Werewolves, Sex, Secret Societies, Suspense
I expected a lot from a story about the last werewolf on earth, 200-year-old Jake who is supposedly sexy and charming and worldly. I found him dry and misogynistic and kind of a dullard; he is super into having sex with prostitutes and not falling in love and he is resigned to his own death, but he completely changes when he finds out there is a werewolf lady and he falls in love with her. The story is told is diary format first by Jake and then by his lady werewolf love; the introduction is interesting but Duncan is trying so hard to make Jake into this epically cool figure that he comes out flat. The intrigue of the secret society of vampires aligned with humans who keep the population of mythical creatures down could have been great if it was fleshed out more, but overall the story was too self-involved to really make it work.
Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Puzzles, Survival, Mind Control
Thomas wakes up with no memory before his arrival in the Glade. Now he joins a large group of other boys who have been working to survive and solve the maze they’re stuck in. Soon everything begins to change and their escape becomes desperate. It was frustrating to have so little explained in the beginning, but it made it much more exciting to slowly figure things out along with Thomas as the story went on. I am hugely intrigued by the world introduced at the very end though and I can’t wait to see what it will become in the next two books.
Sequels: The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure
Short story between books: Thomas’ First Memory of the Flare
Prequel: The Kill Order
Translators, Language, Canada, Cats, Writers, French
A story told by a translator about her relationship with the writer she works with—it was written in French but I read it in English which added a level of surreality as the translator migrates the author’s works from French into English. It is bland and just weird; lots of facts and tales that go nowhere, characters that are fleshed out and never used. The plot is ostensibly that they are trying to help the girl who abandoned her cat at the translator’s home, but it is fumblingly handled because the narrator is so obsessed with talking about language. Can’t think of who I would recommend this to other than perhaps a translation student.
Friendship, Fairy Tales, Elementary School, Family Problems, Self-Empowerment
In this modern day revamp of Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Hazel is a fifth-grader with divorced parents whose best friend, Jack, after his heart is pierced by the shard of mirror, leaves his depressed mother and floundering father to be with the ice-hearted witch. Hazel sets off on a true hero’s quest full of characters from classic fairy tales (as well as one of Andersen’s other characters) as she stands up to dangers both external and internal. There are loads of references to fantasy books that will delight anyone who has read one (or all!) of the books that Hazel enjoys. Breadcrumbs is a sweet and touching tale of friendship and growing up.
Non-fiction, Oceans, Marine Life, Pollution, Conservation
Earle’s eye-opening text is full of information about the ecosystems of the ocean, food chains, submersibles, and other fascinating facts. Her writing is crisp and honest and I was truly appalled to learn how many species have been fished to near extinction, and that less than one percent of the oceans are protected from commercial fishing and other forms of ecosystem destruction. Underlying the entire book is a plea for help, for your awareness, and for the world to stop taking advantage of the ocean and start protecting it. The text of her plea at TEDtalk was fascinating but I wish she had given more information about what a non-scientist, non-politician could do to help. Overall a great read for anyone who wants to know more about the world we live in.
Drawing, Art Theft, Friendship, Albrecht Dürer
Marvin the beetle discovers that he has a talent for drawing tiny pictures that rivals the great Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer in precision. Marvin and his new human friend James soon find themselves in the middle of a fake art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art intended to recover stolen drawings by Dürer. Marvin forges a Renaissance drawing, exposes the true art thief, and recovers lost art with help from James. The illustrations are adorable and the story of a beetle discovering the world of art and finding friendship is delightful.
Fantasy, Magic, Ancient Evil Undead Enemies, War, Swords
The conclusion of the trilogy where everything finally comes together in a spectacular battle against the Norns and the Storm King for the land of Osten Ard. This book is crazy long and there is a lot of fighting, traveling, and dangerous questing. If you are a fan of high fantasy, this series is definitely something to check out.
Previous books: The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell
Divorce, Loss, Love, Letting Go, Marriage
Olds’ highly personal poems cover the slow unease of suspicion through divorce after thirty-two years to finally coming to terms with the loss of the love of her life. They are beautifully crafted. She writes with an unearthly honesty, opening up her experiences and pouring them into words. A wonderful, cohesive collection.
Short Biographies, Comics, Historical Women, Judgment, Morality
In this book for younger teens a number of famously naughty women from history are given brief bios that are then summed up by the authors (mother and daughter) in a one-page comic-style-blocked illustrated sheet. It’s as weird as it sounds, and I found Stemple’s judgments to be quite mean and none of their comments were particularly intelligent or thought-provoking. The biographies were too short to be truly intriguing, but the bibliography at the end is decently comprehensive. It could have been a great book about the bad rap that tough women have gotten in history but instead devolved into cattiness and short-changed the real people.
War, Honor, Trust, Heritage, Friendship
Karou has taken over Brimstone’s role and is creating bodies for the Chimaera army while Akiva is torn between earning back the trust of his siblings and saving Chimaera. This book would have been better at half the length: there are long scenes with characters that never come into play again as well as too many scenes with Mik and Zuzana that don’t move the story along. The bulk of the story is political drama as Karou tries to prove her worth and trustworthiness while being blocked by Thiago and Akiva plots the demise of the cruel leaders of the seraphim. There was a lot of discussion about rape and the fear of men and it almost dominated the topic of the actual war which I found very unnecessary and not in keeping with the themes of friendship and humanity in the first book. This volume definitely had some interesting parts and more is revealed about the world of Eretz, but overall it felt more like a transition into what should be a very dramatic third book.
First book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
History, Whaling, Nantucket, Survival at Sea, Cannibalism
This is a shortened-for-youth version of Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea (I am a child; sorry): it briefly and agonizingly relates the incredible tale of the twenty-one men who survived a sperm whale destroying their ship to spend three months sailing in tiny whaleboats across the Pacific. The men could have found safety in about a week but were afraid of cannibals so they chose to sail back to South America, finding starvation, death, despair, and, yes, cannibalism on a journey that only eight of the men survived. Revenge of the Whale draws from two books written by survivors as well as medical information on the effects of dehydration and navigation information and illustrations to draw a more complete picture of what these men endured in 1820. An incredible tale of survival and the human spirit.
Dystopian Future, Uprising, Pandemic, Love, Choice
The final book in the trilogy succeeds where the first two did not: it spaces the story between Ky, Cassia, and Xander giving them enough room to develop without letting the repetitive flatness of Condie’s style slow down the story too much. Cassia finally finds the inner strength she needs as she works to save everyone. Much more history is revealed about the Rising and the Society as well as the characters’ pasts; many of the scenes are moving and each of the main characters grows up within the confines of their role. Condie’s treatment of the plague that sweeps the Society and the honesty with which she addresses the possibility of moving from one Society to another is refreshing and her resolutions and answers were truly earned.
Previous books: Matched, Crossed
Rebellion, 1400s, Magic, Warriors, Romance
Ember loses much of her sass as she attempts to rebel against Bosque Mar’s evil magics, but spends most of her time ignoring her duty and trying to decide if she likes Alistair or just loves Barrow because I guess they’re both hot and she’s indecisive. Despite her lack of effort, the other characters do a decent job of making it harder for Mar to take over the human world and this book does an excellent job of setting the stage for the events in the later Nightshade books. There is a lot of waiting around and worrying and traveling which kind of kills the pace; it could be argued that the bad guys are really the main characters here. Would recommend if you love the Nightshade world.
Previous book: Rift
Later Nightshade books: Nightshade, Wolfsbane, Bloodrose
Mermaids, Relationships, Friendship, Growing Up, Honor
Luce is on her own now, but as her relationship with Dorian grows more intense so does the cruelty of her former tribe—and the interest of the FBI in the possibility of mermaids does nothing to ease her fears. Luce does a lot of growing up as she learns more about herself and the history of mermaids, and her relationships and reactions seem honest for a shy girl thrust into the life of a creature with ever increasing power and responsibility. This book is even more intense than the first as new characters and new horrors are introduced. Would recommend to anyone looking for a good fantasy, a solid mermaid novel, or a new look at frigid waters.
First book: Lost Voices
Last book: Twice Lost
Mermaids, Family Trouble, Friendship, Growing Up
Lost Voices is like Lord of the Flies with mermaids. Luce is hurt by her uncle and dies from a fall off a cliff into the ocean—and is turned into a mermaid (in Porter’s dark tale, mermaids are created when girls who are hurt/abused die). Luce finally feels like she belongs until a cruel girl named Anais is forced into being a mermaid and tears the tribe apart from the inside. A refreshing cruel-mermaid tale that is really about human interaction, cruelty, friendship, and self-reliance. A potent take on the hardships of being a teenager.
Later books: Waking Storms, The Twice Lost