Book Recommendations

The Tyrant’s Daughter

The Tyrant's Daughter

By: J.C. Carleson

With my ever growing list of books that I want to read, I feel like every review I write starts with the statement that it is a book I have wanted to read for some time, so even though this is true, I will skip saying it about this book. I don’t even remember when I first heard about this book, but I couldn’t wait for it to come in our order so that I could get my hands on it. However, another issue I run into with my job is that I put all sorts of books on a fictional “I can’t wait to read this book” list and then I promptly forget about all the books I want to read. So as I was browsing the shelves during a spine poetry lesson before Winter Break, I once again stumbled upon this book and quickly grabbed it to take home. And I am glad I did!

This is a fantastic book about a topic we hear about every day on the news, but from a very different perspective. The main character is the king’s daughter. The author never states exactly where the family is from, and is sure to explain this literary choice in an author’s note at the end of the story. However, the war, death, and damage to the country is universal to many countries around the world today. Being that the story is told from the perspective of the king’s daughter in a culture where women are not in the know, the reader learns about the events and tragedies that the country has suffered as Laila learns about them. She eventually learns that her father was not exactly the man that she thought he was and he caused many of his people to suffer during his reign. She moves to America with her family and learns during her time here that she never really truly belongs. But many things need to change before she and her family can even consider going back and reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. Through all this change, she also finds out her mother is not exactly the woman she thought she was. She is tougher, but also more fragile. She learns much about herself through the story. It was eye opening to me as a reader, and I know I will be watching the news with a different viewpoint from now on because of it.

Although the author claims that the story is fiction, it is definitely based in fact. Insert the name of any country in the Middle East right now, and this story would fit their history. And although I know that there is death and senseless killing, all these people have families and that is the perspective that I will now have. What a wonderful read!

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I Hunt Killers Trilogy

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by Barry Lyga

Recently I said that I wasn’t a huge fan of trilogies anymore (in case you missed it, I feel that it is an author’s way to sell more books and make more money), but I guess I just had to come across the right one. And boy, did I ever find one! I read I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga last year as one of our Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl books. I thought it was pretty decent. And while it was good, I can’t say that it was my favorite Helen Ruffin book. However, I was willing to read the second in the series (Game) to see the outcome. And I was very pleasantly surprised! And maybe even beyond pleasantly surprised. I have to say that it was fantastic! In my experience, it is rare for a second in a series to be even better than the first – but as I read all three of these books, I couldn’t seem to put them down.  Each one was better than the previous one.

What the first installment lacked in suspense and twists and turns, Game definitely had those and then some. And because Game was so wonderful, I could not wait until Blood of my Blood came out.  The story line in the second two books is insane! There are so many surprises that I literally carried the book with me wherever I went so I could read it if I had a few minutes to spare.

I had to know what happened to the main character, Jazz. His dad is Billy Dent, the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper. In the first book, Jazz is asked to help the town of Lobo’s Nod solve a series of murders that are following similar patterns as his father’s murders. Without giving anything away, Billy Dent is a manipulator. This manipulation is even stronger in the second book. In this book, there is another series of murders that can’t be solved by the police and they seek Jazz to help again. The only difference this time is the murders are in New York City. So not only does Jazz have to help the police navigate the clues, he also has to navigate a strange city that he has never been to. The third and final installment brings in the family connections and wraps the story up nicely.

Throughout all three books, Billy (Dear Old Dad) plays with Jazz’s mind and the consequences are severe. There are many people who are killed, some of them in graphic ways and described in detail. The psychological aspect to this book is amazing! I was in awe trying to figure out how the author came up with such a creative plot full of grisly detail. If you like mystery books that are full of suspense, this is a series that you should definitely pick up.

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The Winner’s Curse

Winners

By: Marie Rutkoski

This book has been highly advertised and quickly found its way on to my radar. When it came in, it had already been mentioned on several lists as a book that will quickly rise up the charts. Marie Rutkoski is the author of one of our current Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl books (The Shadow Society) and because of this book, I know that she is a fantastic author. So over the winter break, I made sure to grab this book so I could check it out. I didn’t end up picking it up until the last possible moment, but I will tell you, it was done before I returned! I absolutely loved this story!

The main character is the 17-year-old Kestrel, who is the daughter to the country’s top general. She lives in the lap of luxury and never has to lift a hand. Her father wants her to join the military, but she is not interested in that. She is an incredible strategist and prefers to use that skill on her own time and in her own way, and not as a part of the military career.

Another main character is Arin, a slave that was purchased by Kestrel on a whim at the slave auction. He is a very angry man who has watched his country get taken away from him in a war. He has lost his entire family and is now forced to work as a slave. Needless to say, he is not the most compliant slave. He doesn’t follow the rules that slaves are supposed to follow. And I won’t give any spoilers, but there is a reason for this.

As you read through this story, you will experience frustration, death, love, hope, and loss. It is all woven in a story that is easy to get engrossed in. And although I have become a bit bored with trilogies (usually because the stories seem drawn out just for the purpose of selling more books), I think this is an excellent start to a new series and I can’t wait for the next installment, which is due out in March 2015.

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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By: Jenny Han

This is one of the books that I had heard a lot of buzz about before I finally got my hands on it. It quickly made its way to my shortlist of books I wanted to read. And I have to say that I was not disappointed with it. It was a very cute read. The main character, Lara Jean, is a very naïve character that has fallen in her version of love with 5 boys during her short life. In order to get over each of these boys, she writes them letters expressing her feelings. She places all these letters in a very special place with no intention of anyone ever seeing them. However, somehow her letters get sent to each of the boys. One of these boys is her sister’s ex-boyfriend. Between him and Peter, another one of the boys, Lara Jean ends up in a bit of a quandary. The story unfolds quickly and Lara Jean’s life changes rapidly. She goes from a girl who has never had a boyfriend (and really only 2 quick kisses that weren’t really kisses) to a girl who has a boyfriend and another boy interested in her (who also happens to be her neighbor). It makes for some very interesting experiences, given how naïve and innocent Lara Jean is. I will tell you, though, as I finished this book, I was not happy. There is absolutely no closure to the story. As I looked into this book a little more, I discovered that there will be a sequel, so at least I won’t be left hanging like I thought. I don’t know that the story line lends itself to a sequel, but I know I will read it just to see how it turns out. If you are looking for a quick read with a cute story line, check this one out!

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Girl Power! A Brief Review of Three New Reads

As much as I hate to admit it, I am not the type of person who is always reading a new book. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read and go through what I call “reading binges,” but the fact is, I am not always lost in the pages of a novel. I am trying to do better this year, and I have even created a display in the media center illustrating what Mrs. Lukkarinen and I are currently reading to provide suggestions and encourage students to talk to us about great books. So far, so good! As this has made me grab a new book as soon as I finish one, I am not getting anything done around the house! Those that know me know that once a book has got me, it’s got me, and all else is forgotten – including food and sleep.

Last week I read three books that have me really excited. When I sat down to decide which to review on the blog this month, I realized that while the three had different plots, settings, and genres, all three had a memorable and strong, female main character. Instead of reviewing each book, I thought I might instead talk about these leading ladies.

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In Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige, Amy Gunn is transported to Oz when a tornado hits her trailer, but this isn’t the Oz we all expect. This is a much darker version, ruled by a corrupt Dorothy and her familiar companions. Amy learns that she must kill Dorothy, whose rule is terrorizing and destroying all of Oz. Female characters dominate in this familiar, yet new story and make you both fear and admire their strength until the dramatic end. This is the first in a series (which I didn’t discover until the last page).

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Mary Shelley Black is the main character of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. Set during World War I and the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918, this historical, supernatural thriller really surprised me. Not only did I have a hard time putting it down, but I was also blindsided by the twist at the end of the book. What I will remember most about this story, though, was the way Mary Shelley defied cultural norms and societal expectations placed upon her because she was a female. Her mother was a physician who died during childbirth, but Mary Shelley grew up to have just as much conviction, courage, and intelligence as she did. I want to say so much more about this character, but I don’t want to give away too much of the story!

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The book that I just finished about an hour ago was Dear Killer, by Katherine Ewell. Wow! I couldn’t get through this one fast enough. Almost immediately, I had a love/hate relationship with Kit, the female lead in this contemporary thriller. She is a high school student who is the most prolific serial killer in London since Jack the Ripper. Dubbed the Perfect Killer by police, she is methodical and calculated in her craft, eventually befriending the lead investigator charged with catching her. She was trained from a very young age to murder by her mother, who was also once a serial killer. The story is told from Kit’s perspective and really made me cringe in some parts. In addition to the action and progression of the plot, we get to witness the struggle in Kit as she walks the line between right and wrong.

I know this was a long post, but make sure you check out one or all three of these books today in BI’s media center!

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Like No Other

Like No Other

 

This book has been advertised as the next Eleanor and Park, which has taken the YA world by storm. And while I agree to an extent that there are some parallels, there are also some huge differences that make this novel stand on its own two feet.

I really enjoyed the story line in this book. The emotions that I felt as I read this book were very strong, and that is a testament to the author’s ability to write. The two main characters were fantastically written! They were realistic. They were honest. They were authentic. I have to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about the Jewish faith and their customs before reading this book, and I am not anywhere near an expert now that I have read it. However, I feel like I have been enlightened to the trials and tribulations that Devorah suffered because of the rules of her faith. I also felt the frustration and angst that Jaxon felt after falling in love with someone who is required to follow rules that are so foreign to him.

I was literally on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book waiting to see if their love would conquer their differences. Couple that with several external characters who are actively working to keep these two apart, and you have the recipe for a fantastic read about two teenagers who experience first love. I highly recommend this book for those who are looking for a love story – it was a fantastic book!

 

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Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla and the Happily Ever After

I am a huge fan of Stephanie Perkins’ book Anna and the French Kiss, which was a Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl book a couple years ago. It actually ended up receiving enough votes to be named as the runner-up for the Georgia Teen Peach Award that year. Because of this, I couldn’t wait to read Isla and the Happily Ever After. I did not realize until I started reading that this book focuses on several of the characters originally found in Anna and the French Kiss during the following school year. What a wonderful surprise for me!

I have to say that I love this book as much as I did Anna and the French Kiss. It is a love story through and through. Stephanie Perkins created characters that were believable. They went through typical and identifiable issues. And through the ups and downs, their love survived. The writing is exactly what I expected from this author. Even though the characters are all incredibly wealthy and privileged, I didn’t feel that about the characters as I read. I usually get irritated with authors who write about characters who are so wealthy they don’t seem real. It becomes all about the privilege. However, I don’t feel that is the case in this novel. I actually forgot they were so wealthy because of the fact that their characters were going through emotions that can be found in any teen – no matter what their economic status may be.

I was so excited to see that Perkins included cameos by several characters from Anna and the French Kiss. It was a wonderful end to her series. Because I didn’t realize that this book was the third in the series (although they can also be read as stand alone books), I have inadvertently skipped Lola and the Boy Next Door. This is a problem that I plan to solve very soon!

So if you are looking for a good love story, I would definitely add this one to my list! And while you are at it, you can also add Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Happy reading!

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My Friend Dahmer: A Graphic Review

dahmer

I love books, and I love to read. I enjoy different types of stories, so I can get excited about almost any genre. Almost. When this year’s Georgia Peach Award nominees were announced in February, we were surprised to find that two of the 20 selections were graphic novels. Instantly, I dreaded reading these two titles because “I just don’t read graphic books.” I took home the first of these two books, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, one Monday afternoon and thought I might flip through to see what I was missing. Less than two hours later, I had finished my first graphic novel.

Although I am still not a big fan of graphic books in general, I have a new found appreciation for why many students gravitate toward them. The images in Dahmer told the story in ways that I am not sure words could have. I think that readers could have learned a great deal about this man in any number of other books or articles published about him, but there was something about seeing Backderf’s images that made me feel like I knew this troubled teen. Although I had no intention of reading the book when I first sat down with it, I found that once I began exploring, I had to go back to the beginning and continue until I finished it. I can’t say that I felt sorry for Dahmer after reading the book. Mostly, I felt anger about all of the years that his problems were overlooked. As his depravity escalates in his teen years, I wanted to scream at the people in his life to do something!  I was surprised that a book with less words than a typical chapter could make me so emotional. I even found myself spending a great deal of time on the pages with no text or dialogue. There was so much to see and reflect on in each of the scenes of the story. While I would still rather curl up on a rainy day with a traditional fiction novel, I feel like I can be more open-minded when it comes to books outside of my comfort zone like My Friend Dahmer.

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Eleanor & Park is Must Read YA!

Like many others in January, I found myself both reflecting on what we have accomplished so far this school year and looking ahead to what still needs to be accomplished before June. Call it a New Year’s resolution, but one thing I have wanted to do is write regular book reviews of what I have been reading. I spend a great deal of time talking with both students and staff members about different titles, and I think this would be a great way to share some of the great young adult literature we have in the media center. I hope to have a few great adult selections to share from time to time as well. Since I am just beginning this feature on our blog, I expect to see it change and evolve as we receive feedback from our patrons. I think Mrs. Lukkarinen is excited about this, too, and actually beat me by publishing her first review earlier today!

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For my first review, I am going to go with one of my favorite reads so far this year. I knew there was a great deal of buzz surrounding the release of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, but I added it to my impossibly long list of “to reads” and didn’t think much about it again until my daughter read it. Most of the students who talk to me about books can tell you that I value my teenage daughter’s opinion of books more than just about anyone’s. An avid reader all of her life, she has a keen eye for quality young adult literature. And as much as I hate to admit it, these days she reads at least two books for each one I finish. So when she decided to take Eleanor & Park with her on our family vacation in November, I knew I would find out just how good this book was.

It would be putting it mildly to say she loved Eleanor & Park. Once her verdict was in, it moved to the top of my list, and I read it over two days last week. My only regret is that I didn’t take more time to savor the book and the two title characters with whom I fell in love. I can’t say that it is a plot-driven, page-turner, but the characters are so real and the emotions so raw that I had a lump in my throat for much of the book. In just thirty short pages, I was 16 and experiencing first love again. Now I hope that statement doesn’t scare off readers who avoid romance novels like the plague. While I would agree it is a romantic read, it reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which delivered so much more than just a love story. Eleanor & Park is a story about growing up, being uncomfortable in one’s own skin, and having hope when all seems lost. It also touches on important social issues like bullying and living in poverty. But I must be honest – what I will remember most about Eleanor & Park is that first love is often the purest, truest love. What could be better during the week we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day?

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Picks to Pique Your Interest

A new feature we will be adding periodically to this blog is to add media specialist recommendations/reviews.  Today’s review is about Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen.

  Leverage

I really loved this book.  It seems weird to say that I loved a book that is primarily about bullying and is incredibly emotional, but I do.  I think this book should be on required reading lists in every high school to be used as a cautionary tale.  The characters were written perfectly.  Their actions, reactions, and emotions were real.  The consequences of bullying were real.  The guilt and what-ifs were real.  And even though it was an excellently written book that was very honest, it was also very difficult to read.  It is hard to imagine ever being in the situation of being a victim or a witness to bullying in the degree that was portrayed in the book.  I would like to think that high schools today are much safer than they apparently are.  I would like to think that the characters in Leverage were truly fictional.  But I am a realist and understand that bullying happens, and sometimes the consequences are frightening.  That is the reason we have bully awareness campaigns.  Through the realistic, sometimes painful, actions and dialogue in this novel, students will be able to understand and appreciate the negative consequences to bullying another student and hopefully think twice before making a comment or committing an action that would be perceived as harmful to another person.

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