Friday, September 11, 2015

Damon Blundy, trendy, controversial blogger and news columnist is dead. A message is scrawled near the murder scene, "He is no less dead." What? Yeah, that's what everyone is asking in this wonderful psychological thriller by Sophie Hannah.

Nikki Clements feels like she knows what "He is no less dead," means. In fact, she drove by Damon Blundy's house many times that day. In fact, she just moved to his neighborhood. But she can't quite place why those words stick in her head. Words are important to Nikki, you see. She uses them a lot in her secret life. Is her secret big emough to kill for?

If you liked Gone Girl with all its quirky, pyscho drama, you'll love this book. Its pace is good enough and just wild and creepy enough to keep you reading page after page. Give it a try, and then check out the many other Sophie Hannah books the library has to offer!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Second books in trilogies are often my favorites. For me, this was definitely true of The Hunger Games and Legend. I think the same holds true for this second entry in the Darkest Minds trilogy.

In this continuing saga of Ruby and her friends as they battle to find each other after separation in battle, President Clancy's son and his personal agenda become evident. Ruby must face her decision regarding her sacrifice for Liam as well as analyze every part of her humanity and conscience. There are some wonderful chances for readers of all ages to ask themselves the questions Ruby faces: Does love really mean letting go sometimes? Does an end justify the means? How far would we go to help others?

The twisty plot and thrilling action once again drew me in and amazed me as an adult reader reading this YA novel. If kids can follow all the espionage and mind games going on here, they are very smart readers, indeed. There is also just enough "superpower" sci fi going on to keep those readers going, but like other well-done dystopian books, there is enough "reality" or real-world drama to keep those who really don't get into fantasy plots reading well into the night.

The next book is called After Light. I might have to take a break to read some great new adult novels coming out this summer, but I'm eager to know if the last book ties up all of the exciting loose ends in this wonderful series.

Friday, June 5, 2015

I took this book to our middle school for kids to check out, and the school librarian said they immediately started passing it around because after one person read it, another wanted it. So, I'm finally giving this trilogy a shot.

The premise is that the children in the United States suddenly become vulnerable to a virus at the age of 10 which ultimately either kills them or changes their brain chemistry so that they have new and powerful abilities. The government and all the adults don't really know what to do with the kids who survive because some the "powers" the kids now possess seem dangerous. So, the really great system the government comes up with is to label the kids by ability, giving it a color name, and putting them in separate camps away from their parents and the rest of humanity. Ruby is one such girl, labeled "orange" because of her ability to read people's thoughts and memories. Orange kids are extremely rare by the time Ruby is 16, and so various organizations are looking for her to be their secret weapon. What could a girl who could read people's thoughts and erase their memories do for a government? An army? Yeah. A lot.

There is a little bit of something for every reader in this series, I believe. There is thrilling action, good dialog, a smart heroine, a couple of handsome love interests, friends with loyalty, war, and any number of other social issues. Pick it up and give it a try. I'm going to read the second book, Never Fade. I'll let you know if it's as good as the first.

Friday, May 22, 2015

New Posts on the Way!

I cannot believe it's been almost a year since I posted something here. I apologize for this laziness, and I vow to get back to sharing my book recommendations with you! I also plan on creating a new blog just for kids and teens where I'll review all the YA and middle grade fiction that I read. Thank you for your patience this year, and I hope you'll continue to follow me!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

I have always loved Alice Hoffman because she manages to mix realistic characters, a strong sense of place, and a spiritual or magical element all into a fascinating, believable story that stays with me forever. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is another of these extraordinary stories.

Coralie Sardie is extraordinary for many reasons. She lives with her father, the mastermind and owner of a boardwalk "freak show." Coralie herself is one of the "freaks" billed as the Mermaid Girl, floating in a tank of water for many hours at a time to entertain the masses and swimming for hours in the dark, dangerous waters of the Hudson. She lives among the other acts including a "wolf man" and a "butterfly girl" who all have extraordinary looks and talents, but are, as Coralie knows, just people.

Eddie Cohen is not a sideshow act but a photographer trying to find his way in a confusing world where he feels alone and unworthy until he happens upon Coralie, who seems to him like a dream in every way. He also happens upon a mystery involving a missing girl and all the characters who played a role in her disappearance. He cannot shake the need to solve the mystery for the parents of the girl, and he can't shake his longing for Coralie.

When Coralie and Eddie find each other, it is more than a simple romance. It is a mysterious and dangerous tangle of past, present, and future. It is two people simply trying to have ordinary love when their lives and bodies and friends are almost too extraordinary to hold it.

If it's magic, mystery, and great characters you want, then Alice Hoffman will never fail you. Give this, or one of her other wonderful books a try. Great summer reads!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Another librarian friend of mine told me about this new series, and it's truly amazing. If you like post-apocalyptic YA, you will love Ashfall, the first in a trilogy set in our very own Iowa.

In the first chapter of the novel, a teen boy named Alex is left home alone for the weekend. While he is innocently trying decide which computer games to play without interruption, the house begins to shake, thunder sounds louder than he's ever heard, and he ends up pulling himself from the rubble pile that is his home. No one in his small town seems to know what is going on, but a strange substance begins to fall from the sky and doesn't quit - the ash from a distant mega-volcano. The struggle that ensues for Alex, who tries desperately to get back to his family a couple hours away, is mesmerizing. The ash becomes like the dust in the American Dust Bowl era, covering everything and killing people and animals who breathe it in and destroying the natural resources by suffocating them. Along the road, Alex is met with struggles of violence both from other people and the desolate environment and altered weather patterns that follow the volcano's destruction. He does find a friend, Darla, along the way, who is both a hindrance and a help in his survival but who helps him retain his humanity in a very inhumane setting.

I'm not quite sure why I couldn't put Ashfall down. It was dark and dystopian, yes, but the idea of the ash and the struggle and randomness of the characters Alex meets was like no other. It seemed very real and unbelievable at the same time, and while the journey had a pattern and rhythm to it, it was so exciting, I couldn't wait to see if he made it to his family.  I also can't wait to read the second in the series, Ashen Winter, and all Mullin's fans anxiously await the newest and last book, Sunrise, which comes out soon.

The Bat by Jo Nesbo

So I couldn't help myself and thought I'd start at the beginning, with the first Harry Hole mystery. Getting to see the inspector as a young pup just starting out and beginning his good-natured self-destruction was very fun and dark at the same time, and the premise of this one was every bit as intriguing as The Snowman.

In The Bat, Harry travels to Australia after the movie of a celebrity from Norway is killed. He befriends his "partner" in the police department and learns about the lives and prejudices regarding modern Aboriginals. He also becomes romantically involved with a witness, which adds some spice to Harry's character. Will these relationships get in the way of the investigation? 

This first novel, while a little less polished perhaps than Nesbo's The Snowman, was nonetheless completely readable and unpredictable, and we can really see why everyone fell in love with Harry Hole. Give this series a try!

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

The Valley Book Club chose this Norwegian thriller for its discussion in February, and I was so glad. I had always wanted to read one by this very popular author, and I was not disappointed. It was filled with suspense, cool characters (no pun intended), and a little gore thrown in for good measure. Love it!

Inspector Harry Hole is known for his stellar insights and knowledge of serial killers. (Note that this is the 7th Harry Hole mystery by Nesbo, but don't let that deter you from reading anywhere on the list. It was my first and didn't bother me a bit that I hadn't read others.)This new case began with a little boy discovering that his mother was not at home, and she had left without her pink scarf, an item she cherished. When police find the scarf wrapped around a snowman in the back yard, they discover the gruesome truth, and this calling card leads them to other murders. The last of which gets very personal for Harry.

If you like creepy, dark, and spell-binding, then Jo Nesbo and The Snowman are for you. You may want to go back and read all the Harry Hole mysteries. I know I do.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant is the 3rd and final book in Roth's brilliant, dystopian Divergent series. Divergent fans like me have been waiting what seems like a lifetime for this installment, and although the ending had me almost crying and gasping for air, it did not disappoint.

The post-apocalyptic world in which Tris and Tobias must now live is one divided between the divided Chicago that they knew, where groups or factions were determined by one personality trait, and one they never knew existed. Those who showed proclivity for more than one trait were considered "divergent" and therefore dangerous - that is until now. Tris and Tobias find out that there is whole other world where the government watches the city, researching their lives as part of a huge "experiment" to see if people with "damaged genes" can eventually get back to their genetically ideal or divergent state. Divergence is the only good state to be in, according to this government which wants to abolish the factions altogether. While this seems liberating and just to Tris and Tobias and their rebel friends at first, the means by which genetic purity will be obtained is not so liberating. The labels for people are changed, but the outcomes and civil strife that result are just as damaging as the "experiment."

This is the complicated moral landscape that the characters in Roth's world must navigate. Real-life societal issues come into play when one talks about genetic purity, cleansing, war, and human experimentation. When does the end justify the means, etc.? All of this fascinating stuff is wrapped up in a band of very interesting young characters, Tris and Tobias's love story, and their ongoing family battles over power, love, and acceptance.

The intoxicating combination of these elements is what makes this series one of today's hottest tickets, soon to be a ticket at theaters everywhere. So before the first movie comes out in March, do yourself a favor and get lost in the Divergent world. Read the books. You won't be able to put them down until they're done.

The Power by Rhonda Byrne

When I first heard about the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, I thought to myself, "Oh, my gosh. Another dumb self help book full of fake spirituality." Obviously I wasn't ready for it. Then there came a time when I was. I read The Secret with an open heart - a heart that wanted to change my life for the better. And it helped me do just that. This new book in the series, The Power, is a wonderful extension of the teachings of the "law of attraction" which is now a law I try to live by every day.

When you say the term "law of attraction" to people, they immediately think of romance. But that is really not what the law is about at all. It is, simply put, a way to become a happier person by concentrating and visualizing, using positive thought as a means to draw more positive aspects into your life. If your life is full of negativity, people complaining, adversity, illness, or other struggles, then learning the law of attraction is for you. This book helped to reiterate all the practices and also gave them a deeper and more usable meaning in my life. It teaches that by visualizing and living as though your perfect life has already happened to you, those things can come into being. If you are a positive person, positive people, opportunities, and even wealth and properity will come to you.

So, some of you might say that these ideas are still "dumb self-help mumbo jumbo" but unless you try it, you won't see what it can do for you.If you can't do it, or it doesn't work, what have you lost?