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More and More Peculiar

Cover art for Hollow CityAs a boy, Jacob Portman was always spellbound by the stories his grandfather told him about children with strange powers who lived in an isolated house on a Welsh island. After his grandfather’s violent death, he receives a mysterious letter from a Miss Peregrine, travels to the island and discovers that his grandfather’s stories — and the children — are very much real. So what happens next to the Peculiar Children? Ransom Riggs’ much-anticipated new book, Hollow City, is the second book and sequel to his bestselling novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. In Hollow City, Jacob and the peculiar friends he meets in the first book have escaped Miss Peregrine’s island and are now traveling to 1940s war-era London. Their purpose for the journey is to try to help Miss Peregrine who, thanks to a spell, is now in bird-form. Along the way, they make new friends, become acquainted with some truly unique people and animals, and continue to battle the monsters who threaten the Peculiars’ existence.

 

Similar to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the characters in Hollow City have matured, and the issues and relationships they face have also become more serious. There is a balance of fast-paced suspense and horror melded with lighter and touching moments of friendships and loyalties, making this book and its predecessor good picks for both those who like fantasy or realistic fiction. Riggs continues the practice of using old, strange and, in some cases, disturbing vintage photographs to tell a story that combines real history with the fantastical. As many reviewers have pondered, in a “chicken or egg” fashion, did the photographs inspire the story or did the story create a search for unique photographs which would enhance the plot?

 

The film adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton, is in development, and is due out in 2015.

Melanie

 
 

Easy Comfort Isn’t Comforting

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenSince its publication in 2012, John Green’s teen novel The Fault in Our Stars has been wildly popular with teens and adults alike. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you certainly will this summer when the film adaptation, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, comes to theaters.

 

Hazel Grace Lancaster has had 33 half-birthdays. She and her family choose to celebrate them and, well, anything these days. Since she was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at age 13, nothing has been guaranteed. That cancer metastasized to her lungs, and now, she’s being kept alive by her oxygen tank, her BiPAP machine and a wonder drug called Phalanxifor. At least, she is for now. Hazel’s mother forces her to go to a weekly support group for teens with cancer. That’s where she meets Augustus Waters. Gus, who is in remission from osteosarcoma, and Hazel are drawn to each other, but Hazel has reservations. She is a grenade waiting to explode. She knows that her life won’t be a long one, and she wants to protect Gus from the eventual pain of losing her. Despite Hazel’s misgivings, the two grow closer, but they both know that happy endings aren’t real.

 

Green’s novel is simultaneously funny, beautiful and painful. Hazel and Gus are wise beyond their years. Don’t worry. The Fault in Our Stars is not a typical tragic romantic story, the likes of which, incidentally, both Hazel and Gus would hate. It is a story about living your life to the fullest, no matter how long it may be, and asking the big questions even when the answers aren’t easy. The razor-sharp dialogue and Hazel’s astute observations keep the novel from seeming sappy or contrived.

 

The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most buzzed-about movies this year. It will be in theaters on June 6, but you can check out this sneak peak right now. If you want to know more about the making of the movie, Green joins the film’s director and cast to answer fans’ questions in this webcast.

Beth

 
 

Once Upon a Time in the Apocalypse

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini TaylorAngels, demons, forbidden love, and now, war—Laini Taylor’s captivating Daughter of Smoke and Bone series tells the story of Karou and Akiva, who fell in love despite the dangers that came along with their feelings. Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the final book in the series, picks up where Days of Blood & Starlight left off. The vivid world that Taylor has created begins to collide with our own, when angels begin to appear on earth. Panic spreads both on Earth and on Eretz where Karou, the chimaera, and the rebel angels must decide their course of action in order to save their world and our own.

 

Underlying the battle is the romantic tension between Karou and Akiva, whose forbidden love has caused them both immense physical and emotional pain. After Akiva’s betrayal of Karou in the first novel, their relationship has not been the same. Now, as they must work together to reach their shared goal, their love is put to the test once again. Karou’s human friends, Zuzana and Mik, return to Karou’s side to help her keep the chimaera army going. New characters with their own secrets pop up as well, adding to the intrigue Taylor has already created in the series.

                                                         

Longtime fans of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series will enjoy returning to the brilliant world that Laini Taylor has created for her characters. Readers looking for a new series set in a unique world filled with fantastical creatures will be sure to want to start with book one and work their way to this thrilling conclusion.

Laura

 
 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

posted by:
May 15, 2014 - 7:00am

Cover art for Fat Boy vs. the CheerleadersMeet Gabe Johnson, more commonly known by his classmates as Chunk. He is an overweight trombone player in the marching band, a member of a dysfunctional household, a donut shop employee, a rebel and a criminal. He is also the hero of a wonderful new book titled Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach. What begins with a study for health class, cataloging the use of the school soda machine, escalates into what becomes known as the Spunk River War. In a completely covert money grab, the proceeds from the machine originally used to fund the marching band are directed toward the creation of a new dance squad. The band finds out on the last day of school that there will be no summer band camp. With the help of social media, Chunk rallies the geeks to protest this injustice. The jocks become involved and stand up for their girlfriends, the burners join the geeks. The stage is set for an epic clash which is planned to take place during the town’s premier summer tourist event.

 

Though rife with group classifications and sweeping generalizations, this story is about so much more than the geeks challenging the popular crowd. It is about self-perception, personal pride and seeing beyond stereotypes. Gabe grows to become more than what people expect of him and is an inspirational character as a result.

 

This entertaining novel is told in the unique manner of a one-sided conversation. After Gabe is arrested for robbing the soda machine, he meets with his lawyer at the police station, and the novel is a transcript of this encounter. It’s a clever device which asks the reader to fill in the question as our protagonist provides the answer. Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders is an endearing coming of age novel. The value of friendship and the importance of self-worth combine to make this teen novel a real winner.

Jeanne

 
 

A Dangerous Game

A Dangerous Game

posted by:
May 12, 2014 - 6:00am

The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiMarie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse is an intricately told story that introduces a new and fascinating world. In this world, one group of people, the Valorians, conquered another, the Herrani, took their land and turned them into slaves. For years, the power dynamics between the two groups have stayed the same. But now, as the novel begins and Kestral, a Valorian general’s daughter, buys Arin, a Herrani slave, at an auction, the relationship between the Valorians and Herrani begins to change.

 

Kestral can’t pinpoint why she impulsively purchased Arin at the auction, and she initially ignores his existence when they return to her home. After time, she begins to use Arin as her escort when visiting friends, and the two come to know one another better, even playing Bite and Sting, a Valorian game, together in secret. As they become friends, and it seems that romance may be developing between them, their friends and family begin to question their relationship. Their relationship is further complicated by the pressure Kestral feels from her father to choose between marrying and joining the military, a woman’s only options in the empire. All the while, a secret rebellion brews as a group of Herrani join together to overthrow the Valorians. As the two storylines come together, the book becomes a fast-paced read filled with action.

 

The Winner’s Curse, the first in a planned trilogy, will have readers eagerly awaiting more information about Kestrel and Arin. Rutkoski transports readers to her new world and takes them along for a high stakes journey.

Laura

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Not Always As It Seems

Not Always As It Seems

posted by:
April 30, 2014 - 7:00am

Nisekoi: False LovePhantom Thief JeanneCountless manga series that have been translated from the original Japanese have appeared in the U.S. over the past decade. After a few years of the market becoming flooded with sometimes mediocre products, publishers have become more selective. They are now focusing on the cream of the crop. Two strong, well-reviewed manga for teens that have been recent hits in Japan are arriving here in the U.S.

 

Nisekoi: False Love, by Naoshi Komi, tells the story of Raku, the high school-aged son of a Yakuza gangster. Raku’s father has arranged a “false love” match between the young man and a rival gang leader’s daughter, Chitoge. They get off to an inauspicious start when Chitoge accidentally knees Raku in the face, which in turn causes Raku to lose an important locket. This was the only connection he maintained to a childhood sweetheart, and the search for the lost item causes instant strife between the two newly matched teens. Despite the outrageous plot, this works as a sort of wacky romantic comedy, with gangster elements adding intrigue and surprise. Two volumes are currently available, with the third coming in May.

 

Meanwhile, Arina Tanemura’s Phantom Thief Jeanne is a reincarnation in more ways than one. Originally licensed to another publisher that later went bankrupt, this series has returned with new covers and crisp line drawings reminiscent of Sailor Moon. The other reincarnation is Jeanne herself – a “phantom-thief magical girl” who is the second coming of Joan of Arc. As is the case in many manga, the plot is almost too outrageous and convoluted to summarize, but it involves a battle between angels and devils, chess pieces that unlock the mysteries within the hearts of humans and demons hidden in priceless works of art. All of this is compounded by another story of false love!  The second volume of the series will soon be available. Both of these series are good avenues into the outlandish, fantastical world of manga, as well as peeks into Japanese culture.

Todd

 
 

Where Memories Can Be Deceiving

ACID by Emma PassIn Emma Pass' debut novel, ACID, the year is 2113 and the U.K. has been taken over by the Agency for Crime Investigation and Defense, or ACID. The agency has imposed strict laws that prohibit alcohol and smoking while enforcing a curfew and arranging life partners for people when they turn 17. The population is divided by job status and salary, and ACID has created a tangible barrier between the classes.

 

Jenna Strong lived a privileged life until, at 15, an accident took her parents and forever changed her life. She was found responsible for the death of her parents and sentenced to life in a co-ed prison for adults where she had to learn to take care of herself. With the help of the prison doctor, Alex Fisher, she learned martial arts and began to take control of her fate.

 

Alex conspired with an organization to break Jenna out of jail, but he was killed in the process, leaving Jenna with a sense of guilt and a debt to be paid. After being rescued, Jenna’s appearance is transformed, and she learns that her memories had been altered by ACID. With her freedom restored, Jenna decides to take her life back and pay off old debts along the way.

 

This young adult, dystopian novel is Emma Pass’ first book and has only recently become available in the U.S. Pass has already earned her accolades in the U.K. with her intricately created and fast-paced thriller.

Randalee

 
 

Best Friends Forever

Best Friends Forever

posted by:
April 2, 2014 - 7:00am

Maybe One DayMelissa Kantor’s Maybe One Day is a heartbreaking story that shows the importance of friendship, especially in the light of tragedy. Olivia and Zoe have been friends since they were young children and have trained at the elite New York Ballet Company since they were 9. When they are told that they can no longer train there during their sophomore year of high school, Zoe thinks that it’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to them. A year later, when she finds out Olivia is sick, she realizes how wrong she was.

 

When Olivia’s doctors discover that she has leukemia, the girls’ lives change forever. Olivia begins missing school, and Zoe must learn to make other friends and exist without her best friend constantly by her side. After Olivia’s diagnosis, Zoe agrees to start teaching her dance class at the local community center, despite having given up ballet after she left the New York Ballet Company. All the while she becomes closer with Calvin, the boy Olivia has always liked. Zoe must deal with the guilt she feels living her life, while Olivia is sick and unable to live hers.

 

Ultimately a book about best friends and the importance of friendship, Maybe One Day is a touching novel that fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars will enjoy. Olivia and Zoe are relatable characters, their problems and dramas going beyond the cancer that comes to affect their friendship.

Laura

 
 

Origin Story

DangerousMaisie’s middle name is Danger because her parents thought it would be funny, but she embraces her middle name when she goes on the adventure of her life. Dangerous, a new novel by award-winning author Shannon Hale, is fraught with adventure and gripping storylines, a combination that makes it hard to put down.

 

Maisie has always dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and even though she’s never heard of a one-armed astronaut, she’s not going to let that stop her from trying. It’s no surprise that when she spots a contest for astronaut camp on a box of cereal she enters immediately, but winning the contest changes her life more drastically than she could have ever anticipated. 

 

After arriving at astronaut camp, Maisie is assigned a fire team to work with. Her team excels, and because it finishes in the top spot, it is given an opportunity to visit a launch site owned by the sponsors. Upon arriving, each member of her team is unexpectedly given a token beyond anything from this world, and it’s a gift they can’t give back.

 

With these tokens comes a new sense of purpose and responsibility. The group must learn how to use its gifts and work together to accomplish a common goal. The goal is at first ambiguous, causing the fire team to slowly weaken as a group and its members to go their own way. However, the team leader must learn how to reunite the group in an effort to have a positive global impact.

Randalee

 
 

What's Your Choice?

What's Your Choice?

posted by:
March 4, 2014 - 7:00am

DivergentAllegiantFourVeronica Roth’s bestselling dystopian novel, Divergent, is coming to the big screen in one of the most buzzed about movies of this spring. Divergent, starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet, will be in theaters on March 21. 

 

In Beatrice “Tris” Prior’s world, everyone is separated into factions based on their dominant personality traits. The factions are Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite. Each person is given an aptitude test as a teenager. That is followed by the Choosing Ceremony, in which each person publicly declares which faction he or she will join. Tris grew up in Abnegation, but she has a secret. Her test reveals that she is Divergent, which means that she exhibits the traits of multiple factions. That secret could get her killed. Tris has a choice to make. No matter which faction she chooses, her decision will change her life irrevocably.

 

Divergent is the first novel in Roth’s blockbuster trilogy for teens. The series is fast-paced and compulsively readable. Although Allegiant, the final novel in the trilogy, was published last year, fans have one more book to look forward to reading. Four: A Divergent Story Collection will be published this summer as a companion to the Divergent trilogy. Four is a collection of short stories told from the perspective of Four, the popular character portrayed by Theo James in the movie.

 

Roth and the cast of the movie talk about the factions in this behind-the-scenes video. What faction are you? Take this quiz to find out where you fit.

Beth