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Showing posts from January, 2014

Sekret - Lindsay Smith

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An empty mind is a safe mind.

Set in Russia in the 1960s, Sekret tells the compelling and often horrifying experiences of Yulia, whose family has been taken away, and who has herself been kidnapped and made to work as a psychic spy for the KGB. Her superiors send her conflicting messages on a regular basis, and her companions in the psychic branch cannot be trusted. But even keeping quiet isn't enough since almost all of them can read her mind. Thrilling and often disconcerting, this is a novel you won't want to put down once you open to the first page.

Telekinesis and psychic abilities are a staple of many YA novels, much like vampires, zombies, and other supernatural phenomena as of late, with each author creating and attempting to follow set rules within each respective fictional or realistic world. Sekret creates rules that, like in so many books, don't always make sense, and which often cause trouble in the overall story arch because they have to be modified in a moment…

The Murder Complex - Lindsay Cummings

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The Murder Complex is a harrowing tale of survival, reluctant friendships, harsh family dynamics, secrets, and struggling to regain control of one's destiny.

Always remember: Count to three. Relax your mind. Now survive.

Meadow Woodson is a teenager battling to survive in a dystopian, walled-off city in Florida after a plague wiped out the majority of the country's population. The state is now controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that words to track down and kill people with deadly precision in an effort to keep the longer-living population under control. But things become even more complicated when Meadow meets Zephyr, who has a secret of his own, though even he doesn't know what it is yet. When the two come across some disturbing information about Meadow's family history, the two embark on a bloody and terrifying journey to take their lives back into their own hands.

The story moves along quickly, told through alternating points of view, slowly peeling away…

Youth Media Awards - Results

And here's a link to the Press Release with all the winners and honors.

This Side of Salvation - Jeri Smith-Ready

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I think it's pretty obvious that this book has serious religious undertones going on, but that's not to say it's a book only for religious individuals. The larger themes of a family in turmoil, and of those who prey on the fragility of others, as well as the determination of a young man to keep his family and his life together, transcend the Christian underpinnings. 

This Side of Salvation is not trying to convert, nor is it attempting to demonize religion, but rather religion is used as a catalyst to explore greater themes of faith, family, and a belief in something beyond this world. I actually love Smith-Ready's own words in her author's note:
The beliefs or lack thereof portrayed in this book belong to the characters, not the author. Those who comb these pages for a religious or anti-religious agenda will be left scratching their heads. It's just about this boy, y'know?David's story begins with him arriving home, late at night, with his sister, only t…

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish - Jarrett J. Krosoczka

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Peanut Butter and Jellyfish is an adorable picture book that, on the surface is fun and colourful, but also contains a deeper message about the embodiment of self-loathing and some of the motivation behind bullying.

Peanut Butter is a cute little seahorse and Jellyfish is, well, a jellyfish, and the two are best friends. They swim together all day, enjoying the sights and treasures of the ocean. Unfortunately, though, their adventures are often interrupted by the Crabby, who is, you guessed it, a crab! His insults and relentless heckling keep invading their magical explorations of the ocean floor. But when Crabby ends up in danger one day, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish have to decide if they should help the bully or not, and their decision reveals a lot about all three of them.

The illustrations are bright and full of texture, which will draw in those visually stimulated young people, and the story itself will also make for a great read-aloud. The expressions of each of the illustrated ch…

Mindscape - M. M. Vaughn

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Full Disclosure: I requested a copy of this book without realizing that it is a sequel, which did affect my reading somewhat at the beginning, but which I don't believe has affected my review of the book.
Ernest leaned over, picked up the paper and a brass tack lying on the table, and walked over to the wall behind him. Holding the picture up against the only piece of the dark wood paneling still visible, he pushed the pin in and then stepped back. He turned slowly around, the anger rising up inside him as he stared at the drawing of the boy who had murdered his brother, and he realized he was ready: It was time for revenge.Twelve-year-old Christopher Lane has had a terrible previous year. His mother is incredibly depressed. His father is dead. He has been admitted to a private London academy, Myers Holt, for young people with The Ability, a telekinetic power that allows them to enter into and manipulate people through powers of the mind. These young people are trained to use their…

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy - Karen Foxlee

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"You have failed in everything you set out to do," she said when they were alone, just the Marvelous Boy and her. "I do not know why the wizards chose you, such a poor, sorry thing. Why did they think you could defeat me?" She did not pause for his answer. "And this charm that is bestowed on you so that I cannot harm you—it is nothing but an irritation. When the charm has worn off, I will run you through with my sword. What are years to me? I shall build a clock to count the seconds and minutes and days and years, and when they are passed, its chimes will sound, yes, and I will harm you greatly."

Thus begins Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy...

The Snow Queen has been waiting over 300 years for the opportunity to ensnare the world in freezing cold and once and for all get rid of the only threat left to her tyrannical overthrow of the world—the Marvelous Boy. 

When Ophelia's father, a world-renowned sword expert, is hired to put together an exhibit for Miss K…

Three - Kristen Simmons (An ARTICLE 5 novel)

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In this continuing narrative of a dystopian future, Ember Miller and Chase Jennings are getting seriously tired of constantly running from the Bureau of Reformation, an organization that enforces moral standards on society in an effort to bring traditional social values back into place after the conclusion of WWIII. Media in any form is banned (audio, visual, or tactile). The nation's new official religion is the Church of America, all families must consist of one man, woman, and child(ren), and only children conceived my a married man and wife are considered valid citizens of the United States. Others will be "rehabilitated." Basically, the future sucks!

Since Ember and Chase are the two most wanted criminals of the Bureau, their lives are constantly at risk. When they arrive at the location of a known safe house, however, they find the building burned to the ground. While trying to find alternative shelter, they run into someone from Chase's past, and band together …

Skin and Bones - Sherry Shahan

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This book is solid, but unfortunately does not truly stand out among other books dealing with psychiatric institutions and body image issues. I do, however, hold Shahan in high regard for taking the time to write about a male protagonist with an eating disorder. Since girls are often the subjects of such analysis, this title does stand out for the fact that the book centers on Jack, and Lard, both of whom have issues with food and self-image in some respect. The writing itself is not problematic, and Shahan does a good job of working within the bounds of a subject area that is already quite entrenched in YA literature. Though the plot is somewhat formulaic, I believe that the thematic elements will help this title to distinguish it from other YA recently published on similar topics. This is an important issue, and I feel that this is an important addition to the small body of fiction on young men and body image issues.
Recommended with some reservations
(Note: This review is from an Adv…

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times - Emma Trevayne

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While trying to follow a mysterious gentleman, Mr. Lorcan Havelock, a magician, through the bowels of Big Ben's clock tower, Jack finds himself lost in a place eerily similar to London, but also quite a bit . . . off. Londinium, as it is known, is populated by clockwork people, steam-powered dragons, faeries of various embodiments, and other odd sorts, all ruled over by the powerful, but not altogether loveable, Lady. The Lady wants a son, but not one filled with gears and metal, rather she wants a child made purely of flesh and blood, and Jack is the boy she has chosen. Little does Jack know that he is in a lot of trouble. When he meets Beth, her thirteenth incarnation, the two start out on a quest to find a legendary clockwork bird that could help him escape back to his real home.

The fantastical cover art really does reflect the whimsical and mysterious tale within. Jack's adventure, though dark and dangerous, is told with a sense of awe and wonder as Jack explores his new s…

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

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We Were Liars has been making the rounds of the review sites and Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and I was incredibly excited to get my hands on an e-galley for review. And in my opinion, it lives up to, if not exceeds, all the hype. So without further adieu, here is my review:

This is a tale of ... well, it's hard to describe. If you need a little synopsis, the write-up from the publisher is probably the best:
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
Cadence Sinclair has a secret. But she doesn't know exactly what it is. Everything starts falling apart after summer fifteen on the private family island. Cadence suffers an accident, but nobody seems to want to tell her what happened. I can't say any more than that, and once you read it, you'll understand why. The suspens…

I'll Be There - Holly Goldberg Sloan

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If you've seen Magnolia, you'll understand how this story works. Sloan's narrative moves between seemingly unaffiliated characters for much of the first portion of the novel, but as the story progresses, Sloan reveals the connections, however tenuous, that exist between each and every person. Though some may say the connections are a bit too fortuitous or coincidental, I personally enjoyed the way characters influenced each other and moved around within each other's lives.

Emily Bell is singing at church one morning when she notices Sam Border sitting in the back pew. Sam and his brother, Riddle, are living under the tyrannical reign of their unstable and thieving father, never fully able to settle in one town for very long. Bobby Ellis and his parents want to find out who's behind the rash of thefts in the area. Hiro Yamada receives a coin collection containing a rather valuable penny. A bear wakes up from hibernation after three long months, and a cosmetologist na…