The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong

masked truth

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Mystery

# of Pages:  340

RAC:  Yes

Riley witnessed the couple she was babysitting for get murdered and has never been the same since.  She blames herself for not doing more to help them.  She has tried multiple counselors and the latest one has suggested she come to a weekend-long retreat with other troubled teens.  They are not there very long, however, when masked men come in and declare they are holding them hostage until a wealthy teen’s dad pays a hefty ransom for them.  Things begin to go wrong almost immediately and it quickly becomes obvious that they may not leave alive. Riley is now getting her chance to see if she were in a life threatening situation again if she would run or stand and fight.

Fans of mystery thrillers will enjoy this title because it is a lot more than it first appears.  The beginning even lags a bit as they struggle to find a way to defeat their kidnappers, but then things take a turn when everything Riley thought was happening is completely turned on its head.  For the most part any inconsistencies in the motivations of the characters are explained away and the resolution is exciting and captivating.  Fans of mystery books and shows should check out this title.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence


Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  407

RAC:  Yes

Alex Woods has had a very interesting life.  He lives with his single mother who owns and operates a fortune teller business and when he was ten he was hit by a meteorite that actually plummeted through his bathroom ceiling.  Since his accident he’s had trouble with seizures and unfortunately, bullies.  On one such occasion when he was running from bullies he ended up getting blamed for an act of vandalism on a elderly man’s home.  His punishment was to go to Mr. Petersen’s house every Saturday to help him out.  All of this leads up to the story that begins with Alex getting arrested by border patrol because he has marijuana in his glove compartment and Mr. Petersen’s ashes in the seat next to him.  What happened that led to this moment?

This story is quirky and weird in a way that makes the reader want to know more.  The last 100 pages are especially compelling as the facts all start to come together and it becomes obvious what Alex and Mr. Petersen are going to do.  Fans of John Green novels will like this title because the characters are smart and unique and the story seems unbelievable and yet believable at the same time.

Alive by Scott Sigler


Genre:  Sci/Fi, Futuristic

# of Pages:  345

RAC:  Yes

Em wakes up with a shooting pain in her neck and believes she’s being attacked by a snake.  She quickly realizes she’s trapped in a dark box and must fight her way out.  When she does, she sees she is in a room full of what look like coffins, which is what she just forced her way out of.  She begins to hear screaming in a nearby coffin and helps another girl break free.  They both think they are 12, but they look much older than that.  They have no memories and have to look at the name plates on their coffins to discover what their names are.  Eventually, they find there are others nearby, but no one knows where they are or how they can get out.  Em finds herself the leader of these kids and shocks herself when she discovers she feels confident she can lead them out of this nightmare.

This futuristic story introduces several characters and most of them are developed well enough that you can see their motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.  There is a fair amount of violence as these kids have to fight their way through one obstacle after another.  The plot carries many interesting twists, but there is still a lot more of this story to tell which I can only imagine will continue with the next installment.  Fans of James Dashner will enjoy this title.

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton


Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages: 429

RAC:  Yes

John, Quin, and Shinobu have been training together for years in order to one day take their oath and become Seekers.  When the final test comes, however, John stumbles and is cast out by the master Briac.  He is devastated at being kept from what he sees as his birthright and concocts a plan to get what he believes is rightfully his.  Meanwhile, Quin and Shinobu take the oath but are horrified to learn what becoming a Seeker actually entails.  When John and his soldiers arrive on the estate to destroy everything on it, Quin and Shinobu must make some fateful decisions about their future as Seekers.  Can they abandon their oath and the training they have spent their whole lives learning?  Will John ever be able to let his quest for justice for his ancestors go?

This fantasy story introduces three very interesting main characters as well as supporting characters.  The history of the Seekers is engaging, but there is still a lot to learn about the past and how it came to shape the present they are dealing with now.  Despite the length it doesn’t feel like the story develops as much as it should in this first installment and leaves quite a bit unanswered.  Die hard fantasy fans will enjoy this series.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

red queen

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  388

RAC:  Yes

Mare Barrow is a red blood and therefore a lowly worker to the silver bloods who rule everything with their varied powers.  Mare knows that when she turns 18 she will be required to join the army and fight the neverending battle going on at the border.  Her three older brothers are already there fighting.  Mare’s best friend has an internship which means he will be spared from the draft and her younger sister is a seamstress and will also escape that terrible fate.  As bad as things are Mare is finding ways to cope, but then tragedy strikes and everything she ever believed comes crashing down.  In her lowest moment she confides in a young man at a bar and the next day she is offered a desirable job serving the silver bloods in the palace.  On one of her first days, Mare is serving at an important event where the Prince is to choose a bride, but something terrible happens and Mare reveals that she too has a special power despite the fact that her blood is not silver.  What will happen to Mare and her family now that she has revealed herself to be a threat to the silver bloods?  Can she learn to develop and control her power?

This is the first novel in this series and has a futuristic feel to it like The Testing and The Hunger Games.  Mare’s character is captivating and it’s hard to watch her trust people that will ultimately betray her.  As she navigates her way through a new world of silver bloods who have powers such as mind reading, mind control, and controlling elements she realizes how powerful they are, but also how vulnerable and scared they are as well.  Fantasy fans will enjoy this new series.

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.


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