Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson

Genre: Mystery

Number of Pages: 326

Ruthie grew up in Anchorage, but moved away with her mom three years ago. After her mom’s sudden death she is set to return to live with her dad, whom she hasn’t seen since he got sober, and his new wife and stepsister. Ruthie is very excited to see her best friend, Zahra, whom she hasn’t seen since she moved away, but when she texts her to let her know she’s moving back she is surprised not to get a response. When she arrives she goes immediately to Zahra’s house in order to see her, but learns she hasn’t returned home from a big party on Friday night. By Monday morning the entire high school is buzzing with the news that Zahra is missing and Ruthie thinks it’s her job to find her, even if that means skipping school, ditching her step sister, and going against her father’s wishes. As she tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to Zahra, Ruthie begins to learn that the girl she remembers has changed a lot and she isn’t sure why. Has Zahra really changed that much or does Ruthie remember her differently than she actually was? Will she be able to find Zahra before it is too late and what secrets will she stumble across along the way?

This psychological thriller will keep you guessing until the shocking conclusion. The pieces of the puzzle are all there, but it takes awhile to put them together as Ruthie goes on her quest to find Zahra at all costs, no matter who she has to step on in the process. Along the way, Ruthie encounters a variety of interesting characters who all know a little about who Zahra really is and what might have happened to her. Fans of mysteries will be satisfied with the exciting ending.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Genre: Romance/Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 406

Frank Li is Korean American and his parents are very serious about him marrying a Korean girl someday. This was especially made apparent when they shunned his older sister simply for marrying a black man. When he begins to like a white girl in his math class he knows it would be a problem if his parents ever found out, but his Korean friend Joy is in a similar situation with her boyfriend so they decide to form a fake relationship so that both of their sets of parents can relax and be happy. As time goes on, however, Frank begins to realize that he does in fact like Joy and he thinks it’s possible he never noticed before because he felt pushed toward her by his parents. He does not want to be with a Korean girl simply because his parents think he should be, but he can’t deny the fact that he has some chemistry with Joy. Meanwhile, he is dealing with other issues such as what college he’s going to get into, how he can better help his parents with their store, and if there is any way to reunite his parents with his sister (whom he misses terribly). Can he make his parents proud without reaching all of the high expectations they have set for him? Can he make his own way in America without losing his Korean heritage? Can he be happy with a Korean girl?

This book cleverly depicts how many pressures are on teenagers from different cultural backgrounds. They are trying to make their way through adolescence while adults around them all seem to have different expectations for them. Frank is trying to balance his Korean heritage with his American upbringing. He knows his parents’ expectations are unfair and at times judgmental considering there aren’t that many Korean families in his community, but he still wants to make them proud, especially once he begins to suspect they are keeping some big news from him. We do not see a lot of books about Asian American culture, so this is a welcome addition to the library collection.

What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini

Genre: Mystery

Number of pages: 360

Magdalena is still recovering from something terrible that happened in her elite Manhattan private school almost a year ago. Her parents can’t bear to even look at her and have sent her to live with her grandparents for the summer. Lena has been put on several prescriptions to try and curb her depression and anxiety, but she is trying to make a fresh start. She begins volunteering at a women’s shelter and finds she enjoys the hard work. When she’s not volunteering she enjoys hiking in the woods for hours and hours. Eventually she meets a young man whose family has chosen to live in the woods for their entire lives. He is kind and does not trust many things in the western world, including her prescriptions. At the same time a few different women have gone missing from the women’s shelter and even though she didn’t know them, she is very bothered when they show up murdered in the woods. She also doesn’t really like the lead detective working the case. A new friend has confided in her that her grandfather, a retired police detective, has long suspected there is a serial killer in the woods but he was never able to find them. The only difference between the murders from the past and the current ones, is that they seem to be getting more violent. Is there any way her new love interest could be a part of these terrible crimes? He seems to caring and compassionate, but many of the clues point to his family. How can she find the truth without making herself the next victim?

Fans of psychological mysteries will enjoy this title. Lena has been through a lot and blames herself for all of it, which has taken quite a toll on her mind. In the end, she has a hard time deciding what is true and what is in her head, which makes solving the truth of what is happening in the woods that much more difficult. Despite her past, Lena is still determined to make better choices in the future and she is willing to fight to protect those around her that she cares about.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 374

In 1890 Atlanta, Jo Kuan is trying to make her way in the world when people often look down on Asian American people. She had previously spent two years working as a milliner’s apprentice only to abruptly lose her job simply because the milliner said she made some people uncomfortable. With few options, she takes a job as a ladies’ maid for a cruel young lady named Caroline. Jo and the man who raised her secretly live underneath the house of a family who run a newspaper. Jo can hear through the floor that the newspaper is struggling and so she anonymously starts writing a ladies column under the pen name Miss Sweetie and starts leaving them under the door. So, by day she works as a maid in a thankless job and by night she secretly writes her column that isn’t afraid to touch on issues such as women’s rights and courting practices. As such, her column becomes an overnight sensation as everyone debates who Miss Sweetie could be. She knows if she is ever discovered she will be cast out because she is not meant to rise above her station in any way. Meanwhile, the adult son of the family who lives above her is very interested to find out who is writing the column for his now popular newspaper, but can he be trusted? Also, the man who raised her has been acting peculiarly and she thinks he is hiding something. Could he be trying to arrange a marriage for her?

Even though this book is set in 1890 there are many issues that relate to today. Jo Kuan is trying to find acceptance in a place where she is judged by her face and her name. She knows she has a lot to offer society, but isn’t sure they will ever let her. It’s a struggle for her to fight the prejudices about not only her race but also her gender and she desperately wants to find a way to make a difference. At the same time, she often shows kindness and compassion for those who have a lot more opportunity in life. She never takes her personal frustrations out on those who were simply dealt an easier lot in life. There are those around her who do try to treat her fairly, but it is difficult knowing how hard everything has to be for people of certain circumstances. This story is recommended for those who like historical fiction, but also those who like more contemporary books such as The Hate You Give. This title also leaves the reader with a lot to think about.

Hey Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka

Genre: Graphic Novel/Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 294

This book tells the compelling story of how the author was raised by his grandparents due to his mother’s struggle with addiction. His grandparents were not perfect either and he had some unusual family interactions growing up, but they were always there for him and wanted him to succeed in life. The special aspect of this book is that it is written as a graphic novel so the reader truly gets to see how the author remembers people and events from his childhood. He also isn’t afraid to discuss troubling issues that he had to deal with including family addiction, family fighting, and even a lack of faith in his own artistic abilities to carry him into adult life. The author’s attention to detail make it especially memorable because the drawings and dialogue really help the reader to understand the family that raised him when his mother no longer could. This coming of age story reflects that even though his childhood wasn’t typical, it was still important and worth telling and made him the person he is today. Highly recommended, especially for reluctant readers or students who are debating on an art or design career.

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 313

Nannerl Mozart, Wolfgang’s real life sister, was also a very talented musician and composer, but due to her gender history would not remember her. In this fantasy retelling, she is desperate to get credit for her work and to be remembered for it. She strikes a deal with a fantastical princeling named Hyacinth from a strange land who promises her everything she wants in life, but first she must complete a few tasks for him in what she comes to know as the kingdom of back. The land is scary and mysterious, but she feels like she must do as Hyacinth says in order to get the life she knows is not possible for her under her father’s watchful eye. She starts to wonder, however, what this deal will truly cost her and her beloved younger brother she affectionately calls Wolferl. Can she complete the dangerous tasks Hyacinth has laid out for her? What are the repercussions for following Hyacinth’s instructions? Will she be able to truly share her gift with the world or forever be lost in Wolfgan’s shadow?

This retelling is fun, exciting, adventurous, and educational as many of the facts about the Mozart family are true. Nannerl is struggling to find her place in a world and a family where she has no voice. Nevertheless, as much as she envies the life her younger brother has before him she knows she would do anything to protect him. The many uncertainties of being a young lady during this time are very accurately portrayed and give the reader an idea of just how serious poverty, illness, and public opinion could be. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and fantasy.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

Genre: Poetry/Memoir

Number of Pages: 325

Nikki Grimes retells the story of her childhood and the many hardships she endured in poetry form. Some of the challenges she faced included having a mentally ill alcoholic mother, being separated from her sister, having an abusive adult in her home, going into foster care, living in dangerous neighborhoods, and constantly feeling like no one appreciates her writing skills. The story itself is very powerful, but in the verse format the sheer feeling behind it really comes through and the reader can really feel how the author felt and how impressive it is for her to put this out in the world. This memoir really helps encourage students who might not otherwise want to read (or write) poetry to get interested and to see how powerful a medium it can really be. Highly Recommended.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 388

Emoni Santiago’s life has been difficult since she got pregnant as a freshmen in high school. Now, as a senior she is busy going to school, raising her two year old (with help from her grandmother whom she lives with), working, and honing her gift of cooking. She doesn’t know what the future will hold, but just wants to focus on getting through senior year. That is until she learns there is a new elective in culinary studies that includes a spring break trip to Spain to actually work with Spanish chefs. Even though Emoni has a lot on her plate she cannot resist the opportunity to work with a real chef. Unfortunately, she learns quickly that not everyone is as interested in her unique blend of spices that makes her food so special and she is penalized for not following recipes to the letter. She briefly even considers dropping the course, but something pulls her back and she learns that this could be a real career path for her if she works at it. Can she raise the money for her trip to Spain? Can she find a way to juggle school, parenthood, a job, and college applications? Or would it be better for her daughter if she just started working full time after high school?

Emoni’s story is so relatable to anyone who feels like they are being pulled in different directions by their obligations and their dreams. She often feels weighted down by the pressures on her and even though she is fortunate to have people who care for her and want to help her fulfill her dreams she knows a lot of these responsibilities fall on her. The focus on what it takes to become a chef is refreshing as well. This is not a topic you see in a lot of young adult books, but it is a great example of a very valid career path that many students do not think of. Recommended.

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Genre: Thriller Mystery

Number of Pages: 307

Darby is trying to get home to her sick mother before she goes in for emergency surgery, but is forced to stop at a rest stop in a blizzard with four strangers. They are resigned to the fact that they will be stuck there for the night, but when Darby tries to get a cell phone signal outside she inadvertently discovers that one of the cars parked outside the rest stop has a little girl trapped in a cage. She knows it is up to her to rescue this little girl from whichever of the strangers inside has her trapped. She has no idea who she can trust, however. With no cell service or any way to get help she must find a way to rescue the girl on her own. Can she save the girl and escape the blizzard without tipping off the person who took her? Can she get to her mother before it’s too late?

This thriller mystery packs several twists and turns as Darby tries to find out what the story behind the kidnapped little girl is. At first, she thinks it’s pretty straight forward, but nothing is ever as simple as it first appears and she must make some tough decisions if she wants to truly save the girl and hopefully herself. The ending is satisfying, but by no means tidy. Recommended for fans who like a little grit in their mysteries and aren’t afraid of a bit of violence.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 451

The first in a series, Dread Nation follows Jane McKeene in an alternate post Civil War where a mysterious plague has swept the nation and the dead have begun to rise as zombies. Jane was taken from her home to study at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls where she has been training to take on zombies for over a year. Jane has not heard from her mother in almost a year and is worried their home has been overrun, but until she knows for sure she dutifully keeps writing to her. Meanwhile, Jane is struggling in her studies. She’s an excellent combat fighter, but her etiquette skills leave something to be desired and one teacher in particular has taken a dislike to her, which isn’t helping. If she can graduate from this institution she is hopeful she can get a good job where she can dedicate her time to fighting these zombies, but if she gets expelled before that she won’t be able to find work anywhere. When a local family vanishes overnight a local friend asks Jane to help find out what happened to them, but the more Jane investigates the more questions she has. Worst of all, as she begins to uncover inconsistencies all around her she realizes she does not know whom she can trust. Can Jane survive long enough to get out of this place and find out what happened to her family? Can Jane help her friend find out what happened to the missing neighbors?

This alternative historical fiction book delves into several pertinent issues such as pandemics, politics, and race and gender equality that could be applied to today’s world. Jane is a complicated character who never promises to be perfect or totally truthful with her secrets. Nevertheless, she is quick on her feet and loyal to those she wants to protect. She knows she has a hard lot in life and she does not waste time feeling sorry for herself, but instead tries to do the best she can with the opportunities she has. Readers will be drawn into this exciting, fast paced story as Jane deals with a variety of injustices around her, least of all the zombies trying to attack her all the time. Highly Recommended.

The Dreamsinger by Edward Myers

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 201

This unique fantasy story revolves around a world where music contains power and is therefore controlled by the Masters. Allu is musically talented, however, and is invited by the Masters to train on how to properly yield its power. Allu meets a young man named Ned and everything changes as she realizes just how unjust their society is and how little control most people have over their own lives. Together, they begin a dangerous adventure in order to try and free everyone from the confines the Masters have set for them. Can they succeed in freeing the power of Music from the Masters? Will they be able to flee the long grasp the Masters have on the region?

This story is fun and exciting right from the beginning and readers will enjoy the interesting take on music being the source of all power. Allu and Ned are properly fleshed out so that it is obvious to see what their motivations and weaknesses are as they embark on such a dangerous mission and readers will want to know what happens to them on this journey. Recommended for male and female readers as well as fans of fantasy, adventure, and reluctant readers.

The Gifted, the Talented, and Me by William Sutcliffe

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 323

Sam is shocked when he learns that his father sold his company and they are leaving the only town they’ve ever known to move to London where he and his siblings can attend some fancy Liberal Arts school. He seems to be the only one resisting this change, however. His younger sister loves to draw and is excited to attend more art classes and his older brother is a musician and is looking forward to possibly finding people he can start a band with. Sam’s mom is the most excited of all as she plans to turn their new shed into a creative workspace where she can find her passion. Sam was perfectly fine where he was, but reluctantly starts this new school. He quickly learns that he does not fit in anywhere in his new school and the drama kids in particular don’t let him forget it. When he finally decides he does not care what others think he lets his insecurities go and tries out for the school play. Can Sam really act in a play in front of everyone? Is it possible to find a way to fit in at this crazy new school that doesn’t even allow soccer? Will the rest of his family find happiness in this new place?

A lot of readers will identify with Sam because he just wants to fit in and to him it feels like everyone else is having such an easy time doing that while he feels left out. It is important for him to realize, however, that even though it seems like everyone else has it all figured out they all have their own issues to deal with as well. Even Jennifer, the seemingly perfect popular girl that Sam quickly falls for, has some unpleasant things to deal with regarding her boyfriend. At the same time, it isn’t until Sam starts trying to make the most of his new environment that he begins to actually feel like he could be happy here. The characters are all well developed and engaging, making Sam’s life seem believable and normal (including sibling rivalry and some schoolyard bullying). Recommended for readers who like sympathetic characters that they can identify with.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Genre: Mystery

Number of Pages: 420

Ellingham Academy was founded in the 1930s by Albert Ellingham who wanted to created a school for talented young people. It was made famous in 1936 when Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and ransomed. After Ellingham paid the ransom, however, they still were not returned. The whereabouts in particular of little Alice Ellingham has been a mystery ever since. In present day, Stevie Bell has been admitted to Ellingham Academy and she cannot wait to try to solve this decades old case. She wants to be a detective when she grows up and she feels she has learned enough about the case and sleuthing techniques to be able to solve this case once she is able to get onto campus. Shortly, after the school year begins, a fellow student is found dead in a recently unearthed tunnel. Was it an accident or was it murder? Stevie begins to grow convinced that the present day mystery is connected to the 1936 mystery and is determined to prove it. If there is a murderer on campus, though, will she be next?

This is the first in a three part mystery series and each one provides clues and shocking twists to the eventual reveal of both the 1936 mystery and the present day events. The cast of characters that Stevie meets at Ellingham Academy are interesting and colorful, but most importantly they are all supportive of each other’s interests and strengths. The story flips between Stevie in the present tense and then events and news clippings from the 1930s to help the reader piece together the mystery at the same time as Stevie. Fans of mystery stories will enjoy this series because since it take place over three books and therefore has the ability to truly develop at a natural pace while also fleshing out the unique culture of Ellingham Academy.

How to Pack for the End of the World by Michelle Falkhoff

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 310

Amina has struggled since her Jewish mosque was attacked several months before. Her anxiety has grown to the point that she has nightmares and her parents have decided a change of scenery might be helpful. So, she is going to the prestigious Gardner Academy on scholarship. Amina is a little annoyed her family is sending her away, but she quickly meets a group of friends who all share anxieties of their own and they form their own club where they prepare for different survival skills and scenarios. Along the way, Amina realizes that there have been bad things that have happened to all of the members of the group, except one. Everyone thought they were pranks or unfortunate occurrences, but Amina is starting to wonder if there is a more sinister plan at hand and wonders if their survival group is a target. Could it be Jo, the only member who hasn’t been harassed? Could it be someone else who is trying to hurt their circle of friends and if so, then why? Can Amina find a way to keep them all together so that they can face their anxieties together without turning on each other?

There is a fair amount of discussion on different forms of survival skills and possible hardships that could happen at any time from natural disasters to global warming to terrorist attacks. The focus of the book, however, is definitely the relationships between the characters. They are all totally different and yet they are able to form a cohesive club and each of them has unique relationships between them as well. The struggles Amina faces with her new friends, her family, and even her roommate will resonate with any teenager because everyone can identify with the challenges of maintaining several different relationships at once. At the same time, if you don’t put in the work, then the relationships are much less valuable as well. Recommended for students looking for a thought provoking novel that will resonate with them long after they have finished.

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Genre: Romance/Realistic Fiction

Number of pages: 390

Prudence always tries her best in everything she does, which is why she has no tolerance for those around her that she sees as lazy or unmotivated. The worst offender of this is her lab partner: Quint. He is always late, frequently does not do things he is supposed to, and never follows her instructions. One day, Prudence slips and falls hitting her head. When she wakes up she appears to have the ability to instantly reward or punish people for bad behavior. She calls this her ability to give instant karma, however, it does not seem to work on Quint. After a disastrous final presentation they are given the chance to redo it if they are willing to work together over the summer. Prudence desperately wants to improve her grade, but Quint has had enough of her condescending comments and eye rolls and is fine taking the grade as it stands. In order to try and convince Quint she goes to the local wildlife refuge where he works and finds herself getting pulled in to volunteering for the summer. She can’t help but notice how special this place is and the work they do for injured sea animals so she tries to help with fundraising efforts, but it’s hard for her to convince Quint her intentions are pure when her reasons for volunteering were to get him to redo the project. Can Prudence convince Quint to redo the project? Can Prudence figure out a way to improve the fundraising efforts of the refuge in order to help them succeed long term? Will Prudence and Quint ever see past their differences and possibly find something more?

This engaging story discusses many interesting topics including conservation, environmental issues, and even the economy and it’s effect on fundraising and small businesses. The characters are all very interesting and just memorable enough that the reader cannot help getting pulled in when Prudence’s integrity is questioned. Despite the title, instant karma is not the focus of the story, but readers who choose this title because of the karma premise will enjoy the dynamic between the characters and the overall story enough to keep reading.


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