Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

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I have been waiting (impatiently) for the third book in the Throne of Glass series which is entitled, The Heir of Fire. I am a huge fan of this fantasy series, and this novel did not disappoint (though Throne of Glass is still my favorite). This novel begins with Celaena in Wendlyn, the land of the Fae. Her task, as king’s champion, is to assassinate the royal family, which as usual she refuses to do. Instead the Fae queen, Maive, sends Prince Rowan to train Celaena how to use her magic (which comes back to bite Queen Maive). Meanwhile, Chaol remains in Adarlan at the palace working behind the scene with rebels while Dorian experiments with his magic. Why does Dorian have magic when magic is outlawed and banished from Adarlan? (That question is not answered in this novel.)

This novel is exciting and fun, like the others. Celaena is a little more crass in this book, but I really enjoyed the relationship developing between her and Rowan. I never liked Chaol for her!

If you have not read the others in the series, they are fantastic! I highly recommend them. Also, the novellas compiled in The Assassin’s Blade are worth the read to fill in the backstory of Celaena before she arrived at the glass palace and became the king’s champion. I have a feeling that people from her past will be making an appearance in the next book. I can’t wait!

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

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Sinner (2014) is a companion novel to Stiefvater’s Shiver werewolf series, continuing the story of Cole and Isabel. They are my favorite couple in this series, so I was very happy to see what happens to them.

Sinner begins with Cole arriving in Los Angeles to reunite with Isabel who had moved with her mom after her parents separated. In addition to rekindling his relationship with Isabel, Cole has committed to starring in a reality show as he produces his next music album. Even though internally Isabel is elated to see Cole again, she has deep-rooted feelings of distrust. Cole, a recovering alcohol and drug addict seems destined to fail under the pressure of constant cameras in his face, especially when the producer keeps putting obstacles and temptation in his path with the hope of his failure to make a “good” show. And what about the “wolf”? Cole may be “clean” from drugs and alcohol, but the call of the wolf (and therefore removing the pressure of reality from his life) may be too much for him to handle. The beautiful, but cold Isabel must decide if she is willing to take a risk and trust in love even as she sees other couples in her life, including her own parents, break up.

If you are a Shiver fan, you do not want to miss this book! I loved it! If you have not read the Shiver books, you should check them out.

The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

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The Girl with the Iron Touch (2013) is book 3 in the Steampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross. This story features Emily, the girl who can “speak” to machines. Emily is kidnapped by the Machinist’s automatons and taken underground where she is supposed to perform a brain transplant! The Machinist’s body is suspended in a tank filled with bodily goo. Even though physically he is out of commission, his brain is very active in the Aether worlds where he is terrorizing Griffin and also the dead, Mei Xing (from Book 2). Finley, Griffin, Sam, Jasper, and even Jack Dandy band together to rescue “the ginger” as Dandy refers to Emily.

Though not my favorite in the series, I always enjoy Griffin and Finley’s Steampunk adventures in Victorian England. It was a fun read. The Girl with the Windup Heart (2014) was released in May and will feature the half machine/half human, Mila, we meet in book 3.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

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As I was searching the high school library for another “bullying” book to prepare for The Truth About Alice book club meeting, I stumbled upon living dead girl (2008) by Elizabeth Scott. This book takes “bullying” to a whole new hemisphere, and is really about a perverted (and obviously psychotic) middle aged man, Ray, who kidnaps young girls and sexually molests them. The reader learns this fact on page 4 of the novel, and frankly I wanted to slam the book shut and throw it across the room! That is not what I was expecting from reading the back of the book! However, I persevered even though the story is terrifying, and I wonder how many children are really living in this condition?!

This story is told from the first person point of view of Ray’s current girl whom he names “Alice.” She was kidnapped at the age of 10 when she was on a fieldtrip at the zoo with her class. He mentally and physically abuses her and breaks her spirit by threatening to kill her parents if she runs away or reveals him. He has her pretend to be his daughter when in public, but by the time she is 15, she is too old to attract him anymore. Ray has Alice plan to kidnap a new young girl. He targets a 6 year old at the park; Alice knows her destiny (like the “Alice” before her) is death.

The ending left me questioning what actually happens to “Alice”; only one thing is certain and I was so relieved!

It is difficult to recommend this novel, though once I started I could not stop reading. Other books about kidnapping that I have read and also left me completely disturbed are: Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel (2011), and Stolen by Lucy Christopher (2009).

By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

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In preparation for an upcoming book club discussion about The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu (2014), I have been on the hunt for books dealing with bullying. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson are both terrific novels on the topic. I recently learned about By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead (2010) by Julie Anne Peters, and this novel provides a great example of a teen who has been bullied since a very young age due to being overweight. I learned a new term in this book — “bullycide” — which means suicide due to bullying.

Daelyn Rice has made several unsuccessful attempts at committing suicide, but this time she finds a website called “Through-the-light.com” which helps people on their quest to commit suicide. She has 23 days to plan her death, but during that time she meets Santana, a charismatic boy suffering from cancer, and Emily, an overweight girl at school who needs a friend.

The ending left me perplexed. Did she or didn’t she?

Bullying continues to be a problem today even with all of the information we have.
Bullying is defined as:
1. The behavior is repeated over time.
2. The aggressor intends to do harm, if only to embarrass.
3. An imbalance of power exists between the aggressor and the target.

The discussion questions at the end of the novel would be great for a teen book club or class. The book is short and can easily be read in an afternoon. It is insightful and revealing from the point of view of a 15 year old girl who believes that it is too late for hope.

Thanks to the Emmy Awards I learned about the Kind Campaign () which sounds like a great organization that empowers young adults, especially girls, to speak positive words to one another — to build up, not tear down.

The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore

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Wow! I just finished The Revenge of Seven (book 5 in the I am Number Four series) and it was awesome! Very action-packed, and the ending…Wow! I have chills!

In this novel, the Garde seek to destroy Setrakus Ra before he can invade earth. He has kidnapped Ella, and we learn that she is his granddaughter! Setrakus Ra is Lorien! The Garde is divided – half in Florida and half on the run from the Chicago invasion. Eight is dead, and Five is a traitor – or is he?

The Garde finds out how to unleash Lorien on Earth with the hopes of preventing a war with the Mogadorians; unfortunately they are too late. The war has already begun, BUT hope is here. Marina and Six successfully deposit what remains of the Lorien inheritances and pendants into the Lorien sanctuary, and now Earth stands a chance.

In grand “Men in Black” and “Independence Day” style, Setrakus Ra goes to New York City with the desire for a majestic entrance and open arms from the human race. He is disappointed. John and Nine are there to greet him. Chaos ensues.

Fabulous ending! I cannot wait for the next book which probably will be a year from now…Grrr!

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

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The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is the second book in Kady Cross’s Steampunk Chronicles. Book One is The Girl in the Steel Corset which is our introduction to Finley Jayne joining Griffin Kings’ band of extraordinary misfits.

Book two begins with Griffin and his group traveling via airship from London to New York City to attempt to clear the name of their friend, Jasper Renn, who was arrested on murder charges at the end of book one. Griffin does not believe that Jasper is capable of murder — at least not without just cause. So Griffin, Finley, Sam, and Emily find themselves in the lavish Waldorf-Astoria as they make plans to free Jasper. They quickly learn that Jasper was not arrested by lawmen, but rather captured by a ruthless gang leader, Dalton. Finley infiltrates Dalton’s evil gang to get close to Jasper with hopes of a rescue, but Jasper refuses to leave because Dalton has Jasper’s former girlfriend, Mei Xing, held hostage with a clockwork collar that will choke her if she attempts to escape.

This steampunk novel set in 19th Century New York will not disappoint. I look forward to the next book in the series, The Girl with the Iron Touch (which will feature Emily). Also The Girl with the Windup Heart was recently released. There are several novellas that also makeup the chronicles. It’s a fun series!

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

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WARNING: SPOILER ALERT! I usually try not to give away the ending of a book, but the review below will give answers to If I Stay as well as Where She Went. Be forewarned! 

Through most of Where She Went I was very upset because I honestly did not believe that I was going to get my “happily ever after” ending that I love so much. I was really angry about that, but then I thought, “How brilliant!” because how often does a “realistic fiction” novel actually capture the essence of a first love break up? How many real life first loves actually stand the test of time and work out? So I had resigned myself to the fact that Mia and Adam would not end up together. Of course, this is a YA novel, and it does have the expected (but beautiful and touching and heart wrenching) ending.

I hated Mia through most of this novel. It was only the very VERY end that saved her. Where She Went is told from Adam’s point of view, and his love, loyalty, and passion for Mia is quite impressive! The novel takes place three years after If I Stay, and Adam is a famous rock star and Mia is a Julliard graduate and an up-and-coming cellist, famous in her circles. Mia broke up with Adam when she went to Julliard, and Adam’s world is destroyed. Through his pain at losing Mia, he writes numerous songs that launch his band into superstardom. One day, Adam walks by Carnegie Hall where Mia happens to be playing and attends her performance. Afterwards they spend the night touring unique places in New York and not discussing what is really on their minds until the very end when both are supposed to be on a flight in opposite directions – London and Japan. Their reconciliation, better late than never, is exhilarating!

I highly recommend If I Stay AND Where She Went!

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Since the movie is coming out soon, I had to read If I Stay by Gayle Forman. This realistic teen fiction novel follows the story of Mia before and after the car accident that killed her entire family leaving her fighting for her life. Mia, a talented cellist working her way to Julliard, is in love with an up and coming rock star, Adam. Though complete opposites in nature, their music binds them as well as begins to drive them apart. In an outer body experience, she watches her friends and extended family talk to her while she is in a coma, and Mia understands that she may choose to stay (to live) or die.

This novel is emotionally heart wrenching, and I loved it! I made the mistake of reading the beginning of the sequel, Where She Went, which is told from Adam’s point of view and now that is all I can focus on. I am not satisfied with how the continuation of this story began, but I’m hopeful for a happy ending! These characters deserve that!

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door tells the story of Lola, a free-spirit and future costume designer, and the two guys in her life – the “bad boy” rock star who is 5 years older than Lola and her handsome and trendy next door neighbor who broke her heart two years ago. Lola must resolve issues of identity and truth before she can choose the boy who is right for her. This novel which takes place in San Francisco also brings back the two characters from Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and St. Clair now in college) which was a welcome treat!

A good story. Isla and the Happily Ever After (August 2014) will include characters: Anna and St. Clair as well as Lola and Cricket in addition to a new couple with the story taking place in New York and Paris. I’m looking forward to reading it!

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