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Earls, Nick
After Summer
Is there life after graduation? Alex's is spent waiting for his university confirmation. Besides that, his life after graduation seems like it's going to be the same as every other summer of his life...surfing, watching cricket on TV, playing pool with Len.... But then something happens. A girl on a board slices through the waves just behind him. Her body is perfectly balanced, all graceful muscles and movements. Alex's summer and his life are about to change.
This sweet romance from down under is wonderful escapist material. In his first person narrative, the author takes you straight into the mind of this poetically talented young man as he navigates his first real romance. Some of the Aussie references and terminology will be a bit confusing but most readers will be able to look past these and get the gist of the story.

Edwardson, Debby
My Name is not Easy
Things at home are not great. Alaska is a harsh place and Luke's mom is barely hanging on, 3 boys is just too much. Luke, his brother Bunna and little Isaac, only 6-years-old, are sent off the Sacred Heart School down in the lower 48. Life will be different there. First of all, their names are changed because their Inupiaq names are too difficult to pronounce. They will also not be allowed to speak their native tongue and the priests are big believers in "Spare the rod and spoil the child". Upon arrival, the priest tells the boys that Isaac is too young for the school. He will be sent to live with another couple nearby. The boys are devastated and terrified. It's the worst possible beginning at a new school. The other students are Native Indian, White and Eskimo. At lunch, the whole student body separates into groups according to their heritage. Luke and Bunna befriend several students. Chickie is a girl unlike any they've ever met. She's a cool blond but has an Eskimo attitude. Sonny is a returning student and the leader of the Native Indian student group. He's sizing up the new students to see how they're going to shake out. Amiq is a fellow Eskimo and the leader of his small but loyal group. Luke follows but is unsure of what this means to him and Bunna. Finally there's Junior, a small Eskimo with thick black-rimmed glasses who notices and records everything. Each has a different story but soon they find that here at Sacred Heart their lives connect and depend upon one another. The names aren't easy and neither is life away from all they've ever known.

This powerful book was inspired by many true stories told to Edwardson, who married into the Inupiaq community. The story is set in the 1960's, a volatile time in the United States. Perhaps because of her intimate link to her husband's community, the characters and their dialog ring true. Even speaking English, the Eskimo and Indian dialog is lyrical and has a nice rhythm to it. Some of the secondary characters, mostly the priests and nuns are fairly stereotypical. However, all stereotypes are based on a grain of truth so these characters also come across as believable. There are some plot twists that seem to be crammed into the book like the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 and its subsequent tsunami and the plane crash that takes the life of one of the main characters. Still, it's a gripping story told about a culture not often written into fiction.

Emond, Stephen

Happyface
Family dynamics can be difficult to navigate. Add alcohol, marital issues and two kids with completely opposite personalities, one a popular college jock the other an artistic nerdy freshman, and you have a disaster waiting to happen. When it does and the dust settles, Happyface is born. In a new town, Happyface is happy (obviously) and has friends for the first time ever. Parties, cutting class, diving grades soon follow. Happyface is not who he seems. It's a mask used to hide from the fallout of tragedy. Before it's all over, Happyface will have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do but most importantly, Happyface will have to shed the smile so that his real face can come through, scars and all.

This is a creative and powerful story of a family in crisis. Written in the familiar diary and email format, this one separates itself from the crowd by combining text, comic-book style and drawing to move the story along. The characters are all believably flawed, with issues ranging from absentee parents to drinking and all are hiding behind some mask or other. The ending is hopeful as healing begins and the masks are removed. I highly recommend this one! Release date: March 2010**

Erskine, Kathryn
Quaking
There's a war raging in the Middle East but for Matt, short for Matilda (but don't dare call her that), the battle is closer to home. She's been passed around from family to family after her father beats her mother to death and now she's landed in a Quaker family in rural Pennsylvania. She has crafted an indestructible (she thinks) wall around her made out of black...black clothes, black make up and an icy I-don't-need-anything-least-of-all-you look that keeps most people away. The Rat, however, is different. He is a bully and tows the party line set up by her World Civics teacher Mr. Morehead. They spew hate and intolerance and target anyone who wants a peaceful resolution to the war. Matt wages her own quiet war of words with Mr. Morehead and he retaliates with bad grades and the Rat trips her up and menaces her whenever possible. Tensions in the town heat up when churches and meeting houses are targeted for violence. Meanwhile on the home front, Matt is finding that her wall is being breached by Sam and Jessica and even Rory, the other foster child with severe developmental challenges. They are not like any other family she's known. They seem to truly care about her and want the best for her. They even confront Mr. Morehead when he fails her term paper that she writes from the perspective of a Middle Eastern woman. Now Matt is caught between wanting to fight for her beliefs and those of her new family and protect herself from the violence that leaves her helpless and quaking in her boots.

This is an intense story about overcoming fear and letting people in who can help. Matt is whip-smart girl who is fettered by her fear but longs for the kind of stability she's never known. Sam and Jessica offer her that and more if she will just open up and accept it. The other characters, though secondary, are well-crafted and believable. The hate-mongering teacher and bully amp up the suspense and send the story barreling toward the climax and the resolution, which is satisfying and hopeful. The back stories to all the characters are fully formed and add dimension to the drama. For readers who liked Graham McNamee's Acceleration or any of Carole Plum-Ucci's books, Quaking would be an excellent next read!

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Farmer, Nancy
The house of the scorpion
Matt lives a strange life. Celia, the woman who raised him but is not his mother, and he live in a small house in the middle of a poppy field in a country called Opium. He doesn't have any friends. In fact, he's never met another child; he's only seen them in books. When a group of children stumble upon his house, it sets off a chain of events that changes his life. He is taken to the big house, imprisoned and treated harshly until El Patron finds out and brings him into the family. It is here that he discovers that he is a clone of El Patron and most of the people around him treat him worse than an animal; all except El Patron and Tam Lin, the body guard he assigns to Matt. One day El Patron becomes desperately ill and Matt finds out his true purpose. He was created to provide spare parts to El Patron, for they are genetically one and the same. He must escape from Opium in order to survive, but where to and will this other place be any better?
This is an outstanding science fiction novel full of page-turning suspense. Farmer does an excellent job developing each of the characters. Even those that are minor add interesting layers to the tale. It is an excellent story to introduce a very timely subject for discussion. The possibility of cloning humans for the sake of harvesting organs has been in the news very recently and raises many ethical questions. This would be an ideal story to spark discussion among older teens. I highly recommend this book. The story ends a bit too tidily but then, it's good to end things happily sometimes.

Faulkner, Brian
Brain Jack
"Right now, as you read this prologue, I am sifting through the contents of your computer. Yes, your computer. You. The one holding this book." A frightening thought, right? Now, imagine a computer that not only can gain control of your computer but also of your brain? Sam is a crazy-good hacker. He has conquered every system he's ever tried; Telecomerica, the largest, most powerful telecommunications company in the world; even the White House's extensive "impregnable" security was no match for him. It's what got him caught and now he sits in a jail cell trying to figure a way out. When he does, instead of finding himself in solitary confinement, he is recruited for a job with the CDD (Cyber Disaster Division). He joins a crack group of hackers who found their way to the CDD just as he did but from all over the world. Their job is to track cyber intrusions no matter where they come from. One of the first cases Sam works on is an attack on a low-level nuclear power plant. Unfortunately, this was just a diversion. The real target was the CDD, itself. Once inside their system, the hacker had control of the entire country's network. It was a disaster until it got worse. Sam and his partner Dodge discover that the neuro-head set system that had been recently introduced as a new gaming console had gone viral and was now it's own individual entity. It saw chaos as bad and set out to destroy it. It would protect itself with deadly force and used the collective minds of its users to track those who oppose it. Now, Sam and Dodge are on the run from every law enforcement agency in the country. The network entity, nicknamed Ursula, has planted into the minds of everyone that they are terrorists bent on destroying it. The only way to destroy Ursula is to become it but would the infiltrator survive with any part of himself intact?

The non-stop action of Brain Jack will make you wish you could read as fast as a computer! It's a terrifying ride through a not-so-impossible, computer adventure. There's not a lot of focus on character development. Still, they are authentic in their reactions and the situations that develop, with the one exception that Sam was accepted into his new job very quickly without all the hazing that inevitably goes on, when one is not only the newbie but the youngest member of the team. This is a great book to recommend to reluctant boy readers. It's easy to read, heart-pounding action will draw them in and keep the pages turning.

Ferguson, Alane
The Christopher Killer
Cameryn Mahoney is a science prodigy, specifically forensic science. Her father is the county coroner and she is gunning for the Medical Examiner's job, when she graduates from college. She approaches her father about hiring her on as his assistant, since he's very short-staffed. He agree, much to her grandmother's dismay. Her first case is an accidental death and she found the evidence of his previous health issues, which meant that her father could sign the death certificate with C. O.D. without an autopsy. Her second case, however, was much different. The body of a young woman was found in the hills surrounding the town with her hand and feet bound with duct tape. It's clearly murder and there will have to be an autopsy. Rumors are swirling that the young girl might be the latest victim of a serial killer operating around the country, dubbed The Christopher Killer because he left St. Christopher's medals on his victims. When the victim turns out to be a friend of Cameryn's things get really tense. Cameryn must be on her best game if she's going to help catch the murderer.
For those who love the CSI television franchises, this is the book series for you! The author has done her homework and describes every aspect of the crime, the crime scene and even the autopsy (man, I hope she didn't actually view an autopsy...YUK!). The characters are well-drawn and mostly believable, though I wonder if your average father would have agreed as quickly as Patrick did. Then again, to be the county coroner, you wouldn't be the average father. Anyway, it's a book you won't be able to put down until the exciting ending. I also recommend the other books in the series (Angel of Death and The Circle of Blood)

Ferguson, Alane
The Angel of Death
Cameryn Mahoney, seventeen-year-old, high school student, daughter and assistant coroner. She is a prodigy, having been instrumental in catching a serial killer who murdered a good friend of hers. Now, her English teacher is found murdered in his own bed. The body, once on the autopsy table, proves to be the biggest mystery of all. The cause of death cannot be determined until it is opened up and see that the body has been burned….from the inside out! The mystery instantly grabs Cameryn’s attention but then, so does the boy who found the body. Kyle O’Neil is, quite possibly, the most popular boy in school and he seems to be attracted to Cameryn. Suddenly, her focus is split between trying to solve the murder, dealing with the eminent return of her long-gone mother, her overwhelming feelings for Kyle and losing focus could come with mortal consequences.
Now, I'm a fan of the CSI television series but, somehow, reading the description of the dead body and the autopsy was more gruesome that watching it on television...I guess that's the power of the imagination! This was a really great book, in spite of being somewhat predictable. Cameryn is an strong female character who doesn't rely on or be cowed by all of the men in her chosen career. The characters are fairly well drawn and realistic, though it's a bit of a stretch to believe that, even in a small town, a 17-year-old would be allowed to be the assistant coroner. Still, it makes for an exciting, suspenseful tale.

Ferris, Jean
Of sound mind
Theo is a senior in high school and, while others are excitedly planning their futures, he knows that his lies close to home. Theo is the only member of his family who can hear. His parents and younger brother are deaf and speak in Sign Language. The role of interpreter has always fallen to him. His mother, Palma, is a famous sculptor who is overly dramatic and needy. His younger brother relies on him for help with his homework and for company. Thomas, his father, is the only one who tries to give Theo some freedom.
Life changes drastically when Thomas becomes extremely ill. Matters are further complicated by Ivy, a new girl at school who speaks sign as well because her father is deaf. Palma is self-absorbed and frightened so she retreats to her studio, rarely coming out to accept any responsibilities of running the household. Everything falls to Theo but through it all, Ivy and Theo help each other and become more independent as well as begin the healing process that comes, eventually, with loss.
Ferris examines a culture that few know about. She portrays the fear and sense of different-ness that each of the characters feel at various points in the story. She give the reader a glimpse of what it's like to live in a deaf family trying to handle all the issues that come with the responsibilities of being a "hearie". This is an outstanding story of growing up and finding the path to independence. The dialog spoken in Sign is printed in bold.

Fford, Jasper
The Big Over Easy
Jack Spratt, of "would eat no fat" fame, is the Detective Inspector in charge of the Nursery Crime Division. He and his team are reeling from their failure to get the three little pigs convicted for murdering the big, bad wolf. The media is steering the tide of public opinion into a giant wave of dissatisfaction. To top it all off, Jack's nemesis, Friedland Chymes, continues his string of fantastic convictions, which result in the publication of his accomplishments is Amazing Crime Stories. If Jack doesn't turn things around soon, the Nursery Crimes Division will cease to exist. Enter his new partner, Mary Mary (who is quite contrary) but, will she help his cause or cause his demise?

Fford has begun his newest series with a bang! What a creative mind he has to take well-known nursery characters and make them "real" and, sometimes, criminal. It's a fun romp through Mother Goose with a classic who dunit twist. Anyone who enjoys a good mystery will also enjoy the laugh out loud moments provided by these characters!

Fford, Jasper
The Last Dragonslayer
Jennifer Strange is a foundling working at Kazam, answering phones, caring for her Quarkbeast and finding jobs for the resident wizards. Years ago, magic was strong and the wizards were in high demand to cast spells, fly carpets and save the world. Nowadays, however, magic is fading and the wizards are reduced to rewiring houses and unclogging drain pipes. Things begin to change, however, when magical surges begin and the precogs begin having the same vision...that Jennifer Strange will have something to do with the killing of the last dragon. How, you ask, does a secretary become the last dragonslayer destined to kill the last dragon, possibly destroying magic forever? It's called Big Magic and its coming, whether Jennifer wants it to or not.

Jasper Fford releases his first young adult novel with all the punny and very British humor as his adult series, Thursday Next and The Nursury Crimes Division (The Big Overeasy). Fford loves to play with words and he definitely doesn't take himself too seriously. With character names like Prince Nasil, Unstable Mable, and King Snodd, laugh-out-loud moments are certain. This mix of fantasy and humor introduces to young fans the particular brand of humor that Fford's adult fans have enjoyed for years.

Fields, Terri
After the Death of Anna Gonzales
Suicide; everyone knows the saying "it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem." So why didn't Anna know that? As school begins with the dark announcement, the news is absorbed into the community at large. The Principal: "This is too much to ask"; the football player " The game doesn't always go your way. But damn it, Anna, you don't stop playing."; the classmate: "Actually, I hope...Anna will be in her seat seventh hour and life will go on, just like it's supposed to." Forty-seven voices of those she left behind to wonder why, speak in this heart-breaking novel written in prose form. I highly recommend this book to students grades 9 and up and to teachers looking for a way to broach a discussion of this all too familiar and difficult topic.

Fisher, Catherine
Darkhenge
Things have drastically changed in Rob's comfortable life. Chloe, his younger sister, was in a riding accident and now lies in a coma. His parents have put their respective careers on hold and sit by her bedside most of the time. Even his drawing doesn't distract him the way it used to; that is until he takes a job at a top secret archaeological site where an ancient and mysterious circle of rotting timbers have been unearthed. Rob is drawn into the circle by some strange pull, which only gets stronger after he meets a very strange man who seems to know more about him and his situation than he should. Where the mystical tree and it's branches lead him with either save his sister or destroy what's left of his family.
Fisher has told an engrossing tale where the innocent aren't always guiltless. Slowly, she uncovers a family who keeps secrets and the consequences of them. The characters are believable and complicated. Getting to know them is like opening those nested boxes...you just keep opening each lid until you get to the innermost box. The only negative I have is that you don't really ever figure out who or what the Unworld king who brought Chloe down to his world is.


Fisher, Catherine

Incarceron

Incarceron has always been and always will be. It is inescapable, incomprehensible and intolerable. There is a legend, though. A legend that says one did escape. Finn is one of its prisoners but he is different. He believes that he has come from the Outside, a place no other inhabitant even believe is real. He has fits and sees things. One horrifying day, Finn comes to possess a crystal key. It's a special key that initiates communication with a girl named Claudia who claims to live Outside!!! Claudia, in many ways, is as much a prisoner as Finn. She is being forced to marry a prince whom she despises. Her cell, while luxurious and comfortable, still confines her. Neither Finn nor Claudia realize that there is far more to Incarceron than a simple prison and the truth of who they are is hidden in its depths. But Incarceron never gives up its secrets and will do anything to hold onto its sons and daughters. You see, Incarceron is alive.

This deeply atmospheric novel grips you from beginning to cliffhanger ending! Fisher has created a world that is stifling and rigid on the Outside, dark and forbidding on the Inside. There are twists and turns worthy of Orson Wells and creepy enough for Poe. Fans of suspense and science fiction will devour this book and wait, breathlessly to see if there's more to come.

Fitzpatrick, Becca

Hush, Hush

Nora is very picky about boys. No matter how many of them her best friend Vee pushes at her, none hold any attraction for her. One fateful morning, however, partners are re-arranged in her biology class and she gets stuck with the new boy. Patch, with his edgy, provocative smile and eyes that seem to see right into her soul, attracts her like a moth to flame. He always seems to be where she is and it makes her heart race and not just because he's gorgeous. There's a darkness about him that lends the aura of the ultimate bad boy and Nora doesn't know whether to melt into his arms or run away screaming. The more she tries to figure him out the closer she gets to the truth; a truth that will put her in the middle of a battle between the fallen, the outcome of which could cost Nora her life.

So, the trend now is to write fictionalized accounts of angels, both fallen and otherwise. This is an excellent example, however. The characters are engaging and interesting and the setting is appropriately mysterious. The absence of Nora's mother is a bit of a stretch but it works to move the plot along.

Flake, Sharon
Bang!
Jason, sweet innocent Jason was gunned down while playing with his toy soldiers on the front porch of his house and his brother Mann saw it happen and couldn't do anything to save him. The sound, Bang, of the gun shot, Bang, is heard on a daily basis in Mann's neighborhood. Everyone he knows has lost someone to gunfire. His parents love him very much but his father thinks he's soft. In a desperate and insane effort to toughen him up, his father takes Mann and his best friend, Kee-lee camping and leaves them to fend for themselves. They have a little money and a gun, of which Mann is terrified. From the outset, nothing seems to go right for the boys. Even when they get home safely, things aren't much changed. Guns still go off, people still get killed, and his father is still crazy for Mann to survive to become a real man.
Everyday on the news we hear about people being killed, both innocent and guilty alike. The most difficult to deal with, however, is when an innocent child is caught in the crossfire. Flake captures the desperation and desolation that living in this kind of neighborhood must bring. There are real people behind those news stories and the reader is drawn into the fray, perhaps unwillingly but equally unwilling to put the book down. You are forced to keep reading, in hopes that something will turn out right. Thankfully, the story does end on a hopeful note, otherwise I wouldn't recommend this so highly.

Flavin, Teresa
The Blackhope Enigma
Have you ever seen a painting that was so beautiful or peaceful or exotic that you just wanted to jump into it? One afternoon at Blackhope Castle Sunni and a schoolmate, Blaise, are all in the Mariner's Chamber studying the painting of their favorite artist, il Corvo, for their art class project. Dean, Sunni's younger and rather pesky stepbrother, is wandering around bored silly. Blaise and Sunny talk about all they know about Corvo when Dean picks up on an Italian word that Blaise mentions. Just to be annoying, as only little brothers can be, he walks around and around the miniature labyrinth in the floor repeating the word until....he simply disappears! Sunny panics, racing around from room to room until she spots something strange in the Corvo painting, something that wasn't there before; a figure in a red cap and jacket. Even though it's impossible, Sunny and Blaise realize that Dean has been transported into il Corvo's painting meaning that the rumors about him and sorcery are true! In order to save Dean, Sunny and Blaise have to get into the painting. The world inside of the painting is strange and out of focus until they find their way deeper, into another layer where other interlopers have come to stay. Some are helpful others are terrifying and one is there only to find Corvo's other enchanted paintings for nefarious reasons of his own. Sunni and Blaise will have to use all their wits in order to save Dean and themselves and to find a way out of the world of il Corvo.

What an fantastic premise! Imagine being able to pop into and out of a painting! There are more than a few I'd like to visit. Flavin has created fully developed and interesting characters. You are instantly drawn to Blaise and Sunni because of their artistic vision and Dean is the stereotypical little brother both annoying and endearing. The secondary characters inside of the painting are also wonderfully drawn.

Fleischman, Paul
Seek
Rob is a senior in high school and has just received an assignment from his English teacher to write his autobiography. “I grew up in a house built of voices…” his grandfather’s voice full of history; his grandmother’s full of literary elegance; his mother’s full of loss and strength.
Before he was born, his father, Lenny, left his mother. He just wasn’t ready to be a father or to be tied down. Lenny was a radio show host and left Rob a tape of one of his shows, which Rob listened to over and over trying to get to know his dad. As he writes his autobiography, he listens to all of the voices, which weave a wonderful story of family, loss and getting to know one’s self.
Fleischman has written this story so well that we can almost hear the voices from Rob’s life. There are some parts that some parents might object to – language and adult subject matter but nothing so objectionable that 8th – 12th graders couldn’t handle it. This would be an excellent book for a reader's theater.

Fletcher, Susan
Shadow Spinner
Shaharazad, who saved the lives of hundreds of girls with her head full of stories, had run dry after 800 tales. She was desperate. One day a young crippled girl came to the palace with her aunt selling their wares. The palace children gathered around and Marjan began to tell them stories. Marjan, like most young girls and most women in the kingdom, idolized Shaharazad and learned to tell stories so she could be even a little like her. Word got back to Shaharazad about her storytelling abilities and Marjan was “invited” to live in the palace, serving in the harem. Marjan soon found out why she was needed. She began to tell stories until she came to one that Shaharazad had not heard before. When she told the story to the Sultan, he remembered it from his childhood and wanted to hear the rest of it. She promised to tell it to him on the following nights. She was elated to have a new story and came back to Marjan for the remainder of the story but Marjan didn’t know it. She’d heard it from a storyteller in the bazaar but had to leave before he was finished. This wouldn’t seem to be a problem except that once you are in the harem, you cannot leave the palace for any reason so the women had to devise a plan to get Marjan back to the bazaar. There are many obstacles, not the least of which was the Sultan’s mother who hated Shaharazad and was suspicious of everything that happened that concerned her. Marjan put her life on the line because if Shaharazad ran out of stories, he would begin his rage against women again.
I really enjoyed the story though parts of it were a bit contrived. There was intrigue, suspense, and lots of adventure in this historical fiction novel. Marjan has several issues of her own to work out concerning her mother and what she did to save her from the possibility of becoming another of the Sultan's wives.

Fletcher, Susan
Ancient, Strange, and Lovely
In the not-too-distant future, Bryn is in trouble. Her mother has gone missing from a research trip. Her father has gone to find her. Down in the basement are her mothers things and among them is a strangely shaped object. It looks much like an egg but it's ancient, fossilized. At least that's what she thought until the thing began to vibrate and shutter. When it hatches out falls a creature that Bryn does not recognize but she does understand it, much like she understands her bird. You see, the women in her family have the ability to "ken" with birds, to communicate through thought and feeling. The little creature turns out to be a dragon...a fire breathing, flying dragon! And Bryn has no idea what to do with it. There's a huge black market for fossils and cryptid creatures (those thought to be extinct) so keeping the baby critter a secret is imperative but nearly impossible. Now she's on the road trip of her life and has to decide who she can trust to help her find the mother dragon and return her baby before anything really bad happens.

Fletcher's latest novel is full of action and danger. The characters are a little stereotypical and the story seems forced at times. Still, how cool would it be to find a dragon egg in your basement! Fans of fantastical creatures will enjoy the first in The Dragon Chronicles series.

Flinn, Alex
*Breathing Underwater
Nick Andreas is handsome, smart, part of the in-crowd but he has a dark side and a secret. The moment he sees Caitlin, he falls for her. As their relationship develops, Nick finds it difficult to share her with other people. He gets frustrated when he sees her talking to another boy at school. When she's asked to perform in a school production, he all but forbids her to accept. When she does accept, he tells her that she's really not that good and it would be an embarrassment if she performed. Then, it happened...an argument and his hand speeding toward her face then contact. Stunned, Nick and Caitlin move through the next few days until Nick finds himself in court for assault. He is convicted and sentenced to attending a family violence class. His friends have abandoned him, he's lost Caitlin for good, and now he has to sit in a circle and share his experiences with other boys who hit their girlfriends. It's not his fault, though; not really. It's how anger is dealt with in his family. Suddenly, Nick realizes that the bruises he's hidden for so long may be more deep than he realized. Now he has a choice to make; to take a long look at himself and his father and try to change or continue down the self-destructive road he's been on his whole life.

Flinn does and excellent job of portraying the growing problem of date violence in a way that balances the wrongness of what Nick did and the reasons behind why he deals with his anger the way he does. The teen-aged characters work through the situations realistically and the resolution leaves you satisfied that people can change, with hard work and determination. I highly recommend this title to those who love contemporary fiction as well as teachers or guidance counselors who are looking for a good discussion topic.

Flinn, Alex
Cloaked
According to Dictionary.com a mashup is "a creative combination or mixing of content from different sources." Now, imagine a mashup of your favorite fairy tales...that's what you get in Alex Flinn's newest foray into fantasy, Cloaked. Johnny is a hard-working teen from a long line of cobblers (father, grandfather...you get the picture). Years ago, when he was a toddler, his father disappeared so he was raised to carry on the business. It's not that he minds working in the shop, located in one of the most famous hotels in all of South Beach, repairing the shoes of the rich, famous, and infamous. What he really wants to do is design shoes. His best friend, Meg, from the coffee shop next door, helps and encourages him to pursue his dreams. One beautiful day, Victoriana, a princess from a distant country, is staying at the hotel. As fate would have it, one of the straps to her favorite shoes broke. When Johnny goes to the hotel to return them, she asks one more favor of him. Her bruzzer (translation: brother) has been turned into a frog and disappeared, with the witch that turned him in hot pursuit. You heard me right...a frog prince! If he is not found and returned, Victoriana will be forced to marry the evil Wolfgang and bruzzer dearest will be forever catching flies.

Flinn's story takes you through a magical, wacky ride through fairy tale land with many I-can't-believe-that-just-happened moments! The characters are extremely likable and interesting, especially the hero Johnny. The story, itself, is predictable because, well, you've heard the stories before BUT Flinn's twists on the traditional tales makes them almost new again. From the start, you definitely have to suspend disbelief because it's a mashup of 7 different stories! It's great fun and occasionally groan-worthy! I dare you not to chuckle at least once or twice.


Flinn, Alex
Diva
"Diva" - usually a fabulously glamorous, beautiful, self-assured woman who has more talent in her little finger than most people have in their whole bodies. This description does not really fit Caitlin. She is shy, recently recovered from obesity, and she sings opera, which is really her only diva-esque quality. She's good, too but it's just not cool enough for her "friends" or her mother. Caitlin needs a change. She auditions for a spot in the Miami High School of the Arts and gets in. The only problem will be convincing her mother to let her go. Blackmail always works. Once there, she finds that, while in her old school she was considered too weird but here, she's not weird enough and she's not sure she can make it.

We first met Caitlin in Flinn's book Fade to Black (see below) when she was dating the abusive Nick. Now we get to hear her story, post Nick and how she's changing. We also get glimpses of Nick and the changes he's made, as well. It's refreshing to see healing happening without someone dying first. Alex Flinn is one of my favorite authors for contemporary fiction! Read her books!!!
Flinn, Alex
*Fade to Black
Alex Crusan has AIDS...or at least that's the rumor going around school. That's not exactly the truth. He is HIV positive but that's enough to make him public enemy number 1 and the target of cruel notes in his locker, rocks thrown through a window of his house and now an attack on him personally. The windows of his car are smashed by someone with a baseball bat. The shattering glass cuts Alex's face, arms and upper body and he is hospitalized. Who did he see through the glass? There was a witness but is she telling the truth about who she saw? The suspect, Clinton Cole, has great animosity toward Alex but was he really the culprit? All three must search their souls to get to the truth of what really happened and what to do next.
Alex Flinn is a really wonderful writer of young adult fiction and she has delivered yet another addition to the genre of realistic fiction. The story is told from the viewpoints of each of the three main characters, which gives you a unique perspective into the story and you are compelled to decide how you feel about the each of them. The only down side to this books is that the ending seems to come out of nowhere and doesn't really make sense. Still, it's Flinn's treatment of this very sensitive subject is honest and teens will relate or at least empathize with the character's struggles.


Flinn, Alex

A Kiss in Time

Jack is a bored American touring dusty museums and castles in Europe when all he'd rather been doing is hanging out at the beach with his friends and trying to get back together with the gorgeous Amber. One morning, he is feeling particularly frustrated and asks the consierge which way to the beach, in his rather obnoxious, American way. The consierge sends him on a wild goose chase that ends in a castle in front of a beautiful, sleeping girl. Now, you are a boy faced with a vision of sleeping beauty so what do you do? Why, you kiss her, of course. Jack is in real trouble now because the girl wakes, claiming that she's a princess who could only be awakened by her true love's kiss and he must be it! She's a 316 year old princess of a kingdom long forgotten and is now stuck in the 21st Century with a boy who might or might not be her true love. Worse still, the fairy who cursed her feels thwarted and will not let her go. Will one kiss be enough to save them all?

I think that Ms. Flinn is a better writer of intense, realistic fiction than fantasy. It was an entertaining story but parts of it were quite convoluted, especially the ending. Still, if you're a fan of light and fluffy chick lit and fantasy, this would be a great choice.

Flinn, Alex
*Nothing to Lose
Lots of people have things they need to escape...strict parents, broken relationships, failed tests. But where do you go when you've killed someone? Michael joins the carnival and becomes the Whack-a-Mole operator. For a year, he lives in anonymity then the carnival returns to Miami and he reads in the newspaper that his mother was arrested charged with the murder of his abusive stepfather. He has to do something, he can't go on hiding forever.
As with Breathing Underwater, Alex Flinn has written an excellent story of a teenager in trouble and trying to do the right thing. Her teens are dead on...they are vulnerable, cocky, afraid, weak, angry, though there seems to be an unusual preponderance of the abused who understand Michael's plight. The ending is wrapped up appropriately and you feel Michael and his mom are vindicated. Though things are not perfect, the characters are able to pull their lives together and move on.

Ford, Michael
The Fire of Ares
Two powerfully built boys circle each other; one face full of hate and rage the other determined to survive. Lysander, a former Helot slave who is now enrolled in a training school for Spartan warriors because of the Spartan father he never knew. Demaratos, a Spartan at the top of his class is determined that a Helot should not be allowed to fight along side him. The two had bad blood between them even before Lysander's entrance into the school...Demaratos stole the one precious thing that Lysander had. The fire of Ares had been handed down from oldest son to oldest son for generations. Though he didn't know of it significance until his grandfather found him, Lysander is determined to get it back.
Ford has written an exciting novel based on one of the most violent and honor-driven cultures to ever live...the Spartans. The characters are interesting and well developed. The action is well described and the fight scenes beg the reader to cheer for the underdog. I highly recommend this one, especially for boys.

Frank, E. R.
*America
America, so called because he looks like everyone but no one in particular. He thinks of himself as “a boy who gets lost easy and is not worth the trouble of finding,” and no one takes the trouble until he is taken in by Mrs. Harper. She treats him with kindness, even when he messes up but his mother comes back into his life and turns it upside down. Eventually, he runs away, living in a mall, central park and end up as a patient in a residential treatment facility. He is angry and “bad” and one day tries to kill himself, which lands him at Ridgeway. There he meets Dr. B who takes the trouble to ease American’s story of pain, betrayal and abuse from him so that healing can begin.
Frank tells a stark story of a young man who doesn’t get a break until it’s almost too late. There is strong, adult language and allusion to sexual abuse that I handled without being graphic. She draws the reader into the story with such skill that you will actually feel the frustration rising as you watch America’s struggles. I highly recommend this book but only to students in 9th grade or above due to adult situations and language. The language is not just thrown in for affect. It is authentic to the story but could be abrasive to sensitive students or parents.

Frank, E. R.
Friction
The new kid in school is always trying, sometimes desperately, to fit in. Stacy, however, seems very different. She is hard to miss with her long, dark black hair and tongue ring. She waltzes into class and announces "Lets get this party started". Alex is assigned to show Stacy around. As they begin a tenative friendship, Stacy makes comments that cause Alex to question the what is the truth about herself, her friends and, worst of all, Simon, her favorite teacher. As the situation escalates, her friends begin to believe the lies (or are they lies?) that Stacy is spreading about her and Simon. Why is she doing this and why does Alex suddenly feel uncomfortable around Simon?
In this, her third book for teenagers, Frank weaves a story of broken trust, and how complicated the difference between the truth and a lie can be. The characters are well defined and easy to relate to. The language is very typically teenaged, which can be a little distracting if you're not one. America, her second novel was aimed at older teens but she has geared this story for middle school aged kids who will appreciate the situations and feelings related in this story. I would highly recommend this book to more mature middle school readers, as the main conflict in the story relates to sexual abuse.

Frank, E. R.
Wrecked
Have you ever killed anyone? Have you ever wondered what it would feel like? That day was just like any other. After a nasty argument with her father, Anna heads off to Ellen's then on to a party. She is the designated driver for the night. When she realizes that it's way past curfew, Anna scoops Ellen up and into the car. Ellen is more than a little drunk. She is singing a U2 song at the top of her lungs. She looks a little like she's going to throw up. Then lights appear directly in front of Anna, then darkness. When she wakes, she's in the hospital and her mother is by her side but her father and brother are not. The person in the other car is dead. The person in the other car was Cameron...her brother's girlfriend, Cameron. Nothing is the same now. Nothing will ever be the same again.
Frank has told yet another gripping story of teenage tragedy; the kind of tragedy that happens everyday. With her expertise in counseling and storytelling, she brings the reader along on this terrifying ride. Tragedies are always more complicated than they at first appear. Unfortunately, teen drinking is rampant in the story but that is reality, however much we wish it wasn't. Though the book is rather depressing and scary, Frank brings the characters to a better place, in the end.


Fredericks, Mariah
The True Meaning of Cleavage
Opposites attract. That is definitely the case in the friendship of Sari and Jess. They've been friends since elementary school and are preparing to take a major step toward adulthood together...as high school freshmen. Sari is excited about the possibilities. Jess is not, so much. Sari gets the whole fashion thing. Jess is obsessed with science fiction and a self-proclaimed geek. They start the year together, thinking that their friendship can withstand anything. Neither is prepared, however, for the chaos that occurs when Sari falls "madly, psychotically in love" with a senior boy who, incidentally, is dating one of the most beautiful senior girls. The crush turns into obsession, for Sari, when things move from the day-dream phase to the physical phase. Rumors start. The gossip is cruel and Jess feels powerless to do anything about it. Will their friendship be able to survive this year of possibilities?
What a wonderful roller-coaster ride through a year in the life of a teenager! Fredericks does an excellent job capturing the spirit, attitude and even the language of teens without bogging down the story with too many "like" references. The title's purpose seems to be more to attract readers than anything else. It will probably have the same effect as the titles of the Rennison books (full frontal snogging just sounds scintillating). The reader is drawn into the story in such a way that you actually feel like you're personally involved or at least you remember people and situations from your high school. The characters are completely believable and the conclusion of the story extremely satisfying. I highly recommend this one to any teen aged girl!

Funke, Cornelia
Inkheart
For as long as she can remember, they had always been Meggie and Mo. Mo is a rather bookish person and has taught his daughter Meggie the same reverence for pages, words, and bindings. All through their house are books piled high under and on tables, filling shelves, beside chairs, any empty space will do. Mo is a binder, restorer and collector of books. Meggie and Mo love to read together but they never, ever read aloud. Meggie has never questioned this until one dark night when a stranger comes to call and her whole world is turned upside down. In a very short time, she finds out that her father has the power to read characters from books right out of the pages and into real life. When Meggie was a toddler, he was reading aloud to his wife from a book called Inkheart when suddenly she vanished and in her place were the evil Capricorn, his henchman Basta, Dustfinger the traveling minstrel and several other unsavory characters. He managed to escape their clutches and avoid being found by them. But now he and Meggie must find the book and try to read the characters back into it before they destroy everything and, perhaps, bring back the mother she'd never really known.
What a spellbinding fantasy by the author of The Thief Lord! Funke's love of words and mastery of them is evident throughout the story ("Taste every word, Meggie ... and everything will come to life!"). The characters and all of their flaws are completely believable and every page begs to be turned! It is one of those books I had a very difficult time putting down. It is a rather long story but, for those who suffered through the lengthy but exciting Harry Potter books, this one will not disappoint! I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy (and even if you don't, try it anyway. You'll not regret it!).

Funke, Cornelia
Reckless
One day he was just gone. No trace, no clues, just an office filled with mysterious artifacts from places unknown are all that's left of Jacob Reckless' father. Jacob, his brother Will and their mother feel an overpowering sense of abandonment. Jacob, always a curious boy, ventures into the office one day and spies a strange looking mirror. He reaches out to touch his reflection and suddenly he's in another world...a world full of ancient secrets and a long-standing war between the humans and the Goyl, a people made entirely of stone. He spends more and more time there. At first, he looks for his father but then the lure of the place and the riches to be had there draw him back. Jacob keeps Mirrorworld a secret from his mother and younger brother Will until the day that Will follows him and changes the course of his life forever. Will is attacked and bitten by a Goyle and he begins to change, stone slowly replacing skin. Jacob must find a way to stop it, no matter what the cost.

The darkness only hinted at in Funke's earlier novels is fully realized in this novel of love and the extent to which a brother and girlfriend will go to save it. The story doesn't flow as smoothly as her other books but her obvious love of words and skill at using them brings a powerful, ethereal sense of beauty to the settings and characters. The characters are complicated, each with his or her own motives to save Will. In addition to creating her own fanciful world, she inhabits it with darker versions of familiar fairy tales like Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel. A lock of Rapunzel's hair will grow into a rope as long as you need it to be. The witch from Hansel and Gretel was killed off but her home can still offer shelter, if you're brave enough. It's a unique story but one that doesn't necessarily end with "Happily ever after".

G

  • = Mature Content
Gaiman, Neil
Coraline
6-8
How many doors and windows are in your house? Where do they lead? In Coraline's new flat, there are 21 windows, which look out onto the grounds of the old house and fourteen doors, all that lead to other rooms except for one. Behind that door is a brick wall. When she is bored, Corline explores the flat and the grounds but soon she knows all of it and is bored again. That's when she unlocks the bricked up door and discovers the passageway open to another apartment eerily similar to her own. There are even other parents who look like her own with a few exceptions. First of all, they want to play with her and talk to her, unlike her own who just want her to go away. There is a magical toy box filled with angels and butterflies that actually fly around the room and books whose pictures move and change. Most unusual are the other parents themselves. They have paper-white skin and black buttons for eyes. They want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl forever and they have a plan to make that happen. When Coraline doesn't cooperate, she is thrown into a mirror where she discovers other children who have fallen into the Other Mother's trap and her real parents are taken prisoner. She is their only hope of escape so she must use all of her wits and courage to save all of them.
This story qualifies as one of the most creepy books I've read in a long time. It is the Tim Burton kind of creepy that kids will love. The black and white sketches only add to the chill factor! Gaiman has written an excellent fantasy/horror/suspense story that will chill you! My only caution is that you might not want to read it at night ;)


Garcia, Kami & Margaret Stahl

Beautiful Creatures

Gatlin is a typical small southern town. Nothing much happens...ever. Ethan is a Gatlin native, born and raised but counting the days until he can escape. Lately, though, his thoughts have been on his dream-girl, literally. He dreams almost nightly about a raven haired girl with emerald green eyes, the most beautiful girl he's ever seen. When she appears in his classroom one morning, he is stunned then devastated when he discovers that she is the niece of the town recluse. In spite of her heritage, Ethan finds that he is drawn to her, in spite of the fact that hanging out with her is social suicide. Together they discover there is much more to each of them than meets the eye.

Dark, ethereal settings, mysterious characters and a mastery of the art of the "hook" will have readers turning the pages to see what happens next. The characters are wholly believable and engaging, especially the secondary adults like Ethan's caregiver, Amma. The town's immediate and irrational dislike of Lena lends an emotionally charged atmosphere. This was a captivating tale but for super conservative areas, it might not be the best choice as it's all about magic, spell casting and other evils denounced in the Bible. Still, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys this kind of fantasy.

Gaughen, A. C.
Scarlet
Everyone who comes to Robin Hood's band of merry men has a secret to keep. None more than Will Scarlet. The life he was forced to leave behind held nothing but pain and death and...a fiance. Now, Will's existence revolves around keeping the people of Nottingham out of the way of the sheriff. This becomes infinitely more difficult when the sheriff hires mercenary and thief taker Guy of Gisbourne. Will and Lord Gisbourne have a dangerous history with one another and he knows that if he were discovered, his life would be worth less than nothing. Keeping his secrets hidden, even from those he cares most for, is imperative because Gisbourne will not just kill him but anyone close and no one is closer than Robin, himself!

I am a HUGE fan of the Robin Hood legends and this is one of the best versions I've read since Robin McKinley's The Outlaws of Sherwood, and that's saying quite a lot since she's my most favorite author of all time! The characters are fully fleshed out and totally likeable, though Gaughen doesn't reaveal as much about the histories of the secondary characters. Will is incredibly prickly and it isn't long in the story before you find out why. Fans of historical fiction or of fantastic fight scenes should definitely pick this one up!!!

Gee, Maurice

Salt

In a place where voices are raised in violence and hatred, there are those who hear and speak silently of peace and reason. Pearl is a young girl from Company, a people who rule the land with an iron fist and cruel whips. She can hear and speak with her mind, as she was taught by her lady's maid, Tealeaf. Hari is a rough boy from Blood Burrows who has fought and scrabbled his whole life for survival. He can speak to animals. They meet on the day they are running away. Pearl from an arranged marriage and Hari to save his father from Deep Salt, a dreaded place from which there is usually no return. They will learn, along the way, that they have much to learn about each other, themselves and the world around them and, when it comes to saving that world, there are very difficult choices to make.

The circle of life not not always all music and cute little animals dancing. It often includes cruelty, power and greed, especially where humans are concerned. Gee masterfully creates a dark and dismal world with characters who are flawed but strong. With his deft hand, the raw emotion is palpable. There are many references to very real atrocities interwoven throughout the book. Suggest this to readers who liked Hunger Games and World's End.

George, Jessica Day

Princess of the Midnight Ball

Dancing the night away in beautiful ball gowns is usually considered standard fare for princesses. Rose and her 12 sisters, however, must do it all night, every night. They are cursed, you see, to dance for the evil King Under Stone and doomed to marry his 12 sons. The curse can only be broken by their deaths.

A young man is heading home from the war. Though he has seen horrors enough to turn his heart to stone, he is a kind soul. When he meets an old woman on the road, he shares what little he has with her. She seems a little crazy but Galen accepts the gifts she gives him. She tells him that the cloak and black wool will be much needed when he is in the palace. With this cryptic warning Galen sets off for his family's home.

Rose and Galen meet in the gardens of the palace where Galen is now a gardener and young love begins to blossom. But, before they can be together, Galen must defeat the king and his evil sons and free the girls from his power. The powerful gifts he'd been given will not be enough to win the day but Galen is resourceful and Rose is determined and their love is true...they cannot fail.

What a wonderful version of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairytale!!! There is adventure, intrigue, romance, humor...what more do you need to spin and excellent tale?! Yarn and knitting needles, of course! Galen, like many soldiers, has learned how to knit so that he can keep himself in warm stockings and scarves. At the end of the book, the author provides knitting instructions for creating a cloak like Galens, a shawl like Rose's and a long black chain, in case you meet any kings with evil bargains on their brains.

Giles, Gail
Dark Song
9th & up
Ames has an enviable life. She lives in a beautiful home, goes to an exclusive private school, and has a good relationship with her family. It's perfect...maybe just a bit too perfect. Just under that flawless facade lurks a darkness that Ames isn't even aware of until the perfection shatters. When her father is fired for embezzling, not only do they lose all their possessions but her parents fights escalate, they lie to Ames and her little sister Chrissy about what's going on, and the darkness begins to sing softly. When the family moves to a low-rent house in Texas, she meets Marc. He is different from any other boy she has ever known. Very quickly and even more smoothly, he moves into her life, lavishing her with affection, protecting her from her parents' rage. Without her noticing, he isolates her, pointing out all the injustices and abuse she's suffered. He draws her into his life and that life is full of violence and...guns. As their relationship escalates, Ames' parents realize what's going on. When they find out that he's not 17 but 22, they put their own arguments aside and band together to stop the relationship. Suddenly, Ames feels trapped. Marc is unwilling to let her go but how far will he push her; how far is she willing to go?

Giles has written yet another tightly-wound novel of betrayal and the consequences that inevitably come. The characters feel real, though the speed with which Ames fell for Marc seems just a bit forced. Still, her frustration and anger toward her completely dysfunctional, disassociated parents is palpable. The adult characters were given fully formed back stories, making their flaws wholly believable. The mom's turnabout seemed a little too quick but it's not a very long book so, in light of time, it was necessary. One caution, though, I recommend this title for 9th grade and up due to sexual content and drug and alcohol use.

Giles, Gail
Dead girls don't write letters
7th & Up
Contemporary fiction
Sunny is pretty much the opposite of what her name implies. She is controlled and unemotional but then she has to be because her mother is a basket case and her father is a drunk; all because their beloved daughter Jazz is gone. She is presumed dead after a horrific fire burns her apartment building down. Sunny manages to keep things on an even, if bazaar keel. That is until a letter from presumed-dead Jazz arrives, soon followed by presumed-dead Jazz in person. But all is not as it seems. While the girl look, moves and speaks like Jazz and everyone desperately wants her to be Jazz , something is very wrong with her. As Sunny watches Not-Jazz, she begins to realize that there are dark secrets buried that she must uncover in order to find the truth.
Giles has written another contemporary fiction story full of suspense and hard edges. She starts drawing you in right from the title and opening pages. You find yourself sympathizing with Sunny more and more and wanting to rail at her parents for their neglect of her and exaltation of Jazz. It's an all too familiar scenario, for those who work with children. Unfortunately, the book loses momentum toward the end and it wraps up a bit too tidily then tries to make up for it by throwing in a mysterious statement on the last page. Giles debut book Shattering Glass was a vastly better read.

Giles, Gail
*Shattering Glass
9th and up
Have you ever lost control of yourself; who you are, what you stand for? Have you ever given it away to someone else without even realizing you did it until it was too late? The only one who didn't lose himself in Rob Haynes circle of power was Simon Glass, the experiment.
Rob was the kingpin of his school. His rise to power was meteoric, burning through those who previously held the office. His groupies were hand selected for their unique personalities and their devotion to him. When Rob decided that he wanted to make the school nerd, Simon, popular, they each had a job. One taught him how to dress and dance, another taught him how to drive, a third whipped him into shape, and another went so far as to gave him his girlfriend. All was going well until the night that Simon showed his backbone and turned on Rob and the others, giving up secrets about each of them and their relationship to Rob. The resulting chaos was tragic and startling.

Not since I read the Chocolate War have I been so drawn into and disturbed by a story. Giles has written an amazing tale of human-kind's propensity toward cruelty and what we do to each other in our pain. You are given glimpses of what happened, in the end, at the beginning of each chapter where there is a brief excerpt from interviews with each of the characters that we meet and some who are on the periphery. The story takes hold of you then won't let you go until you crash, headlong, into the shocking ending. At first, you feel a bit like you literally hit a brick wall, until you realize that you have enough information to figure out what really happened. It made me want to immediately read it again to see what if I missed anything or if I could, somehow, change the events that lead to such an ending. My heart is still pounding! I highly recommend this book to anyone over the age of 14.

Golden Christopher & Tim Lebbon
The Secret Journeys of Jack London
Jack is 17-years-old as he boards a vessel with his elderly and ailing brother-in-law. The two are heading for Alaska in search of all mighty GOLD!!! Upon arrival, the two men stand at the foot of the Chilkoot Trail. Shephard blanches, realizing that this trail, alone, will kill him. Jack looks at it filled with awe and excitement. Shephard turns back, leaving Jack to his adventure. At once, Jack is a boy embarking on his first big adventure and a wizened man looking at the world with the knowledge that life isn't always easy and is often filled with misfortune. The danger he finds is like nothing he could have imagined. He is kidnapped by murderous, greedy men and forced to mine for gold. He is attacked and nearly killed by a mysterious creature that feeds on humans. His savior ends up being another kind of captor from whom he must escape to survive. Amidst all these pitfalls and snares, Jack holds onto his spirit and strength and they are the only things that will get him through the worse days in The Wild!

Christopher Golden is a prolific writer of adult and young adult fiction. He writes in just about every genre...fantasy, historical fiction, murder mysteries. His imagination is astounding and his research thorough, interesting and often frightening. Tim Lebbon describes himself on his web site as a horror and dark fantasy author. Put these two together to write a book and you have some wacked out stuff! Just imagine all of the legends that swirl around the snows of Alaska, brought there by the many and varied peoples seeking adventure and gold. Now, imagine them all coming to life in the pages of this book about one of the greatest adventurers of all time! If you're a fan of historical fiction, horror, adventure or Jack London, this is a must read!!! And stay tuned...there's more about Jack to come!


Golding, Julia

Dragonfly

To protect their kingdoms from the power-hungry warlord Fergox, Princess Taoshira and Prince Ramil have been betrothed and neither of them are happy about it. Tashi is used to a life of devotion to the goddess and Ramil hunts with his friends whenever he wishes. Upon meeting him, Tashi thinks that he is an uncouth boor and to him, she is cold and unfeeling, not natural. One afternoon, Ramil takes Tashi riding, trying to make amends for his rudeness when they are attacked and kidnapped. Suddenly, their differences seem inconsequential and, if they are to survive, they must work together. Along the way they find unexpected allies in a circus strongman, a rebel leader and a female warrior, the likes of whom neither has ever seen. But will they be enough to outwit the warlord and save their kingdoms?

Golding crafts an engrossing and exciting tale with Dragonfly. Her charismatic characters and atmospheric setting draw in the reader, urging them to turn just one more page. It is also a tale of two people finding responsibility thrust upon them and having to deal with the changes wrought by it. The ending is most satisfying and endearing.

Golding, Julia
The Glass Swallow
The artisan guilds of Holt have extremely stringent rules about women...they aren't allowed to work at all! Rain chafes daily, at the backward-thinking ways but, she's found a way around them. Her father is a master glass maker, one of the most sought-after artisans in the country. His stained-glass windows adorn palaces, private homes and places of worship. Rain, however, is the artist. The beautiful pictures depicted in his windows are her designs. Their artistry has caught the eye of a wealthy leaders from a neighboring country. They have brought a delegation to escort the artist to their land to design the windows for the Master's summer palace. Upon their arrival, the party is attacked by bandits. Rain is the only survivor. Now she must use all of her wits, resources and vast talents to make her way in this new and violent place.

Golding is a consummate storyteller! This book, a stand-alone companion to Dragonfly, is a story about strength of character and courage, regardless of size or gender. The characters ring true and are very interesting. The situation that Magharnans find themselves in is not so different than what many Americans are experiencing right now so, while the story takes place in a distant past, it is very relevant to today's teens! Rain, with the help of other outsiders, forces change on a rigid country. Parts of the story stretch the imagination...how seemingly easy the change came...but the idea that it could be done is a hopeful one! I find myself wishing that change to my own country would be as easily wrought!!!

Golds, Cassandra
The Museum of Mary Child
Heloise lives in a world of black and gray. She knows the 10 Commandments, both the ones from the Bible and the ones her godmother forces her to live by. "1. Thou shalt not waste time. 2. Thou shalt not wear pretty clothes. 8. Thou shalt eschew the word 'love' and the phenomenon to which it refers." But worst of all, "9. Thou shalt not have a doll." One dreary day, Heloise discovers a loose floor board and underneath, a miracle...a beautiful doll. Heloise is desperate to keep Maria so she keeps her secreted away but her godmother begins to notice a difference in Heloise. The little girl smiles more and seems happier than she's ever been. Soon, however, Heloise's secret is discovered and another, more dreadful secret is revealed. Heloise decides to run away rather than face losing Maria and the horror of the world her godmother created.

Cassandra Golds has created a mystical, dark tale of lies, madness and magic. The mystery surrounding Mary Child drives the story and Heloise is a strong if damaged character learning to trust and to love for the first time in her life. The story is populated with fantastical characters like the birds from the Society of Caged Birds and Old Mother and her Choir of Orphan Girls, who play an important role in protecting Heloise. It's definitely a page turner but the revelation of the mystery was a little "out there". Still, it was a satisfying tale with just the right amount of creepiness, especially if you have a doll phobia!

Gonzalez, Julie
Wings
7-8
Fantasy
Since birth Ben has believed, with every fiber of his being, that he will fly; not in an airplane, balloon, or glider but actually fly with dragon wings that will sprout from his back. As a child, his family humored his fantasy but teenagers should be over that kind of thinking. But not Ben. He can feel his wings wanting to escape and take him to his destiny. His brother, Ian, doesn't know what to believe. He and Ben are very close and he wants to be there for his brother, even when he attempts dangerous stunts like jumping off the roof of their house or venturing out onto the train trestle to force his wings to let him fly. Ben's faith never falters but what will that strong belief bring to his family?
This story reminds me of the movie, Radio Flyer, in which the younger brother has a similar belief. Gonzalez tells this story from both brothers' points of view, which adds to the intensity of emotion. The characters are very well developed and you actually feel the same frustration and fear of the parents as they watch, what seems to be self-destructive behavior from their youngest son. It all works very well until the ending, which really asks the reader to suspend belief. There's no real foreshadowing to prepare you for the climax and what happens to Ben. Perhaps, one could read this story then go straight into James Patterson's Maximum Ride: the Angel Experiment.

Goodman, Alison
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
Eon can see dragons; all twelve of them. It is a mighty power and one that even the old Dragoneyes don't have. For years, Eon has been training with his master, a former Dragoneye, in Dragon magic. Sword-work and magical aptitude must be mastered before he can be considered for apprenticeship to one of the energy dragons. There are many forces working against Eon, not the least of which is the dangerous secret he holds close. Amidst political intrigue, power hungry Dragoneyes and an ailing Emporer, Eon must navigate the treacherous landscape around her or forfeit his life and the lives of those who support him.

This was one of those books that I really struggled with, in a good way. There were times when I just had to put it down, much like I do when watching a scary movie and the girl is going to open the dreaded door to find some slavering monster ready to rip her to shreds. But, I couldn't leave it down for long because I just had to find out what happened!!! There were definitely times when I wanted to yell at Eon "No, don't do that!!!". Whew...it was a wild ride and, while I look forward to the conclusion in the next book, I'm glad that there's some time to wait...I need to catch my breath.

Graff, Lisa
The Thing About Georgie
5-7
Excellent
There are lots of things about Georgie. He's named after George Washington. His best friend since Kindergarten is Andy Moretti. His mortal enemy is Jeanie the Meanie. But worst of all, for Georgie, is that his mom is having a new baby who will, most likely, be taller than Georgie by age 5. You see Georgie is a Dwarf. Up until now, Georgie had come to terms with being vertically challenged but now, his new baby sibling (Baby Godzilla, to Georgie) isn't going to be like him. A new baby isn't the only thing Georgie has to worry about. Andy is branching out, in the friendship department and Jeanie the Meanie and Georgie are assigned to be partners to work on a project about President Lincoln. Life is hard enough when you're a kid without the extra challenges of being smaller than everyone else!

This was an excellent book! One of my favorite things was the Narrator who would interrupt the story and ask the reader to do something. It was a great technique to get the reader to really understand what it's like to be Georgie. I highly recommend this one!!! There are some laugh-out-loud bits, which is always good.

Graham, Rosemary
Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and other commandments I have broken
7-8
Contemporary, Chick lit
Change is inevitable but that doesn't mean we have to like it. In the course of one year, Kelsey's parents had gotten a divorce (bitter) and her mother had moved them in the middle of the school year (horrible). After her disastrous 8th grade year, Kelsey was determined to make her own choice about what school she was going to and, for once, her parents listened. Her 9th grade year was already better because she had her best friend, Amy, at her side but then something major happened. She caught the eye of the most popular (like television popular) skateboarder around. At first, it was totally cool to be C.J.'s girlfriend. She was popular by association, her brother, a skater wannabe, adored her and all seemed to be well with the world. You hear the "but" coming, right? It doesn't take long for Kelsey to realize that she is no different to C.J. than the hoards of girls in his fan club only with benefits. When the camel's back finally breaks, she tells a very stunned C.J. it's over. No one has ever dumped him and in his shock and anger he lashes out in the most public way. Now Kelsey has to start all over again and try to climb out of the hole that C.J. put her in.
What a wonderful glimpse into the ever fascinating world of teenagers! The characters are believable, though I wish more teenaged girls had the same strength that Kelsey does. C.J. is also very believable...I think I knew him when I was in high school. She also shows the power of blogging, which is scary. My chick lit gals will love this one!

Grant, K.M.
Blue Flame
The Blue Flame, lit at the moment of Christ's last breath, has been passed kept safe by the Occitanian people. When Occitan knights kill Richard The Lionheart in defense of the flame, it is whisked away by a boy and protected for many years. Now, danger has come again in the form of warring sects, Cathars and Catholics and the age-old enemy, France. In the midst of the gathering storm Raimon, a boy who believes fervently in Occitan of old, falls in love with his childhood friend, Yolanda. But when an inquisitor arrives, determined to find the Blue Flame and twist it to his own devices, they are caught in a web of deceit and treachery. Fear settles over Occitan as never before. Only one can weild the power of the Blue Flame, though many seek to possess it. Only one can save Occitan and its people from themselves and from outside forces that seek to destroy it.

There's a lot of religious overtones in this book which the author conveys with such skill that the reader will feel blood begin to boil at the unfairness of it all. It can sometimes be a bit preachy but the characters and situations in which they find themselves are compelling. The budding romance between the two main characters is both heartening and heartbreaking. It's an interesting story that insists you keep turning the pages to find out what happens. While the ending obviously leads into the next book, you aren't left hanging by your fingernails, frustrated until the next book comes out. This is a good thing.

Raimon's and Yolanda's saga continues in White Heat , book two of the Perfect Fire trilogy. Yolanda is on her way to Paris to be married, unwillingly, to Hugh, thinking that Raimon is dead. Raimon is ensconced at the top of a mountain, holding off Aimery, but only just. As the siege continues, the followers of the Flame hold out hope that Count Raymond will march to their rescue but hope of that is dwindling as quickly as the food reserves. The fate of Occitan, Yolanda and Raimon is in the heat of the Flame.

Grant, Michael
Gone
Imagine sitting in class listening to your teacher lecture about the Civil War. Boring, right? Now, imagine that the teacher AND several of your classmates just disappear...poof, into thin air! Weird, right? That's exactly what happens at Sam Temple's school; and not just there, either. All over the town, the grown ups are just gone. In fact, no one over the age of 15 is left! You might think that it would be the coolest thing ever to be able to do whatever you want, whenever you wanted. However, it isn't long before chaos ensues and bullies take over. Unfortunately, that's not all. Some of the kids have strange powers, super powers like invisibility or super strength and Sam is one of them. He can shoot lasers from his fingers!!! He also begins to wonder all of this isn't his fault. In this dangerous new world, Sam and his friends must figure out a way to survive each other and, most importantly, their birthday when they too will poof.

Michael Grant tells a masterful sci fi tale! The characters are complicated and flawed, making them wholly believable. The situations he puts them in (no adults!!!), are not so far-fetched. There's even a pretty decent creep factor in The Darkness that controls the animals (and mutates them???). Fans of sci fi and suspense should definitely NOT miss this one!!!

Grant, Sara
Dark Parties
Neva lives in a bubble...literally. After The Terror, a brilliant scientist developed and had built a secure, artificial environment in which to live called the Protectosphere. The idyllic lifestyle that he envisioned, however, is crumbling. For years, Neva has kept and illegal journal in which she records those who go missing. They are there one day then gone the next; and not just gone, erased, as if they'd never existed! The government controls everything...history, news, population and resources. They claim that there is nothing but wasteland outside but Neva and her friends suspect that they are lying about that and everything else. One evening, Neva and her best friend Sanna gather their friends together in what they call a "dark party" to convince them to join their rebellion. As the movement gains steam, they uncover information that even they did not suspect and soon, it becomes even more imperative that they fight before they to go Missing.

Dystopian-themed books are all the rage now, thanks to Suzanne Collins and others. Sara Grant joins the party with this terrific entry! There's nothing particularly new and shocking but the way she weaves the setting, characters and backstory together is intriguing. At the end, I was left wanting to know more and what happens next! Fans of the dystopian society will enjoy this one...however, one word of caution. I wouldn't recommend this for young teens because there's some talk of sex, though not graphic. Still, keep the young ones young as long as possible, I say!


Greene, John
Looking for Alaska
8 & up
Contemporary
What is it that makes the moon revolve around the earth and the earth around the sun? Gravitational pull, that's what. Alaska Young has enough gravitational charisma to attract almost everyone who passes close to her. She is beautiful but dangerous; funny but damaged. Miles Halter is one of those whose orbit brings him too close to the dangerous side, the damaged side but close enough to be dazzled by the beauty and humor of her but will he be able to pull her back, as she begins to spin erratically out of control?
It always amazes me when a man writes a female character really well. John Greene creates quite a remarkable girl in Alaska and she is completely believable. We've probably all known someone very much like her. This debut novel successfully deals with life in boarding school, lost lives, and lost love. It also shows what happens when there's too much alcohol available and breaking rules is too easy.

Green, John
Turtles All The Way Down

Spirals are cool looking figures. They seem to continue in an ever-tightening circle to infinity (and beyond?). Aza is not particularly fond of spirals, though. Her thoughts can sometimes spiral out of control and take her with them. It might start as a simple question, "Did you change your band-aid this morning?" Then, as fast as a machine gun, more questions, doubts, terror crowds out her world and all she knows is the spiral. Her best friend Daisy has stuck by her for most of their lives, no matter what. When the two girls decide to play detective and find the town's missing millionaire who disappeared under suspicious circumstances, their road diverges into uncharted territory for Aza; boys, a particular boy named Davis Pickett who also happens to be the missing millionaire's son. It's a roller coaster ride for Aza as she has to figure out a way to navigate the budding relationship with Davis, maintain her friendship and also deal with her worsening OCD symptoms. It all comes to a head with a crash and Aza must learn to move forward even if it hurts.

John Green addresses the difficult subject of mental illness is his latest book. He has a particular understanding because he also suffers with OCD. With tenderness, humor, and insight, he gives us a glimpse into his world and what it feels like to be stuck in a spiral. The scene when Aza and Daisy are in the tunnel and Aza uses the situation to help Daisy understand a little of what she goes through each day is poignant and heartbreaking.


Griffin, Bethany
Masque of the Red Death
There is nothing left of the city, maybe even in the world! A plague has decimated the population and the prince does not care at all. Scientists have developed masques that filter the air but only the wealthy can afford them. Araby's father was one of those scientists and the prince keeps VERY close tabs on him. There are places of escape. The Debauchery Club is the one Araby chooses. She goes there to sink into chemical oblivion where she can remember those she has lost. The club will introduce her to more than just dreams, however. There she meets two very desirable men; Will is the stunningly handsome man who runs the club and Elliot is a darkly handsome nephew of the prince. Both men have hidden agendas. One will help Araby and offer her hope, the other will lead her into dangerous adventure but the choice between the two might not be hers to make.

Bethany Griffin offers a dark historical fiction with a steampunk bent. The crumbling city is an haunting backdrop to the horrors surrounding the complexly layered characters. Araby is a broken girl looking for escape from her pain but the liberal use of drugs and the graphic descriptions of the plague-ridden populace makes this story geared more toward older teens. The cliffhanger ending hints that there is more of the story to be told.

Grimes, Nikki
Bronx Masquerade
7 and up
Contemporary
The streets of New York, teenagers, and schools get a really bad rap, these days but something is definitely up in Mr. Ward’s English class. It all started with a simple assignment, another boring assignment but Wesley “Bad Boy” Boon started a revolution without even knowing it. Instead of writing the essay he was assigned, he wrote a poem and read it aloud in class. Suddenly, other kids were asking if they could read a poem to the class and Open Mike Fridays was born. What the kids write is not just poetry; they open a window into their souls, revealing a glimpse of who they really are. By the end of the year, the entire school has heard about Open Mike Fridays and they all want to participate! It just goes to show you, one voice can start something huge!
I loved this book! The poetry was beautiful and the stories of each of the writers were inspiring. I felt like I was sitting in the back of the room watching all of it unfold. I wanted to stand up and cheer and cry all at the same time. What power words hold is a lesson I wish all students in all walks of life could discover.

Guibord, Maurissa
Revel [#revel]]
In all her 17 years, Delia had never really wondered where her mother came from or why she never talked about her family. But then, her mom got sick and, in her delirium, she spoke of a distant island, of her grandmother, and of someone wanting to take the baby away. When her mother died and she got tired of moving from foster home to foster home, she decided to head for Maine and find Trespass Island. The tiny island is not on any map and there is no way to get to the island... except for eccentric Ben Deare who decides to take her there but, only after he's thrown the bones which tell him she belongs there. On the island, she finds superstition is rampant. There is no communication with the outside world...at all. Most strange of all is the town's belief in ancient gods and demi-gods that are said to rule the waters around the island. Surely, these are just stories, right? There couldn't be dangerous creatures out there, could there? The answer, Delia discovers, is not only a resounding yes but that she has a strange connection with them, one that will change life for everyone on the island and in its waters!

What an intriguing take on mythological creatures! It is also a story of the power plays of interdependence...the islanders and the monsters in the water. The islanders are interesting characters and fairly well drawn, even the minor ones. There are a few instances where acceptance seems to quick and other possible villains are not fleshed out as well. Still, it's a great story with just a hint of romance and will satisfy fantasy fans...but you might not want to read it at the beach!


* = Mature Content