Betrayals by Lili St. Crow

betrayals

Betrayals by Lili St. Crow

#2 in the Strange Angles series: Teenager Dru has spent her life first with her Gran, learning warding spells after her mother was murdered by vampires. Then she was reunited with her Dad full time tracking down and killing evil creatures. Now Lilie is traveling to a safe Schola run by Order group that destroys evil creatures in the Real World. She and her friend Graves, whom she met at school in the last town where she and Dad lived, are on the run after Dad was turned into a zombie and she and Graves were attacked by werwulfs and other dangerous creatures. As if that’s not enough intrigue, while Dru tries to fit in as the only girl at her Schola, attacks make them believe there’s a traitor in the Order.

I loved this sequel and will keep reading to find out what happens to all the characters. Lili St. Crow’s world building, of secret creatures and conflicts, keeps getting better.

Review by Ms. Provence

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

In the city of Ketterdam in the country of Kerch, society is strictly divided between classes, with rich merchants at the top and various criminal groups and gangs at the bottom. Upper classes, business and trades people, tourists and those coming to Ketterdam for its busy trade and markets all want to visit its gambling houses and other shady businesses in a designated part of the city. The law allows the various enterprises to operate as long as they do not disturb the status quo and those in power. Among the criminal gangs is the Dregs, run by an enigmatic young man named Kaz Brekker. Kaz has gathered young people with unique talents, including a sharp shooter with a gambling problem, a runaway from a merchant family who’s good with explosives, a young woman gifted at spying and with her knives, among others. When a new drug appears that amplifies magical powers of a group known as Grisha, Kaz and his crew are hired to kidnap the scientist who developed it. The challenge is that the scientist is being held captive in an impenetrable fortress in a well-guarded city. Kaz plans the job so each member of his gang’s special skills play an essential part in the plot. Suspense builds as they face unexpected obstacles. The book ends on a cliffhanger; I can’t wait to read the sequel!

I have loved reading fantasy for as long as I can remember and never cease to be amazed at the worlds, characters and plots authors invent. Leigh Bardugo has used her imagination to give readers a gift of believable people who possess magical abilities in a plausible world.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

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Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck

ThreeQuartersDeadThree Quarters Dead by Richard Peck

YA author Richard Peck introduces us to 16 year old sophomore Kerry Williamson, new to Pondfield HS and alone since her best friend Abby Davis transferred to boarding school. Eating lunch alone every day in the cafeteria, trying to reach Abby by text, Kerry notices Tanya and Natalie, queens of the senior class, with Mackenzie, ruler of the juniors, at the far end of her table. They are there often, then one day Tanya invites Kerry by name to sit with them. From that moment Kerry feels like she’s in a story with a happy ending, part of an elite foursome over which Tanya clearly rules. Kerry notices that some days time during lunch seems to stand still, until Tanya has taken care of the day’s business, such as prom dresses or college. Invited to Tanya’s house for Halloween to make awards for select senior boys, Tanya gives Kerry a gruesome baby doll to drop off at a senior girl’s bedroom as a sort of initiation, using a key they stole to get in the house. Even though she’s nervous, Kerry wants to please Tanya, so she goes ahead. Caught by the girl’s mother, she’s sure there will be trouble, especially since Tanya and the others drive off and leave her. Amazed to get away without consequences, Kerry gets over her anger and continues the friendship until the day in early spring when Tanya, Natalie and Mackenzie die when Tanya drives into a tree. Kerry drifts in a fog of grief for a month, until the day Tanya sends her a text….

Although this book starts off as typical teen fiction about high school social circles and cliques, remember the author is Richard Peck, author of The Chocolate War and other teen classics with a dark side. Reading this is almost like waiting for the other shoe to drop; the reader just knows something spooky or weird is going to happen.

Review by Ellie Goldstein Erickson

Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

MissPeregrineCoverMiss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs

Everything about this book screams Strange, starting with the title, front and back covers, to its title page and its beginning and layout. The text is interspersed with photographs of unusual people and other occurrences as they are mentioned. 15 year old Jacob has always maintained a special relationship with his grandfather, whose spooky stories about monsters gave Jacob nightmares when he was a child. Even though no one is the family including Jacob believed the tales, after his grandfather dies from a brutal mysterious attack in the woods, Jacob convinces his parents to let him trace his grandfather’s enigmatic last words. Jacob and his father travel to a remote island off Wales, where grandfather was evacuated during World War II after being on a kindertransport from Germany. Tracking down the house where grandfather lived with other children, Jacob finds it in ruins from a German bomb. After returning to the house several times, Jacob chases a mysterious girl through an underground cairn and learns his grandfather’s stories may have had some truth.

Even though I was hesitant at first to read this because of its unusual presentation, I kept reading due to its nomination for the 2015-16 California Young Reader Medal award in the Young Adult category. The story gains power as it continues; I became engrossed in it and am glad I read it to the end. The weaving of fantasy and reality blend seamlessly; the reader can believe this story could be possible!

Review by Ellie Goldstein-Erickson

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

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A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Although Libba Bray has become a well-known YA writer in recent years, her first book is what started her on the road to greatness.  Gemma Doyle, sixteen years old, has been raised by her parents in India, but when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is sent to a British boarding school.  She immediately becomes harrassed by the school’s popular “mean girls,” but begins making friends with them when they realize she has special powers that let them explore an mystical realm with her.  Somehow this is connected to what happened to her mother in the Indian bazaar where she died, but readers will only find out by being patient the exact nature of the other world and Gemma’s place within it.  When the girls find the diary of Mary Dowd, who is said to have died in a fire, they begin the unravel the dark secrets of the school and Gemma’s connection to them.

This is an exciting read, full of twists and turns.  Bray does a good job developing the personalities of the girls so the readers worry for them as they take more and more dangerous risks.  This is the first of a trilogy and I am assured that the other books are just as engaging.

rebel angels          sweet far          diviners

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The Cupid War by Timothy Carter

cupid war

The Cupid War by Timothy Carter

The Cupid War was just sitting innocently on a shelf in the library as I walked by with a student, but it reached out and grabbed me. The story opens with 17 year old Ricky Fallon sitting on a bridge railing getting ready to jump. He decides against suicide, but slips as he’s climbing back onto the bridge, falling to his death anyway Fallon finds himself in a kind of limbo, assigned to Cupid Central to earn enough good karma to go to the good place. Although the boss Cupid Louis is mean to Fallon, Fallon’s mentor Caleb is patient and kind. Assigned beck to his hometown to earn Cupid karma, Fallon is attacked by a suicide while training, and learns they are the exact opposite of Cupids. Fallon realizes his toxic “friend’ Susan, who drove him to contemplate suicide in the first place, was like a living suicide and has chosen new teens as her targets. Fallon must decide how to proceed, even if it means deviating from his mission and the Cupid Central rules.

The Cupid War is imaginative, exciting and suspenseful, a total original. The author Carter impressed me with the completely logical way he has invented this world to make it believable. The reader can almost put faith in the unseen Cupids bringing people together. This title merits attention from readers who like “almost real” fantasy.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

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Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Teenage Dru and her dad travel around the country tracking and hunting evil creatures. Currently in the Dakotas, Dru stalks out of school after facing up to a bullying history teacher; she’s followed by Graves, a half-Asian goth boy who lives on his own. Waking up the next morning to find her father hasn’t come home, Dru waits for him, only to hear tapping at the back door. The “person” at the back door turns out to be a zombie who used to be her dad, and that’s just the beginning! Dru encounters Graves at the local mall and takes refuge with him. After being attacked by bizarre creatures, they hope to be safe at Dru’s house. As they try to figure out what’s going on, Dru and Graves keep running into more creatures, both allies and enemies. The book ends with a cliffhanger. Watch for a sequel.

I found the plot and characters a little confusing at first, but readers who like zombie and werewolf fiction will get completely involved.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

betrayals          jealousy