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 Want to read around the world. Click on the globe for stories from everywhere.






miceandmenOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: "Of Mice and Men" is a great novel that tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small. These two lifelong friends are ranch workers during the Great Depression. They recently left an old job and are searching for a new one in California. George Milton was put in charge of taking care of Lennie Small by Lennie's Aunt. Lennie has limited mental capabilities, but is a very good work hand because of his large stature. When George and Lennie finally find a job they run into many troubles. Lennie sometimes does things by accident and does not know that he is hurting the people around him. The events of the novel create a challenge for George, who is in charge of Lennie. I recommend reading this novel to follow the adventures of two struggling farmers during the Great Depression.

deathofasalesmanDeath of a Salesman by Arthur Miller: "Death of a Salesman" is an intense play that takes place both in the present and the past. Willy Loman is the main character in the play. Willy is starting to lose his mind. As the play goes on Willy has dramatic flash backs and reminisces about the so called “good old days”. Willy may have some kind of sociological disorder, but it is never specified in the book. Something is also haunting Willy that happened when he first got married. His secret is only disclosed in the last moments of the play. If you are interested in plays, business, or history, I would recommend reading "Death of a Salesman".

fahrenheitFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: "Fahrenheit 451" takes place on Earth in a dystopian future. In this novel, everyone is bland and boring, conforming to society’s norms. The biggest difference in this world is that books have been outlawed in society. Any books that are found are burned and set fire to. There are so called "firemen" whose jobs are to burn any books discovered. The main character is a fireman named Guy Montag. One night on his way home he meets an outgoing teenage girl named Clarisse McClellan. Clarisse seems to not be affected by the rest of society, and is a free spirit. Clarisse also has Guy ask questions about his life and the rest of society. The whole book is about Guy’s self-conflict. He wants to do the right thing and stop the burning of books. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about dystopian futures. The book is a great read and does a great job of describing the dystopian future.

- Reviewed by Stephen J.

frostFrost by M.P. Kozlowsky


Sixteen-year-old Frost lives in a bombed out apartment in a post-apocalyptic world, with only her pet broot, Romes, and a robot named Bunt, who has her father's memories, for company--but now Romes is dying and her need to find help is forcing her to leave the apartment for the first time in her life, and face the streets which are a hunting ground for rogue robots and the dreaded Eaters.


cinderCinder by Marissa Meyer


As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, observed by a ruthless lunar people, Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story.


littlebrotherLittle Brother by Cory Doctorow

After being interrogated for days by the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco, California, seventeen-year-old Marcus, released into what is now a police state, decides to use his expertise in computer hacking to set things right.




Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.



White Oleander by Janet Fitch

White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes-- each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, and its own hard lessons to be learned-- becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.


goddesstestOn her 18th birthday Kate takes her mom to her hometown of Eden as her last dying wish. While at Eden, a seemingly empty town, she enrolls in their high school and is soon invited to a party by the head cheerleader. However the party goes fatally wrong and Kate is offered a deal by a mysterious man, she takes the deal not quite realizing what she has agreed to do until she has to live with him for six months. During this time she realizes that the mysterious man, Henry, is the King of the dead and he wishes to make her his queen. But to do so she has to pass 7 tests. If she passes she will become immortal and a goddess, but if she fails her fate won't be the only one at stake.

 Reviewed by Carolyn H.

Fairest: Levana's Story, The Lunar Chronicles, Book 3.5 by Marissa Meyerfairest

Fairest, by Marissa Meyer, is the latest and fourth installment in the Lunar Chronicles, even though it is a prologue to the first book, Cinder. Fairest is all about Levana’s backstory, leading up to the events that occur in Cinder.

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles will be excited to get their hands on this book! Although it does not offer any fresh plot twists for the next book, it will satisfy fans’ curiosity about Levana and the way she acts. It offers answers to questions that readers have always wondered about Queen Levana: What was she like growing up? What was her family like? Why does she always wear a veil? Why is she so cruel and heartless? What’s with Princess Winter? More importantly, Levana’s story explores what love is, what it looks like, and how the desire for it can become twisted and lead to harming others.

As always, Marissa Meyer’s simple yet elegant writing style serves to make this book an enjoyable and easy read. Even better is the audio version of Fairest, narrated by Rebecca Soler, which you can download and borrow from OverDrive.

In addition, Fairest contains an excerpt from the final book in the Lunar Chronicles, Winter, which is coming out in November of 2015.

Reviewed by Sarah P.


angelfireA girl named Elisa just turned seventeen and she started experiencing weird things. And suddenly she is thrust into a world she cannot remember from her past lives. She is the Preliator, the one who kills the evils of this world. A protector of the human world from creatures of the Grim. This book is action packed with grim fighting and close to death situations. The author has a way of transporting you to her fictional world and has you sitting at the edge of your seat the entire time. The story is paired with great writing and great personality. And will have you reaching for the sequel, Wings of the Wicked.

5 stars. Reviewed by Amanda J.

giverTo start off I'd like to say that this is a fantastic book and I would highly recommend it to readers of all ages looking for a good book. It's thought provoking plot-line allows you to extrapolate new concepts, ideas and theories about the meaning of the book as well as the authors extra-textual implications about society and communism after each read. It's a very original futuristic distopian type story that could be compared very easily to the divergent series.The novel is about an 'average' teen names Jonas, who lives in a perfect world, with no fear, no pain, or no war. In the Community, there are no choices, colors, pleasure, weather, love, emotions, or any other variable conditions. You can not choose your job, spouse, or anything of that matter. When you reach the age of twelve, you are assigned a job in the Community. Jonas is singled out, and gets special training from The Giver. When Jonas' job in society he becomes the "Receiver of Memory", The Giver gives him the memories of the far past; memories of pain, fear, war, pleasure, colors, and love. When Jonas receives the truth about the world he lives in the adventure begins.......

Review by Jeremy A. 

Another review of The Giver

MaxRideIf you're looking for a thrilling set of books that will have you on the edge of your seat until you've lead every last word on their pages, then look no further than the Maximum Ride series .This series actually introduced me too to the Sci-Fi adventure genera of books. The Angel Experiment is the first book of this series and makes a great read for people of all ages. This novel is centered around a group of teens who are normal - or should I say 98% normal... These teenagers were the result of a genetic experiment gone awry at "The School" that led to them being 2% abnormal, on a genetic scale. They were genetically altered and given avian,or bird DNA, giving them wings and allowing them to fly. The teens take refuge on a mountain, hiding from the people who did this to them, but when their youngest crew member, Angel, gets kidnapped the adventure begins.....

Review by Jermemy A.


americansniperChris Kyle lets you inside the mindset of not only the war in Iraq but inside the mind of a seal; inside the mindset of someone who is trained to kill. Known as “The legend” he and his team became a force to be reckoned with. Kyle’s battlefield experiences are unforgettable and exhilarating even to the reader sitting safely at home. A small taste of what the war was really like gets left in the mouth of the reader but nothing like actually having experienced it yourself.

Chris Kyle is a retired Navy Seal sniper. He recounts his training and war experiences that lead him to become the deadliest sniper in American history, with more than 160 confirmed kills from 2003 to 2009 during the Iraq war. From BUDS hell week training to firefights in Fallujah and Ramadi, Kyle persevered through it all, a feet that only a very small amount of people could and have done.

heroesOlympusThe conclusion of the Heroes of Olympus series, The Blood of Olympus picks up where The House of Hades leaves us. Percy and Annabeth have somehow survived a trip through Tartarus and have reunited with the team. The book alternates between two separate adventures. One is of Nico, Reyna, and Coach Hedge rushing to transport the Athena Parthenos back to Camp Half Blood to stop the war between the Greek and Roman demigods; the other is of the seven main demigods of the prophecy (Percy, Jason, Annabeth, Piper, Frank, Hazel, and Leo) and their quest to stop the giants from waking Gaea.

The Blood of Olympus is a satisfactory ending to a great series, but it leaves you wanting just a little bit more. I was honestly more intrigued by the adventure of Nico, Reyna, and Coach Hedge than the main adventure of the seven demigods. The climactic battle and the resolution felt a little rushed and underdeveloped. I also would have liked to hear a little of the story or the ending in Percy’s point of view. He is the demigod who started it all, and bringing it full circle would have been nice. Nevertheless, I finished the whole book in two sittings so it obviously had me hooked. If you are a fan of either of the Percy Jackson series, the Blood of Olympus is a must read.

I would give The Blood of Olympus 4 out of 5 stars.

Review by Jason R.

The story follows a girl named Vanessa as she tries to alive the mystery behind her sister's death. Simon, a childhood friend, tries his best to help her find the answers Vanessa is looking for. Vanessa's sister was not the only death to take place that summer in Winter Harbor. Dead bodies wash up on the shores, all with the same plastered face.

This Greek-mythology filled romance mystery is a great way to spice up your day. I found that the writing was great and the story matched that nicely.

Five stars.  Reviewed by Amanda J.


Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige 

High School student Amy Gumm is stuck in her dreary, depressing life in Kansas, until one day she is swept up in her trailer home and brought to the magical Land of Oz by a Tornado.  When she lands, she is shocked to find that she is in Oz; not only because the Land of Oz is real, but also because it has drastically changed from what it was like in the movie and books. It turns out that Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and Glinda have all turned evil. Apparently Dorothy has become addicted to magic itself, is extracting it from the Land of Oz, and rules unfairly and unjustly over Oz. 
Amy is soon picked up by a band of witches who are desperately trying to overthrow Dorothy. Amy is selected to have a major role in their plot to stop Dorothy, and is trained to become their assassin - because, above all else, Dorothy must die. 
If you love the story of The Wizard of Oz, you may or may not like Dorothy Must Die. You might get upset that the Dorothy you knew and loved is now selfish, evil, and very crazy! You also would not like how dark and twisted Oz has become. But if you like a good retelling of a classic story or fairy tale, then Dorothy Must Die is a must read. The ending of this book leaves you gripping the edge of your seat, and the conclusion leaves you wishing that the second book will come out sooner rather than later! 
I would give Dorothy Must Die 5 out of 5 stars. 
Reviewed by Sarah P.

lightning thiefAfter accidently vaporizing his pre-algebra teacher and defeating a Minotaur, Percy Jackson finds his way to a summer camp called Camp Half-Blood. There he finds out that he is a demi-god, a son of the Greek god Poseidon. He also learns that he is suspected of stealing a lightning bolt that belongs to Zeus. As Poseidon and Zeus argue over the stolen lightning bolt, Percy discovers that the only way to prevent them from starting a war is to return the lightning bolt to Zeus before the summer solstice. Percy sets off with Grover, a satyr, and Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, on a quest to find and return the lightning bolt.

I enjoyed reading The Lightning Thief. It was a fast paced adventure story, with lots of monster fighting (which was little unrealistic at times) and surprising plot twists. The best things about this book are the characters. Percy always manages to crack jokes, Annabeth is both smart and kind at the same time, and Grover is hilarious in his own way.

I would give The Lightning Thief 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by Sarah P.

trashRaphael, who is just a kid, earns a living by combing a trash dump. On one ordinary day he discovers a wallet. The following day, the police show up and search the area, looking for a wallet. Instead of handing the wallet over to the police, Raphael takes it to his cousin, Gardo, and another dumpsite boy named Rat. Together they set off on an adventure through the dirty, corrupt, unnamed third world city to discover the story behind the wallet.

Trash was an interesting read. The plot was a great idea: three dumpsite boys try to solve the mystery behind a wallet that the police are searching for. The point of views kept on switching, though, which made it hard to keep track of what was going on. The story also moved rather slowly, which made the book boring towards the end.

Overall, I would give Trash 3 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by Sarah P.

homsThe House on Mango Street is the coming of age story of a girl named Esperanza. At the beginning of the book, Esperanza is a young girl who plays with her sister and neighbors and gets into all sorts of mischief. As she grows into a young adult, she writes and shares poetry more often, and becomes more conscious of the people around her, including her family and the eclectic collection of neighbors who live on Mango Street. She gets a job and makes new friends, but is harassed. These things cause her to dream of owning her own house one day, one that will be better than the one on Mango Street. She continues to develop her gift of writing in the meantime.

This book contained some very interesting characters, and Esperanza is an inspiring protagonist. However, many parts of this book were so poetical that they were hard to understand, and some of the chapters didn’t seem to have anything to do with the basic plot.

Overall, I would give The House on Mango Street 3 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by Sarah P.

girlismurderIt’s 1942 in New York City. Fifteen year old Iris Anderson and her father have recently moved to the lower east side to get a fresh start after the death of Iris’s mother. Iris starts attending public school instead of her private, girls-only school. At first she struggles to fit in at public school, but soon she finds new friends. There’s even a mystery to solve at her new school: one of the boys at school has gone missing. Iris tries to solve the mystery behind his disappearance, which is only natural because her father is a private detective.

This book was a great mystery novel. I liked that this book is both a mystery and historical fiction. The author talked about WWII and used a lot of 40’s slang, which was fun to read. Iris was a great character; she was very much a normal 15 year old girl, despite her odd family and different groups of friends she hangs out with. The mystery was good too; there wasn’t murder or anything gory, but it was mature enough for teens.

I would give The Girl is Murder 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by Sarah P.

a different me

A Different Me is a powerful book about Ally, a very relatable teenage girl. Just like a normal human, she has a part of her body that she is uncomfortable with; her nose. Ally is obsessed though. She stares at herself for hours, upset with the way she looks. Ally thinks the only way to help this is to get plastic surgery. If she removes a flaw from her body, she will have the confidence to do anything. Ally meets a couple of girls from a website called The Swan, where people talk about plastic surgery stuff. The girls just so happen to be relatively close to Ally, so they get together every so often, and each girl is wanting the surgery for very different reasons. Two of the three girls go under-the-knife, only one of them with a perfect surgery. Which one is Ally?

The writing is very natural, and the characters are impeccably well thought out. Read this book if you are looking for an honest, believable book about how one girl feels the pressure to be society’s version of beautiful, and if permanently changing her bone structure in her face is actually going to help that.

Reviewed by Katherine P.

pledgeThe Pledge is a story that keeps you on your toes and has you guessing at every turn. Derting is an excellent writer who likes to throw many curve balls at we readers. She has come up with a unique story that spices things up and will have you asking for more. This is defiantly worth the read.


Reviewed by Amanda J.

tempationA Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink is a mash up of Divergent/Mortal Instrument concepts. The story itself shines in its own way and makes for an easy read. The writing of it all makes for an astounding story. This is a great book to read between series and enjoyable for anyone who is willing to read it.

Reviewed by Amanda J.

watneddead One day Monroe’s father comes home with an extremely valuable collector’s item, the bullets that killed Bonnie and Clyde. When Monroe accidentally cuts her finger on one of the bullet she is soon possessed by Bonnie’s spirit. Before she knows it a preppy guy soon joins in her in their predicament when he has an asthma attack and is taken over by Clyde. From then on it is a constant battle between who is in charge of their own or hosts body.

Soon Monroe and Jack get fed up with the southerners trying to take over and they have to come up with a plan to get rid of them. However the plan Monroe has, ends up having three charges of grand theft auto, letting Clyde take over Jack’s body and not to mention a 1000 mile trip they take to escape the cops.

The author’s style of writing drew me in from the first sentence,the way she words things truly make the book come alive. For nearly the entire book I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened next. If you are looking for a good mystery book with a hint of history than you should try reading “Wanted: Dead or in Love”.

Reviewed by Carolyne


Never Fall Down is based on the true life story of Mr. Arn Chorn-Pond. As a young boy, he survived the Khmer Rouge communist regime and Cambodian genocide that took place from 1975 to 1979.Like they did to most other Cambodians during those years, the Khmer Rouge forced Arn and his family to leave their town. Arn and his family were then separated and sent to different labor camps.
On his own, Arn had to work in the rice fields along with other children his age. Later on, nearer to the fall of the regime, he was forced to fight as a child soldier. He was exposed to and forced to participate in nasty, brutal violence.  One of the better things in Arn’s life while in the camps was being able to play traditional instruments in the labor camp band. This helped Arn find favor with the Khmer Rouge officials, and allowed him to form new bonds and friendships with some of his bandmates. Through it all, Arn forced himself to never fall down, to not succumb to the exhaustion, starvation, malaria, or horror that was caused by the Khmer Rouge. Eventually Arn was able to escape to a refugee camp in Thailand, where he was adopted. 
Since then, Arn has been raising awareness of the Cambodian genocide, helping the people of Cambodia, and teaching youn Cambodians the traditional Cambodian arts through an organization called Cambodian Living Arts.
Reviewed by Sarah P.


Jonas has always been normal. He grows and learns at the same rate as the other children born in his year. He follows all the community rules. He lives peacefully with his family unit. He spends time volunteering in his community, just like all the other elevens do. But as the ceremony of twelve approaches, Jonas becomes apprehensive. He has no clue as to what job the elders will assign him to, even though he spent time volunteering in order to discover his talents and interests. When the ceremony arrives, Jonas, along with the rest of the community, is shocked. He is selected to be the next receiver of memories. From then on, through the training and memories given to him by The Giver, Jonas changes. He forms different opinions based on feelings, which are forbidden in the community – feelings such as peace, love, and pain. Jonas becomes unique in a society where sameness and comfort are the highest ideals, and therefore he does not fit in any longer. Ultimately, when he cannot bear living in the community any longer, he has to decide what to do about it.

If you are looking for a well written, science fiction, utopian book, you should read The Giver.

Reviewed by Sarah P.

Check out a trailer for the movie version of "The Giver" which is scheduled to be released in August or September.  Also consider the other books in "The Giver Quartet" - Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.


EndersOn March 28th, the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club will discuss Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Here are some of the things we will consider.

About Ender & His Family

What kind of person is Ender? What kind of person would he like to be?

Ender never loses, but he is sometimes defeated. Discuss why this is not a contradiction. 

Peter and Valentine are polar opposites, but at the end of the story they work together. What do you think happens in the relationship between those two after Ender leaves for Battle School?

How does Ender make friends? How does he convince the other students to follow his leadership?

Society & Choices

All the characters in the story grapple with moral dilemmas and choices. Let's look at some of the characters (other than Ender) and their choices. What difficult moral conflicts do Ender's parents face? His brother and his sister? The military? The school staff? The students?What do you think about the actions of the adults that related to Ender and his peers?

Was it ethical for the adults to lie to and manipulate the children?

What do you think about the adults' attitudes toward the deaths and injuries suffered by the children at the Battle School?


Ever wish you had a superpower? (I think the answer is an obvious YES!) So, tie on your cape, get your super senses ready, and dive in to one of these superhero stories suggested by Walter H., one of our teen volunteers.  And don't forget to let us know if you have suggestions of other great superhero books to add to this list!

sickbookcoverAt an average high school in Phoenix, Arizona, strange things are happening. When a “virus” breaks out in the area, Brian and his group of friends watch as their classmates and teachers start to turn into grotesque, flesh-eating predators with super-human strength. With their school on lockdown, surrounded by a prison-style, spiked fence and awaiting the help of the United States armed forces, Brian and a group of theater geeks must figure out how to save their other friends, who are stranded across the high school campus, without getting captured by the predators. Fast-paced, violent, and oh-so-bloody, Sick is a suspenseful, thrilling read for zombie lovers and those just looking for an adrenaline-pumping good time.


Looking for a read that tells a story both through its pictures and its text? Try one of these graphic novels suggested by Walter H., one of our library's teen volunteers:

far far away Jeremy Johnson Johnson lives in Never Better and he's a strange boy. There's his name of course.  Well, both his parents were named Johnson.  When his mother disappeared his father took to his room and has barely come out. Jeremy mostly keeps to himself and studies, guided by the ghost of Jacob Grimm who narrates Far Far Away.  Jacob, who died hundreds of years ago but woke  up as a  ghost in the Zwischenraum - the space around us mortal beings, is protecting Jeremy from "the Finder of Occassions."

When beguiling Ginger comes along, despite her friend's thoughts that Jeremy is not a worthy boyfriend, she invites him to join them.  But mostly she brings him into dangerous situations, and Jeremy, flattered to be invited by such a charming girl, and despite Jacob Grimm's warnings, goes along.   Is this the case of a demonic girl "luring" Jeremy into evil or an innocent girl just playing pranks?

This amazing small town modern tale, meshes with the haunting tales of the Brothers Grimm. It is full of surprises, plot twists and hidden places.  I thought  I knew where it was heading and was totally wrong.  It's a seat of your pants thriller, but in an old fashioned, Grimm sort of way.  Far Far Away is being released today, June 11.

scarletScarlet, the sequel to Cinder is every bit as good as Cinder was. Scarlet Benoit is a farmer living in rural France.  Her grandmother has been missing, she'd disappeared without leaving a message or sending a comm.  She'd missed Scarlet's 18th birthday, even though she'd bought the ingredients for Scarlet's favorite lemon cake. No one had seen her go and Scarlet had found her id chip. And now the police has said her grandmother had wanted to leave, but Scarlet knew that was wrong, she knew grandmere been kidnapped.

In Rieux, the town where she goes to deliver vegetables to a tavern, Scarlet happens to meet a man, a ferocious street fighter, named Wolf. Though she doesn't know if she can fully trust him, she is attracted to him and when he tells her he will help her find her grandmother, she goes off with him to Paris.

Having escaped from prison with a dashing daredevil prisoner Cinder arrives in Paris, just when Scarlet is at her lowest. Their fight to stay ahead of Queen Levana and the Lunars is exciting and the book ends on a cliffhanger with you anxiously waiting for the third book in the Lunar Chronicles.

I thought Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has one of the best titles and covers I can think of and should draw in a lot of readers.  I liked the way story is told in the voice of Piedad, Piddy, Sanchez about the year she and her mother move to a different part of Queens and she has to start her sophomre year at a new high school.  It's not far from her old apartment, where she can visit her "aunt" Lila, and friend Joey.  But as far as school is concerned, it's a lot rougher.  Suddenly she's attracted unwanted attention from Yaqui Delgado and a gang of tough girls. Piddy has no idea who Yaqui Delgado is when she's given a threatening note, but Yaqui doesn't like Piddy.  Piddy doesn't hang out with the Latino students, they weren't exactly inviting, and she takes honors classes.  Piddy also shakes her ass when she walks and seems to have attracted Yacqui's boyfriend's attention.  
After threatening her, Yacqui and her group start to throw things at her.  Things keep escalating till Piddy stops going to school and is falling behind and lying to her mother.  On top of that she's angry at her mother for being so uptight, working so hard and never telling her anything about her father.  And her best friend Mitzi who moved to Long Island seems to be forgetting all about her.

As the bullying escalates and all these other problems compound, Piddy begins to isolate herself more and more and even lose her sense of who she is.  She begins to dress and act differently. She starts to meet Joey Delgado in the basement of her old building; Joey, whose father beat his mother and him as well.

Other characters around her provide needed joy and color.  The ladies at the salon where Lila does champu and Piddy works on Saturdays are a great cast of secondary characters, as is Lila with her Avon business.  Around them there is always music and dancing.  In fact, it was learning to do the merengue from Lila that got Piddy "shaking her stuff" that got her noticed by Yaqui Delgado.

I loved the scenes in the salon and at Lila's as much as I dreaded the scenes at school.  The ending where everything is wrapped up a bit too fast and neatly.  Other than that it's really a good read.

It was such a pleasure to read Rachel Hartman's Seraphina. The story is original and fresh and wonderful in light ofseraphina reading so much dystopia lately. Seraphina is half dragon, though she does not know this at first. She only knows that her mother died giving birth to her and that her father, a lawyer in the royal court, has always been fearful for her safety. At a young age, Seraphina discovered her gift of music and taught herself the flute against her father's wishes, and then began to study with a saar, a dragon in human form named Orma, who turned out to be her uncle.

Again, against her father’s wishes, Seraphina leaves her home to become the assistant to court musician, Viridiu, just in time to play for the funeral of Rufus, prince of Goredd who was killed by dragons. Phina becomes embroiled in these human-dragon struggles and in the hunt to find the killer in the meantime falling in love with the Captain of the Guard, Prince Lucian kiggs, fiancé to the new heir to the throne, Glisselda, Serafina’s one friend at court.

 The kingdom of Goredd has had a treaty with dragons for 40 years; dragons are known for their logic and analytical thinking, and do not grasp human emotion. They are thought not to understand music either, but Seraphina’s mother was a musician and Phina inherited her talent. There are those who wish to destroy the treaty and there are worries as the treaty’s anniversary approaches and the leader of the dragons, the Ardmagar , is expected to visit Goredd.

Hartman's background in music and knowledge of Renaissance music informs her writing. It is a complex story with numerous characters, dragon and human, and bears close attention, but the rewards are many.

Seraphina was a 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction Honor Winner.

James Whitman is a "depressed, anxious kid."  He loves to recite the poet Walt Whitman, and to yawp Whitman in the morning, which irritates his dad, the Brute.  He's depressed about a lot of things, but mostly  because his sister was expelled from school and thrown out of the house and is barely making it as a waitress with no car or decent place to live and she can't even keep a phone.   

This could have been a real downer, but Roskos finds humor in the situation which he uses in just the right measure.  dr._Birds_adviceFor a year James has been seeing an imaginary therapist, Dr. Bird, a large, human sized pigeon.   "Pigeon's strike be as good listeners--they discern the voices of mates over the cacophony of the natural world.  They move the right way too.  A pigeon's head-tilts suggest the kids of things that I imagine therapists say: "Really?" or "How did that feel?" or "Tell me more."  Plus: one intense, glassy black-eye staring at me, the neck-bob of agreement, the puffing of feathers when I'm being evasive."

James has a real friend Derek, who maintains their long friendship with James and they help each other, despite Derek being a popular guy.  There's also Beth, a smart girl who heads the poetry journal.  James is attracted to her and almost gets run over by a bus trying to save a bird, all to try and impress her.

With the help of Dr. Bird, Derek, Beth, a real therapist and his sister Jorie, James works his way into dealing with his anxiety and gaining the ability to "Sing the Body Electric" and write his own ode of himself, "America! I Sing to the tiny part of you that I call home."

In case like me you're not really familiar with Walt Whitman and don't know where the word comes from,  he used it in Leaves of Grass,

                                            I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable;    
                                            I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

Plus, Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets has got to be one of the best covers ever.

midwinterbloodMidwinterblood is an overwhelming book in seven sections, starting in 2073 on Blessed Island where Eric Seven, a journalist, has gone to do research.  There he finds people who seem to live forever, where there are no children and where, though he seems to forget why he is there, he recognizes a woman, Merle.  The following six sections take us back through increasingly longer stretches of time, to the time of the vikings and further back with more and more apprehension to the days of sacrificial cults. In each section there is an Eric, a Merle and a Tor or semblances of these names. There is also the Little Blessed Dragon Orchid from which a tea is brewed that that has many properties, often there is a painting and there are hares.  All the stories are connected; there is love, deep love, but also sacrifice and death. An epilogue circles back to the first story. It's an amazing, evocative novel that left me with many questions and the need to reread it.  You can read Midwinterblood in one setting, and it may be even better that way, since you can keep hold of the many parts and how they intertwine.

"The day before my father's arrest, I read an article about a mother who cured her daughter of the Spanish flu burying her in raw onions for three days."

So begins In the Shadow of Blackbirds. The reek of onions follows you and Winters fills this atmospheric story with the in_the_shadow_of_blackbirdscolors of bodies turning purple and black from the flu, the smells in hospitals and veterans' homes and the smell of people with onions around their necks and the sight of people with salt stuffed in their noses and wearing gauze masks.

It's October 14, 1918 when sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black takes the train from Portland to San Francisco to live with her aunt, after her father's been arrested for being a pacifist. Mary finds that her dear friend Stephen has enlisted and will soon be shipping off to France. Her Aunt Eva has been widowed at the young age of twenty-six by the influenza epidemic that is killing thousands and is working in the shipyards. Mary is free to explore on her own. One of my favorite parts is when she spends some time volunteering in a veteran's home passing out tea and reading and speaking to the suffering veterans.

Mary soon find herself amidst the world of spiritualism and spirit photography. Stephen's half brother Julius is a practitioner and a fraud and is always trying to get her to pose for him, particularly after Stephen has died.  Mary is a skeptic, and finds Julius most unsavory. Despite this, Stephen's spirit comes regularly to Mary and she needs to find a way to put them to rest while protecting herself from Julius.

In addition to an interesting and unique plot, which gets a bit bogged down in the middle, there are amazing archival pictures from the trenches of World War I and the streets of San Francisco with masked policemen and ambulance workers at the beginning of each chapter. The typeface of chapters is also artfully done in Art Nouveau fonts and graphic design.  In the Shadow of Blackbirds has it all, ghosts, mystery, romance, horror and history and is due to be released on April 2.  If you liked Libba Bray's The Diviners, you're sure to like this.

Going_VintageMallory's dad is in the resale business and at the beginning of Going Vintage  is involved in cleaning out her dad's mother's house in Orange, Ca. after she's moved into a fancy retirement village. While sorting through her things, Mallory to finds a list of 5 things her grandmother set out to achieve during her junior year in 1962-63 in what Mallory thinks were simpler times.

When Mallory discovers after an evening of too much kissing that her boyfriend Jeremy has not only been cheating on her, but cheating with an online friend, an avatar named BubbleYum, who is his wife on Alternate Life, and that he has a deeper relationship with BubbleYum than he ever did with her she swears off boys. She writes "Jeremy is a tool" on his Friendspace page and so begins his retaliation against her on the Internet and her renunciation of modern technology and an attempt to live like people did in the early 1960's.

Mallory also swears to achieve all the goals on her grandmother's list that she found in her garage:

1. Run for pep club secretary (There is no pep club, so she’ll have to start one)
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming (despite the fact that she doesn't know how to sew)
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous

Each chapter starts with lists. The steady is not for her, Mallory is off of boys. She realizes her life was too much about Jeremy and not enough about who she was and what she wanted. She wants to find one for her sister, Ginnie. Mallory has a lot to learn about herself and her family. Swearing off technology isn't easy and it turns out that technology isn't the problem anyway. Mallory as older sister, seems naive in her expectations;  she's not very grounded and not up to the task of completing her tasks, but she does grow up. Ginnie is a great character.  She seems to do more of the work on the lists than Mallory does.   Funny, hipster Oliver is a terrific. Their grandmother, whose teenage years were not as perfect as Mallory thought, is a great supporting character and the parents are sufficiently annoying though real. Altogether, this was a fun, light read.  Going Vintage is due out March 26.

fire_horse_girlIn Chinese Astrology, girls should never be born in the year of the Fire Horse. They will bring tragedy to their families. Jade Moon was born in the year of the Fire Horse and her first breath was her mother’s last. She is a clumsy, unlucky girl. No one wanted to marry her, so at 17 she is still single. Her father does not want much to do with her. When a stranger, Sterling Promise, arrives in her village and claims to be her father's brother's adopted son she knows nothing of an uncle. Indeed, he shamed the family by running off. He was supposed to have tended the family's rice fields so that her father could become a scholar.

Now this stranger wants her father to travel with him to Hong Kong to meet some shady master and then sail to America? Jade Moon takes her father’s place and goes to America. She sure will have a better life there. That is until she arrives at Angel Island off the coast of San Francisco where she and other Chinese are imprisoned for weeks, months and longer in miserable conditions. In 1923, Chinese immigrants are not welcome in America, and mostly only men are allowed in. On the island the women are kept separate from the men. A moving section from that part of the book is when Sterling Promise secretly brings her to a room full with poems written all over the walls. Jade Moon calls this the burial ground for dreams and realizes that other people have had their dreams broken as well as her.

Being headstrong and full of anger, Jade Moon manages to land in San Francisco disguised as a man and before she knows where she is finds herself caught up with members of a Chinatown tong, or organized syndicate. You’ll have to suspend a great deal of belief here and allow yourself to enjoy the action as Jade Moon gets taken in by a major player in one of the tongs, runs numbers and then comes to understand what she’s gotten herself involved in. The Fire Horse Girl is a great book to read if you like historical fiction with lots of action and romance.

Beautiful_creaturesI regretfully admit that I had no idea about the diamond in the rough that is Beautiful Creatures until I saw its movie preview. Having had my expectations for supernatural romances, or anything with an inkling of a resemblance to this genre, sullied by the Twilight series (sorry Twilight fans), I prepared myself for an under-developed, predictable and superficial story.  However, I couldn’t have been more wrong or more surprised. Just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its movie preview. Yes, Beautiful Creatures does have a strong supernatural romance element to it, but it should not be prematurely written off as a gushy, imploded, I’ll-dive-off-a-cliff-because-somehow-it-makes-me-feel-closer-to-you, love story (cough, Twilight).  Taking place in Gatlin, South Carolina, this book is amazingly well researched, developed, highly original, and, better yet, is part of a series!

After the loss of his mother, Ethan Wate, a 16 year-old high school student at Jackson High, tries to settle back into life in the small town of Gatlin. However, things aren’t the same: Ethan can no longer tolerate his narrow-minded social circle, his father is a recluse and, to make things more complicated, he is haunted by a recurring, vivid dream of a mysterious girl and a foreboding song.

When Lena Duchannes, the new girl and niece of  Macon Ravenwood (Gatlin’s social outcast and declared town freak), enrolls at Jackson High School peculiar events take place: unpredictable weather, windows shatter, light bulbs explode, you get where I'm going with this, right?  Ethan is attracted to Lena despite these odd occurrences upon her arrival and soon discovers that she is not only the girl in his dreams but a  cursed Caster, a witch, whose powers will be chosen for the light or the dark on her 16th birthday.  Together, Ethan and Lena unearth dark, supernatural secrets of Gatlin’s past and become intertwined in what makes for a page-turning, I’ll-stay-up-to -3:30 a.m.-to-finish-this-book, adventure.

Reviewed by Alaina

Mallory is having repeated nightmares and in them she's always running and she can't get all the blood out of her mind.  hysteriaOver the summer she stabbed her boyfriend Brian in her house the events keep returning in her dreams.  She was not convicted because he had broken in and everyone in their Jersey Shore town knew he had a temper.   Still life is difficult for her family; Brian's mother tried to break in and now has a restraining order to keep 200 yards away where she sits in her car day after day. It seems like even her parents seem afraid of her.  Why did they remove the knife block from the kitchen and lock their bedroom door everynight?  And they never open the windows anymore.  

Mallory's parents decide to send her to Monroe, her dad's old boarding school, but even there she can't escape her fears.  She gets tense from the electric buzzing in the hallways and being surrounded by so many trees. Her nightmares continue and she thinks she sees Brian's mother's car.  Each night Mallory wakes with a bruise on her shoulder and she's convinced that someone has been in her room.  Also, Jason, son of the Dean, has it out for her after she rejects him.  The  only thing good about this place is Reid, the son of her father's late roommate. He is kind and understanding, even though she keeps closing doors on him. 

The first lines draw you in, but Miranda doesn't spell it all out right away.  The details of the night Mallory killed Brian are revealed slowly as Mallory herself remembers them.  Hysteria has mystery and intrigue.  it is  a psychological portrait of a girl come undone and then placed in a school with some seriously disturbed people.    The characters are what make this book.  Mallory has deep psychological scars; she is in the process of remembering what happened and at the same time being threatened by something or someone, but she's not sure why.  When a body is found in Mallory's room, who will believe her this time?  Hysteria will be released on February 5 and is on order.

orleansI've never been disappointed in a book by Sherri L. Smith and this is great as well.  Set in a hurricane and fever ravaged (New) Orleans, the  Gulf Coast or Delta as it is called has been quarantined and movement across the separating wall is almost non-existent except for a few smugglers from the Outer States.  Daniel, a scientist with hopes of curing the Fever.  Caught by blood hunters, he is kept captive with a young girl and a baby she is carrying.  Fen, who narrates her stream of the story in a musical Patois, know how to get around this dangerous city where people live in tribes determined by blood type and where being an O+ is dangerous because that means you're a universal-donor and the ABs are always on the hunt for your blood.  Daniel hopes to find a way to do his research and Fen wants to get the baby over the wall and to safety in the Outer States. 

Fearful of each other, but each needing the other to get what they need, they come to help each other out.  Fen takes him through the dangerous but vibrant city.  Even in the midst of disaster there is  a parade on All Saints Day.  They make their way through rooftops, an area where the rooftops are still just below water,  where scavengers go to find pickings floating up from houses and where treading heavily can lead to disaster.

Orleans reads like a dystopian thriller; you can imagine the worse at many turning points, but the language is lush and beautiful.  Smith's mother is from New Orleans and is a Katrina survivor and her connection to the city is palpable.  Orleans is a real treat.  The planned release date is March 7.

eleanor__parkWow, I just finished Eleanor & Park a book about two misfits in love. Eleanor meets Park on the school bus where he is deeply into the music on his his Walkman (it's 1986) and reading a comic book, trying to avoid Steve and Tina behind him.  Eleanor is overweight, has a mop of messy red hair and is dressed in the weirdest thriftstore clothes with pieces of fabric pinned over the holes.  She's dirt poor and her mother is remarried to a maniac (her dad wasn't so great either, he's totally forgotten his kids). No one will let her sit next to them, so she sits next to Park.  She's irksome but funny and Park begins to like her.  When he sees her reading his comics over his shoulder, he begins to share them with her. They are both great characters; their relationship is so full of feeling. When you think you know where it's going,  the book heads off in a surprising way and the last section is amazing.  Eleanor & Park is due out February 26 2013.  If you like quirky characters and romance, don't miss it.  Also, the cover is great!

Eleanor & Park won the 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction Award!

"The day I went to Irving I was the last to leave our house... I mean forever." This great opening line creates the mood of loneliness and dread that defines The Tragedy Paper. Tim's mother and her new husband are going to Italy half way through Tim's last year of high school and Tim is being sent to his stepdad's alma mater, a boarding school.  tragedy_paperTim is a loner; he has always been; he's very self conscious about being albino and has had few friends. On the way to the school he meets a girl, Vanessa, at the airport where they are stranded. He winds up having a great time with her and falls for her but doesn't tell her he's headed to Irving, even though he knows she goes there. Her boyfriend is the most popular guy in the school, and while Tim becomes obsessed about Vanessa, she seems okay with having a secret relationship with him and staying with Patrick, her boyfriend.

We learn the story about Tim from CDs he left the next student to get his room, Duncan. Duncan too is nervous about his senior year. He will have to write his tragedy paper, he has memoirs about some dreadful thing that happened to Tim last year, he avoided Daisy over the summer, and now he has Tim's old room and a bunch of tapes narrated by Tom explaining what happened.

The tragedy paper is a terrific book. It reminds me of The Chocolate War, though it's so different. I guess it's the bullying and the fact that it's so well written. The past and present intertwine with the annual tragedy paper, and tragedy is present throughout. It was hard to put down.  It will be released on January 8.

also_known_asMaggie, aka Peggy, Margaret, Meg and more, the daughter of spies, is a safecracker. She’s been doing this since she was three, and now her family is going to NYC where she will have her first solo assignment. They’re leaving Iceland which was dull, so she’s excited. It turns out that a media mogul is about to publish an article that will uncover the Collective, the spy organization, including Maggie’s family and her job is to get the documents before they’re published. To make the connections needed for the job, Maggie is enrolled in a private school where Jessie, son of said mogul, goes.

Maggie’s never really gone to school and had friends. The first person she meets is fun and snarky Roux, a girl who’s on the outs with everyone there. Roux and Maggie get invited to a party at Jesse’s house where Maggie does some snooping, but more importantly falls head over heels for Jesse. What do you do when you’re supposed to be spying on the father of your new boyfriend and your parents are clamping down on your social life.

Also Known As is a fun book that should be popular with fans of Ally Carter.  Expected publication date is February 26th 2013 by Bloomsbury.

being_henry_davidA boy wakes up in Penn Station with no memory of who he is, no wallet, and a weird guy asking if he can have "that."  That turns out to be a copy of Henry David Thoreau's Walden and the guy is grabbing at it, eating some of the pages when he does get it.   In the station he meets skinny, ugly Jack who gets him to buy him a meal and then  persuades him not to stay the night in the station. Jack asks his name and not wanting to reveal the truth,  he says Henry David. That's how he winds up sleeping behind a dumpster, getting involved in a drug deal gone bad and meeting the man, Magpie, who is using Jeff and his young sister Nessa and plans for Hank to become another of his kids in crime.  It's enough for Henry, who suffering from a knife wound gets out with some money he's stolen and takes the train to Concord, Massachusetts and Walden Pond where the sights and sounds are totally different and where he'll have to find out who he is and what he's done.

The opening of Being Henry David is vivid, with sights, sounds and smells of Penn Station coming alive. I was drawn in right away by the situation Hank finds himself in.  In one scene Armistead paints a graphic picture of what life is like in New York City for kids on the run. 

While Hank sometimes acts out of character, this is an compelling book with an unexpected plot.  The expected publication date is March 1, 2013 by Albert Whitman Teen

Blue has always known that she would kill her true love.  She is the daughter of a psychic and lives with her mom and raven_boysother psychics.  Though not one herself, her presence makes their psychic powers stronger.  Every year on St. Marks eve, Blue goes to the old, isolated ruins of a church with her mother to see the future dead follow on the corpse road.  Tonight she goes with Neeve though, her mother's half-sister.  While Neeve names the future dead, Blue writes down their names.  But tonight, Blue sees one boy.  His name is Gansy and according to Neeve the only reason Blue saw him is "Either you're his true love... or you killed him."  

Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater's richly conceived newest book is a modern day quest tale.  The raven boys attend a boarding school Aglionby Academy, and Gansy is their charismatic leader.  He has been researching ley lines,"straight, invisible energy lines that connected spiritual places" all over the US and in the British Isles.  A wealthy boy, Gansy has the help and loyalty of Adam, a working class student at Aglionby , and Ronan, a somewhat elusive student who likes to fight and who is on the brink of being thrown out of school for his poor grades. Mysterious Noah rounds out his followers.

As Blue joins the quest and gets to know the raven boys, they come alive for us.  Stievater's richly described world resonates.  A  pig car, woods that speak, the Monmouth, an old factory where Gansy lives, Latin classes and three curved lines all make for an intriguing read.

Patrick Ness took up writing this book after it's conceiver, Siobad Dowd died. Dowd was a great writer of YA books including A Sift Pure Cry, Bog Child and Solace of the Road.

monster_callsConnor O'Malley's mum is dying of cancer. Ever since she started her treatments he's been having nightmares of darkness and  screaming wind. Then one night the monster in the yew tree in his back yard smashes the window and comes into his room telling him that he will tell three stories, but then Connor will have to tell the fourth and it must be  the truth. In the morning he finds yew leaves on his floor.

Most incredibly, Connor is being bullied and hit by two guys at school because his mother is sick and he cannot fight back. Connor is isolated and alone, and won't talk to his best friend, Lilly. She was the one responsible for telling that his mother was ill, so now he is invisible at school and friendless. His father lives in the states with his new family and he hates staying with his grandma who just doesn't get him. He has only the monster to pave the way for him to understand how to deal with his mother's sickness.

A Monster Calls is a powerful book and the black ink illustrations by Jim Kay add to this story about the horror of dealing with a dying mother when you're a only thirteen.

The Crown of EmbersImage is a great continuation of The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  The only problem is I’ll have to wait at least 9 or 10 months till the next book comes out.  While the first book has a lot of action in the desert where Elisa had been kidnapped by her maid and then sided with her kidnappers and killed an animagi, here she is returned to Joya d’Arena, Allegro her husband the King has died and she has been named Queen Regeant.  But, all is not peaceful. Ruling is not as easy as fighting in the desert was.  There are numerous attempts on her life; clearly someone in her court is siding with the Inviernos.  Elisa falls in love; she discovers a prophecy of old and sets out on a dangerous quest to find the safira.  The end of the book is a cliff hanger, but we’ll have to wait.


Image of cover of Cinder126 years after World War IV, teenage Cinder is a mechanic, who fixes androids and ports and coms and has a booth In New Beijing’s weekly market.  She is also a cyborg and lives with her selfish stepmother and two half-sisters, one of whom is her best friend.  Prince Kai’s father is dying from the plague which is ravaging the population of New Beijing and all six earthen kingdoms, and the lunar queen Levana wants to extend her power over planet earth by forcing Kai to marry her. Though Cinder’s stepmother accuses her of being human, Cinder comes across as fully human with emotions and feelings that get her into trouble.

Cinder departs in so many ways from the original, yet is tied to it by headings quoting from the original. It is the first of a planned quartet.  This futuristic take on Cinderella is quite enchanting.

Having failed to prove up her late uncle Chester's homestead in Montana, Hattie is found at the opening of this sequel to the 2007hattie_ever_after Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky, as a cleaning lady in a hotel, but not for long.  From Montana she had sent letters to her Uncle Holt, who raised her for 5 years in Iowa, describing her ordeal on the homestead.  He had them published in his hometown newspaper as the Honyockers Homilies and now she has decided to become a reporter.  Hattie grabs the opportunity to go to San Francisco as wardrobe mistress for a traveling variety show,  That's pretty much what feisty Hattie does, grab opportunities and work hard to get what she wants.   

Arriving in San Francisco, Hattie takes a job as a cleaning lady at the Chronicle, an unusual stepping stone to becoming a  reporter, but it gets her inside the paper's morgue where volumes of old issues were kept.  She goes there hoping to find news about her late Uncle Chester,  and winds up learning research skills which will become very handy.  Characters from the first book show up.  Her childhood friend Charlie, home from WWII takes a job in Seattle for Boeing, and visits San Francisco for an air show, one of the most delightful parts of the book.  Perilee, her neighbor and close friend in Montana who taught her how to survive the winter is now living in Seattle and present through the letters Hattie writes to her.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel and though not  as strong as the first book. it is a quick, fun read  especially for those interested in historical fiction and feisty female characters.  Hattie is a delightful character and Larson seems to have left room for a possible sequel.  Let's hope so.  Hattie Ever After will be released on February 12, 2013.


This week is BannedBBW_Read_200x200 Books Week.  You can celebrate it by reading a banned or challenged book. What is a challenged book?  Accordiing to the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, "a challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported."  A banned book has been removed from a library or libraries.

The American Library Association in conjunction with many other groups like the American Booksellers Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the National Council of Teachers of English among many other group highlight Banned Books Week every year as a way to "value of free and open access to information."

Many of the classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby,and Brave New World have been challenged.  It seems like most of the classics have been challenged at some time and place.  More recently the Harry Potter series was the most banned book in America because some people thought it encourage witchcraft.  Banned Books Week celebrates our freedom to read as Americans.

If you happen to be reading or going to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (he also directed the movie),  it was on the Top Ten list of Challenged Books from 2006-2009.  I read this recently and then just saw the movie.  Both were great and while the book has more detail, the actors in the movie were fantastic and really brought it to life.

How to write about Son, the conclusion of The Giver series without spoilers? It was a complete surprise, taking us back to the world of The Giver, which the second and third books did not do.  Written in three parts, Part I takes usson to the community of The Giver, where Claire at her Ceremony of 12 becomes a birthmother and who's child, or product as they call infants, is taken away from her and for whom she yearns. Claire is sent from the Birth home to work in the fisheries, but they have forgotten to give her the forgetting pills.

In part 2 Claire leaves, but is caught by the ocean and washed up to shore inan isolated village where, not knowing her history, she is cared for and then becomes the assistant to the village healer and midwife. As she comes to remember that she had had a son, she begins to yearn for him again and to plan to find him.   Part 3 takes us to Jonas and  the boy whom he saved in The Giver.

Lowry writes so convincingly of a mother's yearning for her son. It is something she has experienced and the rendering here is so soulful.

divinersI really liked this big book by Libba Bray, The Diviners, with its many characters, its setting in 1920s New York City, its twisting complex plot and cinematic thrust.  When Evie O'Neil is sent from her boring Ohio home after one scandalous comment too many to live with her Uncle Will in New York City, she encounters an unusual array of characters with individual secrets.  Not surprising, since she too has a secret.  Evie can tell all sorts of things about a person just by holding something that belongs to them.

Evie is robbed in Grand Central Station by Sam, a skilled pickpocket who later falls for her big time and who comes to have a significant role in the book. She goes to live with her Uncle Will who runs the  Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies." Evie's best friend Mabel also lives in in the Bennington, a residence hotel that has seen better days. She is the complete opposite from Evie and is in love with Evie's
uncle's tall, quiet assistant, Jericho, who is also filled clouded with secrecy.   Another resident of the Bennington is Theta a dancer with the Ziegfield Follies. Other characters include a young man Memphis who runs numbers in Harlem and when younger had the gift of healing.  His brother Isaaiah is able to foretell events.  Bray does a great job of setting the stage of Prohibition New York, though sometimes the 20s slang is  carried too far.

When the police come to the museum to ask Will to help them solve a strange, occult like murder, Evie cannot be deterred.  She goes to the site where the body is and when touching a shoe buckle, gets really a creepy feeling and hears a song about Hungry John.  The murderer comes to be known as the Pentacle Killer. Though a bit too long, the action moves quickly, chapters are short and it's hard to put down.  The main plot was completed and there are lots of threads that are left to develop in the next book.  It can't come out too soon.  There is a movie in the works and there is also a great website which gives you a feeling of the atmosphere of the book.

liarspy“The first thing Dad does is hang the Seurat in our new living room. It’s not a real Seurat, because that would make us millionaires. It’s a poster from a museum. I feel a little better as soon as I see it on the wall above the couch, exactly where it always was at home.   Georges' architect father has recently lost his job, so consequently  his family has sold their home and moved to an apartment a few blocks away in Brooklyn.  He is named after the painter Georges Seurat, whom he calls Sir Ott.

Georges is in middle school and has no friends there; his former friend having started hanging out with the popular crowd.  At school he is teased and bullied mercilessly and called Gorgeous.  But in his apartment building he meets an eccentric family with a boy his age,Safer, and a  10-year-old sister, Candy, with whom he becomes friends.

Georges' mom works double shifts at the hospital everyday, so he never sees her, but they leave each other notes with scrabble pieces like:
"Kangaroos are quiet
Love me"

Rebecca Stead has a unique voice. Liar & Spy has delightful eccentric characters, themes of loneliness, fear, bullying, and family.   "Like Mom says, life is a million different dots making one gigantic picture. And maybe the big picture is nice, maybe it’s amazing, but if you’re standing with your face pressed up against a bunch of black dots, it’s really hard to tell.” 

This will be released on August 7, It's a great book for grade 5 and up.

passengersAstrid Jones' family has moved from NYC to Unity Valley, PA. That's a good name for the town because everyone there is expected to act and feel the same. Astrid's family doesn't fit in, except maybe her seemingly perfect sister Ellie. Her mother is totally weird, she's supposed to be a real estate dealer, but is agoraphobic and never leaves the house, but the weirdest thing is she texts Astrid's best friend and tries that way to control Astrid's love life. Her father is disappointed in his work and marriage, so he gets stoned all the time. But at least the two of them build bird houses together, or used to anyway, much to the disapproval of the townspeople.

Astrid is so full of love but she doesn't know what to do with it so she spends hours laying on the backyard table sending love to passengers in airplanes flying over. She can identify all the different types of planes. Sending love to passengers is so much easier than the people she knows, because there is no push back from them. Interspersed in the novel are details of passengers flying over with love and life problems. At first these sections seem awkward, but we see that  Astrid has a spiritual connection with these passengers.

When Astrid starts fooling around with Dee, a girl from a neighboring town in the cooler at her catering job she feels love for her, but she doesn't like being pushed to go further or declare herself as a lesbian. Astrid's best friend isn't helping in this, but she does have Fred Socrates. she's in the Socrates Cafe and really interested in philosophy, and her conversations with Fred help her find her place in the world.

Ask the Passengers is due out October 23, 2012

This quiet coming-of-age novel, The Summer I Learned to Fly,  is about thirteen-year-old Drew who lives with her widowed mother and is spending hersummer_fly summer working at her mother's fancy cheese shop where she always brings her pet rat Hum, concealed from her mother of course. There's Nick, a nineteen-year-old handsome surfer, motorcycle guy, who works there that she crushes on, but he when he gets a girlfriend she is hurt and starts to ignore him. Then she finds her father's book of lists, lists of his hopes and dreams, learning about him as she never had since he died when she was very young.

She also meets Emmett Crane, a guy who leaves notes on folded cranes, who takes the leftover cheese she throws out in the alley every night.  Emmett shows up randomly, he doesn't seem to have a home or family, has secrets and is sad. He knows lots about rats and loves cheese. With Emmett Drew begins to test the boundaries that her mother has set, to take risks, never in a dangerous way exactly, starting with going on a picnic, secretly, but also getting involved in his quest to find healing waters.

Reinhardt is great at writing stories that get to the heart of peoples' emotions, often teens and single parents.  Usually her books are quiet and thoughtful.  I also recommend How to Build a House.

edgeBecca King has been left on her own at the ferry stop to go to Whidbey Island to live with a friend of her mother Laurel. Leaving her mother she said, “ “You’ll come back,” … “I will,” Laurel promised. “As soon as I can.” But will she? Becca, not her real name, has psychic abilities that ennable her to hear whispers from the minds of other people. Her stepfather used her to listen in on his clients so that he could milk them, but when she figured out that he had committed a crime he knew from her expression that she knew. Becca and her mother had to flee San Diego.

On the ferry Becca sees a young man with whom she clicks, but he’s sitting in a patrol car and she is very wary of the police. Arriving on the island, Becca learns that her mother’s dear friend has died and now has nowhere to stay. She is afraid but does find a place with a woman who has her own secret and tragic history, Everyone on the island seems to have a secret.

One day Becca and Seth her only friend on the island who is a musician and high school dropout go to Saratoga Falls to give his dog a run.    While they are there, Derric, the boy from the ferry and now a classmate, falls, breaking his leg and going into a coma. Derric Nyombe Matheson, a Ugandan orphan who was adopted by the town sheriff, is popular and had been friendly to her on the first day of school, but he is surrounded by others like Jenna who don't want Becca to talk to him. He also has enemies, including boys who trip him in school and Becca’s friend Seth. Somehow Becca is sure she can help Derrick come out of his coma.

The island with its deep, mysterious woods, its farms and small towns comes to life as the mystery unravels. Friendships are built and developed and old wounds are repaired, but with the surprise ending it emerges that this will be a series. I’m pleased as I found the book hard to put down. it’s not a thriller with a rush, but a mystery set among complex characters in a closed and mystical landscape. George’s writing is fluid and captivating.

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George will be released on September 4, 2012

Autumn and Adonis are complete opposites but they’re alike in some ways.  Adonis is brilliant, he gets all A’s and is polite, quiet,the head of the chess club and the wrestling team manager.  Adonis is in a wheelchair because he was born withoutpinned3 legs below his knees, but that doesn’t keep him back.

Autumn is a brilliant wrestler,she can strategize in a second on the mat.  She’s a good friend and a great cook but she can’t do school.  She can’t read and she’s behind in everything else too.  Autumn also loves Adonis and follows, stalk is his word, him everywhere.  He can’t stand her, but for some reason he keeps dreaming about her.  As annoying as she is, she gets under his skin.

Told in alternate voices, this is a very personal view of two teens whose ways of speaking as well are very different, but who find there is something that draws them to each other.  Pinned will be released on Oct. 1 by Scholastic.  It’s a great book for girls who are into sports as well as for reluctant readers.

Divergent by Veronica Roth July 10, 2012

This is quite an exciting book, somewhat along the lines of The Hunger Games.  This society, in a future Chicago, is made up of factions.  Decades before their ancestors had decided that humans were selfish and corrupt so people formed factions, each against what they thought were soceiey’s biggest ills.  Abnegation, the original home of heroine Tris, is selfless; they run the government because they won’t succumb to corruption.  Erudite is made up of intellectuals and they are the researchers. Dauntless are the brave and they protect society, Amity is friendly and they provide the caretakers and counselors for society.  There is also Candor who “provide rustworthy and sound leaders of law.”  

When young people turn 17(??), they must pick a faction and then go through an initiation.   Tris decides to leave her faction and become a Dauntlesss.  She had always admired their bravery when she watched them jumping onto trains and off of buildings.  The initiation is brutal, but as she learns she is really a Divergent, not wholly belonging to one faction, she finds out how dangerous that is, especially with power hungry people like Eric running the show.  Things have changed since the factions were first initiated and there are people that want to discredit Abnegation and Tris’ father.  

me_and_earlIf you’re looking for a really funny book, try Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. "Me" is Greg Gaines, a senior in high school, and who according to him looks “sort of like a pudding… extremely pale and somewhat overweight.” Greg’s secret to not making enemies among any of the many groups at his school is to not really belong to any particular group but to gain access to every group. Of course this won't work if you are seen with a particular group, so he has to be pretty invisible, or as he says, “insanely low-profile.” Greg’s only friend is Earl who is filled with violent rage from his awful home life. The two of them make mediocre films together.

Greg’s life changes when his mom insists that he become friends with Rachel who has leukemia. It turns out that he becomes “really good at cheering up Rachel” even though he didn’t want to get involved. His awkwardness at speaking is hysterical and Gaines uses humor Greg, Earl and Rachel to grapple with big issues. The set  up is similar to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, but the similarity ends there.