Melissa shares this review:
Wait for Me is a novel about a Korean girl caught up in her mother’s expectations of success. Mina has no hope of achieving all that her mother desires for her. But instead of living with her mother’s angry, resentful disappointment, Mina tells lie upon lie to create the image her mother expects. It was easy to start the lies, easy to make her mother believe them, once she got the help of Jonathon Kim, the only son of the mother’s longtime friend.
Mina has a plan, based on more lies, for how she will escape from her mother once she graduates from high school. Once she is on her own, she’ll tell her mother the truth.
Mina has a younger sister, Suna, who has a hearing disability. Sometimes Suna takes out her hearing aid so she can find quiet and comfort in her own world. Suna’s observations interspersed with Mina’s chapters give another perspective to events during that hot summer before Mina’s senior year of high school, the summer Mina meets Ysrael and her perspectives change.
Wait for Me will appeal to anyone interested in other cultures, as well as anyone who has felt overwhelmed by someone else’s expectations. This is also a love story, and a story about sisters, and a story about growing up.
The book is beautifully written by An Na, who won a Printz Award for her first novel, A Step from Heaven. The audiobook is read by Kim Nai Guest. She does an excellent job in bringing Mina and Suna to life.
Check the WRL catalog for Wait for Me
Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook Wait for Me
Andrew shares this review:
One of my colleagues and I were looking over a cart of books when I pulled this from the shelf. “Sounds too magical-realist,” she said doubtfully. I was still intrigued by the title, and decided to give it a few pages. I took it home and immediately plunged into Clay Jannon’s world, which Robin Sloan writes with anything but magical realism.
Clay’s career is stuck in neutral, a bad place to be in cutting-edge San Francisco’s Web-design world. Along about the time the last of his savings is headed to pay the rent, Clay is desperate enough to take anything. A sign in the window of a dim little shop (overshadowed by the neon of the strip club next door) advertises “Help Wanted,” and Clay enters Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
If the store is surviving on actual, you know, book sales, Clay can’t tell it. Working the overnight shift, he rarely has any customers except a girl from the club dropping in for the latest bestseller, which Mr. Penumbra doesn’t stock. What he has, in his queerly shaped store, are tall shelves packed with volumes written in languages and letters Clay can’t decipher. Odd people sometimes duck in to pick up select volumes and duck back out after putting them on their special accounts.
With nothing much to do overnight, Clay starts building a virtual copy of the Bookstore to aid him in finding stuff from the collection. Then he starts adding data from past circulations and finds a pattern that amazes him and astonishes Mr. Penumbra. His discovery leads to another, and another, and the whole chain of discoveries leads Clay right back to the place he really started.
Sloan does a great job with the characters, from the friends who support and encourage Clay to the avuncular Mr. Penumbra. The characters play off one another, co-operating and offering their skills as Clay carries out his quest. But it’s the idea behind the story that really intrigued me—that there’s an exciting new frontier at the intersection of print and technology, and that advocates of both need to remember it. And even if writing about books on a blog is only building a little cabin on the edge of that frontier, well, that’s enough for me right now.
Check the WRL catalog for Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Melissa shares this review:
Charlie Bucktin is a loner. He’s a smart, bookish boy who doesn’t have many friends in his small Australian hometown in the 1960s. He’s working his way through his father’s library of classics when a knock sounds on his bedroom window. Charlie is surprised to find Jasper Jones, the town’s “bad boy,” asking him to slip away into the night and lend him a hand.
The story unravels a mystery and the events lead to Charlie uncovering many adult secrets. The knowledge forces him to grow up quickly in the face of racism, adultery, abuse, and disappointment.
“I would have been free of all this. I would have stayed safe in my room. I might have read a little longer. Then I would have slept like I used to. I would have woken as I normally would have. None the wiser. Much the lighter. I’d never have known Jasper Jones, I’d never have shared his story, I’d never have known this awful brick in my stomach. Misery and melancholy and terror would just be words I knew, like all those gemstones I collected in my suitcase that I never knew a thing about.”
Jasper Jones is a Printz Honor Book. The plot is well-developed and the characters are complex. The mystery is interesting, but it’s Charlie’s personal growth that makes it memorable. There were many passages I wanted to slow down and reread in the book. Observations about how people behave, questions about his actions, doubts about what he thought he could count on. Passages that made me stop and think or just had a unique turn of phrase that made a particularly vivid picture in my head.
I started listening to this as an audiobook and loved the performance by Matt Cowlrick. Cowlrick has a lovely Australian accent that really brought Charlie to life. I was so interested in finding out how the book ended that I also checked out the book so I could finish it without having to drive around and around the block.
Reviewers have listed this as appropriate for ages 12 and up. There is some bad language and appropriately stupid puns. The topics covered are definitely of an adult nature. There’s a lot here to facilitate a good book discussion for both young adults and adults.
Check the WRL catalog for Jasper Jones.
Check the WRL catalog for Jasper Jones in audiobook format.
Jessica shares this review:
“If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned. If she float, she do be a witch and must be hanged.”
Fantasy blends with historical fiction and romance in this first novel of “The Tudor Witch Trilogy”. Set in England in 1554 readers are immediately placed in the time of Princess Elizabeth, who has been sent into exile at Woodstock Palace by her half-sister Queen Mary. Political tensions are running high and there is talk of treason. Just months ago young Princess Elizabeth found herself as a prisoner in the Tower of London after being accused of conspiring to overthrow the Queen. As no true evidence can be found she is instead sent faraway to crumbling Woodstock Palace. And so sets the scene for Meg Lytton, the Princess’s newest hand maiden. Meg has a powerful gift, one she must hide from all. She comes from a long line of witches and is very much one herself. But there is no room for witches in Catholic England and should she be revealed she would be hanged. However, Meg soon finds the Princess has an interest in the craft all her own and often calls on Meg and her aunt to help her see into the future and answer the always pressing question, “Will she ever be Queen”? But Meg and her aunt must exercise the most extreme measure of caution as the famed witch hunter Marcus Dent has taken an intense interest in Meg and wishes for her hand in marriage. Things only get worse as Meg learns her own family is conspiring against the Queen and her association with the Princess puts already exiled Elizabeth in further danger. When it seems all is going wrong and there is no one Meg can trust, in walks Spanish priest in training, Alejandro de Castillo and suddenly everything is beginning to look a little better and a whole lot more dangerous…
Check the WRL catalog for Witchstruck
Jennifer D. shares this review:
What Leena expects to be a perfect senior year at boarding school begins to fall apart from the first moment she sets foot back on campus. She’s excited to be living in Frost House with her two best friends, and will have a room to herself until their other friend returns from a semester abroad. Leena can’t wait to be out of the dorm, and moving into Frost House is a special treat because it was repurposed as women’s housing just for her and her roommates. Her excitement is soon dulled, however, by the news that she will be sharing her sanctuary with a roommate after all.
Celeste is eccentric, arty, and attention-seeking. So when she starts to complain about Frost House, Leena doesn’t quite know what to believe. Leena loves living in the old house and feels completely at home. Celeste feels like she is being watched, claims her belongings are being tampered with, and swears it smells like something died in her closet. Could Celeste be making it all up or is there really a presence in the house that Leena can’t sense? Why would Leena feel so comfortable in the house if there was really something wrong? Celeste certainly has a history of being unreliable, but even Leena can’t argue with the strange, if disparate, effect Frost House seems to have on them both.
Frost is not your usual haunted house story, and you may end the story with as many questions as you began. With that said, I enjoyed the layers author Baer built, each one adding more and more depth to the story than the last. Are the events of the story the result of a character’s psychological deterioration, a haunting, or something more mundane?
Check the WRL catalog for Frost.
Lizzy shares this review:
Drew, the voice of the book, is a seventh grade sidekick in training. Drew, aka “The Sensationalist”, goes through middle school while fighting crime. Or at least he would be if his “super” would do anything besides drink in a bar. But besides that, life is awesome for Drew. He also has to deal with his crush on his best friend, Jenna. After getting a kickball to the face a year ago, he finally confessed he likes her. Sadly though, all those plans must go on hold as soon as a super villain escapes from prison. Is the Dealer coming back? Between listening to bad advice and learning right from wrong, Drew carries quite a load on his shoulders. With hilarious characters and great descriptions, Sidekicked is truly an amazing book.
Check the WRL catalog for Sidekicked.
Jan shares this review:
High school junior Dean is starting a normal day in his Colorado suburb, riding his school bus in a future not too different from now, where every child has a minitab that keeps them continuously connected to the Network. Suddenly, strange hail filled with stones and sticks inundates them so terribly that his bus crashes, killing the driver and over half the students. The survivors of the crash are helped into a nearby superstore by the resourceful driver of the nearby elementary school bus. She goes looking for help and eight teenagers are left to look after six small children as the world goes crazy.
From an old fashioned TV they learn that a volcanic eruption in the far away Canary Islands have set off a chain of catastrophes such as the strange hail and earthquakes which have caused the release of chemical weapons. Things are looking very bleak. How will these eight teenagers survive? Will they able to care for the six small children who have unexpectedly become their responsibility?
Monument 14 only covers 12 days, but an amazing amount of action is squeezed into less than two weeks. Like Ashfall (about which I previously posted), Monument 14 starts with a natural disaster that is beyond the control of people, but unlike Ashfall it then delves into the man made disaster of the released chemical weapons. Monument 14 focuses less on the action and more on the psychology of the previously carefree teenagers and the children who are now their responsibility. There are many characters to keep track of, but they are well drawn with some being likable and others distinctly less so. The teenagers already know each other from high school, but travel different social circles. The teenagers who were popular aren’t necessarily the ones best suited to the extremes of their new situation.
Monument 14 suggests that during an apocalyptic event a superstore is a great place to take shelter, as it has everything you might need–food, medicine, bedding, clothing, and camping supplies to start with. In reality, it may be a terrible place because everyone will want the same supplies and you may have to fight for them. In Monument 14, the store has strong, automatic “riot gates” that close and lock the children in. More importantly, it also locks everyone else out, but other people want to get in, adding to the tension and plot twists.
Monument 14 has enough action to keep you on the edge of your seat and enough post-apocalyptic problems and psychology to keep you thinking long after the last page. It ends in a cliffhanger and the story continues in the sequel, Monument 14: Sky on Fire.
Check the WRL catalog for Monument 14.
Check the WRL catalog for Monument 14: Sky on Fire.
Jennifer D. shares this review:
They were only supposed to stay long enough to bury her grandmother. Sarah’s mom had never talked much about her childhood and the visit back to her ancestral home was meant to be brief. Then, plans change, and suddenly they’ll be spending two weeks in Amber House.
When a house has been around as long as Amber House has, it is bound to have a lot of history hiding behind its walls. After all, three hundred years is a long time. Sarah decides to uses this opportunity to explore the estate, and perhaps unearth the treasure of diamonds rumored to be hidden on the grounds. But Sarah soon finds that Amber House hides many more secrets.
Being in Amber House brings out an interesting new ability in Sarah. She begins to see visions, a talent common to the women in her family line. Apparitions of her ancestors linger around every corner – but are they trying to help or harm her?
Check the WRL catalog for Amber House.
Lizzy shares this review:
For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, the New Hampshire College Prep program is the chance of a lifetime. Except that when Dan arrives, he finds that the usual summer housing has been closed, forcing students to stay in the crumbling Brookline Dorm—formerly a psychiatric hospital. As Dan and his new friends Abby and Jordan start exploring Brookline’s twisty halls and hidden basement, they uncover disturbing secrets about what really went on here . . . secrets that link Dan and his friends to the asylum’s dark past. Because Brookline was no ordinary mental hospital, and there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried. –Book Summary from Amazon.com
Asylum is a thriller unlike anything else. The book draws you in with its real life photographs and plot. The setting, an old asylum turned into a dorm, is perfectly used. The characters change throughout the book, making your mind even more curious. The plot moves through visions to murder. The reader feels the emotions each character is feeling. Beware! This book is hard to put down.
Check the WRL catalog for Asylum.
Melissa shares this review:
This is the first in Kelley Armstrong’s Darkness Rising trilogy. It’s a compelling story about a teenager who seems to be developing some special abilities.
Maya lives in Salmon Creek. The town was built by a medical research facility to house the employees and their families. There are less than 70 students in her entire school.
For her sixteenth birthday, her parents agree to let Maya get her paw-shaped birthmark inked in as a tattoo. Instead of being a happy occasion, Maya has a strange encounter with an old woman at the tattoo parlor who calls her a witch.
With the exception of the tragic swimming accident that killed her best friend, growing up in the small community has been pretty normal for Maya. All that is about to change — and I don’t want to give too much of the plot away.
As Maya searches for answers about what the old woman said she experiences a stronger than normal connection to animals: dreaming about running with cougars, feeling the memories of a wounded animal she’s nursing back to health, experiencing heightened senses. Her friend Rafe offers her an answer that seems too impossible to believe. But when she sees the impossible with her own eyes, how can she doubt the truth?
The Gathering has a very exciting ending that leaves you breathless for the next story – The Calling
I listened to this on audiobook and enjoyed the reading by Jennifer Ikeda. Her voice fit perfectly with what I thought Maya would sound like. And that’s what I liked most about the book — Maya. She is smart and likeable. Her relationships seem like real relationships — from her overprotective best friend to the girl she doesn’t get along with so well. This is definitely a book setting up a paranormal situation, but none of the characters’ decisions or plot twists made me roll my eyes in disbelief. I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops through the next two books.
Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of The Gathering
Check the WRL catalog for The Gathering
Jennifer D. shares this review:
There’s always room for another Hunger Games read-alike, right? Particularly these days when that series can be hard to come by at the library. And especially if, like The Testing, it’s excellent in its own right.
Author Joelle Charbonneau has created a dystopian version of the United States as it might look after years of bombardment by both human warfare and natural disasters. As the country attempts to recover from the Seven Stages War, Cia Vale is anxious to use her innate mechanical talent to help rebuild. She desperately wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and go to the University. The only way to do that is to successfully complete The Testing. Competition is cut-throat, and Cia soon learns that one wrong move could mean not just failing at her dream, but losing her life.
Another aspect of this series that I love is its expedited release schedule. Book two, Independent Study came out a mere six months after The Testing, and Graduation Day comes out this June. Waiting six months between installments is much preferred to the usual year-long wait for a sequel. Once you read The Testing, you’ll be glad you don’t have so long to wait either.
Check the WRL catalog for The Testing.
Michelle B. shares this review:
Hayley Kincain spent the formative years of her life cross-country traveling with her veteran father who upon returning from Iraq became a truck driver. Hayley’s father’s experiences in Iraq left him with severe PTSD and as a result Hayley has to take care of him more than he takes care of her.
One day Mr. Kincain decides that for her senior year of high school Hayley should attend a “real” school so they stop traveling and settle down. Hayley hates school, in part because she is afraid of what will happen to her father without her constant presence at home. While she is very hesitant to trust anyone, she finds friendship in Finn, and for the first time, a person she can confide in.
Written in first person, The Impossible Knife of Memory impressively captures the ascerbic wit of a memorable teenager while also handling sensitive topics such as PTSD, abuse, neglect, and addiction remarkably. Anderson includes the harsh realities of these problems in the context of fully fleshed out characters which allows me to empathize more with the characters and see them as people who could be just like me, rather than people with “problems.” Simultaneously hilarious and tragic, The Impossible Knife of Memory is recommended to all lovers of romance and realistic fiction, particularly to those who loved The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
Check the WRL catalog for The Impossible Knife of Memory.
Jennifer D. shares this review:
Violet is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Not in the idiomatic sense – she’s not torn between two equally unpleasant options – but in a more literal sense. Violet and her brother live in a dilapidated cliff-side mansion, abandoned by their art aficionado parents to fend for themselves in their sleepy Maine town. The devil has just moved into their guesthouse. Ok, maybe not the actual devil. But River West is definitely not good for Violet.
Echo, Maine is a town that seems frozen in the past. People want to get out, not move in. When River comes to town, Violet is instantly drawn to him. He’s cultured, mysterious, and attractive. His arrival also seems to herald a string of strange occurrences in Echo. Strange might be an understatement. Echo quickly becomes a place that could fit in among Stephen King’s Derry, Jerusalem’s Lot, and Castle Rock.
The timing of River’s arrival in Echo and the town’s sudden turn to the dark can’t be just a coincidence. River is almost certainly tied to recent events, but as the horror amps up, so too does Violet’s relationship with River. Is River doing the devil’s work, or is this devil not so black as he is painted?
Check the WRL catalog for Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
Noreen shares this review:
Dystopian worlds are hot, and books about teens living in some sort of dystopia abound. The trick is finding the good ones that blend the normal day-to-day things with the fantastical and make it believable. Beth Fantaskey does this deftly with charm, wit, and a voice that resounds for both teens and adults.
Jill Jekel is your ultimately good teenage girl who is smart, nice, and not so popular. Her father’s murder and her mother’s descent into severe depression leave Jill pretty much on her own to cope with everyday things. On top of this, Jill learns that her college fund has been depleted, presumably by her father before his murder.
Tristen Hyde, a newcomer to Supplee Mill High School, is a bit mysterious, very handsome, and the one person who comforts Jill at her father’s funeral. She is not sure why he came and why he seems interested in her. Yet she is drawn to him for reasons she does not understand. Tristen is haunted by dreams he does not understand.
When Mr. Messerschmidt, the high school science teacher, announces a science project contest attached to college tuition, Jill is interested, hoping to work with Tristen, who unfortunately does not seem interested. When Jill mentions a box of papers in her father’s study that were secret, Tristen changes his mind and they start working together on the project. Added to the mix is a complete breakdown by Jill’s mother who turns to Tristen’s father who is a psychiatrist.
Everyone in this book has an agenda: the likeable Jill who is falling in love with Tristen; Tristen with his nightmarish memories who is falling for Jill, but afraid; and Tristan’s father who wants power through his son; even Mr. Messerschmidt has a surprising role that is only disclosed at the end of the story. It is a painful mix for all, that creates tension for the reader wondering who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.
The climax, while somewhat predictable, has enough twists and turns to keep the reader wanting to know how it will all turn out. As mentioned on the book cover: “They say love is all about great chemistry.” — Jekel Loves Hyde has enough chemistry paired with teenage angst and a touch of the unreal to keep readers turning the pages. This could even cause readers to check out the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Check the WRL catalog for Jekel Loves Hyde
Jennifer D. shares this review:
One day after school Miki Jones rescued Janice Harper’s little sister from getting hit by a truck. That’s how Miki died. But it’s not the end of the story, it’s the beginning. Miki wakes up somewhere else. She is alive, healed, and fitted with a bracelet on her wrist. Those who are with her explain that the bracelet indicates her health level. Right now it’s green. She shouldn’t let it turn red. Miki has been called upon to help defend the planet against aliens called the Drau. If all this sounds like a video game, that’s what Miki thinks, too, until her first encounter with the Drau.
“Something comes at me, light and speed, and then it’s solid, taking the shape of a man directly in front of me. I can’t help it. I look at it, right in its eyes, mercury smooth and silvery and bright. Terrifying and beautiful. Pain explodes, eating my organs, my limbs, my brain. I feel like my insides are being ripped away, pulled out through my eyes. My legs turn to rubber. I fall to my knees. The Drau’s lips peel back, revealing rows of jagged teeth. Not human at all.”
When Miki is sent on a mission (or “pulled” as she learns it is called) she starts off in the “lobby”, a staging area where the team is assembled and weapons are distributed. Then they are sent to eliminate the mission’s target. Miki soon learns that while the set-up may seem game-like, the danger is very real.
Miki is getting a second chance, of sorts. She gets to return to her home, live as though she had never died, but with the unending expectation that her next pull might be her last.
Check the WRL catalog for Rush.
Noreen shares this review:
In this time of werewolves, vampires, zombies, and dystopian worlds, it is refreshing to find a teen novel about real people and a real time. Allie’s story starts in 1939 when she is living with her mother in Tennessee. Her mother is suffering from brain cancer and Allie is coping as best she can. Her neighbor Sam tries to help but Allie is not sure that she wants his assistance. Sam has a crush on Allie but she is too wrapped up in caring for her mother to care. And on one of the days she does spend time with Sam, her mother dies, leaving Allie alone and thinking that if she had been there she could have saved her mother.
Allie is adopted by Miss Beatrice in Maine. After a brief transition period, the book moves to 1943. While Allie has adapted somewhat to her new life, she still holds onto her mother, her mother’s fervent belief in atheism, and her need to keep her emotions carefully hidden. She does find friends at school, and becomes somewhat close to Miss Beatrice’s older daughter. And who returns to her life? Sam, who is visiting a relative living next door to Miss Beatrice. A new relationship begins between Allie and Sam.
The book is set against the background of World War II and includes all the emotions of teens growing up and finding their place in the world. The developing relationship between Allie and Sam, while a little predictable, rings true as does Allie’s search for the meaning of life and for a way to hold on to her late mother while learning to accept the love of Miss Beatrice and her new friends.
Interrupted is a first novel by Rachel Coker who was 16 years old at the time of publication and a longtime user of Williamsburg Regional Library. As a children’s librarian at WRL for many years, it is amazing to read a book written by a young lady we’ve known as a child. Seeing a library user grow up and produce a book that has been well reviewed and is well worth reading is the perfect gift for those of us at Williamsburg Regional Library.
Check the WRL catalog for Interrupted: Life Beyond Words.
Jennifer D. shares this review:
Stephen has been invisible all his life. No one has ever seen him – not his mother, not his father. He has grown accustomed to living among others, never to be seen. Then Elizabeth moves in next door. Entering his apartment one day, Stephen observes Elizabeth attempting to unlock her door while loaded down with shopping bags. “‘Are you really going to just stand there?’ she asks. ‘Is this fun for you?’”
Elizabeth just moved to New York City with her mother and brother. The circumstances behind their move still have her on edge. So, when the neighbor boy doesn’t seem to be particularly helpful to his new neighbor-in-distress, she snaps at him. Not the best first impression. Little does Elizabeth know that Stephen couldn’t care less what words she has just spoken. The fact that she spoke to him at all is the only thing that matters.
Why can Elizabeth see him when no one else ever has? Is she just the first? Will he soon be able to be seen by everyone? While Elizabeth’s arrival in his life prompts question after question for Stephen, she has no answers. Elizabeth has never seen an invisible person before. Working together to investigate Stephen’s strange existence, they unearth a world of curses and spells, witches and spellcasters, hiding right in plain view in modern-day New York City.
Check the WRL catalog for Invisibility.
Jessica shares this review:
This fun, light and entertaining read is a great choice for anyone looking for a sweet and enjoyable journey. Meet Virginia Blackstone, aka Ginny. She’s a shy and reserved seventeen year old girl living your everyday, ordinary life. But then she receives a very special envelope with detailed instructions that changes everything. Ginny herself isn’t particularly surprised by the note but instead, the sender, her late Aunt. An eccentric, vivacious and carefree artist Ginny’s aunt lived for the moment and when they were together Ginny always felt like a different person, someone lively and outgoing, not afraid to try new things or just be herself. But that was two years ago, before Aunt moved away to London on a whim with only a note beneath her doormat. And now, Ginny has just opened Envelope #1 (of 13) with a list of instructions, rules and a good chunk of cash. After months of begging her parents Ginny is finally allowed to follow the letter, despite its questionable orders. She is to buy a plane ticket to London and a backpack. She can’t bring any additional luggage, travel guides, language dictionaries or money. Then she must take the tube to a specified location and locate a specific house. Only after she’s completed the tasks in each envelope can she open the next. And so begins a journey across Europe for a shy and reserved teenage girl, on her own, with only a set of letters to guide her and the hope that her aunt wasn’t as completely hapless and crazed as some believed. What emerges is a lovely story full of adventure and exciting, wonderful people. Truly a feel good read!
Check the WRL catalog for 13 Little Blue Envelopes