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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

I sit here writing this nearly 10 hours after finishing the novel, it is still sticking with me.  This was a wonderfully told story about two best friends that are each a part of a terrible crime.  One of them is in a detention center while the other is free to live her life.  It becomes a ghost story as her past is there to make sure that her life is not as free as she believes it is.  While it is a ghost story, it is not a horror story, but this one will haunt your thoughts for quite a while after you put it down.  I highly recommend it!

From Amazon:

 “Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries . . .

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

In prose that sings from line to line,Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

What a beautiful story.  Ruta Sepetys gives us the story of a tragedy lost in history, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  The story is told from the vantage point of four different characters: a refugee trying to get back to her family, a young mother with a terrible secret, a German soldier with an inflated idea of his ability, and a German soldier who has decided he doesn't agree with what his country is doing.  They all come together seamlessly in this tale of tragedy.  Yet it is also a story full of hope for what the future holds.  She said something at ALAN that has stuck with me, and she says it again in the "Author's Note" at the end of the book: "History divided us, but through reading we can be united in story, study, and remembrance.  Books join us together as a global reading community, bu more important, a global human community striving to learn from the past.  This title isn't released until February 2, 2016, so if you are interested in reading it before then, let me know and you can read it now (I have 2 copies).

From Amazon:

For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, international bestselling author Ruta Sepetys returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
Told in alternating points of view, and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson's critically acclaimed #1 New York Times bestseller Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein's Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff--the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Damn this book!  When I finished it, I bawled like a baby.  Orbiting Jupiter is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.  We see this troubled child, Joseph, and we desperately want something good to happen to him.  He is placed with a loving family who helps him to trust and love again, but his desire to see the daughter he has never met becomes too great.  When his determination becomes too strong, it leads Joseph on a journey to find Jupiter and see her for the first time.  If you want to shed a few tears, this is the book for you!

From Amazon:

 The two-time Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt delivers the shattering story of Joseph, a father at thirteen, who has never seen his daughter, Jupiter. After spending time in a juvenile facility, he’s placed with a foster family on a farm in rural Maine. Here Joseph, damaged and withdrawn, meets twelve-year-old Jack, who narrates the account of the troubled, passionate teen who wants to find his baby at any cost. In this riveting novel, two boys discover the true meaning of family and the sacrifices it requires.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

The tag line for this book is "The closer you look, the more you see."  It is a line that is repeated several times throughout the book, and for good reason.  This book is based on the terrible events that took place in Steubenville, Ohio in 2012.  It was a powerful read and makes an important point about the culture of high school sports and the importance it has, especially in small towns.  I really feel this is a book that is important for kids to read.  Aaron Hartzler does a wonderful job of making us question what should really be important in our schools and makes us take a look at how victims are treated, especially when those who have been accused are the people we know.  In the end, it is a powerful lesson about being strong enough to do the right thing. 

From Amazon:

Critically acclaimed memoirist Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice, takes an unflinching look at what happens to a small town when some of its residents commit a terrible crime. This honest, authentic debut novel—inspired by the events in the Steubenville rape case—will resonate with readers who've ever walked that razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.
The party at John Doone's last Saturday night is a bit of a blur. Kate Weston can piece together most of the details: Stacey Stallard handing her shots, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early. . . . But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills's shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn't have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate's classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can't be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same questions: Who witnessed what happened to Stacey? And what responsibility do they have to speak up about what they saw?
National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti calls What We Saw "a smart, sensitive, and gripping story about the courage it takes to do what's right."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Wow!  This one was such a great read.  As King will tell you herself, it is weird and strange, but so powerful.  You have to just let this one sit for a while after reading it.  It is a story told by four teenagers.  The each have their own oddity about them, such as China who has swallowed herself.  Each of these kids has dealt with some form of trauma in their lives and are trying to figure out how to deal with it and be able to live a normal life.  It is a wonderfully told story that is not only powerful, but so important.  It is a book that so many kids should read about dealing with the trauma of their lives and crawling through it to come to a better place.  I can't recommend this book enough!

From Amazon:

Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening.

So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away...but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it.

The genius of acclaimed author A.S. King reaches new heights in this groundbreaking work of surrealist fiction; it will mesmerize readers with its deeply affecting exploration of how we crawl through traumatic experience-and find the way out.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano

I was really excited to read this one.  I don't read a lot of horror, but I love a good ghost story.  The cover of this book really grabbed my attention.  I wish the rest of the novel would have done the same.  It wasn't the worst book I have ever read, but it wasn't what I was hoping for.  With the exception of the "Editor's Note" and the Afterword, it is told exclusively through the journal of Paige Blanton.  She has moved to a small town in Idaho, with her mom and little brother, after her parents got divorced.  The house they live in is very old and as we learn later has an interesting history.  Weird things happen in the house, like cell phones acting up and groceries disappearing, but nothing too frightening.  Sure, there were some scenes in the book that were a little creepy, but these had to do more with spiders and flies than anything supernatural.  If you are looking for a decent story about a weird house and it's history, give it a try.  If you are looking for a great ghost story, you may want to look elsewhere.

From Amazon:

 In the tradition of Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project, an American teen recounts the strange events that occur after she moves into a new—and very haunted—home with her family in this chilling diary that features photos and images of what she experienced.

Letters, photographs, and a journal…all left behind in the harrowing aftermath.

Following her parents’ high-profile divorce, Paige and her brother are forced to move to Idaho with their mother, and Paige doesn’t have very high hopes for her new life. The small town they’ve moved to is nothing compared to the life she left behind in LA. And the situation is made even worse by the drafty old mansion they’ve rented that’s filled with spiders and plenty of other pests that Paige can’t even bear to imagine.

Pretty soon, strange things start to happen around the house—one can of ravioli becomes a dozen, unreadable words start appearing on the walls, and Paige’s little brother begins roaming the house late at night. And there’s something not right about the downstairs neighbor who seems to know a lot more than he’s letting on.

Things only get creepier when she learns about the cult that conducted experimental rituals in the house almost one hundred years earlier. The more Paige investigates, the clearer it all becomes: there’s something in the house, and whatever it is…and it won’t be backing down without a fight.

Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

It took me a while, but I have finally finished the third and final book in the Miss Peregrine's series.  If you are a fan of the first two books, you will love this one just as much.  It is action packed, as Jacob and Emma try to save all of Peculiardom.  We finally see the full extent of Jacob's powers, but we also see all the power the wights are trying to harness in order to rule the world.  As in the previous books, the pictures play a wonderful part of this novel and Ransom Riggs is able to weave a wonderful tale while using the pictures in a stunning way.  This one will stick with you for a while.

From Amazon:

Time is running out for the Peculiar Children. With a dangerous madman on the loose and their beloved Miss Peregrine still in danger, Jacob Portman and Emma Bloom are forced to stage the most daring of rescue missions. They’ll travel through a war-torn landscape, meet new allies, and face greater dangers than ever. . . . Will Jacob come into his own as the hero his fellow Peculiars know him to be? This action-packed adventure features more than 50 all-new Peculiar photographs.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

I forgot about this one from the summer, but I have no idea how.  How do you forget about a book as weird, as crazy, and as entertaining as The Alex Crow?  In typical Andrew Smith fashion, he gives the reader a story that involves many different characters in many different places, and in the case of this story, even different time periods.  What he does so well is bring all of those things together in a way that is funny, thrilling, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at the same time.  I can't say I have ever read anything from Andrew Smith that I didn't just enjoy immensely. 

From Amazon:

Andrew Smith is the Kurt Vonnegut of YA . . . [Smith’s novels] are the freshest, richest, and weirdest books to hit the YA world in years.” —Entertainment Weekly

Skillfully blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, award-winning Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith chronicles the story of Ariel, a refugee who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel's story is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century . . . and a depressed, bionic reincarnated crow.

Monday, September 28, 2015

As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka

This is the first book in what is known as The Snow White Trilogy.  It has nothing to do with the old fairy tale, but by the end of the book you will understand where that name comes from.  The author is from Finland and it was originally written in Finnish and translated to English.  Because of that, the names of the characters and the places where the story takes place are all unfamiliar.  With all that being said, it doesn't matter.  This is a pretty fast paced novel with a strong and very likable female heroin.  Lumikki is a great character that you definitely want to root for as she tries to unravel the mystery that she has been thrust into. 

From Amazon:

In the midst of the freezing Arctic winter, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson walks into her school’s dark room and finds a stash of wet, crimson-colored money. Thousands of Euros left to dry—splattered with someone’s blood.

Lumikki lives alone in a studio apartment far from her parents and the past she left behind. She transferred into a prestigious art school, and she’s singularly focused on studying and graduating. Lumikki ignores the cliques, the gossip, and the parties held by the school’s most popular and beautiful boys and girls.

But finding the blood-stained money changes everything. Suddenly, Lumikki is swept into a whirlpool of events as she finds herself helping to trace the origins of the money. Events turn even more deadly when evidence points to dirty cops and a notorious drug kingpin best known for the brutality with which he runs his business.

As Lumikki loses control of her carefully constructed world, she discovers that she’s been blind to the forces swirling around her—and she’s running out of time to set them right. When she sees the stark red of blood on snow, it may be too late to save her friends or herself.

As White as Snow by Salla Simukka

The second book in the Snow White trilogy, this novel again finds Lumikki involved in some dangerous business that she should not be anywhere near.  During this adventure, she finds herself staring down evil and corruption in the beautiful city of Prague.  It is a fast paced action thriller that reads very quickly.  The third book in the trilogy, As Black as Ebony, has been released and I do own it, although I have yet to read it.  Soon.....I hope.

From Amazon:

Book 2 in the Snow White trilogy.

The heat of the summer sun bakes the streets of Prague, but Lumikki’s heart is frozen solid.

Looking to escape the notoriety caused by the part she played in taking down Polar Bear’s crime ring, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson escapes to Prague, where she hopes to find a few weeks of peace among the hordes of tourists. But not long after arriving, she’s cornered by a skittish and strange young woman who claims to be her long-lost sister. The woman, Lenka, is obviously terrified, and even though Lumikki doesn’t believe her story—although parts of it ring true—she can’t just walk away.

Lumikki quickly gets caught up in Lenka’s sad and mysterious world, uncovering pieces of a mystery that take her from the belly of a poisonous cult to the highest echelons of corporate power. On the run for her life again, Lumikki must use all her wits to survive, but in the end, she just may discover she can’t do it all alone.

The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco

I am a fan of the paranormal, but horror/ghost stories are not usually the first genre I pick up and read.  I think it was the book cover that got my attention.  As expected, it is dark, dreary, and at times violent.  If you are a fan of scary stories or scary movies (in particular "The Ring" as it is connected, but not the same story), you will enjoy this one.  It probably won't keep you up at night, but the creepiness factor is definitely there.  There is a sequel titled The Suffering that I have not yet read, but it is definitely on my list

From Amazon:

I am where dead children go.

Okiku is a lonely soul. She has wandered the world for centuries, freeing the spirits of the murdered-dead. Once a victim herself, she now takes the lives of killers with the vengeance they're due. But releasing innocent ghosts from their ethereal tethers does not bring Okiku peace. Still she drifts on.

Such is her existence, until she meets Tark. Evil writhes beneath the moody teen's skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. While his neighbors fear him, Okiku knows the boy is not a monster. Tark needs to be freed from the malevolence that clings to him. There's just one problem: if the demon dies, so does its host.

The Cemetary Boys by Heather Brewer

This one was a little different, but definitely enjoyable.  It's pretty dark, but had a fun and adventurous side to it as well.  As Stephen adjusts to life in his father's small home town, he begins to find out that this little town has so deep, dark secrets.  This one definitely had some twists and turns that I did not see coming.  

From Amazon:

Part Hitchcock, part Hinton, this first-ever stand-alone novel from Heather Brewer, New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, uses classic horror elements to tell a darkly funny coming-of-age story about the dangerous power of belief and the cost of blind loyalty.

When Stephen's dad says they're moving, Stephen knows it's pointless to argue. They're broke from paying Mom's hospital bills, and now the only option left is to live with Stephen's grandmother in Spencer, a backward small town that's like something out of The Twilight Zone. Population: 814.

Stephen's summer starts looking up when he meets punk girl Cara and her charismatic twin brother, Devon. With Cara, he feels safe and understood—and yeah, okay, she's totally hot. In Devon and his group, he sees a chance at making real friends. Only, as the summer presses on, and harmless nights hanging out in the cemetery take a darker turn, Stephen starts to suspect that Devon is less a friend than a leader. And he might be leading them to a very sinister end. . . .

Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

This one was a lot of fun.  This is a thriller that keeps you guessing until the end.  Max is a likable kid, so he can't really be the killer, can he?  All the signs are pointing to him, but surely it wasn't really him, right?  If you like mysteries that keep you wondering what is really going on, give Liars, Inc. a read. 

From Amazon:

A dark and twisted psychological tale, which Kirkus Reviews called "captivating to the very end" in a starred review—perfect for fans of I Hunt Killers and Gone Girl.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money. So with the help of his friend Preston and his girlfriend, Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something, and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn't think twice about it. But then Preston never comes home. And the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead to Preston's body.

Terrifying clues that point to Max as the killer….

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg

What a name for a novel, right?  How can you not read a book with a title like that?  It sucked me in, and I am glad that it did.  This book was a fun adventure starting at the zoo in Billings, Montana and ending up in San Francisco.  Along that journey, both Carson and Aisha are in search of different things, from family history to acceptance to God.  Watching their evolution both as people and as friends was well worth the journey.

From Amazon:

The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can't have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn't really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who's long held a secret regarding Carson's grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson's dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the "Porcupine of Truth" in all of their lives.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oaks

A read from this summer, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, is a dark, gritty, and at many times heartbreaking story.  Minnow Bly has no hands, since they were cut off at the order of her cult leader, Kevin.  When their campgrounds end up burning and their leader winds up dead, she may be the only person that can tell the authorities why.  It is a powerful novel and often times hard to read, knowing that the situation of Minnow Bly is too real.  I really enjoyed it, but go if you read it, go in knowing that it will not always be an enjoyable ride.  

From Amazon:

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Gorgeously written, breathlessly page-turning and sprinkled with moments of unexpected humor, this harrowing debut is perfect for readers of Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me and Nova Ren Suma's The Walls Around Us, as well as for fans of Orange is the New Black.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

This is a book I read this summer and I loved this book so much.  I can't remember a book that had so many powerful lines.  Mim is a character you will love.  She is funny and quirky and takes the journey of a lifetime from Mississippi to Cleveland in order to visit her sick mom.  Along the way she meets an amazing cast of characters, each unique in their own way.  I cannot recommend this book enough.    

From Amazon:

I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, Mosquitoland is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

Stand Off by Andrew Smith

Stand Off is the sequel to Winger, Andrew Smith's amazing introduction of Ryan Dean West.  I loved Winger with a passion, one of my favorite books ever, so I have been greatly anticipating the sequel since Smith announced it on Twitter many months ago.  I was not disappointed.  Ryan Dean is back for his Senior year at Pine Mountain, scarred by the horrible tragedy of the previous school year.  Not only does he have to deal with the memories, he is now the roommate of a Ryan Dean replica in the form of 12 year old Sam Abernathy.  Watching Ryan Dean fight his demons is both heartbreaking and inspiring as he figures out who he is and who he really wants to be.  I loved it almost as much as I loved Winger!

From Amazon:

Ryan Dean West is back to his boarding school antics in this bitingly funny sequel to Winger, which Publishers Weekly called “alternately hilarious and painful, awkward and enlightening” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

It’s his last year at Pine Mountain, and Ryan Dean should be focused on his future, but instead, he’s haunted by his past. His rugby coach expects him to fill the roles once played by his lost friend, Joey, as the rugby team’s stand-off and new captain. And somehow he’s stuck rooming with twelve-year-old freshman Sam Abernathy, a cooking whiz with extreme claustrophobia and a serious crush on Annie Altman—aka Ryan Dean’s girlfriend, for now, anyway.

Equally distressing, Ryan Dean’s doodles and drawings don’t offer the relief they used to. He’s convinced N.A.T.E. (the Next Accidental Terrible Experience) is lurking around every corner—and then he runs into Joey’s younger brother Nico, who makes Ryan Dean feel paranoid that he’s avoiding him. Will Ryan Dean ever regain his sanity?

From the author of the National Book Award–nominated 100 Sideways Miles, which Kirkus Reviews called “a wickedly witty and offbeat novel,” Stand-Off is filled with hand-drawn infographics and illustrations and delivers the same spot-on teen voice and relatable narrative that legions of readers connected with in Winger.