The Dead I Know

April 27, 2015 by

book coverThe Dead I Know

By Scot Gardner

“I could finally see the line drawn in my head. The animal side of death–the gore and the smell and the decay–could make me feel sick but not really keep me from doing what was required. The parts of my new job that filled me with abject and irrational fear, that twisted me into all kinds of knots, were the raw emotions of those left alive. It was the living who were the great unknown.”

–p. 86

Aaron Rowe doesn’t fear death or the dead. Yet although he feels he has found a place he might finally be able to fit into, his new job at the JKB Funeral home stirs up frightening  memories and emotions that he doesn’t understand and isn’t able to handle on his own. It may be just bad dreams, but the side effects–uncontrollable sleepwalking, panic attacks–are real and dangerous, and if Aaron can’t find a way to reach past his fear to ask for help, he might lose himself forever.

Why I picked it up: The striking cover art caught my attention, and after the first couple of pages, Aaron’s unique, dryly humorous and phlegmatic voice had me completely hooked.

Why I finished it: I wanted to know more about how and why Aaron, obviously a thoughtful, kind, and sensitive person, became so isolated and withdrawn from human warmth and contact. Gardner keeps the reader in suspense about Aaron’s past right up to the last few pages, making it difficult to put the book down.

I’d give it:

5 stars

Five stars. Aaron is a very likable character with very realistic problems. The nature of his work as a funeral director’s assistant means that he comes into close contact with death, and the author doesn’t hesitate to describe the gory, gross details in full color.

But despite the squick factor and the dark, gritty reality of Aaron’s life, the book’s overall feeling is one of poignant hope and faith in the ability of people to move on and continue to live and grow in the face of tragedy and loss. Aaron embraces death wholeheartedly, not ghoulishly or out of some prurient interest, but as a natural part of life. And by embracing death, he is able to recognize it for what it truly is:  something unavoidable and sad, but ultimately not worthy of the fear and loathing most people feel when confronted with it.

Reviewed by: Francesca (Davis Library)


April 24, 2015 by

Echo CoverEcho

by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. (Summary from Goodreads)

Why I picked it up:

I have read other books by Pam Muñoz Ryan and have enjoyed them all.  When I saw she had a new book (with great reviews!), I had to read it!

 Why I finished it:

Some readers may look at 580+ pages and initially be turned off by what seems to be an overwhelming reading challenge.  Don’t be deceived!  This is, in fact, a real page turner which skillfully interweaves 4 individual stories into a beautifully crafted whole.  I loved every moment of it!  Initially, I couldn’t imagine how the author would weave a fairytale around some of the darkest periods of the 20th century successfully but she did – and all through the magic of a harmonic.

 I’d give it to:

This is ideal for lovers of fantasy, historical fiction and most of all music!  Music is truly the universal language as it delivers beauty even in the darkest of times.

Readers in grades 5 through 8 will be particularly interested in this skillfully written novel.

I’d give it:

 Reviewed by: Connie (Parr Library)



The Distance Between Lost and Found

April 22, 2015 by

by Kathryn Holmes

Adventure, survival and emotional is how I would describe reading this debut novel by Kathryn Holmes.  We meet Hallie or Hallelujah at a church camp retreat in the Smokey Mountains.  She isn’t even sure why she came except once again trying to please her parents and live up to their expectations.  Silence is her new best friend and this once active girl has withdrawn into a shell that she can not even penetrate.  Filled with anger, disappointment and shame she trusts no one including her parents.  Why?  An incident at a party which involved the preacher’s son, one of the most popular boys in school has turned her world upside down.  He has decided to make an example of Hallie at school through criticism, sarcasm and spreading rumors about their relationship.  The saddest part of the lies he tells is that many of her friends, parents and church members believe him.  Little does Hallie know that this church retreat and some of the situations she has to face will empower her with a new strength to believe in herself once again and to have faith and love for some of those who once betrayed her.

Why I picked it up:  The Distance Between Lost and Found was a page turner for me.  From the beginning of the book I wanted Hallie to yell, scream and speak up for herself.  As I continued to read page after page I could feel Hallie becoming stronger and the circumstances that once threatened her turned her into a young woman who she could be proud of once again.  Hallie and her friends learned an important lesson about bullying and how destructive it can be.

I’d give it to:  I think this contemporary novel will be enjoyed by any teen that enjoys reading about adventure, survival and dealing with life in general.

I’d give it: 4 stars 4 stars

Reviewed by: Beverly  (Davis)


Half Bad

April 17, 2015 by


     Half Bad (Book #1 in Half Bad Trilogy)

     Sally  Green



Nathan   …   wanted by no one …  hunted by everyone.

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, no one? (taken from the book jacket)

Why I picked it up:  I am being brutally honest here:  It was included among the books on the new ya book display and I was attracted to the book cover.  After reading the book jacket I knew I wanted to read this one even though I was unfamiliar with the author, Sally Green.
Why I finished it:  A review at describes Half Bad as “a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive”.  It is that and so much more.  The similarities between Green’s fictional society and our society, even today, are very real, unsettling,  and worth examining.
I’d give it to:  anyone interested in a good read who wants to get a jump on the next young adult sensation!

Star Rating:   Five stars

Reviewed by: Donna (Haggard Library)

The Basic Eight

April 15, 2015 by

51TTXG3YVMLThe Basic Eight

by Daniel Handler

Flannery Culp wants you to know the whole story of her spectacularly awful senior year. Tyrants, perverts, tragic crushes, gossip, cruel jokes, and the hallucinatory effects of absinthe — Flannery and the seven other friends in the Basic Eight have suffered through it all. But now, on tabloid television, they’re calling Flannery a murderer, which is a total lie. It’s true that high school can be so stressful sometimes. And it’s true that sometimes a girl just has to kill someone. But Flannery wants you to know that she’s not a murderer at all — she’s a murderess.

Darkly humorous and with a twist ending you probably won’t see coming, this book is a great choice for fans of E. Lockhart (We Were Liars) and A.S. King (Please Ignore Vera Dietz). Full of great characters, witty dialogue, and a super compelling story about a girl and her friends — and how it all ended in murder.

You might know Daniel Handler better as Lemony Snicket, author of a Series of Unfortunate Events, or you may be familiar with a more recent book of his, Why We Broke Up, which was a Printz award nominee.

Reviewed by: Lara (Haggard Library)

Silent Alarm

April 13, 2015 by

Silent alarmTitle: Silent Alarm

Author: Jennifer Banash

Seventeen-year-old Alys Aronson’s life used to be about a lot of things: violin practice, her schoolwork, and lounging in the warmth of her boyfriend’s welcoming arms. But none of that matters anymore-not after what happened in the library that day. Not after her brother, Luke, walked through those doors with a rifle in hand and a deadly plan no one could have predicted. He spared her, though she’ll never know why, but killed fifteen others before turning the gun on himself.

Alys now lives in the aftermath. As the media descends upon her small town, poking around for answers and branding her brother a monster, Alys tries to piece together all that she didn’t know about Luke, searching for answers of her own-how could the brother she loved do such a thing? The answer, when it comes, is not what Alys expects, leaving her to find another way to make sense of who she is after all that Luke has done.

Heartbreaking and beautifully told, Jennifer Banash’s Silent Alarm is a powerful, can’t-miss read. (Taken from the cover).

Why I picked it up: I was intrigued because the story is told from the viewpoint of the school shooter’s sister.

Why I finished it: The author did an excellent job of telling the story of a family torn apart by tragedy. Even though it was difficult to read at times, the story ended on a hopeful note.

I’d give it to: Older teens that can handle the difficult subject matter.

Star Rating:   Four stars

Reviewer: Renee (Parr library)



This Shattered World

April 10, 2015 by


This Shattered World
By Amie Kaufman

Jubilee is a tough captain leading soldiers on Avon in suppressing the locals that would rebel against the companies that are terraforming the planet.

Flynn is one of those locals.

They meet as enemies, but they soon learn there is a bigger danger. They will have to put their differences behind them if they want to survive.

This Shattered World is the second book in the Starbound Trilogy (after These Broken Stars). Although it is technically a sequel, you don’t have to read the first one to enjoy it. The stories are separate and the characters from These Broken Stars only make cameo appearances. The overall danger is the same though, and you will get more clues from this story as to what’s going on in the universe of this series.

There is still romance, but there is also more action in this second book, and the heroine is a little more relatable – to me at least – so I actually enjoyed this one more than the first one. I will definitely pick up the third one (Their Fractured Light), which is supposed to come out in December!

Reviewed by: Nina (Haggard Library)


April 6, 2015 by


By: Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-kira means “glittering” in Japanese and it is a term Katie (the narrator of the story) uses to describe her sister, Lynn. The story revolves mostly around the relationship between Katie and her sister. However, it is also a story about a Japanese-American family living in Georgia during the 1950s. Factory work and its culture becomes a portion of the plot when Katie and Lynn’s parents work long hours in a poultry factory in order to save up money for a house. It is something that each member of the family wants the most and the perseverance they reflect is touching. Suddenly, Lynn becomes ill, forcing the family to spend money on hospital bills rather than their dream house and future. The story explores humanist ideals and each character’s restraint is tried once Lynn becomes ill.

Why I picked it up: I picked up this book because it had won the Newbery medal in 2005 and I was curious about the plot.

Why I finished it: Kadohata’s writing is smooth with its subtle humor between the sad parts.

I’d give it to: While this book is categorized as “young adult,” I would give it to tweens and younger teens that like historical and realistic fiction.

I’d give it: 3 stars

3 Stars




Reviewed by: Diana (Harrington Library)

Book Thief

April 3, 2015 by

Ladrona de librosBook Thief

Markus Zusak

Why I picked it up:

I actually quite frankly selected this book due to the title which is the last thing that I would do when picking a book.

Why I finished it:

I finished it because it went past my preconceived notions about what the book was and because the story took place in a World War and it was fascinating for me.

Who I’d give it to:

I would give it to kids from middle school and high school.

How many stars would you give this item?

4 stars

Sriram (Plano teen)

As I Lay Dying

April 1, 2015 by

As I lay dyingTitle: As I Lay Dying

Author/Artist: William Faulkner

Why I picked it up: I picked this book up because of all of its positive reviews.

Why I finished it: Each and every moment in this book is filled with emotion, all up to the very last chapter. Also, the reader can relate to the experiences that some of the characters go through in the book.

I’d give it to: This book is geared towards both males and females, as there are protagonists of both genders.

Star rating: 4 stars

Reviewer:   Sarah (Plano teen)