Posts Tagged 'betrayal'

The Princess Trials by Cordelia K. Castel

Genre: Futuristic

# of Pages: 493 p.

Zea-Mays Calico was born into the Harvester Echelon, the lowest echelon in the Phangloria Kingdom.  She has felt unrest in her station since she was nine and witnessed a guard attacking a harvester woman working in a field. When the harvester supervisor tried to intervene he was killed.  Zea never saw the guard’s face and has felt guilt ever since for the family who lost their father.  As she’s grown older life as a harvester hasn’t gotten any easier and Zea and her family constantly deal with thirst, hunger, and exhaustion as more and more is asked of them.  When it’s announced that Prince Kevon will begin looking for his bride through the Princess Trials, Zea’s mom thinks it would be great if she would try to become one of the elusive 30 ladies who vie for Kevon’s attention.  Zea would rather join the underground rebel group, the Red Runners, in order to help bring down the monarchy and begin to allocate resources equally for all echelons.  When the leader of the Red Rebels asks her to join the princess trials to become an inside spy she has no idea what she is getting into.  The trials are incredibly difficult and oftentimes violent as these women will do anything to get ahead in the competition.  Zea’s impression of the prince changes as she gets to know him as well, but she quickly learns that in this world she truly does not know who she can trust.  She just desperately hopes she doesn’t do the one thing rebels asked her not to: fall in love with the prince.  Can Zea infiltrate the palace and find a way to share what she learns with the rebels?  Can she protect her family from those who want to hurt her?  Can she find the truth in a place where everyone has more secrets than they can count?

This thrilling series is a mix between the Selection series and the Hunger Games series.  Although the story requires a bit of setup at the beginning, readers will enjoy entering Zea’s world to find out what happens during the princess trials.  Everyone has an agenda and isn’t afraid to break rules in order to get what they want.  Despite the fact that Zea enters the trials under false pretenses, she is constantly amazed by how quickly those around her will sacrifice others in order to get what they want.  This story gets better as it goes along, and that continues into the second installment, The Princess Games.

The Similars by Rebecca Hanover

Genre: Science Fiction

# of Pages: 399

Emma is still shaken from her best friend, Oliver’s, sudden suicide when she has to return for a new term at her elite boarding school.  Her school has been all over the news recently because it has been revealed that a mad scientist created six clones from stolen cord blood sixteen years ago and has raised them secretly on a private island.  The clones have said they prefer to be called similars rather than clones.  The identities of the similars have not been released yet, but everyone knows they are cloned from students at Emma’s school.  In a surprising move, the headmaster has offered for the similars to come go to school with the very students they were cloned after.  It isn’t until the welcome assembly when Emma comes face to face with Oliver’s clone, Levi, that she even entertains the thought that he could have a clone.  She struggles to look at Oliver’s face on another person, but at the same time feels clones should be offered basic human rights and fights for them as debates arise.  The highest honor at Emma’s school is to be a member of the “ten” which includes the top five seniors and top five juniors in the class who form a committee for advising the student body.  Emma is shocked when she captures an elusive spot in the ten, but so do three of the similars which enrages students who have gone to that school for two years already. To make matters worse, Emma’s roommate is viciously attacked and left comatose shortly after school begins and no one has any ideas who it could be, which of course leads some to believe it was a similar.  Can Emma begin to accept Levi even as she still grieves for Oliver?  Is there something sinister behind the headmaster inviting the similars to join the student body?   Who could have attacked Emma’s roommate and why?

The first installment in this series offers a lot of drama as the issue of clones is discussed from a variety of angles.  The main character does a nice job of trying to separate out her own feelings about Oliver having a clone and her feelings about how clones should be treated in general. She knows that it’s irrational to feel one way about a group of people but so differently when considered for a single person in that group, but acknowledges that sometimes you have to just work through your feelings whatever they may be.  There are many roadblocks that keep Emma and the similars from having an event free year, but they keep trying to make the best of their senior year. The end is exciting and satisfying, but leaves many questions unanswered that will keep readers wanting to read the sequel, The Pretenders.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Genre: Science Fiction/Historical

# of Pages: 486

Etta Spencer has been working her whole life to become an amazing concert violinist, but just as she’s about to make her big debut she is grabbed  by a mysterious young woman and zapped into another year.  She soon meets Nicholas, a sailor who has faced racism his entire life due completely to the color of his skin and the time period in which he lives.   Etta learns that she has been summoned from the past for a mysterious and dangerous task that will save her mother’s life.  She is still getting her head around the idea that time travel is possible and truly has no idea who she can trust in her impossible quest, but she knows she must try if she wants to see her mother alive again.  Can she bounce through time in order to retrieve a long lost relic in the short amount of days she has been given?  Who will betray her along the way?

Fans of the Ruby Red series will enjoy the first in this series.  The setup and character buildup take a little while, which might discourage some reluctant readers, but the payoff is there with the rich storyline that develops.  This first installment does leave a lot of questions unanswered but not in a way that is too frustrating for readers.  Recommend to students who enjoy historical fiction or sci fi titles.

Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash

Genre:  Romance

356 p.

College freshmen Mariam is still reeling from her breakup from Caleb, her high school boyfriend and she believes the love of her life.  She has a great relationship with her roommate, but otherwise she hasn’t gotten out much since she’s started college.  One day she decides she’s done feeling sorry for herself and she goes to the local virtual dating experience in order to see if she has any more “matches” out there.  To her surprise, the matchmaking program uses artificial intelligence in order to assess all of her qualities and match her up with three top choices.  They tell her that her top choice is one of the highest percentages they’ve ever had, but she can’t help but notice that her third choice is none other than Caleb.  Can she really ignore this incredible coincidence?  No, she can’t, so she invites Caleb’s avatar on a virtual date without him knowing it’s really her.  It goes really well and pretty soon they are going on other virtual dates, but the longer this goes on the more she knows that she must tell him the truth and she’s not sure she’s read to lose Caleb all over again.  Meanwhile, is it possible she’s already had contact with her #1 match?

This romance story puts a very modern twist on dating with the virtual experience, but it’s still fun and filled with engaging characters.  The story feels genuine and believable despite the use of very advanced matchmaking technology and the reader really wants Mariam to find happiness.  Mariam’s difficulty adjusting to college life is very relatable to many students and they will want to see how she copes with her parents, siblings, and making new friends during this transitional time.  Recommended for romance fans.

 

Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 392

Aina lived on the streets after witnessing her parents terrible murder in Diamond City, where she lives.  Then, one day she was taken in by Kohl, a notorious crime leader, and was trained to be a vicious assassin.  As a young adult she is given an assignment that seems impossible, but if she succeeds all of her dreams will come true.  The only problem is that if she does not succeed, everything she has worked so hard for will come crashing down.  As she begins to investigate this crime she learns there’s a lot that doesn’t make any sense and she wonders if she’s uncovering a secret plot by someone to completely take over Diamond City.  Does she follow orders like she always does or does she think for herself and potentially take a different, albeit riskier path?

Fans of Six of Crows will like this title.  Aina is a well developed character that you immediately root for even though she works as an assassin.  She has a motley crew of characters around her, but it’s easy to see this world she lives in and the many complications she faces daily just to survive.  There are many twists and turns to the plot and spy-esque plans that fans of spy novels will appreciate even if the setting is more of a fantasy one.  The story stands on its own, but is reminiscent of popular series right now.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 538

Zelie can still recall how her mother used to do magic when she was a child.  Since she too was born with the signature white hair of someone who will one day possess magic, she can’t wait until she can begin to feel the magic move within her.  However, the king has decided that those who do magic are dangerous and he has found a way to restrain all of them, which is how Zelie watches her mother die in a terrible execution.  As she grows up she is ridiculed for her white hair and her family is forced to pay steep taxes simply for having her in the family.  One day in the market, she literally runs into a girl running from the royal soldiers who begs her for help.  Against all odds, the two manage to escape the soldiers and only then does Zelie learn that Amara, a princess, has stolen a precious artifact from the palace that everyone believes could help bring back magic.  They end up setting off on a quest, with Zelie’s brother, to find the other two relics they need in order to reconnect magic to the world.  There are many people chasing them such as Amara’s brother, who is hiding a secret of his own.  Can they fulfill their quest in time? How many will be lost along the way?

This is a powerful and sometimes violent story because Zelie and Amara are fighting a war against those people who do not believe magic should exist and are willing to do anything to stop it from coming back.  Zelie has seen how her people have been treated without it, however, and she believes it is their right to claim what is naturally theirs.  The book, although a bit lenghtly, is so engaging that even reluctant readers will get hooked as long as they give it a try.  There is a sequel to this story.  Recommended for fantasy lovers.

The Girl Before by Rena Olson

Genre: Suspense

# of Pages: 314

Clara is shocked and frightened when a swat team bursts into her home and forcefully drags her and her daughters away.  She quickly learns that her husband is under investigation, but she doesn’t understand what for.  She knows he would be very upset with her if she talked to the police so she refuses to speak or eat until the police bring her a note in her husband’s handwriting telling her to eat.  Eventually, Clara begins to open up about her life in the hopes of helping clear her husband’s name, but in talking to her therapist she begins to wonder if that would be a good thing at all.  Throughout the book it flashes back to earlier times in her life depicting the many struggles and abusive relationships she has faced in her very young life.  Despite all she’s been through, Clara cannot come to terms with the fact that the investigators working with her believe she is actually a young girl named Diana who was kidnapped at an early age and brought into a world of lies and violence.  Is it possible she could have failed to see the danger she was in when she felt so loved and looked after?  Did she willingly participate in the crimes of her husband or was she too blind to see what was really going on?

This suspenseful story follows Clara as she struggles to learn the truth about her life, her husband, and the entire way she was raised.  Readers will quickly realize that she’s actually a part of a human trafficking ring, but she’s been so indoctrinated into the cause that she really believes the people around her care about the young girls they are raising.  As the realization of her entire life dawns on her she begins to feel the weight of the decisions she has made or at least allowed to happen in front of her.  The story uses many flashbacks to put the pieces together, which does build suspense, but may be confusing for some readers.  Characters are fully developed and engaging and it’s easy to see how Clara ended up in the predicament she is in.  Recommended for fans of mysteries such as The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 390 p.

Sawyer was raised by a single mother because her mother’s wealthy family disowned her when she announced her pregnancy at 17.  Due to the estrangement, Sawyer has not ever met her mother’s family and is shocked when her grandmother shows up unexpectedly one day to offer her college tuition in exchange for living with her for a year and participating in the debutante season.  Sawyer doesn’t have a lot of options at the moment to go to college so she agrees to go and secretly hopes she might be able to figure out who her father is.  Shortly after arriving, Sawyer learns that her cousin is being blackmailed by another debutante and she agrees to help, but little does she know that is just the beginning of the crazy debutante season!

This book balances a little mystery with Sawyer discovering who her mother’s family is and sorting out everything she thought she knew about them.  Fans of Barnes’s other titles will enjoy this one as well.  The story is engaging and the characters are fun.  There are several red herrings in the hunt for Sawyer’s father, but there’s so much going on it’s best to just enjoy the ride through the debutante year.  There is a sequel available for those who want to know more about these debutantes.  Recommended for those looking for a light, fun read.

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

Genre:  Suspense

Told from multiple viewpoints, six teenagers struggle to survive when masked men open fire in a shopping mall at Christmas time.  Grace, watched in horror as her mother became the first victim.  Miranda had been looking for ways to earn extra cash to support her new habit.  Javier had been working as a janitor in the cafeteria.  Amina had been working retail in a local clothing shop.  Cole was near the food court when the shooting happened and tried to get as many people as possible into a local store before the metal grate closed.  Finally, Parker had been reluctantly babysitting his little sister while messing around with his friends and lost track of her in the chaos.  He finds himself in the middle of the action while trying to find her.  All of these teenagers come from different backgrounds and have different issues to deal with, but ultimately they all have the same goal of survival.  They come up with a plan for how to help the hostages, but not everyone will make it out alive.

April Henry has once again created a fast paced suspenseful novel in which the characters are engaging.  Reluctant readers will enjoy this title as it is full of action and very little downtime.  The ending does contain a few surprises, but most are set up throughout the story and should not be a huge surprise.  A very entertaining read.

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

# of Pages: 356

Sylvie, Vincent, Jules, and Sam are all lured to a late night escape room they believe to be mandatory for team building at their lucrative investment firm.  All of them have places they’d rather be, but after losing two major clients recently they are all concerned about their positions going forward.  Once they arrive, they soon get stuck in the elevator in the abandoned building and they quickly find a few clues that makes them realize the elevator is actually the escape room.  It’s very hot and dark, however, so they struggle to find clues.  They soon realize that there is no getting out of here unless they find their own way out and each clue reminds them of what they have given up and who they have hurt on their way up the corporate ladder.  Who is behind the escape room and will these four escape alive?

The person behind the escape room becomes clear fairly quickly in the story, but the why and the how take awhile to unfold.  Each of these people has a complicated backstory and it takes awhile for everything to come out.  Fans of mysteries such as The Woman in the Window and the Woman in Cabin 10 will enjoy this fast paced, high energy mystery story.  Even once the reader figures out who is behind the escape room, there are still many surprises ahead.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 286

2019 Iowa Book Award Winner

Aza is a high school girl with many phobias in life, specifically that she will come in contact with a germ that will ultimately kill her.  She is constantly thinking about different diseases and risks she could encounter on a daily basis and this constant focus on her mortality has made her a bit of an outcast in her high school.  She does have one best friend, Daisy, who loves to write Star Wars fan fiction and seems to have Aza’s back at all times. When a local millionaire is charged with several crimes and disappears before he can be arrested, Daisy and Aza dream about what they would do with the $100,000 reward money for anyone who can provide information on his whereabouts.  When Aza was young, she was friends with the millionaire’s son, Davis.  They decide to contact him again in the hopes of learning where his dad is so they can collect the reward money.  He quickly sees through their plan, but reuniting with Aza turns out to be pretty great as she and Davis become close.  Whenever she gets too close, however, her mind spins out of control and she has to leave to collect her thoughts.  Can Aza overcome her own thoughts in order to get close to the boy she cares about?  Can Aza and Daisy find out what happened to Davis’s father?  Is Daisy as good of a friend as she thinks she is to Aza?

This book has gotten a lot of attention because it portrays Aza’s condition in a realistic light so that others can understand what it would be like to live like that. All of the characters are well developed and it’s easy to understand their motivations and desires.  The mystery of what happened to Davis’s dad is what gets the story going, but ultimately this story is about the characters and how they are all trying their best to deal with their individual issues and get through high school.  Fans of John Green will devour this title.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Genre: Realistic Fiction

372 p

2019 Iowa High School Book Award

Dill Early, Jr. is struggling in his town where he is now famous for being the son of the preacher who was convicted of having child pornography on his computer.  He and his mom are struggling under all the legal bills and he doesn’t see how he can ever really get out of this small town.  Lydia, his sarcastic friend, is also a bit of an outcast because she refuses to conform to traditional norms.  She has a fashion blog where she showcases unique stores all around their area and encourages everyone to be themselves at all costs. Their other friend, Travis, is a large red haired senior who loves a fantasy book series and often carries a staff with him.  The three of them are often ridiculed in their community and if they didn’t have each other to lean on their lives would be truly miserable.  Lydia, at least, has very supportive parents at home who are not living hand to mouth and can afford to spoil her a bit.  Dill and Travis, on the other hand, have parents who do not seem to like who they are very much and keep trying to change them.  All three of them have aspirations for after high school but do they have the courage to go for them? Do they have the strength to break away from the expectations that have been set for them?

This powerful story gets more and more powerful as it goes on.  The character development is so well done that the reader really feels like he or she knows these people and is living alongside them.  There are many issues these teenagers are dealing with that seem especially unfair for people so young, but these situations exist all over America and it’s time we all start addressing it.  Travis and Dill feel like they are trapped and have no way out of the life set for them by their parents, while Lydia is counting down the days until she can leave this town far behind. In the end, they all must find the courage to do what they need to in order to not only survive, but thrive in their own lives.

 

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

# of Pages: 556

Genre: Fantasy

2019 Iowa High School Award Winner

Nova lives in a world where some people have a super power that they were either both with or acquired at some point.  When she was young the Anarchists were superheroes trying to protect the rights of other superheroes by overthrowing the government that was oppressing them.  This led to chaos and another group of superheroes called the Renegades then rose up to fight the Anarchists.  Nova and her dad both had super powers and her dad believed that if they ever needed help the Renegades would come to their aide. However, when an assassin comes to their door Nova is forced to watch as he kills her mother, father, and baby sister.  The only reason she survives is because she’s able to put people to sleep when she touches them.  She ends up joining the Anarchists since the Renegades were nowhere to be found when she needed them.  She believes they have grown too powerful and need to be taken down, which is why she joins them when she’s old enough in order to learn what their weaknesses are.  As she begins working with her team, however, she realizes that you cannot blame an entire group for the sins of a few.  Should she remain loyal to the Anarchists who took her in when she had no one or truly become a Renegade who vows to protect the city at all costs?

The first in a series, this story is unique and engaging and puts a fresh spin on the idea of super heroes. Nova and her team captain, Adrian, both have secrets and desires to help the city improve, but they go about it in different ways that if found out could get them in big trouble.  The secondary characters are all developed and memorable so that the reader can truly differentiate between all of the superheroes and their many different, unique powers.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes a good adventure story.

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.

Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  323

Adam lives in Blackwater where jobs, food, and everything else are scarce and life is hard.  He lives with his disabled brother and harbors a secret crush on Sadie Blood, the girl who runs the bike repair shop.  Every year there is a brutal bike race and the winner gets to go to Sky-Base, the amazing city where there is plenty of everything including food and opportunities.  Adam would love to abandon this hard life for the easy one in Sky-Base, but he always worries about leaving his brother and Sadie behind.  Also, there is a group of thugs who enjoy terrorizing everyone around Blackwater and Adam isn’t sure he has what it takes to beat them.  Then, tragedy strikes and Adam knows that his only shot is to race and win.  Does he have what it takes?

This book is action packed and full of suspense as Adam navigates this dangerous track and competition.  Fans of The Maze Runner series will really enjoy this title as it has similar exciting plot twists and dangerous actions.  It’s easy to get engaged with the characters as they fight for their lives on an hourly basis in this tough town.  The ending will leave readers wanting more.   Recommended for reluctant readers.


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