Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

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Never Fade (2013) is book 2 in The Darkest Minds trilogy, and it is an exciting continuation of Ruby’s story in this dystopian adventure with a dash of romance.

Warning! Spoiler alert for The Darkest Minds…Ruby has erased Liam’s memories of her to protect him from the Children’s League and give him an opportunity to reunite with his parents without worrying about her…or so she thinks. With her power to read people’s minds, she becomes one of the League’s greatest weapons for interrogation and operations. Liam’s older brother, Cole, is rescued by the League, and then sends Ruby on a private mission to locate Liam and retrieve a flash drive that was sewn into a coat he is wearing. From this op, old friends are reunited, and new alliances are formed. Also, previous villains resurface to aid in this novel’s nail-biting suspense. The end definitely leaves the reader ready to pick up book three, In the Afterlight (2014).

Great book! (But do be forewarned…lots of language…recommended for high school and up.)

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

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Ruby survives the strange virus that kills so many of the children in the U.S. and those children who did survive develop strange powers that the government categorizes into colors: Green, Blue, Yellow, Orange, Red. Ruby is one of the dangerous ones – she’s an Orange. She has the power to erase memories as well as control thoughts, and though she has not mastered her abilities, she seeks the one whom she thinks can help her.

The government is afraid of the children with powers so these children are imprisoned in “camps” where they live in fear and gloom. The Children’s League is interested in Ruby because of her Orange abilities and they help her escape, but do they have her best interest at heart? She eventually teams up with a threesome looking for the “Slip Kid” – someone who can help children reunite with their parents as well as protect them.

My favorite quote in the book also explains the title: “The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”

This dystopian adventure is the first in a trilogy. I’m really not sure how this book bypassed me (published in 2012) because it is great! I cannot wait to read Never Fade (2013) and In the After Light (2014). Though this novel does integrate some “used” plot lines – virus that targets children, children with superpowers, children/teens that partner and develop familial relationships, manipulative villain with superpowers, children/teens on the run – it is still unique and worth the read!

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

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As a huge fan of Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy, I was very excited about her new series beginning with The Young Elites. Switching from dystopian to fantasy, this book set in the middle ages follows the lives of young adults who caught a virus and those who survived developed super-human powers, known as the Young Elites.

Fifteen-year-old Adelina Amouteru just recently learns that she has illusionist powers and flees from her abusive father who is about to sell her to a married man as his mistress. She accidentally kills her father who chases after her, and just before her execution, a band of Young Elites rescue her. They then train her how to use her powers, but unfortunately, Adelina’s power is fueled by fear which feeds her dark side. Some of the Dagger Society want her killed before she can learn how powerful she really is, but the prince (and leader of the Society) desires for her to be a part of their group.

When reading this book, I felt like I was reading a backstory of a soon-to-be villain…for instance, villains are often “misunderstood” because of their childhood, and the ending leads me to believe that my initial thoughts are true.

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

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Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay is a wonderful romantic adventure with fairy tales interwoven. Upon her death, Sleeping Beauty gave her daughter, Princess Aurora, fairy blessings of strength in battle and mercy, but the blessings come with a curse that if a boy kisses her he will lose his freewill and become a mindless puppet who follows her blindly. Now Aurora fights for her life as the evil ogre queen seeks to capture her. Prince Niklaas has been cursed by his immortal father to become a swan on his 18th birthday so that he will not be eligible to inherit the kingdom. Niklaas learns that if he marries a princess who is heir to another realm then the curse will be broken; therefore, he madly seeks to locate the missing Princess Aurora. Disguised as a boy, Princess Aurora teams up with Niklaas and a strong bond of friendship ensues. Eventually truths of identity and curses are revealed, but never fear, there is a fairy tale ending, and it is great!

This book is set to be released in December 2014.

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

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I am a HUGE fan of Michael Grant’s Gone series, so I was very excited to read his new book, The Messenger of Fear (2014). It saddens me to say that I did not care for this book. It was slow moving and predictable…very unlike the Gone series.

Mara wakes up in a mist of fog unaware of who or where she is. The Messenger of Fear is there to greet her, and she quickly learns that she has somehow been chosen as his apprentice. In this novel of Good vs. Evil, the Messenger’s job is to punish evil doers who go unpunished through human or legal means (ex. jail, death, etc.) He particularly targets young offenders with the hope of teaching them a lesson so they can become responsible adults. Sometimes the method of fear punishment is effective and sometimes a person can not recover.

I’m sorry to say that the book trailer is the best part about this book.

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.

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