Winger by Andrew Smith

winger

Winger by Andrew Smith

As a fourteen-year-old high school junior, Ryan Dean West is already somewhat of an oddball at the prestigious, expensive boarding school he goes to in northern California.  But he is determined that this year will be different–he will fit in and not be such a wimp, not be quite so geeky, and escape from his obnoxious roommate in the O-Hall building reserved for the school’s special miscreants.  (Ryan Dean ended up there after he was caught hacking a teacher’s cell phone account.) He plays wing on the school’s rugby team, hence his nickname Winger.  Besides being stuck in the worst dorm conceivable, he is also hopelessly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks he’s an “adorable” little kid.

I  have to say that this is one of the best books I’ve read this year!  Author  Andrew Smith has the knack of getting into the head of a teenaged boy that’s so realistic.  This character is also so hilarious I found myself laughing out loud a bunch of times.  “Nothing that bordered on the undisciplined or unorthodox was tolerated at PM (Pine Mountain School).  Not even facial hair, not that I had anything to worry about a far as that rule was concerned.  I’d seen some girls at PM who came closer to getting in trouble over that rule than me.  The only  thing I’d ever shaved was maybe a few points off a Calculus test so my friends wouldn’t hate me if I set the curve too high.”  The way Smith describes his characters makes readers fall in love with them, even when they’re brawny rugby types who would rather discuss a disagreement with their fists as opposed to talking it out. I highly recommend this book to all teen readers because everyone will find a character with which to identify.  There’s also lots of swearing and bad sex jokes, but nothing that the average teenager doesn’t hear in the hallways at school.



marbury lens          stick          in the path

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VIII by H. M. Castor

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VIII by H. M. Castor

Do we really need another book about Henry VIII?  If it’s as well-drawn as this one, I say YES.  I recently watched the wonderfully melodramatic (maybe trashy in the best possible way) Showtime series called The Tudors, so naturally I was in the mood for more stories about the young, headstrong Henry Tudor.  Castor used the first person perspective to take readers into the mind and heart of this infamous ruler, starting when he was just a young boy called Hal.  As a historian herself, the author’s purpose was to explore “why he did what he did…He’s an extraordinary boy: hugely talented, with astonishing warrior skills, and he’s said to be the model of virtue.”  So as a result of her research, the author explores a hypothetical journey into the mind of the young king,showing readers how she believes he became a king willing to imprison, betray and even behead his wives for not bearing him sons.

The first person narrative makes it easy for readers to slip into the mindset of the young Henry at the beginning of the book.  Readers see that even though he was the “spare” son since he had an older brother who was supposed to become king, Henry always believed that he was destined to be king whose glory would live throughout the ages.  This and his twisted family history go a long way in explaining the psychology of the king who went from a terrified and insecure child to a despot, obsessed with the idea of leaving his own son to rule Britain when he died.

I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed this book.  It felt very realistic, with authentic descriptions of jousts, clothing, court life and more.  I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction, and readers interested in European history told from an insider’s perspective.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

anna dressed in blood

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

This is one of those titles that I’m kicking myself about for waiting so long to read.  Yes, it’s that scary, especially for a YA book!  In it, Cas Lowood follows in his father’s footsteps by being a ghost assassin, finding and killing ghosts who make it a habit of going after the living.  He and his Wiccan mother travel around the country, following tips and local lore to find and exterminate the deadly spirits.  Cas has inherited his dad’s magical knife that has always helped the the man kill off ghosts, until he was murdered by the last one he hunted.  This book opens with Cas killing the ghost of a teenaged hitchhiker, before heading home to get ready for the move to Thunder Bay.  There he hopes to track and finally kill the local ghost called Anna Dressed in Blood.  But, as it often happens in horror stories, things don’t go exactly as he had planned, starting with the local jocks who cold cock him and lock him in the rotting Victorian house where Anna Korlov’s ghost is said to live.

This book hooked me at the first chapter and keep me reading until I finished it in one day.  (And as you guys know, I’m kinda a slow reader so this is saying something!)  Cas has a very sarcastic and independent personality, but readers will find themselves invested in his search as we learn more about Anna and how she died.  There are also some interesting minor characters in popular and snarky girl Carmel Jones and geeky Thomas, whose grandpa seems like he might know a little more about the occult than he lets on.  I highly recommend this to readers who enjoy horror, ghost stories and are looking for a fast-moving story.

We also have the sequel, pictured below but telling you about it would give away some of the surprised in the first book.  You’ll have to trust me that it’s almost as good.

girl of nightmares

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

testing

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Because one can never have enough YA dystopian lit, I offer you another series.  Of course, it is similar to Hunger Games and the Divergent series, yet different enough to keep a reader’s interest, IMHO.  Sixteen-year-old Malencia “Cia” Vale is graduating from high school, but unlike Berkeley High grads, very few students in her world are given the opportunity to go to the university.  To gain entrance, she has to pass the Testing, something only three of her fellow colony grads have been nominated for.  Cia’s world has been ravaged by the Seven Stages War, and the university graduates are counted upon to the United Commonwealth’s new leaders, movers and shakers.  She’s dreamed of this chance her whole life, but when her father, a university graduate in plant genetics, gives her advice as she’s leaving, she is stunned.  “Trust no one,” is what he tells her, leaving her confused and torn about going to the the capitol city to be tested.  The Testing will feel familiar to dystopia fans, with the life and death elements of the Hunger Games and the deceitful and tyrannical government readers have come to expect.

What’s interesting about this title is that the author doesn’t rely too heavily on romance, although there is a friend named Tomas from Cia’s colony that she does begin to depend on for survival. Another theme Charbonneau explores is the definition of humanity, as she is attacked my mutants who act surprising human during the last part of the testing, which plays out like a survival of the fittest challenge.  Readers will be dying to get their hands on the next two installments in the series, both of which are on order for the library.  I recommend this to dystopian and Science Fiction fans and anyone looking for an action-packed adventure.

 

independent study          graduation day

 

 

 

 

 

The Essence by Kimberly Derting

essence

The Essence by Kimberly Derting (Pledge #2)

My biggest regret about this book is that I didn’t read it sooner.  I loved The Pledge and the concept of language being social power, but I just never got around to it.  Boy was I surprised!  Even though I barely remembered the ending of the first book, the author Derting was kind enough to give readers gentle reminders of how the first novel ended.  We open with Charlaina (Charlie) as Queen of Ludania, having supplanted the evil dictator Sabara.  What her people don’t know is that Sabara’s essence still exists within Charlie, and the young queen is constantly fighting to keep her nemesis in check.  What I especially appreciated about this title is watching Charlie grow into her role as queen.  Even though she led the revolution, there are still forces trying to attack the new government, and even assassinate the queen herself.  Her closest friends and confidents, Brooke, Max and her personal royal guard Zafir, feel like the only things standing between her and the counter-rebellion forces, who feel closer and closer and she makes her way to the summit of Queens in a nearby land.

pledge       bodyfinder          desires-of-the-dead          last-echo          dead silence

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The Circle by Dave Eggers

circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers

This book will resonate with anyone who has a Facebook, Twitter or any social media account.  Mae Holland is in her early twenties and working at a dead-end job at her hometown utility company, when she gets the ____ opportunity to work for the Circle.  The Circle isn’t just another Silicon Valley startup, it’s the most powerful company on the net that promotes lifestyle as well as online connections with friends.  Although Mae starts in the lowly customer service department, her college friend Annie tells her that everyone begins there and has the chance to rise as much as they’re willing to work.  The newbie soon becomes engrossed in the Circle lifestyle, where the free cafeteria food is prepared by master chefs, famous musicians vie for the privilege of playing for free on the sprawling lawns, there are parties and events nearly every evening and weekend, and the company even supplies dorm rooms for employees who work late and want to avoid the drive home.  Soon, Mae has four different computer screens on her desk, but finds that if she really applies herself she can keep up.  She just wonders how others work this hard and still have energy for meetings, events and concerts nearly every night.  Finally, she begins to realize that the Circle IS the employees’ life, everything they do is connected to that or at the minimum Zing (Tweet) about it to their social circle.  When she meets a mysterious man named Kalden, he speaks against the goals of the Circle, but she can’t seem to get him out of her mind.  When she can’t find him anywhere online, she gets more and more concerned.

This dystopian take on social media is a worthy look at where our society is headed, especially the millennials  who seem to have one hand permanently on  their iPhones or iPads.  Although it’s been said that this title offers nothing new to the discussion, I disagree.  I think that the currency and straight-forward storytelling of the book will give many younger readers the impetus to start reflecting on our culture, our dependence on our electronic devices and social media, and the way our relationships change as we lose our rights privacy.  I recommend it to fans of the dystopian genre, readers who already like Eggers writing, and anyone willing to take a thoughtful look at their own online behavior.

what is the what

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

nos4a2

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

First off, don’t be intimidated by this book’s 600 + pages.  I can promise that if you’re a horror fan, you will have trouble putting this book down, even to answer a text from your BFF.    Hill’s third book grab’s readers by their heartstrings with its main character Vic, who we see grow up from a sweet eight-year-old to a rebellious teen and finally a troubled and self-destructive adult.  Victoria McQueen has always had a secret knack for finding lost objects: when she was little she rode her Day Glo blue Raleigh Tuff Burner bike across the nearby Shorter Way covered bridge and “find” things to bring back to her real life.  Charles Manx also has special powers that he uses to  abduct children to take them to Christmasland, a carnival place covered with snow where every morning is Christmas day and children are never unhappy.  At least that’s what he says.   Manx kidnaps the young Vic in his haunted Rolls Royce, but she is the only child to ever escape from him using her own special powers.  Years later, he tries to kidnap Vic’s own son to exact his revenge, leading to an ultimate battle between light and dark forces.

This twisting tale is a genuine find for horror fans.  Hill makes good use of character development for his main players, while spicing the story with lots of fascinating minor characters.  The plot moves along quickly, with dates and places at the chapter headings to help readers navigate the complex plot.  I recommend this to horror fans, readers who love Stephen King (Hill’s real life dad!) and anyone wanting to immerse themselves in a dark tale with extreme spookiness.  You’ll never look at Christmas the same way after devouring this sumptuous title.

Warning: Some graphic gore but nothing fans of adult horror haven’t experienced before.

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