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A Charmed Encounter

Cover art for The Fire WishFormer intelligence officer Amber Lough is trying her hand as an author of young adult fantasy with The Fire Wish. The backdrop for this book is the Middle East in a time full of mysticism and intrigue. The humans live in and around Baghdad while the jinni population inhabits a sprawling underground cavern.

 

The chapters of this novel alternate between two 16-year-old girls, Zayele and Najwa. Zayele’s father arranged for her to marry Kamal and become a princess of Baghdad, but the prospect of living this sheltered existence seems stifling to her free-spirited tendencies. In what seems like another world, Najwa is weighed down with responsibility and, while she is ready to rise to the occasion, she finds her abilities suppressed by the elders in her community. Both girls are caught in a war between the jinni and the humans. When the desperate Zayele makes an impulsive wish, it forever alters both of their lives and connects them in ways they never thought possible.

 

The Fire Wish is the first installment of Lough’s new series, and this dual perspective, fast paced fantasy contains everything from action and adventure to romance. Fans of Cinda Williams Chima’s The Demon King will surely find this book just as magical.

Randalee

 
 

Night and Day

Night and Day

posted by:
June 16, 2014 - 7:00am

Plus OneIn 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic had such a profoundly devastating impact that drastic measures had to be taken to stem the infection, Elizabeth Fama’s new young adult novel Plus One covers this period in history. To keep up with the additional demands brought on by the pandemic, many more medical professionals were brought in and worked in shifts divided by night and day. This dual system worked so well in the medical field that it was integrated into other industries and finally the government.

 

Though the system was first designed with equality in mind, over time things changed. Day became the sought after curfew, offering better jobs and more economic advantages. Sol wanted nothing more than for her grandfather to see his first grand baby, but with her brother being day and she and her grandfather being night, the task was almost insurmountable.

 

Sol had almost no plan when she set out on her mission, so it was no surprise that an adventure ensues. This young adult novel follows Sol as she is betrayed by someone she’s supposed to love, loves someone she’s expected to hate and finds strength in unlikely places. Fama creates a fast-paced and compelling story with compassionate characters and an unexpected ending. Fans of the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth should check out this standalone dystopian novel.

Randalee

 
 

More and More Peculiar

Cover art for Hollow CityAs a boy, Jacob Portman was always spellbound by the stories his grandfather told him about children with strange powers who lived in an isolated house on a Welsh island. After his grandfather’s violent death, he receives a mysterious letter from a Miss Peregrine, travels to the island and discovers that his grandfather’s stories — and the children — are very much real. So what happens next to the Peculiar Children? Ransom Riggs’ much-anticipated new book, Hollow City, is the second book and sequel to his bestselling novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. In Hollow City, Jacob and the peculiar friends he meets in the first book have escaped Miss Peregrine’s island and are now traveling to 1940s war-era London. Their purpose for the journey is to try to help Miss Peregrine who, thanks to a spell, is now in bird-form. Along the way, they make new friends, become acquainted with some truly unique people and animals, and continue to battle the monsters who threaten the Peculiars’ existence.

 

Similar to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the characters in Hollow City have matured, and the issues and relationships they face have also become more serious. There is a balance of fast-paced suspense and horror melded with lighter and touching moments of friendships and loyalties, making this book and its predecessor good picks for both those who like fantasy or realistic fiction. Riggs continues the practice of using old, strange and, in some cases, disturbing vintage photographs to tell a story that combines real history with the fantastical. As many reviewers have pondered, in a “chicken or egg” fashion, did the photographs inspire the story or did the story create a search for unique photographs which would enhance the plot?

 

The film adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton, is in development, and is due out in 2015.

Melanie

 
 

Origin Story

DangerousMaisie’s middle name is Danger because her parents thought it would be funny, but she embraces her middle name when she goes on the adventure of her life. Dangerous, a new novel by award-winning author Shannon Hale, is fraught with adventure and gripping storylines, a combination that makes it hard to put down.

 

Maisie has always dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and even though she’s never heard of a one-armed astronaut, she’s not going to let that stop her from trying. It’s no surprise that when she spots a contest for astronaut camp on a box of cereal she enters immediately, but winning the contest changes her life more drastically than she could have ever anticipated. 

 

After arriving at astronaut camp, Maisie is assigned a fire team to work with. Her team excels, and because it finishes in the top spot, it is given an opportunity to visit a launch site owned by the sponsors. Upon arriving, each member of her team is unexpectedly given a token beyond anything from this world, and it’s a gift they can’t give back.

 

With these tokens comes a new sense of purpose and responsibility. The group must learn how to use its gifts and work together to accomplish a common goal. The goal is at first ambiguous, causing the fire team to slowly weaken as a group and its members to go their own way. However, the team leader must learn how to reunite the group in an effort to have a positive global impact.

Randalee

 
 

Gothic, Punk Wonderland

Unhinged by A.G. HowardA.G. Howard creates a new twist on an old tale in her Splinte  red trilogy. Unhinged is the newly released second installment of this gothic and modern rendition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Howard plays on the fact that Carroll based his novel off of a girl he knew, Alice Liddell. In Howard’s debut young adult novel Splintered, the reader is introduced to Alyssa Gardner who is a descendant of Alice Liddell.

 

When Alyssa was young she began to hear insects and plants talking to her, causing her to fear that she would go crazy like her mother and the other women in her family. The only way she can break the curse and free her mother from the binds of insanity is to jump down the rabbit hole and right the wrongs of Alice Liddell. Her adventures in Wonderland leave a lasting impression, and Alyssa becomes forever tied to the ethereal realm.

 

Unhinged picks up one year after Alyssa’s return to the mortal world, where she is doing her best to live a normal life. Because she is so consumed with preparations for prom, graduation, college and planning her future with her boyfriend Jeb, she tries to ignore the whisperings of trouble in Wonderland. When her wonderland mentor Morpheus comes to explain the dire situation, Alyssa is forced to acknowledge that there is a problem. Despite initially feeling like it’s not her problem, she quickly changes her tune when Wonderland begins to spill over into the mortal world.

 

Howard manages to weave together a rich combination of dark and gothic with colorful and creepy to create a unique world Tim Burton fans are sure to appreciate. This trilogy is one of those series that has the ability to cross over from young adult fiction to adult, so don’t hesitate to pick it up for a paranormal adventure.

Randalee

 
 

FBI Teen Task Force

FBI Teen Task Force

posted by:
November 13, 2013 - 7:55am

Cover art for The NaturalsJennifer Lynn Barnes, author of the Raised by Wolves series, has a newly released book, The Naturals. This novel is the first installment in a new Young Adult series. Barnes has a penchant for writing in the paranormal genre, but The Naturals is borderline realistic crime fiction.

 

Cassandra Hobbes is a “Natural,” even if she doesn’t know it yet. When she was very young, her mother Lorelai claimed that she was a psychic, when really she just profiled people based on small details she could glean from their appearance and comportment. Lorelai taught her daughter the tricks to profiling people so that she could help with her mother’s act. It is this ability to read people that sets Cassie apart.

 

After Lorelai’s disappearance and presumed death, Cassie had to move in with her grandmother because her father was serving in the military oversees.  Cassie has never felt like she fits in with her family, so when she is confronted by an FBI agent who asks her to move to Washington D.C. and join a special team of talented teens, she jumps at the opportunity. The eclectic group of gifted teens is brought together under one roof where they can hone their skills and help the FBI by working on cold cases.

 

The Naturals is equal parts Shadowlands by Kate Brian and the television series Criminal Minds, with interactions that are reminiscent of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. The crime, action and sometimes gruesome depictions of murder scenes will take the reader on a wild ride, while the character development and smattering of romance will help to ease the tension.
 

Randalee

 
 

The Cost of College

The Cost of College

posted by:
September 10, 2013 - 7:00am

The TestingThe Earth has been horrifically damaged by the Seven Stages War. Water supplies are contaminated by nuclear waste, vegetation obliterated and mutations of animals and humans roam the wild charred remains of North America. There are 18 colonies of survivors throughout the land who are governed by the United Commonwealth, with the mission of regenerating the Earth and improving the quality of life. Their method for choosing the future leaders of the land is simple, selecting only the very brightest students from each colony, they offer this elite group an opportunity for The Testing. If successful, they go on to University where they will learn skills to continue improving their world. The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau chronicles these challenges as faced by Cia Vale, and her specifically chosen peers. 

 

Cia has always tried her best in school in the hope that she may qualify for The Testing, and a University education just like her father. When she learns she has been picked to go to Tosu City she is overjoyed, although her father’s reaction is much more reserved.  He tells her about terrible nightmares of events he thinks may have taken place, but because of the mandatory mind wipe he has never been certain what was real. The only words of advice he can offer are “trust no one.”  120 students have been selected for Testing, yet only 20 will be offered coveted positions at the University, and failure in any of the four stages has severe consequences. Cia quickly learns that more is on the line than her future education, her very life is in danger. 

 

Readers who enjoyed The Hunger Games will not want to miss this debut book from Charbonneau, which is also the first of a trilogy. The Testing requires more than intelligence and instinct to survive, and some of the students will do whatever it takes in improve their odds.  Cia’s optimism and altruistic values in the face of the United Commonwealth’s sinister methods are also endangered. Will she ultimately sacrifice her humanity in order to pass The Testing? 

Jeanne

 
 

Brothers vs. the World

Brothers vs. the World

posted by:
September 9, 2013 - 7:00am

The End GamesThere is much to be afraid of in the dark. Michael wakes to screams and discovers that his little brother is not in the Pokémon sleeping bag next to him. He must be sleepwalking again, but there is more than one dark shape moving around their camp, and the screams do not sound human; at least not living humans. Thus begins the nonstop action in The End Games by debut novelist T. Michael Martin, a zombie apocalypse thrill ride with a strong brotherly bond at its center.

 

On Halloween the world as we know it came to an end. What replaced it was something that 17-year-old Michael calls "The Game." Survivors play by a series of rules laid down from the “Game Master” in order to reach the safe zone. Michael and his 5-year-old brother, Patrick, have now been playing The Game for weeks, battling strange zombie-like monsters called “Bellows,” in hopes of reaching safety and reuniting with their mother. Unfortunately, The Game is starting to change, and there are other players who don't play by the rules.

 

Yes, there are zombies. Yes, there is thrilling action. Yes, there are evil villans and multiple plot twists and turns. But the heart of this story is the love between the brothers. Michael’s only thoughts are to protect Patrick morning and night, day after day, until the end. Martin gives enough glimpses into the past, before The Game, for the reader to understand the very special and unique relationship between the boys even then. Their struggle to survive is a heart-wrenching one, so keep a tissue handy. Recommended for fans of zombie fiction, action-adventure or stories of unique sibling bonds.

Sam

 
 

A Quest to Save the Kingdom

PoisonBridget Zinn’s Poison is an entertaining teen fantasy novel about Kyra, a sixteen year-old potions master who is on the run after attempting to kill the princess. Before her failed assassination attempt, readers learn that Kyra ran away from home as a child, and discovered not only was she gifted at making potions, but she also had the power to see the future, which she has since kept as a closely guarded secret. Thanks to her skill at potion brewing, Kyra is hired by the Queen to teach Princess Ariana the art of cosmetic potions, and the two become instant friends. They remain friends for years, until Kyra has a vision of Ariana bringing ruin upon the kingdom. Kyra sees it as her duty to save the kingdom by killing her best friend.

 

When Kyra’s usual steady shot misses, she must run from the royal army, as she continues to search for a way to stop ruin from befalling the kingdom. She enlists the help of Rosie, a magic pig, to sniff out the princess’s hiding place, hoping her shot won’t miss a second time. As she and Rosie journey across the countryside, trying to find the princess, they meet a young man, Fred. Fred joins Kyra and Rosie as they travel, though he has no idea who Kyra is, or that she’s trying to kill the Princess. As they move through the kingdom, Kyra and Fred run into witches and other fantastical beings and creatures, making their journey all the more difficult. Despite her best efforts, Kyra begins to fall for Fred, almost distracting her from her mission. A mix of fantasy, romance, and adventure, readers will enjoy following Kyra as she tries to save the kingdom in Poison.

Laura

 
 

The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me

posted by:
April 9, 2013 - 8:49am

Also Known AsMaggie Silver (at least that’s her name for this go-round) is a born and bred spy, part of a group of undercover operatives known as the Collective. Her areas of expertise, honed since childhood, are lock-picking and safecracking. Maggie has always been a part of her parents’ missions, but this time she has an assignment all her own in Robin Benway’s snappy, fast-paced Also Known As.

 

Whisked from the 24-hour sunlight of Iceland, the "Silvers" find themselves ensconced in a SoHo loft apartment. It seems Manhattan-based magazine editor Armand Oliver is working on an exposé that threatens the identities and very existence of the Collective, and sixteen year-old Maggie has been tasked with gaining access to his computer and e-mails. She’s been enrolled at the exclusive Harper School for the express purpose of befriending Armand’s son, Jesse. Used to international capers in the company of adults, Maggie’s forced to navigate intricacies of high school, from the importance of properly accessorizing the mandatory uniform to surviving the oral French exams to making a friend or two. Luckily for her, there’s Roux, a girl known for wearing her plaid skirt and accompanying blouse inside out as an act of rebellion. Ostracized by the rest of the student body for a certain poor choice, Roux happens to be a longtime friend of Jesse’s.

 

But what happens when the object of your spy mission is handsome, funny, and even romantic and vulnerable? And what if someone you trusted with your life was ready to sell you out? Also Known As is an engaging, entertaining, dialogue-driven read that quickly grabs your attention, defying you to put it down before you’re finished. Consider it the perfect summer teen read, or a novel for a spring day that feels like summer.

Paula G.