Review: Ghosts of Heaven

Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

Published October 25, 2016 Ages 12-17

Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet’s obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book’s final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick’s gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I’ve had many an existential crisis. Why am I here? Is this even real life? Am I living in the matrix? Is time travel possible? Is there other life out there? All valid questions, I’d like to think. So does Marcus Sedgwick. That is why his novel “The Ghosts of Heaven” is so refreshing. It’s formatted in a way I’ve never seen before, but the topic of the book is also one I’ve never thought of before. Spirals. Sedgwick’s entire novel is focused on a single shape. The spiral. It’s seen in prehistoric cave paintings, in medieval European villages, in an insane asylum by the sea and again on a space shuttle on route to a new Earth elsewhere in the galaxy. Sedgwick divides his story into four equally compelling and haunting parts. It’s hard to find words to describe an idea, but Sedgwick not only manages it, he has created an entirely new way of thinking. Not only is this book mesmerizing, thought provoking, and incredibly three dimensional, the prose itself is beautiful. This is a vivid masterpiece that everyone should read.
-Alexandra S.

Review: The Call

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilin

Published August 30th 2016 Ages 14-17

Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?

I’m a big fan of dystopian societies. I’m sure we all went through that Hunger Games inspired craze a few years ago. There’s this combination of complex world building and deliciously twisted characters that creates a deeply enthralling plot almost entirely unique to the genre. “The Call” by Peadar Ó Guilin bravely straddles the line between dystopian and horror, a feat not easily accomplished. The gruesome world of horror mixed with that darkly gripping aspect of dystopian creates the dream novel, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you discover the fantasy element! (Fear not, there are also plenty of humorous moments!) The novel follows Nessa, who lives in Ireland. Ireland is cut off from the rest of the world (their outbound ships crash; their technology fails them). There is a reason for this: thousands of years ago, the Irish banished the Sidhe (a race of fae) to a colorless underworld. Now the Sidhe have returned, with a vengeance to destroy the society that has wronged them. Each Irish adolescent will face the three minute Call in which they are summoned to the Sidhe’s world. Here they are hunted by the Sidhe, and those who are captured are considered dead already. Few return alive, and those who do are scarred beyond recognition. Despite this, Nessa vows to survive when her time comes, even with her polio weakened legs.  Oh, how I enjoyed this book! It’s a stunning achievement, which provides a closer look to the cost of war, and the cost of surviving. But I must warn you: it’s bloody, gruesome, and sadistic at times even. But I believe the novel needs this darkness in it, and it uses it in such a way that the book is not just enhanced by the bone chilling descriptions, but it thrives on them. It’s going to be unlike anything you’ve ever read before, but most great books are.
-Alexandra S.

Review- Alex, Approximately

Alex Approximately CoverAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Published April 4, 2017 Ages 14+

“Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.”

After devouring in a single day, Alex, Approximately left me hopelessly, horribly obsessed. In a long story made short, this is a Young Adult spinoff of the film You’ve Got Mail and there is nothing I would have changed about it. Bailey “Mink” is a quirky, adorable girl that you can’t help but love while Porter “Alex” is the sarcastic yet caring guy you can’t help but fall in love with. Their relationship is the most exhilarating thing about this novel — as hate to love romances usual are — and the chemistry between the two was undeniable. Their scenes together, whether intense or flat out romantic, resulted in me putting down the book to hardcore fangirl for a couple of minutes.  I also adored the endless old and new film references, especially when at the heading of every chapter was a famous line from a film creating an even more exciting read! All in all, this novel did not disappoint. In actuality, it made me want to reread the novel over and over and over again until I’ve memorized every line in every paragraph.

-Taylor F.

Review: The Wrong Side of Right

The Wrong Side of Right CoverThe Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Published March 17th 2015 Ages 12-18

“Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?”

Kate Quinn is your average teenager, except for the fact that her mom died a year ago and she has no idea who her dad is; that is, until she comes home one day to a mass of reporters at her house. She gets the shocking news that her dad, whom she doesn’t know, is running for president. Kate is thrust into the world of intense politics, where her every move is watched and judged. This is not what Kate had planned for the summer before her senior year of high school. Kate meets Andy who is from the other side, someone she shouldn’t associate herself with, but is the only one who gets what she is going through. Jenn Marie Thorne has crafted beautiful and relatable characters. This book has a perfect amount of family, romance, politics, and discovering who you really are. This is a perfect contemporary to add to your list.

Mary Frances

Review: Wait for Me

Wait for Me CoverWait for Me by Caroline Leech

Published January 31, 2017 Ages 13-17

“It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.”

Carolina Leech’s debut novel encompasses everything a Historical Fiction begs for. I was not only kept on the edge of my seat throughout the entire length of the novel, but was educated as well. The setting in which the novel takes place in isn’t an easy time period to have to endure; it was a brutal situation for each and every person involved. Although, reading from Lorna’s point of view occasionally brought the severity of the world at somewhat of an ease. She’s snarky and isn’t afraid to talk back to those who treat the people that she cares about with disgrace. That was something I really admired about her. The dynamic between all of the characters — not just the romance — was strong, and had me rooting for every person to make it out alright in the end; however, the romance was a slow burning roller coaster ride that had my feels only traveling upwards. I will forever appreciate the lengths that Leech went through to create this lovely novel in which the characters and their endeavors stick with you long after you finish reading.

-Taylor F.

Review: Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer CoverStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Published March 28th 2017 Age 15-17

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around— and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

Laini Taylor has brought us a perfect beginning to a fantasy series. The vivid descriptions make you feel as if you are there right with the librarian, The Muse of Nightmares, and the interesting cast of characters. This novel blurs the lines between good and evil, and who really is a hero. The farther you get into this novel, the more you start to question what you thought you knew.  This leaves you in need of the next one, wanting to know more. The constant changing of point of view makes you question how great everyone might be. Mythology, dreams, a library, carnage, romance, friendship, a mysterious city, and many other elements make it a must read.

~Mary Frances

Review: The Crown’s Game

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Published  May 17th 2016 Ages 13-17

“Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has? For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her. And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself. As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.”

Magic and history combined into a perfect package is only one way to describe The Crown’s Game. As two very different enchanters go up against each other, you don’t want to chose a side. Evelyn Skye’s vivid descriptions make you feel like you are right there with the characters in 19th century Russia, and you will want nothing more than to go with them on their magical journeys. Don’t read this book if you’re hungry, because the food that Evelyn describes will leave you with serious cravings. Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha, with all of their secrets and their entwining lives, will keep you guessing what could happen next. This book will leave you heartbroken…and begging Evelyn for the next one.

-Mary Frances

Review: Linger

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Published July 13, 2010 Ages 13-17

“The longing. Once Grace and Sam have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. For Sam, this means a reckoning with his werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain. The loss. Into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of a wolf while denying the ties of being a human. The linger. For Grace, Sam, and Cole, life a constant struggle between two forces–wolf and human–with love baring its two sides as well. It is harrowing and euphoric, freeing and entrapping, enticing and alarming. As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?”

Although I didn’t figure it out until ¾ of the way through the book, Linger is the second book in the Shiver series. In the book, main character Grace still wonders what it would be like to be a wolf, but she moves forward and looks to a future with her boyfriend Sam. To Grace, Sam is more than just of a boyfriend. He is the love of her life, but Grace struggles to make her parents feel the same way. A new wolf, Cole, is introduced to the pack and changes everything. It was an amazing sequel to Shiver and I highly recommend it to fans of supernatural, young adult romance.

-Sydney G.

Review: My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Published June 7th 2016 Ages 13-17

“The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.”

Witty narrators Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have perfectly crafted the humorous, enchanting, and not-so-true story of Lady Jane Grey. The three main characters – a bookworm, a king and an Edian – have very different, yet interconnected lives. This book will have you laughing out loud, never wanting it to end, and wondering what really happened to Lady Jane Grey. The honest writing shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of this time period. This magical not-really-that-true retelling is one you don’t want to miss.

-Mary Frances