Posts Tagged ‘Teen Fiction’

Best ‘New to Us” Books in 2014: Farida B’s Picks

December 24, 2014

I love a variety of books in adult and children’s collection. I love reading Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Humor, Romance and gentle clean reads. Here are “New to Me” books that inspired me most this year. I hope you can include some of these books in your 2015 reading list.

Death of a Travelling ManDeath of a Travelling Man by M. C. Beaton
This is Beaton‘s eighth mystery featuring Scottish police constable Hamish MacBeth. Hamish has been promoted against his will and as Sergeant, he makes more money, but must suffer more work as well, as well as the enthusiasm of his new helper, Police Constable Willie Lamont. Willie Lamont has less talent for police work and more talent for cleaning, polishing, and scrubbing. His insistence on keeping the police station spotless and super clean is driving MacBeth crazy. It all starts when a suspicious drifter Sean and his girlfriend Cheryl park their van behind the minister’s manse. This “devastatingly handsome” drifter Sean charms four women out of their money and harasses Hamish’s ladylove, Priscilla. If you like to read light mysteries filled with humor and action then this is definitely going to be your choice!  See my full review.

Murphy's LawMurphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen
Murphy’s Law is the first book in the Molly Murphy mystery series. Molly Murphy, the main character in this story, is a spunky, 19th-century Irish heroine. Molly always ends up in trouble no matter where she goes. She is outspoken, strong independent lady. She commits a murder in self-defense, so she has to leave her cherished Ireland and her identity for the unknown shores of America. In London she meets Kathleen O’Connor. Kathleen has two small children and tickets for a ship to America, where she plans to join her husband. But she has tuberculosis, so she knows that she will not be allowed on the ship to America, so she persuades the desperate Molly to take her children to America instead of herself and use her identity on the ship. Molly agrees to this plan since she wants to be in a new place and start a new life. After the landing at Ellis Island, O’Malley is found stabbed to death. Police detective Daniel Sullivan questions Molly about it since lots of people had seen Molly slap O’Malley on the ship. Molly becomes the prime suspect along with a young man whom she had befriended. See my full review.

Running Out of TimeRunning out of Time by Margaret P. Haddix
Jessie lives in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana in 1840. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie discovers that Clifton is actually a 1996 tourist site under secret observation by heartless scientists. Jessie’s mother sends her on a dangerous mission to bring back help. But outside the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and scary, and soon she finds her own life in danger. Can she get help before the children of Clifton and Jessie herself run out of time? This is a young adult book which is appealing to adults as well. It is one of my favorite books, written by a good author.  It has won multiple awards, including the YALSA Best Book for Young Adults.

Miss Julia Speaks Her MindMiss Julia Speaks her Mind by Ann Ross
This book is the first in the series. Miss Julia is a strong willed, independent, proper church-going lady. Recently widowed, she is trying to settle down with her new life, including the substantial estate left by her late husband, Wesley Lloyd Springer. Everything is peaceful until Hazel Marie Puckett arrives at her doorstep with her 9 year old son Little Lloyd. Guess what? Little Lloyd is Wesley’s son. Miss Julia receives a shock of her life! After 44 years of marriage to pillar of the church and community Wesley Lloyd Springer, she discovers that he was having an affair with Hazel Marie Puckett. She had assumed he was working late at the family bank, but instead he was engaged in more carnal pursuits. The worst thing was that the whole town knew about this affair. Read my full review.

UnwindUnwind By Neal Shusterman
In America after the Second Civil War the “Bill of Life” permits the parents to get rid of a child between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, through a process called “unwinding.” Unwinding ensures that the child’s life doesn’t really end by transplanting all the organs from the child’s body to different important recipients who quote the highest bid. This is a story about three teens – Connor, Risa and Lev – who become runaway Unwinds. Their escape and survival stories interweave as they struggle to avoid harvest camps. All the characters live and breathe in the story. Neal Shusterman’s Unwind has won many awards and honors, including being included on ALA’s Top Ten Picks for Reluctant Readers and Best Books for Young Adults lists. It is a book written for young adults, but I really enjoyed it and I am sure lots of adults will like reading it too! It has breathtaking suspense and is a sure page turner to find out if the three teens avoid their untimely ends.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Dan B’s Picks

December 18, 2014

Some of my favorite books that were new to me this year include a space adventure with hostile aliens, the memoir of a comedy legend, a dystopian teen novel, a fantasy with a magic-wielding librarian, and a story of super heroes in the big city.

DreadnaughtDreadnaught by Jack Campbell
Admiral Jack Geary was rescued from cryogenic sleep several years ago to lead the Alliance Fleet to victory over the Syndicate. Now, however, humanity is also up against an unknown and hostile race of aliens on the far side of human colonized space. Geary also has to deal with a government that fears and resents him, as well as the remnants of the Syndic forces. This is the first in the Beyond the Frontier series, which is a continuation of Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, which starts with Dauntless.

What's So Funny?What’s So Funny? My Hilarious Life by Tim Conway
Whether you know him from McHale’s Navy, The Carol Burnett Show, Dorf, or any of his numerous other appearances on TV and in film, Tim Conway is one of the great funny men of the last century. His touching memoir gives readers insight into his Midwestern upbringing, his Army service, and his career from the middle of the Twentieth Century through recent years. Anecdotes along the way will have you smiling, laughing, and genuinely appreciating Tim for all he’s given us. My only disappointment was that he didn’t narrate the audio book.

For the WinFor the Win by Cory Doctorow
In this dystopian future teens in countries like India and China must work for the corrupt bosses of huge corporations “gold farming” from massive online video games. The large cast of characters, each struggling to make enough money for their families, begin to learn that their plight is not unique. They start to form relationships online while also forming unions for this new kind of labor. The story is compelling as Doctorow blends a tech-heavy dystopia with real world lessons about economics. It’s also a great audio book.

LibriomancerLibriomancer by Jim C. Hines
What’s not to love in a book about magic wielding librarians versus evil vampires?! Isaac Vainio works as a librarian in Michigan, but, he also catalogues books for a magical group of libriomancers. Those are people who have the magical ability to draw forth objects from inside books. This branch of magic was founded by none other than Johannes Gutenberg. But what happens when Gutenberg goes missing and vampires start attacking libriomancers, leading to a war which could expose all magic to the rest of the world?

After the Golden AgeAfter the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
Celia West knows that her lack of super-powers has always been a disappointment to her father, billionaire industrialist Warren West, a.k.a. Captain Olympus. Celia is an accountant whose firm is working with the D.A.’s office to prosecute The Destructor, her parents’ arch-nemesis, for tax evasion. While he’s behind bars, a new crime wave breaks out, and though her parents think he’s behind it, Celia isn’t so sure. Is there a new evil at work in Commerce City, or is what’s going on now related to events from over fifty years ago?

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

November 24, 2014

In the year 2083, Anya Balanchine is unlike most of her peers. She is heiress to the Balanchine Chocolate Company. Sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately for Anya, it makes her a mafya Princess, a criminal. Chocolate and caffeine are illegal substances in the United States, much like alcohol was in early 20th Century America. As hard as that is, her life is complicated even more by the fact that she is the primary caregiver in the family. On paper it’s her bedridden grandmother, but in reality Anya takes care of her grandmother, her younger sister Natty, and older brother Leo who suffered a traumatic brain injury after the assassination that killed her mother. Her father was murdered later while Anya and Natty watched from under a desk.

Anya still has all the typical teenage stuff to worry about. She has a boyfriend Gable who turns out to be a frog rather than a prince, and just wants to use Anya for her connection to the illicit chocolate. Things come to a tipping point when Anya meets the new boy Win, and he also seems to like her. The catch: Win is the son of the assistant District Attorney for NYC and, well, Anya is the daughter of a crime boss. Neither Anya’s family nor Win’s parents approve of the two of them dating.
As Anya’s life takes unexpected twists and turns, she must decide who she wants to be when she becomes a legal adult. Can Anya live her life on her own terms, or will familial pressure draw her down a path she cannot foresee?

This compelling read is the first in the Anya Balanchine trilogy. Zevin writes a coming of age trilogy where there are no easy solutions.

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Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

November 21, 2014

Teenager Jeremy Johnson Johnson (yes, his middle and last names are both Johnson) lives in the offbeat town of Never Better, which can only be located by those searching for it (but if you find it once, you’ll never lose your way when you try to return). He and his father run the Two Book Bookstore, which stocks just two books. And Jeremy’s best friend is the ghost of Jacob Grimm. This quirky setting is the backdrop for one of the most unique books I’ve read in a while – part ghost story, part dark fairy tale. Like many fairy tales, the good characters are truly good, the villains are shockingly evil, and the magic is unexplained but ever present.

Jacob doesn’t know why he has a duty to look after Jeremy, but he knows he does. He knows that he must find and protect Jeremy from a mysterious figure known only as the Finder of Occasions. Jeremy is the only one who can hear Jacob, and Jacob has become his constant companion as he struggles to cope with his mother having left the family and his father sinking into depression as a result. Jeremy is focused on his schoolwork, his one man lawn business, and planning for a better future – until the day he and the daring, beautiful Ginger Boultinghouse meet and she takes an interest in him. Much to his surprise, he and Ginger become fast friends. But soon, an innocent enough prank goes wrong and the town turns on Jeremy. Soon, Jeremy is at risk of losing the bookstore and his home. As Ginger tries to help Jeremy figure out a way out of his dilemma, they start to uncover dark secrets about Never Better: the town has had a mysterious string of disappearances of children and teens, and they may be in danger of something far worse than being shunned by the townspeople.

Jacob continues to fret about the danger Jeremy is in from the Finder of Occasions as more and more ominous signs appear – but the truth about the missing children is darker than anyone in Never Better suspects. As things start getting more twisted, the story gets more and more gripping. McNeal writes the kind of fairy tale that grabs you and won’t let your imagination go – and the kind of story that makes you want to leave the light on if you read it late at night!

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Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

November 13, 2014

Cadel Piggot is a genius. Most humans cannot keep up with his super-fast mind, which makes life pretty lonely for this foster kid. Alienating one foster family after another, he finds comfort in the world of computers and hacking, the only outlet where his intellect is challenged. Eventually Cadel finds himself in a psychologist’s office as punishment for hacking, and is shocked when his therapist advises him, “Next time, don’t get caught.” Turns out, his therapist, Thaddeus Roth, is a minion of Cadel’s real father, Dr. Darkkon, an evil mastermind currently in prison. He and Thaddeus have cooked up a scheme to get Cadel into the Axis Institute for World Domination, a school where kids like Cadel can learn skills far more useful than algebra, like forgery, embezzlement, and explosives. From the outside, the Axis Institute just looks like a school for wayward children, which makes it the miracle Cadel’s social worker has been waiting for.

For Cadel, it seems like a win-win situation – he gets to leave the expectations of his never-satisfied foster families behind, and in exchange he gets to work with souped-up computers and teachers who might be almost as smart as he is… almost. It’s a new world for Cadel, one in which the very skills he’s spent years hiding are the ones he now is encouraged to cultivate. It feels like, in a school where there is a class on lying, he’s finally found a place where he can truly be himself – and that he is, in fact, the Evil Genius of the title. But is he? As time goes on, Cadel realizes that he’s not the only one who excels at deception, and it’s tiring always wondering who he can trust. When he starts to question his own assumptions about who he is and what he wants, his world starts tumbling down.  Catherine Jinks is  an acclaimed YA author currently living in Wales.

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

October 15, 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderAva spins a tale of how she, who was “just a girl,” happened to be born with a huge set of wings. To truly tell the story, she has to go back three generations to her great-grandmother, Maman, who moved from France to “Manhatine” to follow her husband’s dream, and then to the story of her grandmother, Emilienne, and her mother, Vivianne. All of these women were cursed in romance. It seemed that they fell in love quite often, but rarely with the right man, and even then, once they had a child, their lover would either die or run away. So the women depended on one another and raised their children alone—at least on this plane of existence.

Ava and her foremothers eke out a living, running a bakery and living together in a lonely house with a bizarre history. Ava stays indoors almost all the time, just so that she can avoid other people’s sometimes startling reaction to her wings. While she is afraid that some people may hurt her because of her difference, others may be obsessed with her for more sinister reasons. All she wants to be is a regular girl.

Walton writes a story filled with magical realism. One of Emilienne’s sisters was utterly besotted with a musician who barely knew that she existed. Her love transformed her into a canary, hopeful that her beloved would be enraptured by her music, but now he noticed her even less. Relatives who have died tend to return in strange forms, and the living often have powers that most people would call superstition. The lines between living and dead, reality and illusion, are gossamer-thin. The writing is exquisitely beautiful, but some of the situations are too mature for most teenagers. However, adults and older teens who love Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude or Isabelle Allende’s House of the Spirits will be enthralled with Ava Lavender. Highly recommended.

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Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

September 12, 2014

OrleansIn 2005 Hurricane Katrina ripped thru New Orleans and the surrounding areas with devastating results.  In her new novel, Sherri L. Smith has imagined a different world in which Hurricane Katrina was only a mild storm and subsequent other hurricanes were far more destructive with a greater loss of life.  After the destruction from these subsequent hurricanes, came Delta Fever.  Delta Fever sounds like something easily cured with antibiotics, but for those suffering from it there was no cure.  The United States is not quite sure what to do,  so it quickly quarantines the entire city of New Orleans, and then completely abandons it. The United States has more pressing internal problems.

While there is no cure for Delta Fever, those afflicted quickly learn that segregation among blood types prevents the symptoms of the fever.  Now fast forward to the year 2056 where lawlessness and an uneasy truce between the blood types make life difficult for the residents of Orleans.  Most people in the Outer States think that there are no more people living in New Orleans.  When Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States, sneaks thru the quarantine zone, he is surprised to find a tribal society.

Daniel meets up with Fen, who up until a recent ambush had been living with her O-positive tribe.  The ambush left her tribe in splinters, with the most vulnerable member of her tribe in her care– her chieftain’s newborn child.  Fen’s goal is to keep Baby Girl uninfected so she can smuggle her out of the city into the Outer States.  Can Daniel and Fen make it or will their luck run out?

This book is one of my favorite recent post-apocalyptic books.  It is very fast paced and has an interesting premise.  Recommended for most sci-fi fans.

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Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

June 30, 2014

Life As We Knew ItI’ve read a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic teen novels over the last few years, and have been starting to tire of them. The last ones I’ve read have definitely left something to be desired, but this first in The Last Survivors series (now up to four books),  Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, came highly recommended, so I gave it a shot.

Like her friends and family, Miranda is worried but also a little excited at the news of a meteor on a path to clip the moon. Meteor viewing parties are planned, and the atmosphere leading up to the big event is festive (think block parties with telescopes). Miranda’s neighborhood is surprised that they can see the meteor hurtling through space with a naked eye, and shocked when what they had anticipated to be a minor event ends up knocking the moon closer to the Earth.

I’m sure you can guess what would happen if the moon were suddenly on a trajectory closer to Earth. The expected tidal waves, volcanoes, resulting in ash blocking out the sun for long stretches of time, and Arctic winter ensue. Miranda and her family must use all their resources to survive, but for what?

Although in many ways this was a typical post-apocalyptic teen read, what set it apart, for me, was both the format of the book, which was written as dated journal entries by Miranda over the course of many months, and the pace of the narrative. I enjoyed that the story started before the main event and that the aftermath of the meteor’s destruction was slowly revealed.

Although I probably won’t read the rest of the series (why must all teen books be serial?) I quite enjoyed this one.

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Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

June 2, 2014

rebelbookcover.phpTake a Southern debutante, include a good-looking geek boy, add a pinch of fantasy and comedy, and you get Rebel Belle  by Rachel Hawkins.

Harper is the queen of her school – the student body president, the over-achiever.  But when the school janitor passes superstrength and reflexes on to her, she becomes a Paladin.  With that comes the duty of protecting David, the one boy in the whole school she can’t stand.  And the feeling is mutual.  Nothing is more frustrating when you physically can’t hit your nemesis.

The book starts out at a breakneck pace and keeps it up the whole way through.  It has everything – car chases, intense fighting scenes (one where the weapon of choice is a high heel shoe), and the flutters of first love.   Dear CW, you should definitely make this book into a TV show, pronto!

My heart went out to both Harper and David, teens who never once asked for the destiny that’s handed to them.  Both of them have faced tragedy in the past, and they both handle things with quite a bit of maturity.  I found myself rooting for them the whole time.

The setting feels real, invoking the modern-day south and the small town where everybody knows your name. And the story is both hilarious and heart-warming.  Although, Cotillion never went down quite like it does in this book.  This book is full of an enthralling mythology and chock-full of authentic southern charm.  Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down.

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Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

April 23, 2014

TodayStill Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub we celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and also World Book Night, which is always on his birthday.  What better way to celebrate than with a fresh take on one of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays?

Romeo and Juliet has been subject to dozens of adaptations and retellings – so many that it might be difficult to believe that one published just last year could have something new to say. Yet Melissa Taub manages it deftly in a painstakingly researched and imaginative young adult tale of what might have happened after the play’s conclusion.

Days after the events of the play, the truce reached by the houses of Capulet and Montague has fallen upon deaf ears among the young members of each family. Each house blames the other for the death toll; brawls and swordfights abound, and the city’s peace is at increasing risk. Prince Escalus is desperate to find a way to ensure that the pact between the lords of the houses is upheld. But he can’t think of anything other than ensuring a blood tie between them – a marriage between two living members of the families.

Not only is seventeen-year-old Rosaline Capulet mourning her cousin Juliet, she feels responsible for the deaths that occurred in Verona just days ago. After all, if she had accepted Romeo’s romantic advances, maybe he wouldn’t have tumbled into his doomed romance. Maybe she could have spared their city all this heartache. Benvolio hasn’t forgiven her, either. Romeo and Mercutio were his cousins and closest friends – he feels isolated at the loss of his Montague friends and wants revenge. Imagine the surprise and indignation of both youths when Escalus decides that the two of them are the best candidates to unite the houses, ending the feud once and for all. Now they just have to agree to the plan…

The genius of Taub’s story is all in the use of characters given little stage time in the play. She’s wonderful at taking the little we know about them and fleshing them out into full characters. Rosaline’s independence and family loyalty (hinted at in the original play) are admirable traits and help keep the tension going throughout the story, while Benvolio’s stubborn streak creates ongoing conflict. Taub uses Shakespearean dialect in dialogue, but modern language in description, helping immerse readers in the world of Shakespeare without making the book seem unapproachable. If you’re a big fan of Shakespeare (or love a good historical romance), this might be just the ticket!

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