Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Thickety

So, I'm a little conflicted about this book.  The characters and the design skew a bit young, but this is a Dark book.  Yes, that capital D is intentional.  I'm just not sure what to do with it.  It looks like a 6th grade book and reads like an 8th grade book.  I'll just have to see what happens.

When Kara Westfall was five years old, her mother was hanged for witchcraft.  Ever since that time, she, her brother, and her father have been outcasts in the village.  Her father is barely functional stuck in the horror and despair of losing his wife.  This leaves Kara to take care of herself and her sickly younger brother.

The village is surrounded by a dark and dangerous forest called the Thickety.  It's filled with magic and frightening creatures.  No one ventures inside because of the risk of death or worse.

One day a strange creature lures Kara into the Thickety where she discovers a grimoire and begins covertly practicing magic.  She is in constant danger of discovery, but the magic is powerful and addictive.

About halfway through the book, things take a (not so) surprising turn which I won't reveal in the interest of not spoiling the story.  But the twist at the end I did not see coming.

This was a good but disturbing book with an interesting exploration of addiction.  I am interesting to see what J.A. White does with book two.

Ruin and Rising

I've been a big fan of this series since the beginning, and the final installment is not a disappointment.  The atmospheric quality of Bardugo's writing is one of my favorite things about it.  From the first page, I am transported to this alternate version of Russia complete with lush backgrounds and costumes.  I practically get chilled from visiting the frozen world of Ravka.

Before I move on to the plot, please be aware that this is the final book in a trilogy, so there will be spoilers.  Don't read this review if you are behind on your reading!

Alina, Mal, and the rest of the survivors of the failed attempt on the Darkling are now underground at the White Cathedral under the control of the Apparat.  Alina is weakened after the battle and confused and disturbed by the band of religious zealot warriors the Apparat has assembled.

When she finally gains the strength, she and her surviving grisha set out with Mal to track the firebird.  She believes that finding the final amplifier is the only way to defeat the Darkling.

This quest will reveal dark truths about Morozova and put her friends in greater peril than ever.  The stakes are higher than ever as the final battle approaches, and everyone will be faced with difficult choices and heartbreaking sacrifice.

One of my students said this book was more melancholy than the others in the trilogy, and I think that is the perfect description.  I thoroughly enjoyed this series, and I can't wait to see what Leigh Bardugo writes next!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Saving Lucas Biggs

Margaret is heartbroken when her father is convicted of a crime he didn't commit.  The Victory corporation owns pretty much everything in Victory, Arizona, including the judge who presided at the trial.  Some people see Margaret's dad as a whistle-blower and a hero, and some people see him as a traitor.  Unfortunately, the people in charge see him as a problem to be handled.

The only way to save him, is to use the family "gift" and travel back in time to 1938 to stop the event that turned Lucas Biggs into the hard and cold man he is today.

Back in 1938, things are not going well for the Victory corporation or for the miners who produce the company's coal.  When a disaster in the mine causes increased tensions in the town, the miners go on strike.

There is one moment where everything hangs in the balance.  The first time around resulted in tragedy, and the balance tipped in Victory Corporation's favor.  Margaret hopes things can be different this time.  If she succeeds, she will save three lives and change the future of Victory, Arizona.  If she fails, she loses her father.

This is a story about time travel, friendship, and the struggle between social classes with a dash of environmentalism thrown in.  We get multiple perspectives on the action from both 1938 and 2014.  You will be on the edge of your seat as Margaret and her friends try to change the past to save the future.  Read this collaboration between husband and wife, Marisa de los Santos and David Teague!


Kennedy Waters is living a pretty normal life.  OK, her dad left when she was a little kid, but she and her mom are happy and healthy.  She has her art, her best friend, and her cat.  All in all, life is pretty good.

Everything changes when she returns home to find her mother dead of an apparent heart attack.  Suddenly, her world is falling apart.  But things are about to get a lot worse.  Worse like a vengeance spirit trying to murder her in her sleep!

She is saved by two guys she's never seen before who break into the house and destroy the spirit.  Lukas and Jared tell her that her mother didn't have a heart attack; the same spirit who tried to kill Kennedy killed her mother.  And it's all part of a bigger plan.

Lukas and Jared bring Kennedy into the world of the Legion, a group that has been battling demons and spirits for hundreds of years all in an effort to keep a world-destroying evil at bay.  They are also convinced that Kennedy has inherited a place in their ranks.

Now she and the other Legion members must battle vengeance spirits to collect pieces of a device that will save the world.

This is Kami Garcia's first solo novel, and the best part about it is the creepy factor.  I loved all the haunted locations in the story.  If you are a Supernatural fan, you will either love or hate this book because it has a lot of similarities to the tv show.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Into the Woods

You all know I love fairy tales.  I'm sure it's no surprise that I also love Into the Woods, and I can't wait for the movie to come out!  Come by the library to check out a book from our fairy tale display, and enjoy the trailer below.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Red Pencil

Amira's life in Sudan is one of hard work, but she is happy.  Her father, Dando, is her favorite person, and he encourages her creativity calling her Amira Bright and finding perfect drawing sticks for her sand drawing.

When her best friend moves away to go to school, a desire to learn is kindled in her heart.  Everything changes when the Janjaweed arrives.  They are a local militia bringing death and destruction in their wake.  When they are gone, the village is destroyed, and many people are dead.

The survivors flee and end up in Kalma, a refugee camp.  Life is now filled with trash and strangers and hopelessness.  It is the gift of a red pencil and a pad of paper from a stranger that begins to wake Amira from her grief.

Amira's dream of going to school comes alive again, and now she will do anything to learn.

Andrea Davis Pinkney's new verse novel is beautiful and heartbreaking story about pain, violence, and the will to succeed.  Be sure to read the author's note at the end for a brief explanation of the true events in Darfur that inspired this story.

Stay Where You Are & Then Leave

War breaks out on Alfie Summerfield's fifth birthday.  Before that day, his life was good.  He had two parents at home who loved him, a street full of friendly neighbors, and a best friend next door.  But the war changes everything.  Alfie's father volunteers for the army immediately hoping it will improve his chances.  Everyone is saying it will all be over by Christmas anyway.

Now it is four years later, and Alfie's father has stopped writing letters.  His mother says he is on a secret mission for the government, but Alfie only half believes her.  Most days Alfie doesn't go to school.  He works as a shoe shine boy at the train station to make extra money for the family.  It is while he is shining shoes one day that he accidentally discovers the truth about his father.

This discovery sets Alfie off on his own secret rescue mission.

You may recognize the author, John Boyne, from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  This new book is set during WWI and focuses post traumatic stress disorder, which was called shell shock in those days.  People understood even less about PTSD then than we do now, and many people accused these men of being cowards.  This book scratches the surface of the horror of "shell shock" and hope for eventual recovery.

I really liked this book and its subtle exploration of painful issues related to WWI and it's aftermath.  It will take a careful reader to really grasp the story and its implications.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Winner's Curse

Kestrel's life is about to change, but she doesn't know it.  Herrani slaves are a matter of life in the empire, but Kestrel doesn't like to think too much about it.  It's almost an accident when she wonders into the slave market one day.  The whole idea makes her uncomfortable, and she wants to leave until she sees him.  He's handsome, strong, and a trained blacksmith.  That talent would be useful to her father, a general in the Valorian army with soldiers garrisoned on the estate, but that wouldn't be enough to tempt her.  It's his refusal to sing and the implied punishment in the auctioneer's eyes that pushes Kestrel to bid and win.

Arin wasn't always a slave.  When the Valorian war machine showed up ten years ago conquering, killing, and enslaving, he was just a child.  Now he is a slave, but he doesn't intend to be one for long.

Kestrel and Arin should be enemies, but each seeks out the company of the other, and their feelings begin to grow.  This isn't just a tale of star crossed lovers.  These two are on opposite sides of a brutal war with each side taking ruthless action against the other and each betrayal cutting ever deeper.  Kestrel can only deny her feelings for so long, but can she ever truly love and trust her enemy?

I loved Marie Rutkoski's new book!  It's a great love story, but there are so many more moral questions at play.  It is much more complex than I had imagined.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The True Meaning of Smekday movie trailer!

The movie is called Home.  I guess they thought the title was too weird.  :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Crossover

Josh's dad, and pretty much everyone else, calls him Filthy McNasty because of his skills on the basketball court.  Only two people can come close:  his twin brother JB and their dad.

But just as their team is poised to take the championship, things start to go wrong.  Josh and JB have always been best friends, but now JB has a crush on the new girl Alexis.  Miss Sweet Tea may be cute and a baller, but it's not easy for someone else to take the number one spot away from Josh.

Josh's dad used to be a professional player in the Euroleague until his hurt his knee.  His career could have continued if he's had knee surgery, but he has always been opposed to doctors.  The same is true now that he's had fainting spells and shortness of breath.  Heart problems run in the family, but "da man" can't be brought down  so easily.  The fried chicken and donuts don't help.
All of this is driving Josh a little crazy, and he lashes out at JB at a game.  Can these two brothers ever repair their relationship, or is this the end of a beautiful friendship?

I loved Kwame Alexander's story of basketball and family told in verse format.

The Nethergrim

Edmund wants to be a magician, so he saves all his money to buy books and candles to learn on his own, but he has to do it in secret because he father thinks reading is a waste of time.  He bought the inn to leave to his eldest son, and that's what Edmund should be concerned about.  But Edmund only cares about two things:  magic and Katherine.

Katherine is tall and strong and prefers sword fighting and horses to pretty much everything else.  Her father trains all the king's horses with Katherine's help.  She doesn't have many friends, but she only needs her father, the horses, and her two best friends Edmund and Tom.

Tom is a slave to the cruelest master in the village.  He has a special gift with the natural world.  He can speak to and understand animals, and he has a vast knowledge of plants.  His only moments of peace are when he can steal time with his friends.

When a number of children go missing from the surrounding area, all signs point to the return of the Nethergrim.  Even though it's supposed to be dead, killed by a trio of men including Katherine's father, the signs are clear.  As fear and despair spread through the countryside, Edmund, Katherine, and Tom realize they know where to find the missing children, but no one will listen.  That means the three friends must venture into danger to save the missing children before it is too late and the ancient horror that is the Nethergrim awakens.

What a fabulous fantasy epic by Matthew Jobin!  I can't wait for book two!