Category Archives: Non-review post

One of Us Is Lying, by Karen McManus

One of Us Is LyingOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a review of an ARC from NetGalley.

Five students walk into detention. Four walk out – and one leaves in a body bag.

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars  (with a little Gossip Girl thrown in) in this YA thriller. Everyone in detention that day had a reason to hate Simon, the creator of Bayview High’s gossip app. Was it the golden boy star pitcher? The drug-dealer? The popular girl? The brain? (see what I mean about The Breakfast Club?) The case soon gains the attention of the national media and the kids find them selves forming an uneasy friendship as they try to prove their innocence while wondering if one of them is lying. Things get even more uneasy when someone starts sending anonymous emails across the school claiming to have planned the murder and framed the group for it.

This one is definitely more the Agatha Christie puzzle mystery than a dark Swedish thriller. The twists and turns were in some cases predictable, especially when it came to the romance, but it was a fun ride to follow along with. The book drags a bit in the middle while you’re waiting for more clues to show up, but the end was a satisfying solution that tied up the loose ends nicely. Mystery lovers and fans of the movies and series mentioned above should enjoy it. — Ms Schoen

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Free to Fall, by Lauren Miller

Free to FallFree to Fall by Lauren Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rory Vaughn has just been accepted to the prep school of her dreams, Theden Academy, the school that her deceased mother graduated from in 2013, shortly before dying from complications from Rory’s birth. She’s anxious about leaving her Dad and best friend in Seattle to head East to the Berkshires, but she takes comfort from the fact that they will follow her exploits via her regular status updates on The Forum. She also knows that Lux, the decision-making app that makes life easier for everyone, will help protect her from the burden of choosing the right coffee or selecting which classes to take. She becomes alarmed, however, when she hears a long-since quieted voice in her head nudging her in a certain direction. “The Doubt” is something that all children experience, but Rory had been successful in suppressing it until just now. Some people had to take medication to quiet The Doubt. Why is it returning now? Rory’s exploits on the eden-like campus include being invited to join a secret society and succumbing to the charms of North, a hot, tattooed barista who eschews Lux and opts for outdated technology like iPhones and flashdrives that help him avoid reliance on the cloud. This is a fast-paced young adult romance novel thinly disguised as science fiction. Nonetheless, it’s still reasonably provocative and not all that outlandish given our current trajectory with mobile and cloud-based social computing. This story has a little something for everyone: romance, science fiction, fast-paced adventure, and friendship drama. The writing is fine, though a lot more telling than showing and at times a little too predictable and formulaic, hence the 3 stars. ~Ms Dimmick

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Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Available as a free ebook from NSHS Library. Orphan Train is a perfect blend of historical and contemporary realistic fiction–just the thing to hook newcomers to the historical genre. The hook: Molly Ayer will turn 18 in a few months and age out of the child welfare system in coastal Maine where she needs to find a community service project to save her from eviction from her foster home and banishment to juvie. Vivian Daly is 91 and wants help sorting through her life’s memories stored in the attic of her grand home in Molly’s community. A seemingly unlikely friendship is formed as Molly helps Vivian in more ways than she ever imagined, and finds confidence and purpose in the process. The history: Vivian’s tale is told through flashbacks to the 1920s through the 40s, beginning with being orphaned as a young immigrant in New York City and being sent West on an Orphan Train in hopes of being adopted by a loving family. The reality of the fate of the orphan train passengers is something far less rosy. The story is engrossing, and the parallels between the two protagonists’ lives help to bridge the historical to the contemporary for readers who would otherwise stear clear of the historical genre. The writing is solid but not noteworthy; this is an enjoyable, enlightening story, not high literature. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Truly great historical fiction weaves a compelling story with vibrant characters so stealthily that you forget you are learning about history. This is one of those books. Set in England, Scotland and France during World War II, this is the tale of two unlikely best friends with even less likely careers. One is a pilot and the other is a spy. Their names are Julie (a Scottish aristocrat born in a castle and educated in Switzerland) and Maddie (a working class girl from Manchester who learned dis- and re-assemble a motorbike engine from her grandfather, a motorbike dealer). The story is largely told by Julie, who proves to be an unreliable narrator, as she pens the account by way of confession to the Nazis who have captured and are torturing her for information about Allied communication codes. While the story starts out somewhat slow, and there were perhaps too many details about flying and aircraft for your average teen reader, it is well worth sticking with, as the girls’ relationship deepens and the drama intensifies. The plot twists later in the book took my breath away. This is not a happy story, but it is not as unbearable as one might expect a book featuring Nazi torture might be. Actually, it’s a beautiful story with plenty of humor, love, action, adventure and well researched history to earn it a special place on my bookshelf of favorite WWII stories. ~ Ms. Dimmick

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The Round House, by Louise Erdich

The Round HouseThe Round House by Louise Erdrich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found The Round House to be at once captivating and elucidating. Told through the eyes of a 13 year-old Native American boy coming of age on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota in the 1980s, this story includes a wonderful mix of magical realism and contemporary teen angst. Joe’s mother has been brutally beaten and raped, and her resulting depression thrusts Joe and his tribal judge father into a seemingly futile quest for justice. Joe’s quest involves his close friends and numerous unwitting relatives, while his father’s focuses on the convoluted intricacies of tribal vs. state and federal law. The story is part mystery, part Native American fable, part reservation life exposé and part young adult coming-of-age novel. The reservation is so full of delightfully distinctive and peculiar characters that the reader cannot help but be entertained, despite the dark topic at the core of the story. If you liked The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and want to spend more time on a Native American reservation with teen boys, but are ready for something more literary and challenging, I strongly recommend The Round House by Louise Erdich. ~ Ms. Dimmick

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The Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading this book. It sucked me in from the first page and left me a wrung out rag on the last. This book contained all of the main ingredients for me: a really compelling, riveting story, characters you wished you knew in person, serious moral challenges, and exquisite prose. What more could you ask for? You want more? Okay, let’s set it in a far off land (a tiny, remote island 100 miles off the coast of Western Australia), during a historically important time period (immediately post WWI), and lets sneakily teach you about a subject you would otherwise never be exposed to (lighthouse keeping in an age before automatic lights were invented). Now for the premise. An emotionally scarred young WWI veteran seeks escape from his demons by taking a job as a lighthouse keeper and sole resident on Janus Rock, with his only human contact coming by mail/supply boat every three months. Fortunately for Tom, his self-imposed exile is brief, for he falls in love with and marries Isabel, a young and impulsive girl from the mainland, and they build a peaceful and idyllic life together on the island, hoping to build a large family together. After suffering three successively demoralizing miscarriages, a miracle occurs. A boat washes up with a dead man and live baby. Isabel and Tom are both, separately, certain about what they should do. This is only the beginning of a series of morally complex challenges they face as one decision inevitably leads to the next. Read this one for the romance, for the mystery, for the suspense, and most of all for the writing. ~ Ms. Dimmick

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Another great resource for finding books!

Sometimes you can’t just wait around for the book that’s perfect for you to be reviewed on the book blog.  Sometimes you need to find a book based on a certain genre or you want to find one that’s similar to an old favorite.

If this sounds like you, then check out this screen cast to find out how to use Books and Authors, a database with summaries, author biographies, book reviews, and read-alike information for thousands of books.  With Books and Authors you can browse your favorite genre or search their whole collection for books that fit the type of character, subject, setting, and time period you want to read about.  Or, get a list of books that you might like based on something else you’ve enjoyed.

Have you used Books and Authors to find something to read?  What did you think?  What other tools do you use to find books?

Happy reading!

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The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games bookcover from goodreads.com

book cover image from goodreads.com

Mockingjay book cover image from goodreads.com

book cover image from goodreads.com

Catching Fire book cover image from goodreads.com

book cover image from goodreads.com

A compelling page-turner about a plucky teen protagonist who comes of age in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future during a fight-to-the-death “game” among children organized by the “Capitol” to keep the “Districts” in line. Great, human (and almost superhuman) female protagonist. Something for everyone: a little romance, a lot of violence, adventure, sci fi. Haven’t met a soul who was able to put it down. Great for middle school to adult. The later books in the trilogy are equally as compelling, but do get progressively more dark and disturbing–better for high school up.

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Filed under Fantasy, Non-review post