Crooked Kingdom is Leigh Bardugo’s second near-perfect and engaging venture into the city of Ketterdam, and her fifth foray into the world first introduced in her bestselling Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising). I’ll freely admit that the Grisha trilogy was not my cup of tea at all, but Six of Crows (Bardugo’s first book in the duology of the same name) was easily my favorite read of 2015. Ketterdam, the cosmopolitan capitol city of Dutch Republic-inspired Kerch, is a vibrant combination of Amsterdam, Las Vegas and New York; a bustling hub of education, trade and crime. It’s in the Barrel—the lascivious, indulgent entertainment district of Ketterdam— that Kaz Brekker’s gang of criminals, outcasts and misfits find themselves reeling from the events of the previous book. The Six of Crows duology is not two stories, but one long epic told in two parts.
The greatest strength of both books is easily the characters, but that’s more a testament of how fully realized and interesting they are than it is a condemnation of any other aspect. As the glue and primary motivating force of the narrative events, Kaz is somehow equal parts sympathetic and unsettling and is easily the best teen protagonist I’ve ever encountered.
Six of Crows has a split focus, however, with every chapter focusing on the perspective of a different character. I’m not usually a fan of this technique, as in my experience there are always some weaker characters that drag down the flow and only leave you longing for the chapters of characters you enjoy. I’m happy to report that Leigh Bardugo proved me wrong. Not one of these six perspectives is any less enjoyable or dynamic than the others. The story slips between them easily and feels completely natural, and Bardugo weaves the different threads of this narrative together seamlessly.
The first book is, in essence, a heist story with a fantasy twist, but as fans of the genre know, a good heist story doesn't end when the job does. There are always betrayals, broken hearts or some other complications that throw a wrench into the plan. Crooked Kingdom is no exception, as we see Kaz’s gang playing defense for the majority of the book in a definite departure from Six of Crows, where they successfully pulled of the biggest heist in the Grishaverse’s history. The second book is about survival , though Kaz Brekker wouldn’t be Kaz Brekker if he couldn’t spin a profit out of the situation. It’s fitting that Crooked Kingdom takes place on an island that worships the god of trade and deals, since nothing is without a price, not even the reader’s enjoyment of the book. By the end it exacts a heavy toll on the audience, and I found myself tearing up more than once.
I would (and do) recommend the Six of Crows duology to anyone and everyone, not just readers who enjoy fantasy, crime novels or teen books. Crooked Kingdom is my favorite book of 2016, just as its predecessor occupied that spot in 2015. These books truly do contain something for everyone, and I was disappointed to discover that this would not be another trilogy. Fortunately, I get the impression that Leigh Bardugo is far from done with the Grishaverse or Kaz’s Crows. You can keep up with her work and learn more about her worlds on the Leigh Bardugo website and, trust me, she’s very worth following on Twitter.
And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich is a psychological teen thriller that captures the author’s talent for the spooky and terrifying. The sequel to The Dead House, this novel takes the reader into the depths of something very sinister, and will scare the pants off of anyone who picks up this book. At times visually poetic, Kurtagich creates a world full of mystery and proves that the true meaning of terror may exist in the darkest corners of our imagination.
With a knock — more like a loud bang — two sisters mysteriously arrive at the front door of an estranged relative known as “Crazy” Aunt Cathy. After years of abuse, 13-year-old Silla and 4-year-old Nori have run out of options and make a daring escape in search of a safe haven. Far away from civilization, Silla quickly realizes that there are many secrets buried within what is known as “La Baume,” and that they are very much alone and very much cursed.
If you don't mind a decent scare or are interested in something that isn't wrapped up with a pretty ribbon, this is for you. For those who just can’t get enough of horror and suspense, you may also want to try The Forest of Hands and Teeth, or listen to Odyssey Award-winner, Scowler.
In The Glittering Court, Richelle Mead weaves a tale that transports readers from the royal palace of Osfridian to uncharted territory in the lands of Adoria. At the center of the story is Lady Whitmore, Countess of Rothford, who has a major dilemma, one that will decide her fate. Descended from a long line of royalty, at age 17 she is quickly learning the consequences of maintaining a privileged lifestyle and the obligations that come along with it.
Caught in a world where a woman’s greatest asset is her beauty or family name, a marriage to one of equal status may be the answer to a secure financial future. Despite the precarious situation, a timely meeting leads to a decision that charts the course of this entertaining read. Assuming the identity of another, the countess risks everything to have the freedom to make her own choices. She encounters the true meaning of friendship along the way, and also finds that following her heart comes with its own complications — especially when it comes to a particular gentleman she is unable to avoid.
The front cover may promise the reader an evening of “glittering” festivities, however, Lady Whitmore is not the average princess. The Glittering Court takes you on an adventure through rugged terrain as you follow the journey of a fearless heroine who discovers that life is more than ball gowns and fine dining. The first in the series, read as a stand-alone or continue on with Midnight Jewel, which is due out in early 2017.
In Daniel Sweren-Becker’s The Ones, genetically engineering humans has become a reality. The “Ones” are 1 percent of the population chosen through a lottery system, before birth, for genetic engineering to be perfect in looks and health, among other things. And not everyone is okay with that. Through the point of view of Cody and her boyfriend James, who are Ones now in their teens, we witness the increasing unrest between the Ones and the “Equality Movement,” a group that doesn’t exactly agree with the advantages that the Ones have over the rest of humanity. When a Supreme Court decision passes ruling that genetically engineering humans is in fact illegal, the Ones receive even more hateful attention. A list that reveals the names of every One, a mysterious group called “The Weathermen,” and a school take-over gone wrong leads to a terrible discovery and a plan that could do more harm than good.
Cody and James’ struggle with crossing difficult lines, what’s right and wrong and ultimately the truth will test their relationships with each other, their families and even with the rest of the world. Themes like human equality, activism and scientific curiosity are largely present throughout the book. These parallels to society today make the characters and story easy to relate to.
This quick and exciting read will leave you wanting more, so keep an eye out for the next book in The Ones series. Those of you who enjoy teen novels with dystopian society or science fiction themes, will easily find that you can’t put The Ones down.
We return to the world of the Shadowhunters in Cassandra Clare’s Lady Midnight, the first installment of The Dark Artifices trilogy, a sequel to The Mortal Instruments series.
Five years after the Dark War that ravaged the Shadowhunter population, Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn have grown into brave young warriors. For Emma, dealing with demons, vampires and werewolves is much more appealing than dealing in matters of the heart. She lives for revenge, determined to find out who really murdered her parents five years ago. Jules, on the other hand, has his hands full raising his younger siblings and doing whatever he has to do to keep his family together.
When faerie bodies bearing the same ritualistic marks as Emma’s parents start turning up all over Los Angeles, the young Shadowhunters take up the illicit task of investigating the murders. The stakes are raised even higher when Mark, the eldest Blackthorn, kidnapped by faeries during the Dark War, is returned to his family under the condition that the murderer be brought to the land of Faerie. If the Shadowhunters don’t find the killer, and quick, they risk losing Mark forever.
Full of fun banter, wild adventure and forbidden romance, Lady Midnight will have you on the edge of your seat throughout and leave you itching for book two. If you loved The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series, you can’t miss out on this thrilling next chapter.
Nothing pulls at the heartstrings more than the first time someone meets the love of his life. It's easy to imagine stolen glances from across the room followed by romantic walks through moonlit nights. However, in the book Ivory and Bone, author Julie Eshbaugh reminds us that love is not always that easy, and that it takes a little more work to get to the “heart” of things.
Set during the Ice Age, we experience how life may have been for early humans who inhabited the earth. In a land filled with the harsh realities of below freezing temperatures and diminished resources, we are introduced to the story of two young characters named Pek and Mya. Told in storytelling format through the voice of Pek, it will be easy to imagine a world where wooly mammoths roamed freely and where there was a thin line between an enemy and a friend.
Eshbaugh delves into the heart of human connection and shows us that cooperation between even warring clans is what possibly separated the first people from other mammals. This is a great read for those who have ever wondered how our early ancestors lived over 12,000 years ago. Get ready for an unexpected love story that will not only take you by surprise but will also be a journey through a landscape of frozen tundra of the prehistoric world.
On the front cover of The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, a quote from a bestselling author is highlighted: “You will not sleep, check your phone, or even breathe once you begin reading…” Skeptical at first, I felt those were pretty high standards to be placed directly in clear view of the reader. However, after finishing the book in less than five hours, I can say with confidence that this one that will have you hooked from the first page.
A tragedy occurs in a Florida beach community, and the town never fully recovers. Six kindergarten children go missing and, 11 years later, five return with no memory of where they have been. Now 16 years of age, mystery surrounds the return of the teens, and many in town question the motives behind this “miracle.”
Altebrando takes the readers into a kaleidoscope of interpreting memory loss through visual cues and a creative use of text. Different points of view guide us through the agonizing process of recovering memories. The words come to life and will take the reader into the minds of the main characters. As the story unfolds, you realize that the town is connected in more ways than you imagined, and that many questions are unanswered.
In the end, what stands out the most are the who and why, which will be gnawing at you throughout the story. If you are looking for a fast-paced teen fiction that will constantly have you on edge, go straight to the BCPL catalog and request this today. The only regret I have after reading this book is that it doesn’t have a sequel.
Being the new girl in high school can be rough for any teenager. But in Adriana Mather’s book How to Hang a Witch, Samantha Mather has more than prom dates and homework to worry about. With the setting in Salem, Massachusetts, and the last name of a person infamously connected to the Salem witch trials, it automatically brands her as being the bad apple in town.
Since the late 1600s, Salem has become synonymous with the hysteria of witchcraft and the “hanging of a witch.” A few names stand out during this time period as either being the accuser or the accused. Take a peek into how the descendants of these key players will play a pivotal role in the story and whether history repeats itself in this engaging tale. Adriana Mather does a great job of exploring the deadly consequences of peer pressure and bullying that teen audiences will relate to.
If you have an interest in this part of history or supernatural teen fiction, than you may want to check out this enjoyable read. If the title alone doesn't grab your attention than the last name of the author will, as she is related to the controversial figure of this story from colonial times. In the end, Mather creates a modern twist which parallels the lessons learned from this important part of history. Mix in a pinch of young love, some witchcraft, a generous amount of mystery, and a 300-year-old McDreamy ghost, and you have a recipe for a page-turner that will be finished in one sitting.
Teen readers with an interest in this time period may also enjoy the novel in verse Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill.
The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs unfolds over three climactic hours on April Donovan’s 18th birthday. It’s April 19, 2013. The Boston Marathon bombers are still on the loose, and April recalls a litany of other horrific events that have taken place in her birth month — Oklahoma City, Waco, Columbine, Virginia Tech. April suffers from a rare memory condition that leaves her able to remember events from her past in exquisite detail, to make connections that most people wouldn’t notice.
April’s story is just one of seven threads in this engrossing, interwoven novel. What’s happening at April’s high school in Delaware? What’s happening with her childhood friend, Lincoln, now living in Nebraska, who moved away after his father died in the attack on the Twin Towers? How are they connected to a girl in Idaho and a boy in California?
Each story contains echoes of the others, and these coincidences and small repetitions are part of the beauty of the novel. These people and their stories are connected because everything is connected. It may not feel like it sometimes, but we are never alone in this world.
For more of Combs’ fiction, check out her debut Breakfast Served Anytime. For another story with an unorthodox structure about a heavy topic, check out John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van.
As summer winds down, we look forward to cooler weather, pumpkin-flavored everything and fall television premiers! If you’re like me and you need to read the book before you watch it on screen, here are 10 new series premiering this television season based on books.
Hulu’s Chance, based on the book by Kem Nunn, is a psychological thriller set in San Francisco about a psychiatrist, his female patient with multiple personality disorder and her homicide detective husband.
NBC’s Emerald City is a modern reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz series featuring 20-year-old Dorothy Gale and a K9 police dog.
Fox’s The Exorcist, based on the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty, follows a new family’s fight against demonic possession.
Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt is based on the true story of author Lynn Povich and 45 other women who sued Newsweek for sex discrimination in 1970.
Hulu’s The Handmaid's Tale is based on the classic dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood.
NBC’s Midnight, Texas is a supernatural drama based on the series by Charlaine Harris — also the author of the Sookie Stackhouse books which formed the basis for HBO’s True Blood.
NBC’s Powerless is a workplace comedy about an insurance company set in the DC Comics Universe.
CW’s Riverdale is a live-action teen drama based on the characters from Archie Comics, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on the children’s series by Lemony Snicket about three orphaned siblings.
ABC’s Still Star-Crossed, based on the teen novel by Melinda Taub, features the Montagues and Capulets in the aftermath of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic deaths.