Posts Tagged 'friendship'

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.

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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.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages:  360

Five students are mysteriously sent to detention after they are caught with cell phones in class that they claim aren’t theirs.  Once they get to detention they see that they are from completely different circles in the school.  Bronwyn is an honor’s student who hopes to go to Yale.  Cooper is a pitcher who is being courted by several universities.  Addy is dating a jock and one of the more popular girls in school.  Nate is the school rebel and is rumored to be on probation for dealing drugs.  Finally, Simon is a bit of an outcast due to a blog he writes in which he always manages to reveal everyone’s worst secrets.  Shortly after the five of them get to detention there is a fender bender in the parking lot and their teacher rushes out to help.  While he’s out of the room, Simon gets himself a cup of water from the science lab station sink and collapses shortly after.  Nate frantically digs through Simon’s bag for his epi-pen but can’t find it.  Cooper runs to the nurse’s office but comes up empty there as well.  Helplessly, they all watch as the paramedics arrive and aren’t able to revive Simon who dies shortly after from anaphylactic shock.  As horrible as this is, it gets even worse when these four become the prime suspects in the police investigation when it is revealed that Simon was about to post life changing secrets about all four of them the next day on his blog.  Could one of them really have done it?  How will they ever survive the suspicions and accusations being thrown at them?

This book contains quite a few language and sexual references, but the story itself is very powerful and will draw teen readers in.  The ending will be satisfying as well as unexpected, but before they get to that all four of the suspects will have quite a few difficult days ahead of them as they are chased by reporters, questioned by police, and realize for the first time who they’re real friends are.  The reality of the life teens live now with social media and everyone always looking to reveal everyone’s innermost secrets for their own entertainment is unfortunately all too real, but this book shows how no matter how advanced technology gets teens still need friends and family they can count on, especially when things get tough.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

Genre:  Historical Fiction Mystery

# of pages:  349

Piper is living on the outskirts of 1920s Chicago.  As she nears the end of her senior year she is startled to learn that her best friend, Lydia, is suffering from seizures and her own family has not told her about them because they do not want to upset her.  Piper has witnessed two of these episodes and both have frightened her terribly.  She’s not that surprised when Lydia arrives on her doorstep one afternoon distraught because her parents want to send her to the Mayo Clinic mere weeks before graduation.  Piper is sad to see Lydia leave, but understands why her parents feel she needs medical attention.  She watches Lydia walk the short distance to her house and waves at her from her white picket fence and that’s the last Piper sees of her best friend before Lydia’s family notifies her that Lydia never came home.   As the police begin investigating Lydia’s murder Piper can’t help but begin investigating herself a bit by retracing Lydia’s last steps and finding that not everyone is telling her the truth about that night.  Many people around Piper believe she should leave the crime solving to the police and act more like a traditional lady, but Piper believes she may be the only one who can truly find out what happened to Lydia that fateful day.

This mystery is well written and engaging.  The 1920s backdrop is fun as Piper tries to become a more modern woman at a time when that earned you a ruler to the back of the hand in school.  When it counts, Piper’s family support her even if they don’t approve of her behavior all the time.  There are many intriguing characters which helps to keep the mystery more difficult for Piper to solve.  The mystery itself holds up as everything is properly explained in a plausible way, but it is still challenging for Piper to solve.  Highly recommended.

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

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357 p.

Genre:  Romance/Realistic Fiction

Louna works for her mother’s successful wedding planning business, but after having her heart broken a year prior she is not sure there is such a thing as a happy ever after.  Her mother and her mother’s business partner, William, also feel this way and Louna worries they are getting too pessimistic and jaded.  Then, they meet Ambrose who is the crazy optimistic little brother of a bride and nothing ever seems to get him down.  At first Louna sees this as simply shirking responsibility and not caring about his future, but after he lands a summer job working alongside her, she begins to see he is just hopelessly helpful and always hopeful that everything will work out positively.  Eventually, Louna realizes she wants to be more like that, but will that mean officially “getting over” the terrible thing that happened in her past relationship?  Will she ever really have a chance at another true love?

Fans of Sarah Dessen will enjoy this new title, but the characters don’t quite stick with the reader the way they do in some of her other books such as The Truth About Forever.  The way Louna’s previous relationship ended definitely adds a unique twist that will surprise readers.  Overall, a fun, fast story for readers who love romances.

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  403

Anna was born into an elite Luminate British family, which means her family has access to magic, which is strictly restricted from anyone not in the Luminates.  There is an uprising building up to break the binding spell that restricts magic away from anyone considered unworthy and Anna is shocked to learn her own father is a sympathizer.  He believes the binding is in place merely to keep the wealthy in power and not to protect those who simply do not know how to use magic and could hurt themselves or someone else.  When Anna comes of age, however, her ceremony to practice magic goes poorly and she is believed to be barren, which means she’ll never really be accepted by the Luminates or those outside the Luminates.  One power she does seem to have is to break other people’s spells, which is why her family forbid her from coming to her sister’s coming out party.  She sneaks in anyway and accidentally ruins her sister’s coming out.  Partly as punishment, partly as protection from those who wish to study Anna’s unusual capability of breaking other people’s spells, she is sent away with her grandmother to Hungary.  Upon arrival, Anna meets some interesting people and begins to see that those who possess magical tendencies but at outside the Luminates are treated abominably in order to keep them in their place.  She begins to wonder if she should use her one power to break the binding so that magic would be available to anyone who wishes to use it.  Is she powerful enough?  Would it cause chaos and catastrophe like the Luminates predict?

Fans of fantasy stories will enjoy this title.  The truth about Anna’s condition eventually comes out, but it may confuse some younger readers.  The story meanders a bit when Anna first goes to Hungary, but once the new characters are properly introduced the story picks up again for a satisfying ending.  Recommended for students who have already found other fantasy series they enjoy.

Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie

Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages:  360

When Lily Bennett moves with her mother to  a new town before her junior year of high school she tries to remain optimistic, but in reality her mother is fleeing her cheating husband and his pregnant girlfriend and Lily is fleeing her cheating father and the boyfriend who cheated on her with her best friend.  They are both looking for fresh starts and unfortunately, that involves living on her wealthy grandmother’s property.  Ever since she was a child Lily has had a bizarre recurring dream where she’s running on a big field that has caught fire and she approaches a teenage boy’s body in the middle of it.  It has scared her since she was little, but normally she only has this dream a few times a year.  Since she moved she has had this dream every single night and it’s beginning to take a toll.

Amber was a teen living in the same town Lily just moved to in the 1980s.  Her boyfriend, Spence, was murdered on the football field of their school and the police investigator believed that Amber committed the murder.  Four days later Amber was stabbed to death and it was ruled a suicide.  Could Amber be trying to send Lily a message all of these years later about what really happened to her and Spence?  What is Lily’s connection to Amber’s death?

Fans of Victoria Laurie’s mystery When will enjoy this title as well.  It has many great plot twists, sinister characters, and red herrings.  The idea that Lily could be the reincarnation of Amber is a unique twist you do not often see in YA mystery novels.  The book itself moves quickly and will keep even reluctant readers engaged.