January 11, 2019

Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:05 pm by suebe2

Devils Unto Dust
by Emma Berquist
Greenwillow Books

When I picked up Devils Unto Dust, I picked it up for the setting – the Texas desert.  I’ve got a sweet spot for the alpine desert of West Texas. Once I realized that this probably wasn’t my desert – too flat – I had been hooked by the story.

Willie is a survivors.  You have to be when you life in Glory, Texas.

Her parents homesteaded there looking to build a life for their family.  But after the Civil War the rains failed.  Farmers and families struggled.  Then came the sickness.  No one recovers and, before they up and die, the afflicted attack those around them biting and clawing with a savage hunger.

It’s what happened to her mother only she never got to the point that she attacked her own children.  Willie saw to that.

Now in 1877 it’s just Willie and her younger siblings.  Their father has disappeared again but before he goes he steals a gambler’s winnings and sets the law on his family.  Find the money to repay the debt or be put beyond the safety of the wall.

Willie uses money she doesn’t have to pay two young hunters to guide her across the desert after her father. If she can get the money back, she can pay everyone off.  Then she’ll have the space to find a way for their family to survive.

Willie loves the desert – the heat and the sun and the space.  But the space can also work against you because you can only carry so much water and sand storms are always a risk.  She isn’t even sure how far she can trust the two men she’s paid off.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot because there’s no way to do it without giving too much away.  This is definitely a teen book.  There are zombies and there is death.  There is also alcohol and there are references to sex and an attack but anyone who attacks Willie is a fool.  That said, before things are said and done, Willie learns that she can’t do it all on her own and that, if you pick the right people, it is okay to trust.

I have to say that I wish there had been more books for teens like this back in the olden days when I was a teen.  I could have used a heroine like Willie.  And if there’s a second book – I’ll be in line to get it.

–SueBE

 

September 22, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:15 pm by suebe2

flame in the mistFlame in the Mist
by Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

From her youngest years, Mariko was always the curious one.  She wanted to know how and why.  She looked for better ways to do things.  Her brother on the other hand always knew his duty.

As a result of her curiosity, Mariko had a reputation for being odd.  Fortunately, she is the daughter of a high-ranking samurai so she has tutors and leisure time. At least until her father finds a suitable suitor.

And he isn’t just any young man.  He is the crown prince.  He will be the next emperor.

Mariko doesn’t know what to expect when she reaches the palace but she knows better than to ask.  No one cares what a worthless girl thinks.

But then her party enters the forest and is attacked.  Mariko is the only survivor but her survival is anything but guaranteed.  She can feel the eyes of the forest watching her.  She is told that the attack on her group was the work of the Black Clan, a band of bandits and murderers.  Mariko decides to find out why they wanted to kill her by infiltrating the clan.

As is often the case with fantasy, this is a hard book to describe without simply retyping the entire book.  Ahdieh has created a tale peopled with colorful 3 dimensional characters, powerful magic, and treachery.

Not only does Mariko have to find her way out of the forest, she also has to decide who to trust, who to believe, and who she truly is – passive daughter of a samurai or Mariko, inventor, planner and fighter.

This is the first of a two book series set in feudal Japan. The setting definitely comes to life, going so far as to reach out and threaten the unwary.  There is action, there is romance, and there is mystery.  Readers will definitely want to know what happens next.

And I have to admit that was my only problem with the book.  There is enough left hanging that you will want to immediately pick up the next book but that doesn’t come out until May 2018.

That said, this is definitely an excellent book for fantasy fans especially the patient ones who don’t mind waiting until May.

–SueBE

December 23, 2013

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:43 am by suebe2

The Clockwork Scarab
by Colleen Gleason
Chronicle Books

Neither Mina Holmes or Evaline Stoker is sure what to think when the pair are summoned to the British Museum.  There the pair are charged with the task of uncovering what is happening among the young nobel ladies of London.  Two have disappeared — one of them turning up murdered inside the Museum itself.  And both were found with an elaborate clockwork scarab.

Before they can solve the mystery the two girls must learn to work together.  Mina Holmes is the niece of Sherlock Holmes and is every bit as observant and brilliant, or she thinks she is.  She’s never truly had the opportunity to pit her incredible intellect against a criminal mastermind.  Still, she knows she is brilliant and has problems dealing with anyone of lesser intelligence including Evaline Stoker.

Evaline Stolker is the sister of Bram Stoker who is writing Dracula as this story takes place.  She is also the most recent in a long line of vampire hunters, a tricky profession when you get queasy at the sight of blood.  Add to this the fact that vampires are all but extinct.  Evaline has supernatural dexterity and strength although she too is largely untried.

The pair has been chosen not because of their vast experience but because of their potential and because they are both female.  Who better to negotiate the salons and balls of society to uncover a murderer than two girls.  Girls, as everyone believe, aren’t capable of either great intellect or great strength so it is hoped that the evil doers will over look this pair.  The more you get to know them, the harder this is to believe.

They quickly discover that the girls have been taken by the Society of Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess with the head of a lion, a goddess known for her strength, ruthless cunning and violence.  A mysterious leader named the Ankh is behind the societies attempts to use four ancient artifacts to bring Sekhmet to life no matter how many girls must be sacrificed for this to happen.

Gleason has brought to life two amazing heroines, and three handsome, dashing heroes, in a steam punk novel that will keep you reading from beginning to end.  Pick this one up for the young lady in your life who loves history, fantasy, steam punk or a touch of romance.  This is a page turner that would make an excellent holiday read.

–SueBE

September 9, 2013

White Cat by Holly Black

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:50 am by suebe2

White Cat
Book 1 in the Curse Workers
by Holly Black
(Simon & Schuster)

Cassel almost never takes his gloves off even around his family.

Cassel lives in our world, or at least what our world would be like if there were people who could do magic.  And I don’t mean pull the rabbit out of a hat slight of hand.  I mean cause people to dream, and possible sleep walk to their deaths.  Erase people’s memories, causing them to forget or planting substitute memories.  The rarest ability of all is the ability to change something, or someone, into something else.

That’s why the gloves.  You have to make skin to skin contact by hand to curse someone — because although these gifts can and are used for good, the fear that it could be used for bad is just too strong.  Curse work.

Most workers grow adept at hiding their abilities, especially since using them is illegal.  Not that Cassel is a worker.  Everyone else in his family is but not Cassel.  He has other things to hide even if he can’t wipe them from his memory.  Again and again, his mind drifts back to the night he came too standing over the body of his best friend.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s holding the bloody knife and . . . he’s happy about it.  What kind of a monster is he?

These are the thoughts that separate him from his fellow students until the night he wakes up standing on his dorm roof.  He doesn’t know how he got there or even what path he took but the fact that he might have sleepwalked gets him expelled from school.  After all, he might have been worked.

Out of school until he can finagle his way back in, Cassel has the time to poke around and what he discovers changes his whole world.  Because he has been worked. And he has killed.  But not in the ways he remembers.  And now he questions how much of what he remembers even happened.

This isn’t a new book — it came out in 2010 — but it is an amazing piece of young adult literature.  And it is young adult.  This isn’t the magical world of Harry Potter — not that I’m panning Potter but this magic is very different.  Every time a worker uses their gift, they suffer blow back.  If they use it for good, the blow back can be good, but if they use it for ill?  Unpleasant things happen, especially if you’re a death worker.

Not that this story is all dark.  Black has worked an amazing amount of humor into this story.  While some of it is still quite dark, it does lighten the overall mood.  And Cassel does discover that he has some really good friends.

This is a real page turner and readers will be rooting for Cassel as he struggles to figure out just what has happened and where he fits in to this incredibly complicated world.

–SueBE

 

May 19, 2010

Gateway by Sharon Shinn

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:07 pm by suebe2

Gateway (AR 6 . 0)

by Sharon Shinn

Daiyu feels out of place but that doesn’t surprise her — she was adopted from China and has grown up in St. Louis, Missouri where Asians of any kind are in the minority.  When she agrees to deliver a necklace to one of the vendors at a fair, she never imagines it will whisk her through a portal (the Gateway Arch) to another world where she will be in the majority.

Not that she fits in.  The customs and everything about this world are alien to her, everything except the feelings she has for the first person she meets.  He has been sent to bring her home and makes her feel safe.  She has been brought to this world to help rid it of a tyrant but Daiyu struggles with her mission. Attractive, intelligent and charming, he seems like a good leader.  How can she be sure she is on the side of good?

Not many authors can transition between novels for adults and novels for teens but Shinn does it and does it well.  This young adult romance features Shinn’s usual attention to character and setting, both of which she brings alive with great skill.

On the AR test, this book is labeled as middle grade but it has more of a young adult feel.  That said, it would be suitable for an advanced middle grade reader.

This would make a fabulous summer read for someone traveling to a distant land or simply settling down at home to explore a great book.

–SueBE

July 16, 2009

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 3:21 am by suebe2

pratchettEqual Rites (AR 6. 1 )

by Terry Pratchett

(ISIS Audio Books)

Just before he dies, the wizard, Drum Billet, journeys to the smith’s shop so that he can pass on his wizard staff to the eighth son of an eighth son — sure to be a wondrously powerful wizard.  Let’s just hope that Billet was better at wizarding than he was at inheritance law because he forgot to check the gender of the newborn girl.

It falls to Granny Weatherwax to teach Eskarina magic — who better to teach a girl than a witch?  After all, it isn’t like a girl can become a wizard.   Too bad no one sent Eskarina the memo.

I simply cannot believe that Pratchett’s books were unknown to me until this summer.  All through high school I was a major sf/f reader but somehow I managed to remain oblivious. 

Pratchett’s Discworld Novels are an excellent choice for teens who are advanced readers.   The humor is simultaneously wacky and devilishly sarcastic (think Douglas Adams), the situations are bizarre and just about anything can happen. 

There are references to sex but nothing specific and nothing happens on-screen.

At 7.5 hours, the audiobook might even get you there and back on a weekend trip.

–SueBE

July 10, 2009

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:44 pm by suebe2

chaltasBecause I am Furniture

by Thalia Chaltas

(Viking)

This post is riddled with plot spoilers but if you read it, you’ll understand why.

When someone recommended this book to me, I hesitated.  I’m not 100% sold on stories told in verse, and, when it is a story of abuse, I even more uncertain. Fortunately I decided to pick it up.  This is an incredibly powerful book.

Anke isn’t certain what goes on behind closed doors at home.  In full view, her father slaps her older sister and brother to the floor before chastising them in private.  At least, Anke tells herself she doesn’t know what is going on.  Deep down, she knows.  She also wonders why.  Why don’t they tell?  Why are they the ones he abuses?  Is she so valueless that he can’t even be bothered to smack her around? 

Then the coach invites Anke to try out for volleyball.  On the court she finds her voice when she has to call the ball.  On the team, she finds friends.  And at school, she finds a boy.  A boy she doesn’t know how to react to because she really does know what her father is doing to her siblings and, if that’s bad, how can this be good?

But Anke has found her voice and eventually she demands to be heard. 

Know — this book is YA.  That means teens and tweens.  Not your 10-year-old no matter how good they read.  Really. 

Because it is told in verse, there isn’t a lot of detail.  If a young reader didn’t KNOW about sex, he or she probably wouldn’t pick up on the exact nature of the “behind-closed-doors” abuse. 

Do we really need books like this?  Sadly, we do.  And for the kid who needs an example of how strong even a girl from a severely disfunctional home can me, this is the book.  For the girl who needs it, it is here. 

–SueBE

June 24, 2009

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:36 pm by suebe2

jennaThe Adoration of Jenna Fox  (AR 3.8 )

by Mary E. Pearson

(Henry Holt)

Check out this young adult novel for a story straight from today’s headlines. 

Jenna doesn’t know who she is.   She’s been told that these people are her parents and her grandmother, but she doesn’t remember them.  Her father tells her that she’s been in a coma for a year and that it will take time for her memories to return.

To help this process along, her mother gives her a series of video disks, each documenting the notable events that happened in one year of Jenna’s life.  In spite of her grandmother’s encouragement to skip to the last disk, Jenna watches them in order, observing a series of birthday parties, vacations and dance recitals.  It seems bizarre that she once pirouetted across the stage when her feet now feel so awkward.

When Jenna’s memories start to return, she remembers things she shouldn’t, things that happened when she was an infant and even before her birth.  What is going on?  And why will no one talk about her accident? 

I don’t want to give anything away but there is a romance, friendship and some amazing discoveries as Jenna finds her way back into the world.  Themes include medical research, medical ethics, modern healthcare, religion and just what makes us us

–SueBE

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