July 22, 2016
Girl in the Blue Coat
By Monica Hesse
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.
On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through. (Summary from book cover flap)
Why I picked it up:
The cover had a positive review by Kristin Hannah the best-selling author of The Nightingale – one of my favorite adult books of World War II historical fiction.
Why I finished it:
Once I started there was no turning back! It is hard to believe but this whole story takes place in one week’s time. Alternately heart-pounding and wrenching, this well-researched, yet gripping historical mystery in which people and places are often not what they seem grabbed on to me and never let go. This is one of those books that when you turn the last page, you just want to hold it close to your heart and thank the author for a compelling reading experience. I can only hope that we will be hearing from her again!
I’d give it to: Any lovers of World War II historical fiction especially anyone who would like to know more about the hidden Jews of Holland (such as Anne Frank). I would also include fans of mystery and suspense as fans of either genre would enjoy this book.
I’d give it: 5 stars
Reviewed by: Connie (Parr Library)
July 20, 2016
by Cinda Williams Chima
A burning vengeance.
A blood-based curse.
Destiny’s fiery hand.
Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series a generation later, this is a thrilling story of dark magic, chilling threats, and two unforgettable characters walking a knife-sharp line between life and death.
I was SO EXCITED when I saw this was coming out. The Seven Realms series blew me away, so I was really looking forward to reading more in that world. Flamecaster did not disappoint! Great characters with interesting stories, intrigue, magic, war, and plenty of action and adventure make this a super entertaining read! For newcomers to Cinda Williams Chima, it’s not necessary that you check out the Seven Realms series before this one, although certain characters and events are referenced here. But epic fantasy fans should feel right at home!
Reviewed by: Lara (Haggard Library)
July 18, 2016
Title: The Nethergrim
Author/Artist: Matthew Jobin
The people of Moorvale put their faith in the legend: The knight Tristan and the wizard Vithric, in an epic battle, had defeated the evil Nethergrim. That faith is shaken when livestock go missing, only to turn up as piles of bones. But it’s when a group of children disappear that they know for sure: The Nethergrim has returned. Edmund’s brother is one of the missing, and Edmund knows he must do something to save his life. But what? Though a student of magic, he struggles to cast even the simplest spell. Still, he and his friends swallow their fear and set out to battle an ancient evil whose powers none of them can imagine. (Taken from GoodReads).
Why I picked it up: The Niethergrim looked like a very interesting fiction book, so I decided to pick it up at the library. And it did turn out to be very interesting. A story about wizards, monsters, and heroes really piqued my attention.
Why I finished it: There was a great plot twist at the end which was a great addition to the book.
Who I would give it to: Fantasy and mystery fans.
Star rating: 3 stars
Reviewer: Justin (Plano teen)
July 13, 2016
Title: Sailing to Sarantium
Author/Artist: Guy Gavriel Kay
Why I picked it up: I just finished Tigana and was looking for another Kay novel. Sailing to Sarantium didn’t disappoint.
Why I finished it: As usual, Kay brings us another beautifully crafted world. With beautiful prose and dialogue, “Sailing to Sarantium” is the story of a mosaicist who has received an imperial summons to Sarantium to assist in what is essentially the building of the new largest church dome in the known world. Or course, that’s not the whole story, as on the journey to Sarantium our protagonists encounters dark forces dep in the forest, from which the themes of church v pagan, civilized v barbarian emerge…The entire setting seems to have been inspired by the Byzantium, as clear parallels may be drawn between the East/West Roman Empire, the Church, etc. It doesn’t contain much action, but does a rather good job portraying the lives of ordinary craftsmen/craftswomen and offering some insight into the political workings of medieval times.
Who I would give it to: High/epic fantasy fans, history geeks, maybe historical fiction fans.
Star rating: 5 stars
Reviewer: Kevin (Plano teen)
July 11, 2016
Growing up during the Nazi regime was a difficult time in England. There was rationing, blackouts and a sense of fear and dread every day. But two ten year old girls still loved playing make-believe, reading books together and playing games. Kitty and Lottie were the best of friends and their favorite time was learning about time travel. Kitty’s father was a scientist who was teaching the girls all about this adventure. Through her father’s relentless pursuit he discovered it was real. This revelation brought a new threat to their lives. When Kitty’s father disappeared and the girls were kidnapped Kitty made a split second decision that would change her life forever. A new life that takes her into the year 2013. How does she cope? Will she ever find Lottie?
Why I picked it up: Once Was A Time was an enjoyable book for anyone who enjoys a good mystery as well as learning about friendship.
I’d give it to: middle schoolers
I’d give it: 3 stars
July 6, 2016
Jennifer Niven hit the mark in addressing the difficult issue of suicide, the stigma of mental illness, and desperation felt by the characters. I appreciated how she juxtaposed the deaths of two people and yet in many ways the emotions felt by the survivors are the same. The range of emotions experienced by the characters that were left behind after the loss of someone they cared about, are true to life and anyone who has been in Violet’s shoes can confirm that. I sobbed at the end. Maybe it was somewhat of a cathartic sob, but sobbed nonetheless (have a light book ready to follow- such as Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, or the like 🙂
If you’re looking for a sweet, “kissy-face” romance (as one of my other YA readers call them), this is not the book for you. However if you want to read something that sticks with you for a long time and perhaps opens your mind to something I hope you never have to experience, then this might just be the book for you. I appreciated the honest account Niven gives in the after notes as well as the important resources listed for people suffering from mental illness or as a survivor of someone with mental illness or simply as for a survivor of someone who was a victim of an accident.
Why I picked it up: After reading reviews about this book, I recommended it to one of my YA readers and she returned with it the next day and said “this book….it crushed me.”
Why I finished it: How can you not?
I’d give it to: Anyone who likes John Green, Ann Brashares, or Nina LaCour
I’d give it:
*I would give this book one million stars, if I could.
Reviewed by: Andrea H (Haggard)
July 4, 2016
Author/Artist: Michael Crichton
Three passengers are dead. Fifty-six are injured. The interior cabin virtually destroyed. But the pilot manages to land the plane…
At that moment when the issue of safety and earth in the skies is paramount in the public mind, a lethal mid-air disaster aboard a commercial twin-jet airliner bound from Hong Kong to Denver triggers a pressured and frantic investigation.
AIRFRAME is nonstop reading: the extraordinary mixture of super suspense and authentic information on a subject of compelling interest that has been a Crichton hallmark since THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. (taken from the cover).
Why I picked it up: I picked it up because it was about people who were interested in sabotaging the airplane company for future motives and the plot itself compelled me to pick it up.
Why I finished it: I finished it because the plot became more and more engaging as I continued to read. The engaging end of the book also pushed me to finish.
Who I would give it to: I think other teenagers would enjoy the book.
Star rating: 3 stars
Reviewer: Sriram (Plano teen)
July 1, 2016
Title: Swing Sideways
Author: Nanci Tuner Steveson
Freedom from a difficult school year, freedom from her fake “friends” back in the city, and, most of all, freedom from her mom’s life-governing spreadsheets and rigid schedules.
When Annie meets California, who is visiting her grandfather’s farm, it seems she has found the perfect partner for the adventure she’s always craved. California climbs trees faster than a monkey, carries around an exotic pet chicken, runs barefoot through the woods, and eats berries straight from the vine. Plus, California offers Annie the chance to be part of a real-life adventure: if she and Annie can find the ponies her mom rode as a girl, surely it will remind her mom how wonderful the farm is—and fix what’s broken between her mom and her grandfather.
But Annie’s summer of freedom is sprinkled with secrets, and everything she has learned about bravery, forgiveness, loss, and love will be put to the test when the truth behind the ultimate secret changes her life forever. (From the publisher).
Why I picked it up: I first noticed the book because I loved the cover. After I read the description, I was drawn to the book because I grew up on farms and I love books with farm settings.
Why I finished it: I loved the friendship between Annie and California. This is a great story about a life-altering friendship.
I’d give it to: Middle school students who enjoyed reading Bridge to Terabithia in elementary school.
Star Rating: Four stars
Reviewer: Renee (Parr library)
June 27, 2016
“This is not a story of happily ever after. This is the story of the Queen of Hearts.” (inside cover of book) Dinah, the Princess of Wonderland, is just 15 years old but knows her future as the Queen of Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts is within reach. This path to royalty will not be an easy one for Dinah. The King, her father, thinks she is a nuisance and dislikes her to the point of ridicule and embarrassment in front of the kingdom. Dinah tries her hardest to seek his approval but finds hiding from his wrath is the more sensible choice. Her companion, Harris stand by her side along with her longtime beloved friend, Wardley. Her trust lies only with them. Another complication arises when she is called to court to meet her half-sister Vittiore. She is dainty and beautiful and the king adores her. Dinah’s jealously and hatred for Vittiore overwhelm her so she finds herself alone once again. Her destiny as the Queen take a vengeful path when she wakes late one evening to a black cloaked figure above her. Fear envelops her but his message is clear, run for your life, only danger awaits you.
Why I picked it up: I read Wendy Darling volume 1, which Coleen Oakes also wrote. I loved it so I was excited to read this novel as well. It did not disappoint me! It an exciting adventurous book as well as a page turner. I can hardly wait for the second book about the Queen of Hearts. I have enjoyed the author’s creativeness in turning some of my Classic fairy tales into a whole new world of reading.
I’d give it to anyone: who enjoys a good adventurous fantasy.
I’d give it: 5 stars
June 24, 2016
A Game For Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return
by Zeina Abirached
A Game For Swallows is a simple and beautiful story about life during wartime in 1980s Beirut – a civil war between Lebanese Muslims and Christians split the city into East and West. Zeina Abirached (the author) and her brother are waiting at home for their parents to return from visiting their grandparents. The house is not far, but to avoid snipers and bombs her parents have to be careful. That day the bombings are particularly close and loud. Neighbors take refuge in the Abirached’s foyer, the safest spot in the building, and comfort the children as they wait for their parents to come home. They share their stories about life before war and how the fighting has affected their lives.
Oh! This was such a great story. The stylized illustrations were divine and reminded me of Marjane Satrapi‘s work. I recommend this book for readers interested in non-fiction graphic novels, the Middle East, history, memoirs, and stories that focus on communities. If this sounds interesting, also check out:
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Nathan Hale’s Hazardouz Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale
War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay
Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
Saints by Gene Luen Yang