U.S. demands the governor of Idaho reveal the names and whereabouts of all involved soldiers so they can face possible criminal charges.  The governor refuses and Idaho faces the very real possibility that they could go to war with the United States of America.  Can Daniel fight other U.S. soldiers?  Will Daniel go to jail if he is caught by the U.S. military?  Will his liberal girlfriend understand the circumstances that led him to this point?

This exciting adventure story shows how plausible it really is that a state could go to war with the U.S.  All of the characters are written in a way that you can understand their motivations, feelings, and actions.  There’s a lot of soldier terminology used to describe Daniel and his squad’s orders, but it is explained well for readers who do not normally read about soldiers.  The story is very exciting as Daniel is thwarted at every move and the ending will definitely leave readers wanting more.  Strongly recommended for high school boys.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

saint anything

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  417

RAC:  Yes

Sydney was always the overlooked younger sibling to Peyton, her charismatic lovable older brother.  When Peyton is arrested and sent to jail for paralyzing a teenager while driving his car drunk things shift even more in his direction as their parents struggle to help him in any way they can.  Sydney begins to feel unsafe in her own home as Peyton’s overly friendly friend, Ames, begins to frequent her house more and more.  By chance, she meets the Chatham family and with it a new best friend and potential boyfriend.  The Chathams are everything her family is not and Sydney feels noticed and listened to in a way her family hasn’t for a long time.  Eventually, her two worlds collide and she must make some big decisions about where to go from here.  Can she forgive her brother for destroying her family?  Can she date a boy her family deems unworthy?  Will her parents ever give her the attention she deserves as the only remaining child in the home?

Sarah Dessen once again creates a story full of wonderful and engaging characters that make you want to know more about them.  Sydney’s family obviously has some very serious issues with Peyton’s predicament, but yet that does not change the fact that they still have a child who needs their attention as well.  Meanwhile, the Chathams have had some terrible disappointments too as their mother is very ill.  The two families handle conflict in their own ways and Sydney finds strength from both of them in different ways.  The romance between Sydney and Mac is sweet, but does not take over the story where Sydney is the main focus.  Recommended for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han novels.

The Heir by Kiera Cass


Genre:  Romance/Realistic Fiction

# of pages:  346

RAC:  yes

It has been twenty years since America Singer won the selection and married Prince Maxon.  Their first born, by seven minutes, is Eadlyn.  Due to the change in law, she is the next in line for the throne and not her younger twin brother.  Eadlyn has felt enormous pressure her entire life because she knows that someday she will rule, but she never realized how much her parents have been shielding her from.  King Maxon abolished the caste system almost immediately after he became king, but all these years later there is still discrimination and unrest going on.  Eadlyn’s parents decide a Selection might shift the focus away from the unrest and onto happier, more exciting things.  Eadlyn is not thrilled by the idea of a Selection and vows to fight it at every turn.  There are several interesting suitors who are chosen and she begins to enjoy herself a bit, but as with any Selection there is a fair share of drama.  Will she find true love?

This follow-up series to the original is fun in that it is from a female perspective and therefore she is unable to get away with stuff her father did simply because he was a man and viewed differently by the public.  Eadlyn takes her responsibilities seriously, but often comes out unlikable because of her brusque attitude.  It’s obvious that she and her siblings know very little about the selection that brought their parents together and that is surprising considering a lot of important events transpired that still effect relations within the castle today.  The ending brought many shocks and surprises which is what fans will be looking for…along with the next book!

Utopia, Iowa by Brian Yansky


Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  323

RAC:  Yes

Set in fictional Utopia, Iowa where the life expectancy is longer than usual and many people are believed to have “gifts,”  Jack Bell lives with his mother, father, and sister.  Jack, his mother, and his sister can all see ghosts, but they have taken extra precautions to make sure they cannot enter their home.  When Jack’s sister, Amanda, claims to see a ghost on Jack’s bed they are all naturally alarmed because more than likely it would take a much stronger spirit to enter their house than a usual ghost.  Then, a young college student is pushed from a dorm window to her death and she seeks Jack’s help in finding what happened to her.  She does not remember her death, which is unusual for ghosts, but she knows her boyfriend didn’t kill her despite his confession.  The police detective starts to become concerned that Jack is somehow connected to this case because he seems to know details he should not know, and he is not a believer in the town “gifts.”  Can Jack help this spirit find her way and clear his name?  Can he protect himself from the growing number of threats people keep prophesying about him?

This light fantasy story provides an usual spin on the ghost genre in that the reason behind the threats and mysterious deaths actually connect to an ancient story that is slowly explained throughout the book.  Jack comes in contact with several different types of gifted people who all try to help in their own ways as he deals with the ghosts that keep seeking his advice as well as the mounting danger he keeps getting warned about.  The ending is exciting and satisfying, but it’s not a story that the reader will think much about once it is over.  Recommended for fans looking for a fun fantasy.

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

how to build a house

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  227

RAC:  Yes

Harper is running away from a difficult home life after her father’s divorce and decides to join a volunteer group working to rebuild a home in Tennessee destroyed by a tornado.  The story switches between Harper meeting new people and helping to rebuild the house in the present and then flashing back to what happened with her dad and why she feels so isolated after her stepmom and two stepsisters moved out.  In addition to this, Harper is trying to avoid her former best friend whom she thought was starting to show romantic interest in her when she caught him with another girl at a party.  While she is in Tennessee she begins to grow closer to the teenage boy of the family they are building the house for, Teddy.  As hard as the work is, the distraction is great to ease her mind on all of her problems at home and she comes to have very strong feelings for Teddy.  Can she face her life after the house is built and the summer is over?

This is a title that has been on my reading list for awhile because of its unique focus on service.  The flashbacks to what happened to Harper are interesting and well paced, but in general the book has less substance than I was expecting.  Teens who have suffered through a parents’ divorce will resonate with Harper’s internal struggle of who she should remain faithful to and wanting the truth.  Harper’s summer activities are not explained in as much detail as her past and the teens she is volunteering with are not developed enough for the reader to easily keep them straight.  Fans of teen romances will like this title.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

these broken stars

Genre:  Science Fiction

# of Pages:  374

RAC:  Yes

Lilac is the famous daughter of a prestigious businessman who owns the amazing spaceship, Icarus, that she is currently traveling on.  Tarver is a decorated war hero also traveling on the luxury spaceship, but his experience is much different.  When he tries to speak to Lilac in public she makes it very clear that he is beneath her in every way, but shortly after their public altercation the ship is suddenly pulled out of hyperspace.  They both end up in the same escape pod and it’s Lilac’s quick mechanical skills that free their pod before the ship crashes.  They land on what appears to be an uninhabited planet.  In order to survive they must trek across the planet in search of food, people, or a means to communicate.  The two are very different and do not get along well at first, but over time they must come together for the goal of survival.  Eventually, they start to get close and wonder if they even want to leave their own private planet, but then mysterious things start happening.  They hear voices and see hallucinations, among other things.  What is this place and can it in fact hurt them?

This sci/fi adventure is very exciting with many twists in the plot.  The characters and setting are well developed and interesting, but the ending may confuse some readers.  The pacing seems uneven at times too, with parts moving slowly and then a lot happening at once.  Fans of this genre will enjoy, but most others will pass on this one.


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