Monday, March 30, 2015

The Iron Trial

Callum Hunt knows one thing.  He must fail the test and be refused entrance into the Magisterium.  His father has told him all about the magical training school.  The Masters don't care about the welfare of their students.  They perform experiments on them and involve them in violent wars.  Plus, the school is like an underground prison.  Callum does his best to fail, but it doesn't work.

Callum is now a student at the Magesterium, an apprentice of Master Rufus, the most prestigious teacher at the school, and he's not really sure how it happened.  After a rough start, Call reluctantly starts to befriend his fellow apprentices, especially Tamara and Sean who are also working with Master Rufus.  There are some things about the school that reinforce what his father has always told him, but the longer he lives there, the more he begins to like it.  He even discovers that he is actually good at magic.

His twisted leg, broken when he was a baby, has always held him back in school, but at the Magesterium it hardly seems to matter to the other students.  But even as he starts to settle in to life in his new underground school, there is a growing uneasiness in the magical community.

The Enemy of Death was once a student at the Magesterium until he turned on everyone and began a war that ended in a great slaughter children, the old, and the sick:  The Cold Massacre.  There has been a truce for the last twelve years, but everyone knows it can't last forever.  What if the enemy returns?  What if Callum's father was right, and he's about to be forced into battle with the Enemy of Death?

This new series opener by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is fun read.  There are some good twists and turns to the plot, but it does have heavy overtones of Harry Potter.  Potter fans will probably enjoy the familiarity of the special child sent to magic school with enigmatic teachers and secrets.  This is a solid book, and I look forward to seeing where the series goes in the next book.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Always, Abigail

Abigail is sure 6th grade is going to be awesome!  She and her two best friends, Ally and Cam (AKA Allicam) have been obsessed with the poms since they were little, and this is the year they can join.

But things don't go the way Abigail expects.  First Allicam are in one homeroom, and Abigail is in another.  Plus, they don't have any classes together.  Plus, Abigail is in Old Hawk's homeroom, the oldest and strictest teacher in school.  Plus, Abigail also has Old Hawk for language arts.  Plus, Old Hawk is making them do a friendly letter assignment all year long.  Plus, Old Hawk is assigning the partners.

Abigail's partner is Gabby Marco, the weirdest girl in school.  She can't believe how terrible her luck is.  Not only is she separated from Allicam, but she is forced to write letters to Flabby Gabby.  This girl laughs randomly and lives in a beat up trailer.  Sixth grade is not going well.

The real problem, though, is Abigail begins to see Gabby as a real person who is actually kind of fun.  She also starts to see the mean side of Allicam.  Abigail knows she should defend her new friend, but that would mean giving up her old friends and her goals for 6th grade.

Nancy Cavanaugh's new book perfectly captures the middle school struggle of changing friendships and dealing with bullies.  This book really took me back to my own middle school days.  Abigail is the perfect every girl stuck between wanting to be popular and doing the right thing.  I highly recommend this book!

The Young Elites

When Adelina was a child the blood fever swept across the land killing many and leaving others marked.  Adelina, like many other survivors is a Malfetto.  She lost her left eye to the fever, her skin bears strange markings, and her hair and eyelashes turned from brown to silvery white.

The Malfettos are are outcasts in Kenettra.  Many people believe they are demons from the underworld.  While the Malfettos are scorned, some of them have new abilities.  These young Elites each have some kind of ability to control the natural world.

Adelina has always been a Malfetto, hated and cruelly treated by her father.  When her father decides to sell her to an older man, she runs away, and for the first time, she realizes she too is an Elite.

Adelina has the power to create illusions.  She could become a powerful asset to the Daggers, a group of Elites who take her in.  But many of the Daggers are wary of Adelina's power and the growing darkness in her heart.  As she struggles to control her powers, the darkness grows within her.

Everyone wants Adelina for a purpose, and she is caught in the middle of a dangerous game with enemies on all sides.  There are many who want to use her power, but does anyone want Adelina for herself?

Marie Lu's new series opener was a thrilling read.  I'm still trying to decide how I feel about it.  This is no straight forward tale, but a story of darkness and betrayal.  Recommended for fans of anti-heroes.


If you are like me, suffering because Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles is coming out in November instead of February, Fairest will help ease your pain.  But be warned, this book is crazy!

Princess Levana lives a life that is cold and lonely.  She never felt loved by her parents or her older sister.  When her parents are murdered by Shells, Channary becomes queen, and Levana becomes an even bigger joke in the royal court with her older sister taking every opportunity to mock and belittle her.

Meanwhile, Levana has developed feelings for one of her guards, Evret, but she is devastated to learn that not only is he married but his wife is pregnant.  When Evret's wife dies in child birth, Levana is convinced this is her opportunity for love.  Evret will no longer need to cling to his poor seamstress wife when he can be married to a princess.

From the first page of this novella it is clear that Levana has already started developing the cruelty and madness we see in the other books in the series.  This is a fascinating story about motive, loneliness, and delusion, but it is definitely more mature than the other books in the series.

Marissa Meyer weaves in pieces of her other characters' stories in Levana's tale, but you'll need to pay attention to catch some of the details.  This edition also includes the first three chapters of Winter which is good and bad because we still have to wait for the rest.  Recommended for fans of The Lunar Chronicles!

Click below for an interview with the author!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Forget Me

Since the night Morgan saw her boyfriend die in a hit and run accident, she hasn't been able to let go.  She may have only known Flynn for a few months, but he still has a hold on her.

But there are other reasons she's stuck.  Like everyone else in River's End, she is suffering from the downfall of Stell Pharmaceuticals.  When the news came out that a popular drug was actually killing some people, the company folded, and may people, like Morgan's parents, lost their jobs.  The closing rolled out into the rest of River's End with restaurants, stores, and pretty much everything else going out of business.  Everyone who's left is stuck.  They can't even sell their homes to move away.

When Morgan's best friend, Toni, encourages her to try to find closure by posting a picture of Flynn to a social networking site with a farewell message, things start to get strange.  The site wants to tag Flynn as someone else, Evan Murphy.  To make things weirder, Evan Murphy is identical to the mysterious Flynn.
This can't be a coincidence.  Morgan begins to investigate Flynn.  The more truth she uncovers, the more she realizes how little she knew about her boyfriend, and her investigation is leading her into danger.  Maybe Flynn's death wasn't an accident after all, and if Morgan doesn't stop snooping, maybe she will be next.

Read K. A. Harrington's tale of mystery, suspense, and romance to find out the truth!  This one was hard to put down!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mountain Dog

When Tony's mother goes to prison for breeding and fighting pit bulls, he has nowhere to go.  Even though life with his mother was violent and scary, it was the only life he knew.

It's a surprise when his social worker tells him she's found a relative to be his foster parent, a great-uncle.  Tio lives in Sierra Nevada mountains and works as a ranger and rescuer with his dog Gabe.  Life with Tio and Gabe in the mountains couldn't be more different than life in inner city LA, but it doesn't take long before the knots in Tony's heart begin to loosen.

He loves the mountains, and he especially loves Gabe.  The chocolate lab is different from the angry and abused pit bulls Tony has always known, and Gabe seems to know how to heal Tony's broken spirit.

The best part of Tony's new life is learning how to help train rescue dogs and survive in the wilderness.  Tony loves being part of a team that can save people from almost certain death.

Life in the mountains may be the best thing that ever happened to Tony, but he still has the lingering fear that all this is temporary.  Tio's cabin is only his foster home.

I loved Margarita Engle's story of heartbreak and healing.  The verse novel is told in alternating chapters from Tony's and Gabe's points of view and is a story any animal lover will instinctively understand.  We may rescue our pets from shelters and bad environments, but in the end they are the ones who rescue us.  Highly recommended!

Monday, March 16, 2015

All Fall Down

Grace's mother died in an accident.  That's what everyone keeps telling her.  The only problem is Grace was there that night.  She remembers the man who killed her mother.  Despite all the therapists and treatments and entreaties from her family, she knows her mother was murdered.

With her older brother in college and her father deployed to a war zone, Grace has been sent to live with her grandfather, the U.S. ambassador to Adria, a small but important European nation.  She does not want to be there.  Her grandfather hasn't spoken to her in three years, not since the night her mother died.  Every corner of the house reminds Grace of her mother and the painful loss she still suffers.

Now that she's back on Embassy Row, she reconnects with some old friends and meets some new faces.  Embassy Row is an international crossroads where every home is a sovereign country and every neighbor speaks a different language.

Grace really is trying to make things work until she sees him, the man who killed her mother.  No one will believe her, so Grace starts her own investigation to find out the truth.  But every secret revealed leads to more lies, and soon Grace isn't even sure she can trust herself anymore.

Ally Carter's new series is set in the high stakes world of international relations where every careless word can cause an international incident.  I love Carter's other books, and I look forward to more in this series!

In the After

Amy is home alone watching TV when it happens.  A spaceshift.  Horrible green creatures with razor sharp talons and teeth.  They are so terrifying and so fast.  It doesn't take long for them to decimate the population.  The worst part is the screaming.  They eat their victims alive.

Amy is alone.  She doesn't even know if there are any other survivors.  She doesn't want to venture out of her haven.  She mourns in silence so They won't hear her and come running.  She's safe for a long time.  Her dad was pretty much a hippy who kept the pantry stocked with food storage and the roof top garden thriving.  The solar panels are great, too, because it only takes a few days before the power goes out.

Her mother's paranoia protects Amy, too.  Without that electric fence surrounding the house, she'd probably be dead by now.  The shock is enough to keep the creatures out.  They aren't smart, just hungry.

After a while the food storage runs out, and Amy learns how to scavenge for food and stay safe from Them.  It is on one of these trips that she finds Baby.  Baby is so little, maybe three, and she doesn't talk, but she's plenty smart.  The two girls live alone for several years in silence.  It's seems too good to be true, and their solitary time eventually runs out.  As they venture out into the After, they will face dangers old and new, and in this new nightmare world it's hard to know who to trust.

I could not put Demitria Lunetta's debut novel down.  It is fascinating and terrifying.  Highly recommended!

Tell Me

Anna is an aspiring actress who always puts her whole heart into every role including her current role as a dancing cranberry at the mall, but life isn't all dancing cranberries.  Her parents are fighting more all the time, and her dad's temper is getting out of control.

That's why she's gone to spend some time with her grandmother, Mim, in Rosemont.  Maybe she can spend some time helping the town get ready for the annual Flower Festival while her parents figure out what to do next.

It isn't long before Anna is caught up in Rosemont life and the flower festival, but one day she sees something.  Well, she's not even sure if it's really anything, but it just seems wrong.  That girl in the van just didn't look right.  She looked...terrified.

Anna and her new friends are convinced this girl is in trouble, but they will need to convince the police that what Anna saw and her gut feeling are enough to go on.  Anna refuses to give up because she knows she may be the only real chance this girl has.

Joan Bauer has written another great story about a strong girl who refuses to back down.  I love all of Joan Bauer's books because of the strong characters and the issues they face.  Tell Me is no exception.  Anna deals with her personal struggles while catching a glimpse inside the world of human trafficking.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Great Greene Heist

Jackson Greene is trying to live the clean life after getting caught trying to break into the principal's office and not exactly kissing a girl to annoy a rival.  He knows he's out if he commits one more infraction.

The problem is his former best friend and girl of his dreams Gaby de la Cruz is running for student council president against slime-ball Keith Sinclair.  Jackson tries to stay out of it, but once he discovers that Keith is plotting to win no matter what, he has to involved.

It's bad enough that Keith wants to strip all the clubs in school of funding (except of course for his clubs), but Jackson can't let Keith do this to Gaby.  She deserves to win.

Jackson puts together a team to steal the election.  There's Charlie, his best friend and Gaby's twin brother; Bradley, the inside man; Hashemi, tech support; and Victor, the money man.  Can this team of cons pull off the biggest heist of Jackson's career to win the election for Gaby and maybe the girl of his dreams for Jackson?  Read Varian Johnson's debut book to find out!  I definitely recommend this one for fans of heist stories with a touch of romance and humor.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Whispering Skull

Following their success in The Screaming Staircase where Lockwood & Co. spent the night in the most haunted house in Britain, our heroes had some business success, but things have been tapering off since then.  The Fittes Agency, with their superior manpower and historic name keeps getting in the way.

When the team is hired by Mr. Saunders to make safe the recently discovered grave of Edmund Bickerstaff, thing start to look up.  Bickerstaff was famous during his time for experiments in attempting to communicate with the dead, and his death is widely reported as horrific.  Everything goes well until they discover a strange bone mirror in Bickerstaff's coffin.  Lockwood and Lucy quickly neutralize the mirror, but it has affected George in some way.

When the mirror comes up missing, Lockwood and Co. must race against their rivals from Fittes to discover the mirror and claim the reward.

Additionally, Lucy's gift seems to be increasing in power, and the skull trapped in the ghost jar that spoke to her at the end of The Screaming Staircase is becoming increasingly talkative.  Can he really help in their investigation, or is he leading them into a trap?

There are even more villains, both spectral and human, in Jonathan Stroud's follow up to the fabulous The Screaming Staircase.  I highly recommend this sequel for more fiendish and Dickensian fun!