Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

# of Pages:  403

2019 Iowa High School Award Winner

Canaan is meant to be a perfect city in which people live in peace and harmony without the distraction of technology, money, or competition.  Every twelve years the town breaks into chaos and then their memories are erased.  The only way they know who they are is by reading the book that is tied to them at all times.  Nadia did not forget her memories during the last forgetting and therefore knows some of the things people chose not to include in their books, including people, they hoped to forget.  She has no idea why she didn’t forget her memories, but it definitely didn’t make her life any easier since her mother and sister treat her like she doesn’t belong in their family.  Meanwhile, Nadia has begun slipping over the walls of the town in search of food, answers, and adventure.  She is caught by the glassmaker’s son and he demands she take him with her.  As they explore outside the walls they learn there are many things about how their town was set up that no one ever passed down, despite her suspicions that not everyone is losing their memories every twelve years.  Will anyone ever believe them about their discoveries?  Will it be enough to save them from this terrible fate of forgetting who you are every twelve years?

This story has a dystopian feel similar to The Giver, The Testing, and Matched.  It takes awhile to fully invest in Nadia and her quest to find answers about her town.  Once she begins finding answers the book’s pace picks up and takes off while many obstacles rise up to try and stop her from sharing the truth of their existence with others.  The main characters are well developed and everyone’s motivations and actions are adequately explained by the end.  Readers who enjoy these dystopian books will be curious for more, but it isn’t quite as engaging as some of the other titles in this genre.

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

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Genre: Mystery

# of Pages:  471

When tragedy strikes at an upscale Nantucket wedding, everyone is shocked and horrified for the poor couple who will have to postpone their wedding.  The bride had discovered the body of her maid of honor in the early morning hours the day of the wedding and had become so upset that she had to be sent to the hospital.  When the police begin investigating, however, they find out that not only did the couple have a few secrets but so did the entire wedding party, including the maid of honor herself.  Is it possible this was not an accident?  Will they ever be able to recover from such a terrible event?

Fans of mysteries will love this fun, fast read.  Celeste is dealing with the breast cancer diagnosis of her mother when she meets the man of her dreams, Benji.  Benji comes from a very wealthy family who never has to worry about anything and Celeste is swept up in the excitement of his lifestyle, but is he really the right man for her?  Meanwhile, her best friend and maid of honor, Merritt, has been seeing an older married man and is also questioning her life choices.  Will she be haunted by her past choices forever?  Benji’s parents and Celeste’s parents have secrets of their own too that they are hoping won’t spill out before the wedding.  In all this craziness how are detectives supposed to find out what truly happened?

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Image result for two dark reigns

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  447

In the third installment of the Three Dark Crowns series, Katherine is struggling to maintain her newly crowned kingdom because the mist has begun acting strangely and she doesn’t know what it means.  Meanwhile, Arsinoe and Mirabella are on the mainland trying to find their place in a new world.  Arsinoe begins having nightmares about a Blue queen from the past and she thinks they are a message that she needs to return to the island.  Jules has found a group of people who believe her to be the rightful queen due to her powers and agrees to go along with their mission as long as it means that Katherine is overthrown.  She is still afraid of her powers, but knows she cannot hide from them forever.  She also knows she needs to make peace with what she is and not feel guilt or anger about it anymore.

The characters continue to development and it’s easy to see all of their viewpoints, which can be challenging with so many main characters.  The flashbacks to the Blue Queen help show how the story came to this critical point.  This installment carries on where the second one left off and will engage fans of the series, but it is a little disappointing that very little is really resolved during this book and instead more problems arise.  Readers will be looking forward to what I’m sure will be a very dramatic conclusion.

Ash Princess by Lauren Sebastian

ash princessTheodosia was forced to witness her mother, the queen’s, brutal murder at the hands of the man forcibly taking over their kingdom.  For some reason, the Kaiser who now rules the kingdom has kept her alive all these years, but he has forced her to take on a new name (Thora) and endure countless beatings and ridicule in order to learn her place.  Whenever her people would rebel in any way he would order Theodosia to be publicly beaten so that she could pay for the sins of her people and he would force her to wear an ash crown in order to mock the fact that her mother was the fire queen.  By the time she is 16 he feels confident he has broken her spirit, but he still has three guards watch her 24/7 to make sure she doesn’t get any treasonous thoughts.  Her best friend, Cress, is the daughter of the Kaiser’s right hand man who actually murdered her mother.  She is very friendly, but Theodosia wonders if she can truly trust anyone in this terrible place that used to be her home.  Then, she is made aware of allies in her castle who are willing to give up everything for her and she realizes that she does have the desire to fight for her kingdom and take it back for what remains of her people.  The only question is can her and her meager supporters really defeat a man who has made it his mission in life to destroy kingdoms mercilessly? Can they outsmart a man who always seems to be two steps ahead?

This book captivates the reader right from the beginning and definitely depicts how hopeless Theodosia feels during this terrible ordeal.  Yet as bleak as life is for her she never stops plotting her revenge and jumps at the chance when it is presented to her even though she knows it is risky and dangerous. There are no easy paths for Theodosia and her conspirators, however, and she must live with the consequences.  Fans of the Red Queen and Red Rising will enjoy this title.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

woman in the windowAnna is a trained psychiatrist who hasn’t left her apartment in over a year due to acute agoraphobia.  She spends her days watching old Hitchcock movies, drinking wine, doing things online, and watching her neighbors.  Her ex-husband and young daughter do not see her much, but they talk often.  When she notices a new family move in with a teenage son she begins watching them as she does all the other neighbors, but one day she witnesses something terrible and reports it to the police.  Unfortunately, when they investigate Anna’s life begins to implode as she is forced to face everything in her life that is real and everything she has imagined since she has been trapped inside her house.  No one believes she saw anything sinister since she is a heavy drinker and has anxiety issues, but she is positive she witnessed something.  Did she really see something or is her mind playing tricks on her again?

This thrilling mystery will keep mystery lovers intrigued all the way until the end.  There are many twists and turns in the plot and even seasoned mystery readers will struggle to put all the pieces together.  The main character has many similarities to the Woman on the Train and the Woman in Cabin 10, but each mystery is very different and will satisfy readers independently.  Highly recommended for mystery lovers.

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

suitorsImogene Chively has been raised to find a wealthy husband in 1917 England and her family believes they have done just that when she attracts the interest of Ernest, but unfortunately, Imogene is much more intrigued by his younger brother, Benjamin.  Ernest is perfectly friendly and accommodating but she feels they have very little in common while Benjamin is an architect’s apprentice and desperately needs her help in improving his drawing skills so that he can bring his architectural visions to life.  As the two work together they begin to get closer and closer which makes Imogene wonder if she is brave enough to go against her family’s wishes and reject the heir for the younger working class brother.  Meanwhile, a series of unfortunate accidents leads Imogene to believe that someone is trying to do Benjamin harm and no one believes her.  She grows more frustrated as the incidents escalate and everyone dismisses her warnings since she is a young woman.  Is there someone trying to harm Benjamin and if so why?  Will she find the strength to be with the man of her dreams versus the one who can give her a comfortable life?

This Junior Library Guild selection mixes light romance with a little intrigue in a historical setting.  Imogene is very modern in her thinking for this time, but she is still contained by the expectations of a young lady of her class in 1917.  Her growing aspirations as an artist are also an issue for her and she faces the repercussions when she tries to break free from the constraints set upon her by the times and her family.  Fans of historical fiction romance will enjoy this lighter title.

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

grace and furySerina and her sister, Nomi, live in Veridia where women have no rights and are not allowed to learn how to read.  Serina has been trained her entire life to be beautiful, graceful, and alluring in the hopes of attracting the heir to the throne so that he chooses her to be one of his graces.  Each year the ruler gets to pick three women or “graces” who live with him in the castle and produce heirs, among other things. This year the heir gets to begin choosing graces and Serina’s family is desperately hoping he will choose her and shower them with favor.  Nomi does not believe in this tradition or the fact that women are not allowed an education and has learned how to read secretly.  When Serina is sent to the castle to catch the heir’s attention, it is actually Nomi (who had gone along as a handmaiden) who gets chosen.  Shortly thereafter Serina is accused of a crime she did not commit and is sent to a prison on a volcanic island where women literally have to fight each other to survive.  Each sister must fight for her rights and her voice in their own way.  Can they survive to somehow find their way back together again?

This book seems very timely in an age of the #metoomovement and women trying to take their voices back. Both sisters have a big struggle ahead of them in very different ways and neither knows who, if anyone, she can trust.  The book definitely focuses on female relationships, dynamics, and empowerment but in very different situations between the two sisters.  Fans of futuristic books such as The Hunger Games, The Selection, and The Testing will enjoy this title and look forward to the sequel.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Genre:  Futuristic

# of Pages: 433

2018-19 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Citra and Rowan live in a world where all human problems have been eradicated including hunger, disease, and poverty.  Science has even made it possible to revive those who have died in accidents so that they can continue living without any complications or injuries.  Therefore, in order to curb population growth the governing entity has created scythes whose entire job is to glean, or kill, those they see fit.  Scythes are supposed to take their job very seriously and act with honor and compassion to those they glean, but there have been some rising up who seem to enjoy killing people and this has the traditional scythes very concerned.  Citra and Rowan are both chosen to be Scythe Faraday’s apprentices which means they will train with him for an entire year, but then only one will be ordained a scythe and the other will return to their regular lives.  At the first scythe conclave they go to, however, one of the more progressive scythes challenges Faraday’s choice to take two apprentices and proposes that the one who wins must glean the one who loses and the scythe rulers agree.  This puts Citra and Rowan in a tough spot because as they train together they become closer and closer and neither is sure if they could glean the other.  Is there a way for them both to exist in this “perfect” world?

Shusterman has done it again with this unique and engaging story.  The premise seems far fetched and yet the reader is pulled in almost immediately when Scythe Faraday is introduced.  All of the characters are well developed and make the reader want to know more about their intentions and motivations, while also watching them react to various plot twists.  Recommended for anyone from reluctant reader teens to adults who want something fresh and new.

Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

Genre:  Futuristic Fiction

# of Pages:  342

Iowa High School Award Winner 2018-19

Orion works digging in the treacherous mines of Outpost Five.  They are mining for cirium, which is the only thing that protects humans from the radiation poisoning due to the flash curtain that has sent most humans under the protection of the cirium protected city.  If Orion and her partner, Dram, can mine 400 grams of cirium they will earn their freedom into the protected city, but so far no one has ever lived long enough to do that.  Orion is special in that she can hear the cirium calling to her and she ends up finding a huge deposit that she knows will ensure her freedom, but there are forces trying to keep her from succeeding.  Then, newcomers come to Outpost Five and many of the things they tell Orion make her question everything she has ever known.  Who can she really trust and who, in fact, is out to make sure she fails in everything she tries?

Fans of Red Rising will like this title because it has an unusual setting and plenty of action.  The author does not shy away from killing off characters so it’s hard to predict who will live and who will die.  The struggles of Outpost Five are terrible and neverending, but without Orion none of the Outpost community would stand a chance at survival.  There are many surprise twists in the plot as they try to find out what the government is really up to and how they can go about changing the terrible fate they have been dealt.  Readers who want action/survival should definitely check this series out.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Genre:  Fantasy

Holly Chase was a wealthy, beautiful, egotistical daughter of a movie director who lived to judge others.  Therefore, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when she was visited on Christmas Eve by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.  Yet, Holly chose not to take this experience seriously and laughed it off as a joke despite the ghosts’ warnings that she would die soon if she didn’t change her ways.  Shortly after her disastrous Scrooge experience she is hit by a car and dies.  She wakes up in the office of the company who choose the “Scrooge” each year and she is now required to work here to prepare for each Christmas Eve, but then must also act the role of Christmas past.  She thinks she’ll be stuck in this existence forever until one year her Scrooge is a teenager just like her, and unfortunately, she can see the similarities between herself and her new Scrooge and for the first time she begins to feel bad about the kind of person she really was when she was alive.  Can she save him from the same fate even if she has to break a few rules?

Anyone looking for a fun Christmas read should check this one out.  Holly is brash, bratty, insensitive, and sympathetic all at once.  She’s trying to do better, but doesn’t really know how.  The supporting characters are all fun and colorful, but the focus is definitely on Holly and most of the other characters are not as developed.  The story itself is fun and the reader wants to root for Holly despite her difficult personality.  Recommended.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  398

There is an island that is almost totally cut off from the rest of the world where a set of triplets are born every generation.  The queen immediately knows what power each of the girls will have and when they are a few years old they are separated so that they can hone their craft.  When they come of age they must compete in a bizarre set of rituals in which only the last one alive can become the next queen.  Katherine is a poisoner, but she while she has become adept at administering poisons she has not yet become immune to them herself.  Arsinoe, the naturalist, has not yet found her familiar, which is like her animal soul mate, but she has been very happy growing up alongside her best friend, Jules, who is a very talented naturalist.  Finally, Mirabella, the elementalist, is very gifted and can easily manipulate water and fire.  It is expected she will easily take the crown over her weaker sisters, but once the games begin everyone has a few surprises in store for the waiting spectators.  Who will end up with the crown?  Whom can the sisters really trust in this process?  Who will get hurt along the way?

This series has received a lot of attention from my students, but it did take me awhile to get into the story and the characters.  Once I did become immersed in the characters I not only wanted to finish the first one right away but wanted to read the second one as well.  It’s definitely a unique story that does not rely on plot details seen in other fantasy series.  There is still a lot that needs to be revealed about these characters, their motivations, and the ultimate outcome which will keep readers engaged for a long time to come.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

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Genre:  Romance/Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  343

Emmy and Oliver were best friends as young children because they lived next door to each other.  Then, one day Oliver’s dad kidnapped him after school and life was never the same for either of them.  Oliver moved around quite a bit with his father and was led to believe his mother did not want him anymore.  Emmy’s parents responded by becoming very overprotective and barely letting her out of their sight.  At the beginning of Emmy’s senior year she hears the news she has both wanted and dreaded:  Oliver has been found.  What will he be like?  Will he remember her?  Will they still be friends?  How will this change everything yet again?

This book was very enjoyable and properly explores the difficulties for both Emmy and Oliver surviving an ordeal like this.  Oliver’s emotional health is probably not discussed in as much length as would be realistic, but it is also told through Emmy’s perspective so she wouldn’t necessarily know everything he’s going through.  The events of the story eventually build to a head and are resolved very acceptably.  The story has an interesting concept, but does not rely on that and instead relies on the fulfilling development of the characters to truly carry the story.  Fans of Sarah Dessen will enjoy this title.

Deep Green by Trisha Haddad

Deep Green_Trisha Haddad_150dpi

** New Release Excerpt **

Genre: Adventure/Contemporary Romance

Format: e-book and print

Tagline: They fight for survival, but their secrets could ruin everything.

 

About the book

Leah Taylor prefers the quiet adventure and romance of books, but during a cruise with her parents, a terrorist attack leaves her adrift in a lifeboat with strangers.

University student, Blue McCree impresses her immediately with his knowledge of literature and philosophy. Equally thrilling is strong, quiet Musir. While he is slow to speak, translating his thoughts from Arabic to English, his chivalry and wisdom capture Leah’s curiosity.

Together they face danger after danger as they fight for survival. Leah also struggles with the growing attention from the men she’s stranded with, and her mixed emotions toward them.

When Leah learns the dark secrets her fellow survivors hold, the truth will blow apart any semblance of civility and test Leah’s preconceived notions of just how far dedication can go before it crosses over into fanaticism.

 Excerpt

I could have sworn it was silent all over the ship in that moment. The ocean stood still, the wind slowed, and the other passengers walked silently. It must have been so. I certainly couldn’t register a sound. It was as though the world awaited his voice and words.

Then I began to feel awkward when they did not come. Here I was, staring like a love-struck fool into the eyes of a guy I never met before.

I tended to fall in love with characters in books. Most guys I went to school with were far too interested in sports or video games. How could they ever hope to hold a candle to Mister Darcy’s intensity, Tom Joad’s ethics, Martin Eden’s passion, Caleb Trask’s struggle for goodness, or Edmond Dantes’ cunning intellect? No real boy ever sparked in me the passion these fictional characters did; until now.

Yet, I didn’t know a thing about him. Did he have a strong sense of justice? Did he thirst for knowledge? Was he a romantic to the core? Did art touch his very soul? I had no idea. All I knew was that his gaze bore into the essence of me. I could read in it something deeper than I saw before in anyone’s eyes. It was a sort of sadness, like he carried with him all the sorrows of the world.

I had to know if there was more than his beauty. Surely I couldn’t feel how I did if he weren’t passionate, if he lacked depth? It simply wasn’t possible.

 

Find out more: www.TrishaHaddad.com

 

Six Years by Harlan Coben

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Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages:  351

RAC:  Yes

Jake Fisher thought he met the girl of his dreams while he was away trying to write his dissertation.  They had a wonderful summer together and he believed they would spend their lives together.  Then, one day she announces that she is going back to her old boyfriend and a few days later Jake receives a wedding invitation to her wedding.  He cannot believe this is happening and has to see it with his own eyes.  When he goes to the wedding she makes him promise not to bother her or her husband ever again.  He promises and does nothing for six years, but then one day he sees the obituary for the man he saw Natalie marry.  He decides to go to the funeral and does not see Natalie as the grieving widow, but instead sees a woman who has been married to this man for many years and they have two teenage kids together.  Where is Natalie?  Why was her husband married to someone else?

Coben has done it again with this exciting mystery.  Jake’s journey takes off immediately after learning that Natalie’s husband is dead.  The more he investigates and looks for her, however, the more dead ends and questions he has.  No one seems to know where Natalie is and some people do not seem to believe she existed in the first place.  The story twists and turns like all of Coben’s best mysteries do and the ending is full of surprises that will satisfy mystery fans.

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

moon and more

Genre:  Romance/Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 435

RAC:  Yes

Emaline is working for her family’s rental company the summer before she goes to college.  She is very close to her mother, stepfather, and stepsisters, but has never felt close to the father who walked out on her.  She is still bristling from an argument with her biological father that led to him ignoring her graduation completely.  She isn’t sure how she feels when  he calls to say he is in town and wants to meet with her.  Meanwhile, she meets a documentary filmmaker and her assistant, Theo, who have rented one of the biggest properties for the entire summer.  The filmmaker often has crazy demands, but the assistant seems interesting in a different sort of way.  Is Emaline ready to give up the boyfriend she’s had for four years for this intriguing boy from the big city?  Is Emaline ready to face the father she barely knows in order to confront how seriously he hurt her?  Is Emaline ready to go away to college and leave her family and friends behind?

Sarah Dessen fans will enjoy the characters in this one as well.  Emaline is easygoing, but also very hardworking, smart, and driven.  She is not afraid to step outside of her comfort zone in order to fight for what she wants.  Her relationship with her boyfriend, Luke, is hardly established when things go south so it’s hard to feel too strongly about him one way or the other.  Theo, is portrayed differently than most of the rebound boyfriends in Dessen’s novels and this change is a bit refreshing.  The ending lacked a bit of the punch that others such as The Truth About Forever had and was a tad predictable, but Dessen fans will enjoy it anyway.


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