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The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones

Read This! - Wed, 2014-12-17 00:01

Jan shares this review:

I have decided to take a risk and recommend one of my favorite books ever. It has a satisfying story, strong characters who are learning about themselves, magic and magical creatures, a magnificent horse, evil elderly relatives, a castle, and children who are better people than the adults around them. How could any book need more? In fact, my enduring ambition is to live in Chrestomanci Castle.

The Pinhoe Egg is shelved in the children’s section and is certainly enjoyed by children, but it is also a marvelous book for teens and adults to relish. If you guiltily enjoyed the early Harry Potter books for their humor, magic, and “Englishness” you will probably love The Pinhoe Egg and the rest of the Chrestomanci Series.

Marianne Pinhoe lives in a quiet English country village. The school holidays are starting and she is looking forward to having free time and working on her story about romantic Princess Irene. Unfortunately for Marianne, her family has other plans. Marianne is to run errands for her ailing grandmother, Gamma, while her older brother Joe is to go to work as a boot boy at nearby Chrestomanci Castle and report back what he learns (to spy, in other words!). On Marianne’s very first morning at Gamma’s house things start to fall apart as the old woman is visited by members of the Farley family from the next village and Marianne’s Gamma appears to go mad. The entire, overwhelming, extended family gather round to look after the old woman and decide that they need to clear out her house to sell. The attics are forgotten, and one day in search of Gamma’s constantly straying cat, Nutcase, Marianne discovers a strange spherical object covered with strong “don’t notice” spells. Thinking that it is useless, Marianne gives it to Eric Chant (or Cat) from the Castle, unknowingly betraying her family’s Sacred Trust. What is the spherical object? Could it be an egg? And what is the Sacred Trust and has Marianne done a bad thing in breaking it, as her father says, or a good thing as the people at the Castle claim?

(Note that the object is clearly described as round and mauve with speckles, and not gold and hen’s-egg shaped as it is shown on this cover.)

This book can be enjoyed on its own, but readers of Diana Wynne Jone’s other Chrestomanci books will recognize plenty of characters. I enjoy series like this which include the same characters, but are told each time from a different person’s perspective. We get to see how our favorite characters are seen by other people in other situations–sort of like seeing your teacher in their tatty track pants in the supermarket during the weekend.

Although I have read The Pinhoe Egg several times, I have just listened to it on CD during my commute. Diana Wynne Jone’s wry humor and Gerard Doyle’s engaging narration have seen me looking like a fool and laughing out loud.

Check the WRL Catalog for The Pinhoe Egg

 


Categories: Read This

Meridian, by Amber Kizer

Read This! - Mon, 2014-12-15 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

Strange things happen to Meridian Sozu. Her biggest problem does not come from boys, homework, or an unhappy family life. Her biggest problem is the fact that animals tend to drop dead around her. She believes she is causing their deaths, but in truth they just seem to find her when it is their time. Her problem was limited to animals until her sixteenth birthday. On her way home from the bus stop, a car crash occurs that kills many of her classmates. She is uninjured, but has a painful physical reaction to the event. As the strange pains send her to the brink of unconsciousness, Meridian is swept up by her parents and rushed to the bus station. This is not exactly a typical parental reaction, and it becomes clear that her mom and dad have not been entirely honest with her. They send her to live under the care of her aunt, saying that they love her, but that they will probably never see her again. Not the happiest of birthdays. But this significant birthday is the key to her new life. She is beginning to come into her powers as a Fenestra.

Your next question is bound to be the same one Meridian posed when she first heard the term…what is a Fenestra? A Fenestra is a half-angel, half-human hybrid, whose job it is to help souls cross over for the Creator. She must learn how to control her ability, or the pain she felt after the car crash will eventually kill her. Her aunt, who also happens to be a Fenestra, will train her with the assistance of a young man named Tens, who has been somehow cosmically chosen to be Meridian’s protector.

In their efforts to train Meridian, her aunt and Tens are up against a few deadlines. In addition to avoiding her own death, Meridian must learn to wield her new powers quickly to fight a new threat that is looming in town. If there are angels around to help souls cross for the Creator, there are also those whose job it is to send souls to the Destroyer, called Aternocti. They are hoping to destroy Meridian before she can fully control her powers.

A battle is looming between the Fenestra and Aternocti, and Meridian is caught in the middle. Author Amber Kizer has clearly spent much time developing the story of Meridian’s world. Meridian and the reader both learn about her abilities and the history of the Fenestra together as the story unfolds. The story is continued in the sequel, Wildcat Fireflies.

Check the WRL catalog for Meridian.


Categories: Read This

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

Read This! - Fri, 2014-12-12 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

It’s the first day of holiday break and Milo Pine and his parents are all but snowed in. They operate Greenglass House, an old inn known for being a smugglers haunt.  Milo is excited to spend his break in the empty inn, with no guests to please and only his parents for company.   Until the doorbell rings – repeatedly.  Suddenly, Greenglass House is full of guests who have braved the weather to reach its halls.  And they are quite the cast of characters.  The Pines are accustomed to the occasional shady customer, but each of these guests is hiding something.  They all claim a strange connection to Greenglass House and a desire to uncover its secrets.

As the guests settle in, several literary tropes typical of mysteries are unveiled.  Valuables go missing, a treasure map is found, the power goes out, an attic of antiquities is explored, stories are told by the fire, and several guests are revealed to be in possession of a very special set of skills.  For his part, Milo takes it upon himself to figure out what brought each guest to Greenglass House.  These might be mystery novel standards, but they are traditional for a reason.  They add to the classic feel of the novel, and give it a timeless quality.

Greenglass House is a well-crafted mystery that held great appeal for this fan of The Westing Game and Clue.  Your suspicions will change as often as the doorbell rings, and this page-turner will keep you guessing until the end.  Read it on a snowy winter day to feel even more immersed in the world Milford has created.

Check the WRL catalog for Greenglass House.


Categories: Read This

Great Ghost Stories, ed. Barry Moser

Read This! - Wed, 2014-12-10 00:01

Barry shares this review:

This collection starts with the chilling classic “The Monkey’s Paw.” I remember reading this story as a child and it still sends a shiver up my spine now just thinking on it. Be careful what you wish for is the theme here. Moser includes stories from classic writers, among them, Arthur Conan Doyle’s, “How it Happened,” the story of a car accident and its aftermath and the old, ghostly ballad of Polly Vaughn, retold by Moser himself. But there are more contemporary tales as well. Madeline L’Engle’s “Poor Little Saturday” is an excellent story of how a lonely boy finds some surcease of sorrow as he explores a haunted mansion. Joyce Carol Oates, known for her dark adult fiction, contributes a story here, “The Others,” that in its lack of resolution is a great addition to the ghost story canon. Also of note, and both related to music, are “Samantha and the Ghost,” by Philippa Pearce, where a young girl frees her grandparents’ cottage from a ghostly visitor and H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann.”

None of the stories here is overly scary (well, maybe “The Monkey’s Paw” is for me), and a couple of them are pretty mild as far as ghost stories go by modern standards. But they are fun stories to read, and perhaps to read aloud. Moser’s illustrations add an extra frisson to the general eeriness.

Check the WRL catalog for Great Ghost Stories


Categories: Read This

Going Bovine, by Libba Bray

Read This! - Mon, 2014-12-08 00:01

 

Charlotte shares this review:

First, a caveat. To those of you who know this author only from her Gemma Doyle historical fantasies: this is not the Libba Bray you’re looking for. This is her psycho alternate-universe twin.

Cameron Smith, the narrator of this young adult novel, is an unmotivated loner who sneers at his family, mocks his peers, and blows off his responsibilities. We have met this teenager before, in many a young adult novel. Then he gets mad cow disease and goes on a road trip with a dwarf and a yard gnome.

OK, that’s new.

Plot isn’t really the selling point of this stream-of-consciousness dark comedy, but here goes: It turns out his clumsiness and intermittent hallucinations aren’t the result of casual drug use after all. Cameron has Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a neurological disorder that will kill him within weeks. He is visited in hospital by a punk rock angel in combat boots, Dulcie, who promises a cure if Cameron can find and stop Dr. X, a quantum physicist intent on releasing dark matter into the galaxy. OK so far? Find the physicist; save the world. Cameron escapes the hospital in the company of Gonzo, a germ-phobic gamer dwarf from his high school, and they embark on a road trip that starts in a New Orleans jazz club and goes a long, long crazy way. On the road, they acquire a Cadillac Rocinante and the yard gnome, who is actually the Norse god Balder. (Go ahead and say it: that’s Wyrd.)

Yes, progressive dementia is one of the symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

And Going Bovine is progressively demented, a jazz riff on life, death, love, sex, alternate realities, reality TV, and the Meaning of It All. Where do you look for answers? Churches, philosophies, shopping malls, string theory? Or can music save your mortal soul? Maybe all you need is love. No, wait, that’s the Beatles. But somewhere along the way, even diehard smart-aleck Cameron begins to experience emotions other than scorn and derision. (And somewhere in Valhalla, a yard gnome gets his wings.)

Full disclosure: Going Bovine is a kind of wacky that I do not usually care for. Its main characters are 16-year-old boys: their humor is, by definition, sophomoric. I rolled my eyes a lot. Then I got to CESSNAB, the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack’n’Bowl, and inadvertently started to snort out loud. I have to give props to a writer who samples Cervantes and Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons on the same page, makes jokes about string theory, and re-envisions Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride as the river Styx.

Check the WRL catalog for Going Bovine.


Categories: Read This

Nil, by Lynne Matson

Read This! - Fri, 2014-12-05 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

Charlie is stranded on a desert island.  She has no clothes, no supplies, no defense, and no escape.  After spending days on her own, struggling to survive with little food and water and against dangerous jungle animals, Charlie finds others who have been similarly marooned.   You might think that would make the plot of a pretty good book, but we’re just getting started.

Charlie disappeared while walking across a Target parking lot at midday.  A portal picked her up and deposited her on the island of Nil.  If the circumstances of Charlie’s relocation weren’t frightening enough, Charlie soon learns that there is much more to Nil than the island paradise it appears to be.  She has exactly one year to make her way off the island by finding another portal.  Three hundred and sixty-five days before she dies, just like everyone else who ran out of time.

This title is another example of excellent YA world-building.  Matson has created a world with great structure and rules which hold it together.  It’s a high concept novel with high payoff as long as you buy into the premise and go along for the ride.  While there is little explanation regarding the whys of the world of Nil, there is hope that more backstory will come in Nil Unlocked, due out this May.

Check the WRL catalog for Nil.


Categories: Read This

Eyes Like Stars, by Lisa Mantchev

Read This! - Wed, 2014-12-03 00:01

 

Charlotte shares this review:

All the world’s a stage, literally, in this fun romp for stagestruck teens.

ENTER Beatrice (Bertie) Shakespeare Smith, a foundling and a born troublemaker. She has grown up in the Théâtre Illuminata, a fantastical, metafictional theater housing all the Players from all the works of the stage. Bertie gets her clothes from Wardrobe, and her bedroom is a set. She’s constantly accompanied by her own comic relief: a slapstick entourage of Midsummer Night’s Dream fairies. And, like a girl in a Disney musical, at any time, the lights may come up, the orchestra start playing, and her life transform into a song-and-dance number with tap-dancing starfish.

It may be the only home she’s ever known, but Bertie is about to be kicked out of the Théâtre unless she can prove to its Manager that she has something valuable to contribute, like a sellout show. Bertie’s plan: Hamlet, but in Egypt. Cue the asps! But while Bertie is getting her Cecil B. Demille on, a rebellious yet extremely swoonworthy Ariel—I’m picturing Labyrinth-era David Bowie in this part—figures out a way to free the Players into the real world. Chaos ensues.

The Théâtre Illuminata is a fantastic conceit and debut author Mantchev has a lot of fun with it. Bertie is a lively, if romantically confused, heroine who defends herself with one-liners and, when necessary, with jujitsu (Petruchio had it coming). Hamlet and Ophelia, the revolutionary students from Les Mis, members of the Greek Chorus: they’re all here, trading theater in-jokes and Shakespearean insults. It’s a busy stage both literally and metaphorically, each character and subplot vying to upstage the others, and everything moves at a cappuccino-fueled pace. Some of the plots are resolved, but that’s an intermission curtain at the end, not a finale; Eyes Like Stars is the first in a planned trilogy.

EXIT, pursued by a sequel.

Check the WRL catalog for Eyes Like Stars.


Categories: Read This

The Falcon’s Malteser, by Anthony Horowitz

Read This! - Mon, 2014-12-01 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

Anthony Horowitz may be best known in the book world for his Alex Rider adventures. I, however, first became aware of him through his Diamond Brothers Mystery series. Set in London, the books are narrated by Nick Diamond, kid brother to “detective” Tim Diamond. I put detective in quotes because he is rarely able to actually detect anything. His real name is Herbert Timothy Simple, and he was fired from the police force before becoming a private eye. Although Nick is the younger brother, he is the real brains of the operation.

Their first story is The Falcon’s Malteser, an obvious play on the Maltese Falcon. It is the story of a box of Maltesers, or malted milk balls, that once belonged to a criminal by the name of The Falcon. See what Horowitz did there? The box is left in the care of Tim, but when the man who pays him to look after it turns up dead, Tim is suddenly a suspect. Nick must take over the case to prove Tim’s innocence, protect the box of Maltesers from all of the shady characters after it, and discover why The Falcon prized a box of candy so much. It is an update on a classic noir, with mystery, suspense, and humor.

Check the WRL catalog for The Falcon’s Malteser.


Categories: Read This

100 Cupboards, by N. D. Wilson

Read This! - Fri, 2014-11-28 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

As my fellow youth services librarians will attest, I am a pretty organized person. You know the old adage, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” That’s me. That is perhaps what initially drew me to a book called 100 Cupboards. I would love to have a wall covered with 100 cupboards, as that would mean 100 places in which I could compartmentalize things! The book’s cover, depicting a few of the 100 compartments, cupboards, drawers, and cabinets that line one attic wall, is certainly eye catching, as well.

For those less interested in organization, the second best thing about the book is that each cupboard leads to a different place, different time, or different reality. As you can imagine, this could easily lead a young boy to adventure. The boy’s name is Henry York, and he has just come to live with his aunt, uncle, and three female cousins after his parents were taken hostage in Colombia, South America. Hey, it could happen.

In his attic bedroom, Henry discovers the aforementioned wall of cupboards hidden behind a wall of plaster. After removing all of the plaster, and making quite a mess, he begins to explore the cupboards and where they lead. The cupboards are controlled by two knobs in the center of the wall, which work like compasses. The doors will open according to the direction the knobs are facing. And that is just the beginning. There is also a door in the house that is locked, and cannot be opened by anything, including a chain saw. There are the letters which come through one of the cabinets, which is really a small post box. And there is the numbered diagram in the front of the book, depicting all of the cupboards with notes regarding where and to when they lead. There are still so many cupboards to explore! You’ll be anxious for more by the book’s end, so be sure to check out the sequel, Dandelion Fire.

Check the WRL catalog for 100 Cupboards.


Categories: Read This

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

Read This! - Wed, 2014-11-26 00:01

Jessica shares this review:

Greg Heffley is being forced by his mother to keep a journal (“but if she thinks I’m going to write down my ‘feelings’ in here or whatever, she’s crazy”). Except we really probably ought to call it a diary, since that’s what it says on the cover, despite Greg’s instructions to his mother (“when Mom went out to buy this thing I SPECIFICALLY told her to get one that didn’t say ‘diary’ on it”).

Since Greg is a sixth grader, he writes a lot about his classes and his friends and his activities in school. He’s not one of the jocks or the cool kids (“the best I can figure is that I’m somewhere around 52nd or 53rd most popular this year”) but he’s high enough on the social hierarchy that he feels comfortable running for Class Treasurer. He would have had a shot at it, too, except that the principal made him take down his campaign posters against his opponent.

“Remember in second grade how Marty Porter had head lice?” asks one of the posters. “Do you really want him touching YOUR money?” In the middle of the words is a picture of Marty vigorously scratching his head.

It’s the pictures that make the book so good. I really like Greg’s diary writing—he says a lot of funny things—but his pictures are just hysterical. There’s at least one drawing on practically every page. The artwork is more sophisticated than stick-figure drawings, but only barely, which is probably why I like it so much.

My colleagues over in Youth Services inform me that the Wimpy Kid series is really popular with young men and I understand why—the hero is someone you can relate to, and it’s funny while still being realistic—but I’d like to encourage people outside the demographic to give it a chance. I am a female who hasn’t been in the sixth grade for a long time, but I’m racing through the books. Give this a try even if you aren’t a sixth-grade boy.

Check the WRL catalog for Diary of a Wimpy Kid


Categories: Read This

Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic, by Suzanne Weyn

Read This! - Mon, 2014-11-24 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

While you seldom come across a book that has something for everyone, Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic truly does. It has history, philosophy, and science, suspense, romance, and action, all mixed in with elements of the supernatural. It is the story of five sisters, born to a mother who makes her living as a medium, despite the fact that she may or may not actually be psychic. The story begins in New York City, where the girls are trying to make do following the death of their father. On the advice of one of their mother’s clients, the family decides to relocate to Spirit Vale, New York which is a spiritualist haven modeled after the town of Lily Dale. Before they can leave town, however, they have a fateful interaction with scientist Nikola Tesla. The girls are swept up in the wake of Tesla’s new earthquake vibration machine, which he is testing for the first time. This will not be the last time they meet Tesla, and his theories shape many aspects of their lives.

Our main character, Jane, is particularly influenced by her interaction with Tesla. She follows his work throughout the next decade, and becomes something of a fan. His work in the realm of science influences her beliefs in the supernatural, with particular regard to her doubt of her mother’s psychic talents. While Jane does not wish to be suspicious of her mother’s behavior, she is nevertheless skeptical that one can communicate with the dead. In a community like Spirit Vale, this is not a particularly popular opinion, so most of her struggle is shared only with us, the readers. Her uncertainty is compounded by the fact that Jane’s twin sisters, Emma and Amelie seem to possess genuine psychic abilities. They have been channeling, going into trances, and sleepwalking themselves into dangerous situations, such as onto the roof, or into the ocean. The twins become strangely averse to the ocean, and the idea of sea travel in particular.

When a secret is uncovered about her sister Mimi’s parentage, Jane and Mimi impulsively travel back to New York City, whereupon another fateful meeting takes place. Jane reconnects with Tesla, and meets his attractive young assistant Thad, while Mimi meets Benjamin Guggenheim and befriends his mistress, Ninette. Ninette sweeps Mimi off to Europe as her traveling companion, and introduces her to Victor, Guggenheim’s handsome valet. Events are set into motion which, at this point, you may have guessed, particularly if you are aware of the fact that Guggenheim, Ninette, and Victor were all passengers on the RMS Titanic. Through the course of the story all five sisters also find themselves on board the maiden voyage of the doomed ship.

Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic is entertaining, particularly if you have an interest in the turn of the century. Many historical figures of the era make cameo appearances, from the Astors, to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from W. T. Stead to Harry Houdini. Suzanne Weyn makes us care about these five sisters, and tension builds as the Titanic’s journey comes to its inevitable end. I was pleased to find that only a small portion of the story takes place aboard the Titanic, and emphasis is definitely placed on Jane and her sisters, rather than the story we all know.

Check the WRL catalog for Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic


Categories: Read This

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, by E. L. Konigsburg

Read This! - Fri, 2014-11-21 00:01

 

Charlotte shares this review:

I’ve literally grown up—grown older, anyway—with E.L. Konigsburg. We share a love of artists and beautiful things. Mine might have started, in fact, with From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the Newbery award winner that made me, and a generation of readers, want to run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Every once in a while, I rediscover how much I love Konigsburg’s deceptively simple prose, the sharply-observed details, the way her nonconformist characters manage to rebel and resist without ever being rude.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place is about art and rules and civil disobedience, whether you’re up against a homeowners’ association or a clique of bossy 12-year-old girls at summer camp. Margaret Rose Kane, rescued by her uncles from a miserable camp experience, arrives at their home just in time to witness the end of an era. For 45 years, while their neighborhood has grown and changed, Margaret’s Old World Hungarian uncles have been adding on to their backyard Towers—pipe scaffolding, painted in sherbet colors and hung with pendants of colored glass. Depending on how you look at them, the Towers are a work of art, a labor of love, a neighborhood landmark… or an eyesore, a hazard, a threat to property values. (Margaret looks at them from the inside: If you stand in the center and spin, it’s like being inside a kaleidoscope.)

By the time Margaret arrives, her uncles have already fought City Hall and lost. Zoning ordinances dictate that the structures have to come down. But Margaret, having just retreated from one battlefield, isn’t willing to give ground a second time. She starts her own campaign to save the Towers. (Being a Konigsburg child, she arms herself by conducting research, marching to City Hall herself, and requesting a copy of the relevant city council records.)

Konigsburg characters, as a rule, are grammar obsessed and word-curious. Among other things, Outcasts contains one of my all-time favorite puns, when Margaret and her uncle decide that she has not been precisely “disobedient” at camp, but rather “anobedient:”

“…which would mean without obedience—which is not the same thing as disobedience. I would say that anobedience is related to words like anesthetic, which means without feeling.”
“Or anonymous, which means without a name.”
“Or anorexia, without an appetite or anemia, without blood.”
“Or Anne Boleyn, without a head.”

Check the WRL catalog for The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place.

Or try the audiobook.


Categories: Read This

The Name of This Book is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch

Read This! - Wed, 2014-11-19 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

This is the story of Cass and Max-Earnest, but those are not their real names. The story of what happened to them is a secret, but the author of The Name of this Book is Secret was never very good at keeping secrets. He advises you, therefore, to forget what you have read as soon as you finish reading the book. Following Mr. Bosch’s lead of trying very hard not to give too much away, I will attempt to summarize the tale in such a way as to keep you safely in the dark regarding certain dangerous matters.

Cass and Max-Earnest live in (insert the name of your hometown here) and attend (insert the name of your school here). They crossed paths with a pair of rather unsavory characters, Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais, when a local magician passed away. While at an antique store, Cass discovers a box labeled “The Symphony of Smells” among the magician’s donated belongings. A message in scent leads Cass, with the assistance of Max-Earnest, to investigate the magician’s home. There they encounter the two villains and uncover the magician’s hidden notebook. What happens afterward is not my secret to tell, but Mr. Bosch’s. He will try to discourage you from reading the book, and may not share quite the entire story, but The Name of this Book is Secret is a fun and quirky read. Fans of Lemony Snicket in particular will find it enjoyable, with similarities in the use of the author as a narrator. In my opinion, however, it is far better than the Series of Unfortunate Events series, and this book is actually the start of its own series.

Check the WRL catalog for the availability of The Name of this Book is Secret.



Categories: Read This

Fade, by Robert Cormier

Read This! - Mon, 2014-11-17 00:01

Jessica shares this review:

Here’s the plot hook: at the age of thirteen, Paul Moreaux discovers that he can turn invisible.

Here’s what would have happened in the hands of lesser writers: the invisible Paul would have stolen lots of stuff and watched girls undress and pulled harmless pranks.

Here’s what happened in the hands of Robert Cormier: the invisible Paul discovers the tragedy of human existence and commences to lead a life marked by violence, madness, and despair, with relief coming only when health complications from the invisibility cause him to die, lonely and young and unmourned.

Paul, a sensitive and thoughtful boy from a working-class family, doesn’t even realize when he first gets The Fade. On a dare, he spies on a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan. (This is the 1930s, and anti-Catholic/anti-immigrant sentiments are running high against Paul and the other citizens of Frenchtown.) When the meeting is ambushed, a crazed Klansman discovers Paul and tries to kill him– but inexplicably, he somehow loses sight of his intended victim.

What Paul doesn’t realize is that he, like one male in every generation in his family, has inherited the ability to turn invisible. Sometimes it’s useful, as when escaping from Klansmen and bullies; more often it’s horrible, as when spying upon people reveals secrets Paul never wanted to know.

At least Paul has guidance from an uncle, also a Fader. A generation later, Paul’s own nephew Ozzie has no such counseling, because Paul doesn’t know he exists; the child had been secretly given up for adoption. Unfortunately Ozzie was raised by a physically abusive father, and when Ozzie discovers his Fading powers, after years of beatings and neglect, the results are terrible, with “terrible” meaning “like Stephen King’s Carrie on prom night.”

As always, Cormier’s prose is superb. From page one the atmosphere is tense, and before long things ratchet up to spooky, with occasional interludes of horrifying for good measure. Some sexual (though not graphic) content and scenes of violence make this inappropriate for younger readers, and Cormier’s fundamentally pessimistic worldview makes it inappropriate for most everyone else. But if you like dark books with tragic endings (any Thomas Hardy fans out there?) you can get your misery fix here.

Check the WRL catalog for Fade


Categories: Read This

This is Not a Test, by Courtney Summers

Read This! - Fri, 2014-11-14 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

“Listen closely.  Do not draw attention to yourself.  Once you have found a secure location, stay where you are and help will come soon.  This is not a test.  Listen closely.  This is not a test.”

The zombie apocalypse is here.  Sloane and five other teens have barricaded themselves in the high school and are awaiting rescue.  Only Sloane isn’t sure she wants to be saved.  Her life before the zombies wasn’t great, and you can’t exactly say things could get better.  They could hardly get worse.  It is the end of the world, after all.  As she watches her fellow survivors struggle to stay alive, Sloane wonders if it’s all worth it.  She’s having an existential crisis, and it couldn’t be more poorly timed.

This book is a fascinating character study.  You’d expect a novel about zombies to be about, well, zombies.  The zombies in This is Not a Test are certainly a threat, and they do keep things scary and suspenseful, but they aren’t the point.  Sloane is the story here, and her struggle would be poignant without the imminent risk of being eaten alive.  Will she find the strength to keep fighting?  Will she go out in a blaze of glory?  Or will she simply be dinner for a flesh-eating zombie?

Check the WRL catalog for This is Not a Test.


Categories: Read This

Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige

Read This! - Wed, 2014-11-12 00:01

Melissa shares this review:

Modern day teen Amy Gumm is having a tough time at home and at school. Her day gets worse when a tornado barrels through her Kansas trailer park home and deposits her in the land of Oz.  Amy quickly finds out this isn’t the Oz of the storybooks.  What was beautiful and magical is dull and dead.

Like Dorothy, Amy wanders the countryside looking for a way home.  Along the way she makes a few friends.  But instead of watching out for wicked witches, Amy and her companions are on the lookout for the Tin Woodman and his soldiers.

Dorothy came back from Kansas many years ago and something has gone very, very wrong.

The Tin Woodman is now the Grand Inquisitor of Oz.  You can get arrested (or worse) for sass, for not smiling, for lack of loyalty… As Amy comes quickly to realize, all of Oz is subject to Dorothy’s bizarre and selfish whims.

The Scarecrow and Lion aren’t much better.  Scarecrow used his brains for horrible experiments which make the machine-human hybrids of the Woodman’s army.  The Lion attacks villages and kills innocent people.  He is fearless – and completely lacking compassion. And Glinda the Good is actually an evil slave-driver who makes the Munchkins mine for magic!

All is not without hope. There is an underground movement to remove Dorothy from power.  The formerly wicked witches want Amy’s help.  They spring her from prison and begin training her in magic and combat techniques so she can play her part in freeing Oz from the tyranny.

This debut novel certainly gives a unique and dark twist to the Wizard of Oz story.  The tale itself follows a familiar story arc of a strong, female teen relying on herself to overcome obstacles (think Hunger Games, Divergent, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – but the similarities and differences with the familiar children’s story makes this new YA book a very interesting read.

Dorothy Must Die ends with plenty of questions still needing to be answered.  A sequel is expected in March. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Oz.

Check the WRL catalog for Dorothy Must Die


Categories: Read This

The Gollywhopper Games, by Jody Feldman

Read This! - Mon, 2014-11-10 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

The author, Jody Feldman, attributes her inspiration for this story to an encounter with a student looking for a read-alike for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While The Gollywhopper Games has a bit of the flavor of that classic book, Feldman has certainly crafted a story that stands on its own.

Gil Goodson is determined to participate in this year’s Gollywhopper Games, an annual event sponsored by the Golly Toy and Game Company. He has done his research and is ready to play. If only he wasn’t running late to stand in line to get an entry ticket. Being late is not the only thing Gil is up against in his effort to win the grand Gollywhopper prize. His father, a former Golly employee, was accused of stealing millions from them a year ago and although he was acquitted he is still the town pariah. Gil wants the family to move from their home in Orchard Heights to make life easier, and that’s just what his father has agreed will happen, if Gil wins the Games.

Gil must match wits with thousands of other contestants in feats of knowledge that combine facts about the Golly Company with general trivia and physical challenges. He makes friends and encounters old foes as the story plays out, and you will find yourself cheering for the good guys and hoping the cheaters get their comeuppance. The toy company’s headquarters, where part of the game is held, is almost another character in the story, since it is just as fantastical as Wonka’s chocolate factory. See if you can figure out the puzzles before Gil and his competitors. Would you have won the Gollywhopper Games?

Check the WRL catalog for The Gollywhopper Games.

 


Categories: Read This

Delicious!, by Ruth Reichl

Read This! - Fri, 2014-11-07 00:01

Mindy shares this review:

This very satisfying debut fiction from a seasoned food writer was delightful to listen to on audiobook CD. Julia Whelan got most of the parts spot on, and even though deepening her voice for the male characters is a bit comical, the lively reading of Ruth Reichl’s intriguing tale and multifarious characters kept my daughter and me engaged thoroughly. She and I enjoy sharing many of the same books, especially adult titles that also hold appeal for teens. In fact, I would not be surprised to see Delicious! turning up among YALSA’s 2015 Alex Award nominees for books published in 2014—I hope, I hope!

Billie Breslin, also known as Wilhelmina to the Fontanari family, where Sal calls her Willie, feels fortunate to have landed a competitive position at Delicious magazine (obviously inspired by Gourmet, which discontinued in 2009 and was last headed by Ruth Reichl as editor). It doesn’t take long for Billie’s extraordinary palate to be recognized; she has the uncanny talent for detecting even the most obscure ingredients and flavors and has a knack for suggesting the precise tweak needed to perfect a recipe. Yet, she adamantly claims that she is definitely no cook! Her new friends in New York soon suspect she’s harboring some darkly saddening secret, however. Meanwhile, she’s determined to work her way into food writing, which she quickly and very cleverly accomplishes.

Delicious magazine closes down, but Billie is retained to handle customer service matters, working solo in the Timbers mansion, where she stumbles upon a secret room. Mysteriously secreted letters slowly reveal the details of a World War II correspondence between a 12-year-old girl interested in cooking and Chef James Beard when he was on staff at the magazine. We’re also provided with letters written in the present, diary-like words Billie addresses to her older sister. This partially epistolary read brings the reader deeper into the thoughts of our leading lady. The plot revolves around Billie’s collaboration with Sammy and Mitch to preserve the historic letters and library before it’s too late.

Some of the most remarkable characters in Reichl’s very clever and page-turning tale are those who are not actually in this story but mentioned in the letters and by the characters, the librarians who organized the forbidden library and the legendary James Beard. Along the way, readers will learn fascinating details about war-time prejudices and the history of culinary challenges during rationing. Readers will even be taken on an architectural history tour of New York and learn historical tidbits about the Underground Railroad. Delicious! is delightful, and it is so pleasing to see one of America’s food-writing favorites succeed as a novelist too.

Check the WRL catalog for Delicious!

Or check out the audiobook, read by Julia Whelan.


Categories: Read This

First Light, by Rebecca Stead

Read This! - Wed, 2014-11-05 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

Two stories are being told as the novel begins, one about Peter and one about Thea, and as the book progresses the stories converge in an unexpected way.

Thea lives underneath Greenland in a community called Gracehope. The inhabitants have lived under the ice for centuries aided by technology that far surpasses that on the surface—what they call the “wider world.”  Gracehope is beginning to grow beyond its means, and Thea believes that it is time for her people to rejoin the rest of the world. Her mother died in pursuit of a way to expand Gracehope, and the desire for exploration has certainly been passed along to her daughter. Thea meets with great resistance, however, because Gracehope’s inhabitants remember how savagely they were once hunted in the world above. Gracehope is their refuge.

Peter is the son of a scientist who studies glaciers, and for the first time he will be accompanying his parents on a research trip to Greenland. His mother is strangely nervous about his coming along, and not just the “he’ll miss so much school” type of nervous. She has been known to have episodes where she seems to detach from life, which his father explains away by saying she has a headache. Peter knows something else is wrong. He’s had a headache before, and it didn’t make him act like that. When his mother starts questioning Peter about how his head feels, he decides not to tell her his secret. One of his headaches came with a vision, a glimpse into the future.

Aside from its imagining a community beneath Greenland, First Light is a subtle fantasy story. Certain characters have abilities outside the norm, but this is not an explosively supernatural novel. It’s an excellent story filled with questions that I’m pleased to say are all answered well enough for me by the end. It’s a nice change from the cliff-hanging series titles that are so popular right now. I can’t wait to see what Ms. Stead has in store for us next.

Check the WRL catalog for First Light.

 


Categories: Read This

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko

Read This! - Mon, 2014-11-03 00:01

Charlotte shares this review:

You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to.

The original setting is the first great thing about this book: it’s 1935, and Moose Flanagan’s family has just moved to Alcatraz. His father works as an electrician and part-time guard on the famous prison island. Between his father’s long work hours and the family’s ongoing troubles trying to raise his special-needs sister Natalie, no one seems to have much time for Moose. So maybe no one will notice this scheme cooked up by the warden’s daughter, a 12-year-old femme fatale named Piper, to market Alcatraz laundry service—the only laundry service run by convicted felons!—to kids at school.

In 1935, no one used the word “autistic” yet, which makes it even harder for Moose to explain why his 16-year-old sister needs babysitting, or throws tantrums, or has such a phenomenal gift for numbers. Mrs. Flanagan has tried everything she can imagine to break through Natalie’s isolation. Her last hopes are fixed on a progressive, experimental boarding school, the Esther P. Marinoff. But if the school won’t let Natalie enroll…

I expected this book to be funny, but I did not expect it to bring tears to my eyes, which may have happened. Sure, the gangster legends and the rules of life on a prison island are interesting. Did you know Al Capone started the first soup kitchen in Chicago?

But this is not a one-gimmick book; it’s a compassionate story about an ordinary, likable family under a lot of stress. There are tensions in every relationship, especially between Moose, a kid shouldering the responsibilities of an adult, and his mother, who can’t enjoy her son’s accomplishments without resenting the things her daughter will never have. The character of Natalie was inspired by the author’s sister, Gina, who had a severe form of autism; maybe that’s why both the strengths and the weaknesses in this family seem so true.

And it’s funny. If you’ve already enjoyed this book, head straight for the sequel, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, in which Piper continues to be a real piece of work, Moose finds it difficult to be best friends with everybody, and J. Edgar Hoover gets his pocket picked during dinner. Now with more gangster action!

Check the WRL catalog for Al Capone Does My Shirts.

Or try the audiobook.


Categories: Read This