In the quiet and picturesque town of Painters Mill, Ohio there is a thriving Amish community. These families have strong religious beliefs and shun the use of electricity, cars, and motorized farming equipment. They lead a simple life by relying on the land, and they have minimal interaction with outsiders. One would think such a peaceful place would be unfamiliar with the darker side of human nature, but sadly one would be mistaken. Linda Castillo has created an exciting mystery series situated in this bucolic setting, which has seen a crazed serial killer targeting both Amish and English women, a horrific home invasion, and hate crimes. The disappearance of young Amish teens is the focus of her latest release Gone Missing.
The Painter’s Mill Sheriff’s Department, though small, has a valuable and effective tool at its disposal to assist in solving crimes that involve the Amish. Her name is Chief Kate Burkholder, and along with her experience as a big-city law enforcement officer, she also was raised Amish. The plain folk have a natural distrust of law enforcement and few people are in the position to cope with the clash of cultures and ideals as Chief Burkholder.
Gone Missing is the fourth Amish mystery written by Castillo, though it is not necessary to read them in chronological order. In each, she provides a concise backstory that summarizes her protagonists’ personal demons and the inner battle to keep them in check. Sworn to Silence, the first Kate Burkholder novel, is under production by the Lifetime network as a two-hour movie starring Neve Campbell, with the possibility of it becoming a regular series. Interesting, informative, and chilling, these mysteries may not represent a serene drive in the country, but they are definitely worth the trip.
Seraphina is a quiet, lonely teenager, a gifted musician, and the keeper of a dangerous secret. She works in the palace as an assistant to the court composer and teaches music lessons to the Princess, all the while keeping her true identity hidden. Seraphina is part dragon. Rachel Hartman’s novel Seraphina is a richly-detailed and cleverly written fantasy that brings new life to these mythical creatures. Hartman’s dragons are coldly intellectual, mathematically brilliant, but most strikingly, they are able to take on human form.
In the land of Goredd, there is a deep-seated distrust between the humans and the dragon community. The tenuous truce they share is threatened when Prince Rufus is murdered in a very dragon-like manner, his body found decapitated. The rising tensions make for a volatile atmosphere leading up to the celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty. And right in the middle of the political intrigue, the heated encounters between the dragons and humans, is Seraphina. She teams up with Prince Kiggs, the Captain of the Guard, in an attempt to discover who is trying to sabotage the peace agreement and restart the war.
This debut novel made the New York Times bestseller list in its first week of release. Seraphina has been praised by popular fantasy writers and notable dragon experts Tamora Pierce and Christopher Paolini. Experience the well-rounded characters, the intricate plot, the raw emotions, and fall under its spell.
Philippa Gregory has launched a new series with her most recent novel Changeling. She is the New York Times bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl, among many other titles. This historical fiction, however, is written with the teen audience in mind. In a departure from her previous books, which were based on actual people from the era of Tudor England, Gregory decided to have some fun and develop a story around completely fictional characters. The novel explores the myths and superstitions that predominate the Medieval period, when the Church believed the end of days was imminent.
It is 1453, and these are dark times in Christendom. Constantinople, the religious capital of the east has just fallen to the Ottoman Empire. Evil seems to be infiltrating Europe from all sides, and for the most part, the church appears powerless to stop its advancement. Pope Nicholas V has established a secret group called the Order of Darkness, whose task is to travel the countryside and investigate strange happenings, discover the mysteries that plague the people, and report back to Rome. This is Luca Vero’s assignment. He is an Inquirer for the Church and in the first story alone encounters witchcraft, madness, and werewolves.
During his quest he is accompanied by his witty and entertaining manservant Freize, and Brother Peter, a clerk of the church. Through the course of their adventures they are joined by Isolde, a displaced noblewoman, and her best friend Ishraq, a Moor with whom she has grown up. This very diverse band travels together while Luca attempts to ascertain what people fear, and investigate unusual happenings in a constant search for the truth. Gregory has written an entertaining story with likeable characters that teens will enjoy. If you find your copy of Changeling is missing, check your parents' room!
The Maya calendar counts down to the end of the fourth age of man. Doomsayers believe that this means the end of the world is coming in December 2012. The novel 12.21 by Dustin Thomason is a thrilling story that will have many wondering if we all aren’t just a twist of fate away from the end of life as we know it.
In 12.21 Dr. Gabriel Stanton is experiencing a typical day in his lab at the Center for Disease Control in Los Angeles when he receives a shocking phone call from a local hospital. A patient has presented with the symptoms of Prion disease, an extremely rare, highly contagious, and rapidly-progressing sickness. What follows next is a tense and exciting tale as scientists race the clock to determine the origin of the contamination and how it is transmitted. The main symptom is insomnia, which after several days leads to seizures, dementia, and death. Those infected have no hope of survival, as there is no cure. Ultimately the entire city of Los Angeles is quarantined.
Meanwhile Chel Manu, an expert in Mayan antiquities at the Getty Museum, is made custodian of an ancient codex. The dealer who acquired this artifact also develops symptoms of the disease and Gabriel and Chel work together to determine if there could be a connection to the devastating outbreak. With so much technological advancement, could the answer to the epidemic be found in a fabled lost Mayan City?
This is Thomason’s second novel, having co-authored the international best-seller The Rule of Four with Ian Caldwell in 2004. Thomason has also been the executive producer for multiple television series including Lie to Me. 12.21 is a fantastic story that readers will not want to put down until the last captivating page.
Whether graduating from high school or from college, the future is an exciting adventure waiting to be discovered. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, by Kat Rosenfield, permits readers to share in both of these experiences through its main characters. At the start of the story, Becca has graduated with honors from high school. She has waited her entire life for this moment, when she can finally cut the strings to her small, backward town and move on to a bigger and better life. She only has a few months of summer to endure before starting college in the fall. In alternating chapters, the reader simultaneously experiences the story of Amelia, who has just graduated from college. Amelia is eager and excited about the prospects of graduate school and an acting career beyond that. Both young women are filled with hope and expectations; however one of their stories will be tragically cut short.
As stated in the title, Amelia Anne dies, a victim of violent crime. Her beaten body is discovered on an isolated road, not far from where Becca lives. The murder of this young woman traumatizes Becca and suddenly the world seems too frightening to venture out into. Rosenfield has crafted a unique story that is part character study and part mystery, which explores the nuances of small town life, relationships, and the blackness that can dwell in the heart of men. This is a haunting tale that will keep readers spellbound as the story of these two girls culminates in an amazing and unexpected conclusion.
Something dark and sinister is happening in Niceville, the newest book by Carsten Stroud. On the surface, this is a lovely old community in the Deep South. Niceville is filled with beautiful Victorian houses on streets lined with majestic live oak trees, decorated in drapes of Spanish moss. Many of the inhabitants are descendants of the original four families, which founded the town in 1764. However, there is an underlying current of malevolence in this picturesque hamlet. Something evil transpired in the past and it continues to haunt the residents.
The story begins with the disappearance of a child on his way home from school. A surveillance camera records his last sighting outside of a pawnshop, and an instant later he vanishes. Readers discover that Niceville has an exorbitantly high number of missing persons’ cases, all relatives of the founding families. Even more questions are raised when the child is discovered ten days later, alive, in a sealed crypt. Additional storylines involve a horrific traffic accident, a bank robbery and the murder of multiple police officers, blackmail, and espionage.
An ominous presence seems to envelope Niceville, bringing out the worst in its inhabitants. This novel is a unique blend of supernatural thriller, crime drama, and mystery. Stroud cleverly weaves all of the disparate storylines together into a compelling read. Niceville is certain to be a popular book club selection, with the assurance of lively discussions regarding the many intriguing aspects of this tale.
Readers who enjoy stories filled with magic and supernatural beings, action and adventure, will be thrilled to discover the novels created by Julie Kagawa. Her initial teen series, The Iron Fey, has a loyal and enthusiastic following. The novels chronicle the adventures of Meghan, who is half fairy and half human. She finds herself thrust into the ongoing clash between the Winter and Summer fairy realms. The factions are forced to unite in order to battle the threat of a mutual foe: the Iron fey. These are a malicious new breed of fairy born of the dreams of the information age and man’s quest for technological superiority. In addition to the constant action of the story, there is a tragic love triangle that will have people rooting for their favorite character. This riveting plot earned Kagawa’s story The Iron King the RITA Award in 2011 for Young Adult Romance.
After completing the final book in the Iron Fey series, Kagawa took on the challenge of another mythical creature, the vampire. Teen vampires are a topic authors have visited many times, but in the hands of Kagawa, she has crafted an original novel that is as captivating as it is exciting. The Immortal Rules is the first novel in The Blood of Eden series. This is not a fantasy world of flowers and bunnies, but rather of perilous journeys and vicious monsters. A virus threatens both vampires and humans alike, with those infected transforming into mutant-like creatures. The main character is a recently transformed vampire who struggles with self-loathing, but values her life too much to end it. Keeping her vampirism a secret, she joins a ragtag group of humans hunting for a cure to the virus.
According to Publisher’s Weekly: “Kagawa wraps excellent writing and skillful plotting around a well-developed concept and engaging characters, resulting in a fresh and imaginative thrill-ride that deserves a wide audience.”
Historical fiction offers a window into the past for readers to experience the lives and circumstances of people during a previous era. The pleasure of acquiring a more comprehensive knowledge of an earlier time period has fans of this genre always on alert for the next great book. Glow, by Jessica Maria Tuccelli, is just such a book. Set in the remote mountain region of Hopewell County, Georgia, the novel chronicles both the childhood of Amelia McGee and her family’s story from before the War of Northern Aggression to the outbreak of World War II. This is an all-encompassing family saga told from multiple perspectives, and the reader will appreciate the family tree included at the beginning of the novel.
In the Takatoka forest, once occupied by the Cherokee, Indian legends are as commonplace as Bible stories. The community is made up of whites, freed slaves, half-breeds, mulattos, voodoo practitioners, and the occasional ghost. Glow is an intricately woven tapestry of folklore and heritage, rich with the colloquialisms of this unique region. Tuccelli spent several years exploring Northeastern Georgia to soak up the local flavor and she utilizes beautifully descriptive and jargon-filled vocabulary to paint an authentic portrait of bygone days.
At the core of this character-driven story is love, especially the joy and the heartbreak associated with everlasting love and the strong bonds which mothers and fathers share with their children. The classic theme of family and friendship engages readers of all genres and leaves them with the feeling of having personally been woven into the author's tapestry. This is one of those books that you don’t want to end.
Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to stroll through the elaborately appointed rooms of the Titanic on its maiden voyage, or dine alongside extravagantly dressed women and some of the wealthiest people in the world? Did you ever consider what Old Shanghai may have been like for a crew of sailors after months at sea, or speculate about one of its infamous opium dens? What about envisioning how it must have felt to be alive during the early days of the twentieth century in affluent Boston, where social standards defined every aspect of your life? The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe is a masterfully woven tale that encompasses all of these settings and more.
The story is set in the years preceding World War I and revolves around lives of the Allston family. The mother and youngest daughter have perished on Titanic’s ill-fated crossing 3 years previous, and the eldest daughter Sibyl continues to struggle with their loss. Her mother’s death has forced her into the role of family caretaker. She and her father are residing in the family’s brownstone in Boston’s wealthy Back Bay region when her younger brother abruptly returns home from school under mysterious circumstances. Sibyl has taken to attending séances hoping to contact her Mother, seeking both comfort and advice regarding her brother.
This story moves between different time periods, telling the back story of Mr. Allston when he was a young sailor and the account of the Titanic passengers. Howe effectively weaves all of these plots into a complete, cohesive, and interesting story. Her thorough descriptions and authentic flare make each scene come to life. No details are spared in this enchanting historical novel that will capture your imagination and your heart.
Being different from everyone is never easy. Lena Mattagascar has struggled with this situation her entire life. She was born with extremely long and narrow hands and feet. Her digits each have an extra section giving her hands a long spider-like appearance. Lena attempts to hide this abnormality by wearing gloves and keeping her feet hidden by long skirts. At an early age the family physician diagnosed her condition as “goblinism” and ever since then she has been anxious that she may, in fact, be a Peculiar.
The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry is a fun combination of fantasy and steampunk, self-discovery and adventure. On her 18th birthday, Lena decides to leave her home in the City to travel to Scree, a remote and sparsely populated wilderness region to the far north. It is rumored that Peculiars, the outcasts of society, reside there. Her quest is to find her father who abandoned the family when she was only 5. He was rumored to have been a Peculiar, and if this proves to be true it will confirm her worst fears. Lena has been told that Peculiars have no soul, have wild thoughts, and a temper. She worries her goblin genes will overtake her in her sleep and watches closely for changes in her behavior.
Is she or isn’t she, the question keeps presenting itself throughout the novel. Are her physical characteristics just an anomaly or signs of the dreaded genetic disease? Is being a goblin a physical condition or just a term for evil behavior? This unique story, with likable characters and stunning descriptions, is an adventure that will have you re-evaluating your own definition of acceptance and what it means to belong.