Thursday, January 28, 2016

Darkest Part of the Forest

TITLE: The Darkest Part of the Forest
AUTHOR: Holly Black
RELEASE DATE: January 2015
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown, and Company
PAGES: 328 pages
GENRE: Fantasy
APPROPRIATE AGE: grades 9-12

SUMMARY: Hazel Evans and the rest of the residents of Fairfold know all the rules: Don't go out after sunset on a full moon, Don't act like a tourist, Don't go into the woods, and definitely Do not make a deal with one of the Fair Folk. But other than that, Fairfold is a great place to live. All of the kids hang out at the glass casket of the horned boy, drinking and dancing, as if it is the most normal thing in the world. Because in Fairfold it is. But Hazel understands the negative side of Fairfold and she will do everything it takes to protect it. As a child, she carries a golden sword and slays the monsters that terrorize her town. But after a few years of slaying monsters, she breaks the number one rule and now has seven years to pay the price. 

FAVORITE QUOTE: "They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faerie and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magic people. They loved him the way they'd loved Beast the first time he swept Belle around the dance floor in her yellow dress. They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh. They loved him as they loved lead singers of bands and actors in movies, loved him in such a way that their shared love brought them closer together." (Black, 85-86)

WHAT I LIKED: Starting from the first page, I absolutely loved the town of Fairfold. I even went as far as doing a Google search to see if there really was a town with the same name! I didn't find anything. And its not like I would go visit if I had found it, because the book is very specific about what happens to tourists in Fairfold! I mean, seriously; faeries, changelings, water hags, barghests, horned boys and Alderkings. What more could you ask for? 

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I didn't like the ending, as in the book had to end. It ended with such a "Happily Ever After" that I was disappointed there was no room for a sequel. Holly Black, if you're reading this, could there ever be a continuation to the story of Fairfold? What happens to Ben and Severn, Jack and Hazel? 

READALIKES: Modern Faerie Tale series by Holly Black,  Need series by Carrie Jones


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Eye of Minds

TITLE: The Eye of Minds
AUTHOR: James Dashner
RELEASE DATE: October 2013
PUBLISHER: Delacorte Press
PAGES: 310 pages 
SERIES: The Mortality Doctrine (Book 2: Rule of Thoughts, Book 3: Game of Lives)
GENRE: Science Fiction

APPROPRIATE AGE: grades 7-12

SUMMARY: In a future where people spend almost all of their days in the VirtNet (virtual reality), Michael is a player with the skills to get whatever he wants. But when he experiences a player's true death, he begins to realize that this virtual reality, might be a little more real than he would like. When the Virtual Network Security tracks Michael and his friends down asking for help catching a killer, Michael has no choice but to accept. Set on a dangerous path to retrieve the Mortality Doctrine, Michael, Sarah, and Bryson they are no longer in a game that even their hacking skills can get them out of. 

WHAT I LIKED: As a techie nerd, I love Science Fiction books. This particular book went perfectly with our library unit on Hour of Code. With the students learning to code in the library and then reading this book where the characters used code to create things in their games. While it isn't exactly a reality right now, the students could relate with how it all worked. 

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I felt absolutely no connection with the characters in the story. The main character, Michael, spends his days in a coffin playing video games. Does he go to school? Where are his parents? Does he have any friends? The minor characters in the book: Sarah and Bryson have absolutely no backstory. Michael meets them in the VirtNet and they are immediate best friends. But in the VirtNet, you can create anything you want. You can make yourself look anyway you want. Whose to say these two "friends" aren't actually forty-year-old adults targeting teenagers? But of course, it is all answered in the very last chapter of the book! Can anyone say PLOT TWIST!

READALIKES: Insignia by S.J. Kincaid


Monday, January 25, 2016

The Iron Trial

TITLE: The Iron Trial
AUTHOR: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
RELEASE DATE: September 2014
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Press
PAGES: 309 pages 
SERIES: Magisterium (Book 2: The Copper Gauntlet, Book 3: The Bronze Key)


All his life, Callum Hunt has been told that magic is evil, it is what killed his mother. When Call is invited to attend the entrance exams for the Magisterium, his father warns him to do whatever it takes to fail The Iron Trials. However, all of Call's failures blow up in his face, and even though his name is at the bottom of the leaderboard, he is one of the first chosen by the Mages. As Call enters the Magisterium, all of his father's stories about magic seem wrong and he begins to question everything. Will he survive the Iron Trial?

WHAT I LIKED: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare are two of my very favorite authors. You can definitely see both of their writing styles in this book. I feel like there is a little bit of Holly Black's magic from her White Cat series, mixed with a little bit of Cassandra Clare's evil demons/elementals in her Mortal Instruments series. When I saw this book, I immediately had to have it! I'm still waiting on my book order for the library with book two, but I know it will be one of the first I read when it arrives.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I was kind of disappointed with the background of mages and elemental magic. The book starts out with a flashback from when Callum was a baby. Then throughout the book there are stories told by the students. But a lot of the students at the Magisterium knew nothing about magic before the Iron Trial. Pretty much there is a magic, it turned someone evil, there was a big war and a lot of people died. With as detailed as Cassandra Clare has always been in her series, I was disappointed with the lack of backstory. Hopefully book two will tell a little bit more, especially with the big surprise ending at the end of the story. 

READALIKES: Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare and  Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

TITLE: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
AUTHOR: Ransom Riggs
PUBLISHER: Quirk Books
PAGES: 382 pages 
SERIES: Book 1 in Miss Peregrine's Peculiar children series (#2:Hollow City, #3:Library of Souls)
Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal

APPROPRIATE AGE: grades 7-12

SUMMARY: Jacob is a bit of an outsider, rather normal, but without many friends. The one person he feels closest to is his grandfather. His grandfather who told him stories about a mysterious school on the other side of the world full of peculiar children watched over by a bird. Soon Jacob got to the day that he no longer believed his grandfather's wild stories, and their relationship was never the same. But when Jacob's grandfather calls one day terrified of the monsters that have finally found him, Jacob is the only one who can help. Rushing to his rescue, Jacob searches his grandfather's house and the woods for him, only to find him too late. The police say Jacob's grandfather was attacked by wild dogs, but Jacob knows there was something else in the woods with them that day. Now Jacob is beginning to second guess the skepticism he had for his grandfather's wild stories.

WHAT I LIKED: It took me a while to finally read this book. The cover always freaked me out. Nothing is scarier than creepy little kids. However, the black and white cover and semi-creepy photos of some of the peculiar children are where it all stops. It was my niece who finally convinced me to read the story, saying it took place during WWII. And all I can say is that the story is not at all what I expected, and I say that in the best way possible. There really is nothing more I can say about it without giving away major spoilers.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I really have to say I didn't like the cover. While I definitely think it will appeal to a lot of Young Adult, it did not appeal to me. When I first ordered the book for my library, I assigned it to the Horror section. After reading the first book, I have moved it to the Fantasy section (after a big debate between Fantasy or Mystery). I even had another teacher tell me that the cover of the book really turned her off as well, but after my short description, she has decided to add it to her To Read list. Overall, the cover is the only negative I have to say about this book. 

READALIKES: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Asylum by Madeline Roux, Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

MOVIE RELEASE: December 25, 2016 (directed by Tim Burton)


Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Hunt

TITLE: The Hunt
AUTHOR: Andrew Fukuda
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Griffin
PAGES: 304 pages 
SERIES: Book 1 in The Hunt Trilogy (#2:The Prey, #3:The Trap)
Supernatural, Horror, Adventure

APPROPRIATE AGE: grades 8-12

SUMMARY: Gene is one of the only humans left on earth, but he can't let any body else know. He is different and must keep his identity a secret. This means scrubbing his skin, shaving his body hair, not showing emotion, going out in daylight, and wearing fake fangs. But when Gene wears a lottery to hunt some of the last remaining humans on earth, what will he do? Kill them to save himself, or risk his own life to save them?

WHAT I LIKED: I liked the idea of this story, a human hiding in a world of blood sucking people (the book never uses the word vampire). I also liked Gene's description of everything, several times he would describe to the reader things that are normal to us, but not to someone who has lived among these creatures their entire life. For example, "Its nose crinkles-'crinkle' is this thing hepers do when they pull their facial skin together-in mild disgust" (p). 

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I felt the book needed more of a backstory. Where did these people come from? What happened to all the humans? It seems like when a person comes upon a heper, then it is devoured completely. It's not like humans are turned into these people. I just wondered this throughout the entire book, waiting for some kind of flashback or timeline of when all this happened. The people's facts about the hepers were all completely wrong and made-up, like they were stories that had been passed around. 
UPDATE 1/12/2016: In the second book of the series, The Prey, more details are given about the duskers and how they became (genetic modification... of course).

READALIKES: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Monday, January 4, 2016

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

TITLE: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
AUTHOR: Becky Albertalli
RELEASE DATE: April 2015
PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray
PAGES: 325 pages 
GENRE: Realistic Fiction, Humor, LGBT
APPROPRIATE AGE: grades 9-12

SUMMARY: Simon is an in-the-closet, high school junior with a secret online boyfriend named "Blue". The only thing Simon knows about Blue is that they go to the same school. Life is perfect, until one of his secret emails falls into the hands of the wrong person. Simon must find a way to come out before he is pushed out. 

WHAT I LIKED: I really enjoyed the story, the character of Simon, the humor, and the pure awkwardness of Simon's love life (or lack of one). I really think that every high school student, straight or gay, needs to read this book. To be able to see how Simon copes keeping his biggest secret, and the huge burden he feels of telling people; I believe would be a huge eye-opener to people on both sides. 

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:  I didn't like the language. There were a lot of curse words in this book, which made it inappropriate for my students in 7th-8th grade. I would have really liked making this available in my school library, but couldn't for that one reason.

READALIKES: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

BOOK TRAILER: none found

Before I Fall

TITLE: Before I Fall
AUTHOR: Lauren Oliver
RELEASE DATE: March 2010
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
PAGES: 353 pages 
GENRE: Fantasy, Chick Lit
APPROPRIATE AGE: grades 9-12

SUMMARY: Samantha Kingston is the typical "popular girl" with her Mean Girl gang of three friends: Lindsay, Ally, and Elody. They wear matching slutty outfits and compete over who gets the most roses on Cupid Day. After school, there is a huge party, lots of drinking, and Sam plans how she is finally going to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Rob. That is, until it all ends abruptly with a deadly car crash. Or does it? Sam wakes up to find herself repeating the same day over and over. 

WHAT I LIKED: I've tried reading other "Groundhog Day" style books before to find it repetitive (duh!) and boring. But in Before I Fall, Sam makes enough changes each day that it seems like a new day. At the beginning of the book, I really hated the character of Sam and her Mean Girl clique. But throughout Sam's last "days", she begins to see all this, and make some changes to not only make herself a better person, but to really help those around her.  

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I felt that the smoking behind the school, cutting class, and getting high in the school bathroom were completely unbelievable. Who, outside of TV Dramas, really does that? Maybe, I'm just totally naive, but that that was not my high school! Getting caught smoking on school grounds is worth three after school detentions? Seriously?!

READALIKES: Everyday by David Levithan


After the End

TITLE: After the End
AUTHOR: Amy Plum
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins Publisher
PAGES: 341 pages 
SERIES: Book #1 in the After The End series (book #2: Until the Beginning)
Science Fiction
APPROPRIATE AGE: grades 8-12

SUMMARY: Juneau lives with her clan in the Alaskan wilderness, some of the last survivors of World War III. Returning from a hunting trip, she finds her entire clan gone, all of the sled dogs shot. Completely alone, she must search beyond the protected borders to find her family. Leaving the boundaries, she discovers the rest of world is unchanged, there never was a World War III, and her entire life has been a lie. 

WHAT I LIKED: I really liked the character, Juneau. She is brave, smart, and fearless. She sets out on her own in a world she doesn't know to find the only family she has left. Once past the boundaries of her home, she accepts all of the new things she comes across (technology, automobiles, pretty much anything created in the last thirty years). 

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I really did not like the character of Miles. So he gets in trouble at school: drugs, alcohol, cheating, etc. He happens to overhear a phone conversation by his dad and just decides, "Hmm... I have a three day weekend without supervision, why don't I drive 19 hours from LA to Seattle to find a girl that has only been described as long dark hair and a starburst in her eye." Who does that?! Then, of course, after he gets to Seattle, he just happens to run right into her? What are the chances? 

READALIKES: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

BOOK TRAILER: This is a video by the author, Amy Plum, introducing her book. ::SPOILER ALERT::