Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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.

Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 336

Dara and Will are best friends, fighting for valedictorian at their high school, and secretly dating. There is a mysterious website at their school called “Rumor Has It” that reveals all the secrets and gossip of their high school. They are a bit thrown when the site reveals their secret relationship and Will in particular is worried his best friend MJ will be upset that he didn’t tell her. Shortly after the gossip site revealed their secret relationship, a video is posted to the site in which Dara accuses Will of paying someone to take the SATs for him. Will is really hurt she would say something like that about him knowing how hard he prepared for the SATs, but the video appears irrefutable. Dara swears she did not say those things and does not know how that video could possibly exist if it didn’t happen. To make matters worse, Will has been accepted to Stanford and now his entire future is in jeopardy. Who is behind the “Rumor Has It” website and where did they get the video? Can Dara and Will’s relationship remain strong throughout the scandal or will it tear them apart?

This book reminds us all that we have to be careful with things we post because those things could be used against us later. Several lives are disrupted with the release of this video, not to mention friendships destroyed. It is very difficult to always tell what is true and what isn’t, but as a society we need to try a little harder to find truth instead of reveling in the gossip. Recommended for readers who like current topics.

Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Genre: Mystery

Number of Pages: 321

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah are the only three grandchildren to the wealthy and influential Mildred Story. They have never met her, though, because before they were born their parents all received a letter from their mother saying she was cutting off all contact with them because “they knew what they did.” They all claim that don’t know what they did and they tried for years to reconcile, but to no avail. Then, all three cousins receive a letter from their grandmother inviting them to come to her vacation island to work for the summer at her resort. They all have their reservations about this, but their parents are so eager to mend fences and get back in the will that they all agree to go. When they arrive it becomes very clear that their grandmother did not invite them and has no interest in getting to know them, which disappoints their parents. The three cousins are enjoying getting to know each other, though, and refuse to leave the island when Mildred’s business manager tries to get rid of them. Can they find out what happened between their grandmother and their parents? Can they get to know their grandmother at all while they are here?

This exciting story follows a wealthy family who has a lot of secrets they do not want to get out. As Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah try to find out what went wrong between their parents and their grandmother all those years ago they find that some of the facts just simply do not add up. Can they uncover the truth before they are forced off the island? Will secrets of their own be revealed along the process? Fans of We Were Liars and other suspenseful mysteries will struggle to put this one down for even a second! Highly recommended.

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Genre: Futuristic/Sci Fi

Number of Pages: 355

The first in a series, Otherworld follows Simon, a wealthy teenage troublemaker as he tries to find out why his childhood best friend no longer wants to have anything to do with him. There is a new virtual reality videogame coming out called Otherworld, which he has been chosen to beta test. The equipment is expensive so he sends some to Kat, his best friend, in the hopes that she joins him in the game. They do meet up in the game, but in real life she is still very distant and he starts to worry that she could be in some kind of trouble because it seems like the trouble started after her mom remarried. He follows her to a party in order to try and find out what is going on, but before he can talk to her there is a terrible accident that leaves Kat in a coma with a condition called “locked in symdrome.” That basically means that her brain is intact, but incapable of interacting with her body. The tech company behind Otherworld comes forward with some new technology that they claim can help her to interact in the virtual reality world they have created called the White City. They say it will allow her to live, while she cannot in the real world. Simon is suspicious of this company from the beginning because they seem to be doing things without Kat’s mom’s consent and in the dead of night when no one can see them. When he raises objections to this technology being forced onto Kat he is removed from the hospital. After he gets home he receives a package with the equipment he needs to join “the white city” with a note that instructs him to go save her. Without any knowledge of what he is truly getting into he goes into the game without knowing how to find Kat or if he can find his way out again.

This story is recommended for fans of videogame books like The Eye of Minds and Warcross. Simon is by no means perfect, but readers will be able to identify with him because he is so flawed and yet his motives toward his friend are pure. The action both inside and outside the videogame is compelling as Simon faces dangers in both realities. In the end, there are a few people who try to help him but the majority of the risk is on him. Reluctant readers will find themselves pulled in by this story where it’s often difficult to find the true reality.

One by One by Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery

Number of pages: 372

When a small tech company brings it’s shareholders to a fancy French ski chalet they are expecting to have a relaxing, fun vacation where they discuss the future of the company. Erin is one of the two employees who are supposed to make the retreat a dream for their guests and Liz is the outcast of the group since she is a shareholder, but she no longer works at the company. Shortly after the group arrives one of the CEO’s mysteriously goes missing, but before they can start a search party there is a terrible avalanche that traps them and knocks out the power. As they wait for help mysterious things start to happen to the guests one by one. Told in alternating chapters between Erin and Liz it becomes obvious that there is something sinister going on, but it isn’t clear who is doing this and why. Can they get help before it’s too late?

This mystery is engaging and draws the reader in right from the beginning. It’s made clear that everyone has something to hide and no one really knows who they can trust. The climax is exciting and worth the build up as it is revealed what is really going on at this ski chalet. Fans of books like And Then There Were None will enjoy this thrilling tale set in a fun setting.

The Invention of Sophie Carter by Samantha Hastings

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of pages: 258

In 1851, identical twins Sophie and Mariah Carter are struggling to get out of the difficult situation they found themselves in when their adoptive family cast them aside after 8 loving years and sent them to live with a family who treated them as slave labor. Despite many years of loyal work, they are not treated well and any money they earn outside the home is kept by the wife or spent at the local pub by the husband. Sophie has never understood why their mother’s sister refused to take them in when their mom died in childbirth. She has become quite fond of science and technology from working in a clock shop and she desperately wants to go to London where she hopes to become an inventor. Sophie writes to her aunt and her aunt replies that she can take one of them for one season in the hopes of helping her find a husband, but Sophie cannot leave Mariah behind so they go to London together and pretend to both be Sophie. Mariah’s interests are literature and art, which takes her in a different direction in London and both sisters end up meeting men who like them as individuals. Can they keep up the charade of both being Sophie? Will the men they like forgive them for not telling them the truth up front? Will their aunt ever find any affection for her only nieces?

This historical fiction story is full of adventure and romance. Both Sophie and Mariah desperately want to make their way in this exciting city, but they have grown up realizing they really only have each other they can depend on which makes them a little slow to trust people they meet. They are fortunate to meet many kind, generous people in their London adventures, but they always have the fear that it will be discovered they are both posing as Sophie and be cast out. The romances are both realistically built up over time and the two men are sufficiently different for two such different sisters. Recommended for historical fiction and romance fans.

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 376 p.

Anouk was created by a witch who uses her as a maid and refuses to let her outside the house they live in. She calls her a “beastie” because Anouk was originally an animal. She is not the only “beastie”, however, as the witch has also created several others who perform other functions around the house. Anouk has always been relatively happy, even though she is severely punished whenever she makes the witch mad, but she knows her fellow beasties are not so happy. When Anouk discovers the witch murdered in her bedroom she knows she and the others will be blamed so they go on a quest to try and find another spell to keep them human, but they only have three days before the original spell fades and they become animals once again. Can they find a way to stay human? Can they find out who killed their master?

This fantasy story is full of suspense and adventure as Anouk and her siblings strive to clear their names and stay human. Along the way they meet several interesting creatures, but not all of their intentions are pure and it’s difficult for them to know who they can trust. The author does a nice job of introducing the reader to this fantasy world and it’s easy to see this is only the beginning. The first in a series, this is recommended for fans of the Cassandra Clare novels.

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Genre: Romance

Number of Pages: 307

Dylan is a typical high school student in Alabama, except for the fact that her sister, Dusty, is a former Miss Alabama and recently found love with a Scottish Laird on a reality tv show called Prince in Disguise. Now, she has to give up her Christmas vacation to go to Scotland for her sister’s wedding, which will be filmed for an upcoming television event as a follow-up to the original show. Dylan feels like the reality film crew is setting her up to look bad as the comic relief in their show when no one comes to get her from the train station, she never receives an itinerary but it still chastized for being late to events, and even when they force her to attend a formal dinner in muddy running clothes. What she does not count on, however, is that there will be a funny, sweet young man there to make her feel visible at all times in a world where she thought everyone only saw her sister. As soon as she meets Jamie, she is instantly intrigued by him as he seems to truly like her just the way she is. As they spend more time together she thinks she could actually find her first boyfriend in a Scottish castle. Can she find a way to spend more time with Jamie without the cameras following her every move? Can she handle all the planned twists and turns the reality show producers throw at her? Could she find her first love in the last place she would have looked for it?

This delightful Christmas romance is fun for anyone looking to escape for a bit or for fans of Holiday TV movies. Dylan’s initial awkwardness fits with the build up of a southern girl in Scotland for the first time and readers will want to see what happens as she becomes more confident with Jamie. Many readers will pick up on some of the big reveals long before Dylan does, but that doesn’t take away from the charming nature of the story at all. Even Dylan’s relationship with her sister, Dusty, feels developed and real instead of the generic backdrop to Dylan and Jamie’s story. Recommended for romance fans looking for a Christmas story.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Genre: Futuristic

Number of Pages: 517

In this prequel to the Hunger Games series, Coriolanus Snow is a young student preparing to mentor a candidate from District 12 in the 10th annual Hunger Games. He needs for this to go well so that he can get a scholarship to the school of his choice because his family was hit hard in the war and he cannot afford to pay the taxes on his family apartment, let alone tuition. His tribute, Lucy Gray, is from a group of singers in District 12 and there is some debate as to whether she was fairly chosen as the tribute. She is a true performer, though, and her and Coriolanus begin spinning the media coverage to get her some sympathy. He even has a hand in making changes to the Hunger Games so that spectators can feel more involved, including being able to make wagers and send gifts to tributes. As the games go on, he begins to feel a connection with Lucy Gray and begins to wonder if there could be a future with her, especially since his in the capitol is so uncertain. Can he lead her to victory and what would that mean for him personally? Can he save his family from getting turned out of their family home?

This book has a lot of twists and turns in it as you see what Coriolanus had to overcome in his youth in order to become the President Snow we meet later on. The reader can easily see how Coriolanus had a hand in evolving the Hunger Games to what it eventually becomes. The Hunger Games themselves do not take hold of the entire story as it really isn’t as exciting as the Hunger Games featured later with Katniss. Instead, the focus is more on Coriolanus and the choices he makes to determine what his future will be like and who he can count on to stand beside him. The suspense doesn’t seem to build like it does in the original trilogy simply because to some extent the reader knows where this is all going, but it is interesting to get a glimpse into how the Hunger Games became the phenomenon it eventually turns into. Recommended for fans of the series.

Come Find Me by Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Number of Pages: 326

Kennedy Jones survived a horrible family tragedy, but desperately wants to keep her brother’s science equipment functioning now that he’s gone since it was so important to him. Then, one day his radio telescope starts recording some unusual activity. Meanwhile, in a neighboring county Nolan is struggling to find out what really happened when his older brother and family dog went on a dog and never returned. After an eerie dream, he picks up some ghost tracking equipment to see if his brother is trying to contact him in any way and he ends up picking up some odd signals coming from his brother’s room. Kennedy and Nolan eventually meet up to compare notes on these crazy signals they are finding, but the more they dig the more it feels like the two tragedies are somehow connected. Can they find out what really happened to both of their families that has left them both feeling utterly helpless and alone?

This mystery has a bit of a science fiction feel to it since they are following radio signals, but the heart of what really happened lies with the people who were there when both tragedies occurred. Both Kennedy and Nolan have struggled to deal with their lives in the last few months and haven’t always been the easiest to get along with, even to those people trying to help them. Nolan must even face the hardship that the police think he may have been involved in his brother’s disappearance. It really does show just how complicated family tragedy can be, unlike many procedural mystery shows. Mystery fans will enjoy this title, but the setup takes a little longer than some.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Mystery/Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 374

Avery has been struggling since her mother died. She was taken in by her older sister, but she does not approve of her sister’s abusive boyfriend and has chosen to live in her run down car rather than look at him. Meanwhile, she works hard and tries to keep up with schoolwork, all while keeping an eye on the homeless man in the park. All of that changes when she learns that a multi-billionaire, Tobias Hawthorne, has died and requested she be present at the will reading. She does not know the man and cannot imagine why he would want her there, but everyone makes it very clear that her presence is required. Upon arrival, she learns that Tobias Hawthorne had two daughters and four grandsons and all of them are keen to find out exactly what the will stipulates. Everyone, including Avery, is shocked when they learn she has inherited the vast majority of Mr. Hawthorne’s assets including his charitable foundation and his mansion. She must live at the mansion for a year and cannot remove any of the family members unless there is cause. Each heir is given an envelope and when Avery opens hers all it says is “I’m sorry.”

Avery soon learns that Mr. Hawthorne enjoyed riddles and games and often had his grandsons compete just for the sake of competing. Is this all part of some elaborate game? Does this have something to do with her mother? Is it possible that the Hawthorne family will ever accept her and not see her as the one who stole their fortune? Could someone try to hurt her to get at the money?

This exciting story introduces the Hawthorne family and all of the quirkiness that implies. Everyone has their reasons for wanting to find out why their patriarch would leave his fortune to a stranger, but everyone must work together in order to solve all of the clues.The four grandsons in particular are fairly competitive and definitely want to know why they were overlooked after they were challenged daily by their grandfather. On top of everything else, the paparazzi now follows Avery everywhere since she’s a huge story. In some ways, this estate will open many opportunities for Avery that she might not have otherwise had, but in other ways her life just got a whole lot more complicated. Fans of Jennifer Lynn Barnes will enjoy this new title.

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

Genre: Romance

# of Pages: 307

Hollis is a wealthy young lady who has suddenly caught the eye of the King at court and she is unsure how she feels about it. Her parents are thrilled at the prospect of their daughter becoming a Queen, but Hollis is not sure if this is the life she really wants. At the same time, she doesn’t have any other ideas for what she wants to do in life so she might as well be pampered and adored wherever she goes. In this kingdom, Queens have always been highly respected and revered, which pressures Hollis into thinking she has to be great if she were to become Queen. Suddenly, a family of refugees from a nearby kingdom arrives and with them, a young man whom she feels instant chemistry with. He is a talented metalsmith and has a mysterious past and Hollis can’t help but feel drawn to him. Could she really give up becoming Queen in order to chase someone she barely knows? Could she let down all of those around her who plan to benefit off of her impending nuptials?

As a fan of The Selection series I was so excited to read this new title by Kiera Cass, but unfortunately, most of the book lacked any real character development or plot movement. The ending was really exciting and definitely opens up the possibility for Hollis’s story to find some excitement, but up until then Hollis was a very difficult character to care about. She was unsure how she felt most of the time and extremely impressionable, but she was also unbelievably forgiving to those around her who might wish her harm. Most of the characters around her were very one-note as well which made it hard to feel one way or another about who Hollis ended up with. After the dramatic ending the next book could be really good, but I wish that the first one had taken the first 200 pages to better develop the characters and drive the plot.


Archives