Posts Tagged 'friendship'

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Genre: Sci/Fi

Number of Pages: 303

Klara is an artificial friend who loves looking out the window at her store hoping that one day she’ll find a family to go home with. Klara is very observant and notices a lot about the people and places around her. This is why she catches the eye of Josie, a young girl who has a stilted walk who comes to the city once in awhile and talks to Josie through the window. She knows she is meant to take Klara home, but it takes her awhile to convince her mother. When Josie finally gets to take Klara home she is blessed to become part of the family, even if Josie does get sick from time to time which causes great stress to the household. Klara feels it is her responsibility to look after everyone and truly wants the best for everyone around her. As Josie’s health deteriorates, Klara feels it is up to her to try and find a way to make her well, but what does she know about such things? Her never-ending hope begins to rub off on those around her and they begin to think that Josie may have a happy ending after all. Can Klara help heal Josie? If Josie grows up what will become of Klara?

This unique story follows an observant, but neutral narrator who truly tells it like she sees it as she doesn’t have any feelings clouding her judgment. It takes awhile to a clear picture to come out about the world this is set in and what tough decisions humans have to face regarding new technology. The characters are all interesting, but the reader only knows as much as Klara can observe so they are not always well developed. Fans of futuristic stories will enjoy this title and find it truly different than other novels.

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 325

Isda was rescued from a well at birth after being cast aside by her mother for being a gravoir. A gravoir is someone who can maniupulate other people’s memories when they sing and it is illegal to raise a gravoir, which is why her mother tried to kill her. Cyril, the owner of the opera house, kept her in the shadows her entire life so she could manipulate the memories of the opera guests in a way they would remember the shows more fondly and want to buy more tickets. She always felt like Cyril did his best toward her and even cared for her, until she met a new janitor by the name of Emeric. Not only was Emeric’s voice mesmerizing, but when he sang his memories were vibrant and colorful and Isda was immediately drawn to him. She knew he had potential to be an amazing opera star with a little training and she convinces him to let her train him so that she can have a hand at putting someone on the stage, even if it can’t be her. As they grow closer, Isda knows that if Cyril or anyone else finds out her entire existence could be put into jeopardy. Plus, she begins to think there are skills she may have that Cyril has not told her about. Is she capable of more? Who can she really trust: Cyril or Emeric? How much trouble would she really be in if she were discovered?

Fans of musicals and the stage will be captivated by this tale of an outcast simply wanting to fulfill her dreams, including finding a friend. As the story develops, the action really takes off and you can’t help but root for the main characters to find truth and happiness. The rules for this world are fully developed and explained as the story goes on, which is why some aspects of the ending are so powerful. There are many plot twists in this creative setting and fans will want to see more from this world. Highly recommended for fantasy readers.

Teen Killers Club by Lily Sparks

Genre: Mystery

Signal Deere was convicted of murdering her best friend, Rose, but even though Signal woke up covered in Rose’s blood she knows she’s innocent. It does not help that she has been classified as a Class A, which is the most dangerous kind of criminal. Therefore, when she is approached about joining a new secret program where they take teenage Class A criminals and train them to be assassins she knows this is her only way out of jail for the rest of her life. The obvious problem here is that Signal is not a killer and has difficulty from the start with the trainings they make her do. The counselor in charge of them seems to be trying to make life particularly difficult for Signal. She quickly realizes that the other teens in the program do not have any issue with killing. Erik, in particular, notices right away that Signal really doesn’t belong there, but in order to survive she must try her best to succeed in the tasks before her. Things get more complicated when a man wearing a mask infiltrates their camp and the counselors won’t tell anyone who he is or what he wants. Can Signal survive a place where they are trying to make her a killer surrounded by other killers? Can she trust anyone around her? Will she ever be able to clear her name and find out who really killed Rose?

This book really takes off once Signal gets to the camp and meets the other teenage criminals. It becomes obvious that you can’t really classify people into nice, easy categories and Signal helps each of them to see that there is more to them than their past actions. She becomes increasingly aware of the dangers surrounding her in this place where she doesn’t know how to defend herself. Once it becomes clear they are in danger, the teens band together, but in the end they are not the ones in charge and things go sideways pretty quickly as they try to rebel. Signal’s backstory is explored, but readers will want to know more about what happened to Rose and how her death came to be. Readers will also be eager to see more after the exciting ending that leaves the future of these teens in question. Hopefully, there will be a sequel to continue Signal’s story. Recommended for fans of forensic mysteries.

The Ghost of Five Mile Creek by Payne Schanski

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of pages: 218

JB admits right away that he has been punished severely for getting caught breaking and entering into a large house in his town. He has not offered much in the way of an excuse, and appears to be taking his punishment without complaint. His mother even made him stop playing basketball for his entire freshmen year, even in his own driveway. Throughout the ordeal he has also lost his group of friends who scattered the second he got into trouble and all went their own way in high school. He has found himself sitting with an odd bunch of students at lunch who really have no one else to sit with so they have banded together. One of the people he sits with, Marty, is someone JB feels a lot of guilt about because when he was younger he used to torment him and purposefully leave him out of things. That’s partly why he agrees to go when Marty pitches the idea of them driving out to an abandoned house that is believed to be haunted. JB knows if he got caught again it would not go well for him, but he feels like he owes this to Marty, especially when it appears that everyone else will back out. Then, surprisingly his former best friend and a popular new girl in school offer to come along and suddenly they have a group of five people going to investigate this haunted house in the middle of the night. Will they encounter any supernatural activity? Will they form lifelong friendships? Will JB get his punishment extended into his sophomore year?

This coming of age story follows a group of high school students who all agree to go to a “haunted house” for different reasons. Once they are there, they all have to face some of the things they had been avoiding such as J.B.’s resentment toward his friends for abandoning him, Marty’s past bullying, and Jennie’s loss of her sister. The ending is realistic and satisfying for a story in which the main characters are not finished finding their way. Fans looking for scary/suspenseful stories might not find enough of that here, but fans who enjoy coming of age stories will want to know more about these characters once the story ends.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Fractured Tide by Leslie Karen Lutz

Genre: Survival/Realistic Fiction

Fractured Tide is a unique book that follows Tasia and her family who operate a diving company and have been struggling to get by since Tasia’s dad went to prison. The entire format of the book is Tasia writing of the unexplainable adventure they have been having to her dad in prison in case she never sees him again. After trying a new location for a dive, tragedy strikes when a man mysteriously dies while submerged and everyone blames Tasia. She claims he was there one minute and gone the next and that she does not know what happened to him. She also believes there is something unnatural about this new dive site and cannot shake the feeling that something is terribly wrong here. The boat and electronics mysteriously stop working so they are stuck floating there until help comes looking for them which could take awhile. By morning, their boat is attacked by a phosphorescent sea creature unlike anything Tasia has seen before. She wakes up on a nearby island she never noticed when they were floating mere feet away and there are only three other survivors, one of whom is injured from the monster attack. Can they survive on an island by themselves long enough for help to find them? Even if help comes looking will they be able to see this mysterious island that all of them missed before they washed up on shore? Is that sea creature still out there hunting them?

Fans of survival and unusual tales, such as the Miss Peregrine series, will enjoy this captivating book. Right from the beginning, readers will be enthralled with Tasia’s story, both the suspenseful parts and the adventure parts. The plot itself has many twists and turns that will keep readers guessing, but the ending delivers in a way that will satisfy everyone. There are so many details it can be easy for fast readers to miss something and need to go back to pick it up. The characters are developed and it’s easy to see how they all feel marooned on this island together under such stressful circumstances. Recommended for readers who need exciting stories to keep them interested.

The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery

Arden was known around her hometown as a sleepwalker well before she was accidentally swept away in a storm one night. The town searched for her for three days before someone miraculously found her six year old fingers clutching a sewer grate. The media attention after her amazing rescue became so insane that she and her mother had to move to a new town. By the time she reached college, however, Arden was tired of being the girl who was rescued from Widow Hills and changed her name to Olivia. She lost touch with her mother and was therefore startled many years later when she was contacted because her mother had overdosed. Shortly after learning about her mother’s demise, Olivia starts sleepwalking again. She doesn’t want anyone to know about her past so she tries to keep this quiet too, but since she works as a hospital administrator everyone knows everyone else’s business. One night, Olivia is horrified when she wakes up injured, in her yard, next to a dead body. She feels pretty confident she did not kill this person, but she also doesn’t remember how she got outside either? Has her past caught up to her? What really happened all those years ago when she went missing at six years old? Can she trust anyone around her in this new life she has begun for herself?

Fans of mysteries will enjoy this title, which is by the same author as The Safest Lies. There are many red herrings to keep the reader guessing, but the clues are all there to figure out what is really happening with Olivia. She had such a troubled childhood where many people wanted to take advantage of her that she has trouble trusting others as an adult. Many of her friends seem very hurt they didn’t know about her past when it comes out, but she doesn’t talk about it with anyone, and that keeps her feeling even more alone as she feels the past catching up to her. The ending is very satisfying and exciting with surprises all the way until the end.


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