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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.