Category Archives: action/adventure

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

stronger faster and more beautifulI don’t tend to like short stories because I often feel that they leave too much of the story untold.  I never seem to feel like I get to know enough about the characters.  If it is a short story that builds upon on a story I’ve already read, though, I can usually handle it.  So, I was hesitant to read this collection of short stories.  I was nervous.  Like, really nervous.  But then I saw some of the blurbs that talked about how timely and amazing this book was, and I decided to go for it.  Worst case scenario?  I would give myself permission not to finish the book.  As it turns out, I never even considered quitting.  The first story was so compelling that I just knew I had to keep reading… And then I realized that the short stories were interconnected!  Though the stories often took readers along different trajectories and switched up the characters and setting, there were plenty of references back to characters and events that had happened in previous chapters.  I didn’t feel, at all, like I was missing out on the “what happened next” kind of stuff.  Even more than that, I really appreciated how well Dayton extrapolated from current medical research to come up with a somewhat plausible, albeit dystopian, future of genetic modification.

Happy Reading!

Advertisements

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds

Miles MoralesMy family is definitely geeky by most people’s standards. Anytime there is a new “comic book movie” in the theaters, you can practically guarantee we will be there opening weekend — if not opening night. We have been anxiously awaiting the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and I was really excited to see that there is a Miles Morales novel for teens who might not yet be familiar with his character. I was even more thrilled to see that Jason Reynolds was the author who took on this project. My husband asked me why I thought it was so important to have a notable YA author write a book about Spider-Man, since Spider-Man is a pretty popular character in his own right. And it was kind of hard for me to explain at first; I couldn’t quite put my finger on it… But then I realized what it was. Some teens think that comic books are only for the truly geeky people of the world and might have otherwise not even paid attention to this story.  Since Jason Reynolds is more known for his contemporary, urban YA fiction, though, I thought he might help attract some readers who wouldn’t ordinarily give this story a chance. And once those readers give this story a chance, they might find that they have more common ground with geeks than they previously realized.  I’m not sure many non-geeks realize quite how strong the social justice storylines of comic books are, but there are a lot of examples of superheroes standing up for equality.  This Superman comic is one of my favorite examples:

superman-all-american

With funny, relatable characters, Jason Reynolds does a fantastic job syncing Spider-Man into contemporary Urban ya fiction. I liked how Miles Morales was not even close to perfect — with his “wrong side of the tracks” family that has a history of trouble with the law, his trouble controlling his own temper, and even his awkwardness with girls — because it can help teens to see that they, too, can make a difference. You don’t have to be a superhero to stand up for yourself and to help people.  And that is especially evident in the fact that Miles’ best friend, Ganke, often needs to give Miles a pep talk when he is feeling particularly defeated! I think that fans of Spider-Man/Miles Morales will be pleased with how this story turned out, and I can only hope that the Miles Morales comics will gain a little more traction with the help of this novel and the upcoming movie.
Happy Reading!

Refugee by Alan Gratz

refugeeWhat would you do if your home country was no longer safe?  If you were persecuted for your religion, if a lack of food in your country was causing violent riots, or if your neighborhood was being bombed?  If you had to take only what you could carry and try to escape to a place you had never even visited before?  If you had to risk death for the possibility of a better life?  The scenarios faced by our narrators varied because they grew up in vastly different times and places — Josef in Nazi Germany (1930s) , Isabel in Communist Cuba (1990s), and Mahmoud in modern-day Syria (2015) — but all three of these children became refugees when their families felt that escaping their homeland was the only tenable solution.

I think that books like this are extremely important, since they often provide a better perspective than news stories.  News stories about refugees tend to focus on the current situation, such as which countries might take them in, but not so much about how the situation escalated to the point that they sought refuge in the first place.  One of the moments that really struck me in this story was when Mahmoud’s family was talking about relocating to Germany.  Someone commented that it would be cold there and his father responded by singing, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”  The inclusion of a song from such a popular/recent movie as Frozen will surely help readers to recognize that refugees are not only people from some time “before.”  By humanizing these narrators and showing how they were normal kids up until they had to run for their lives.  I can only hope that this story will help to cultivate better empathy for the plight of refugees and the realization that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

Happy Reading!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

the last magicianEsta is a talented thief and a powerful Mageus who, though she can travel through time, is stuck in New York City.  Why?  Because the Order, a group that despises Mageus, has manipulated magic to created something called the Brink.  Any Mageus who end up inside the Brink become stuck inside because crossing the Brink essentially drains their powers and kills them.  And because of this Brink, magic is dwindling and dying out.  But Esta is working on a way to take down the Brink.  All she needs to do is travel back in time to steal a particular magical book.  The problem, of course, is that she needs to get that book from 1902, when not only the Order but also powerful gangs and corrupt politicians hold quite a bit of power over the Mageus in New York City.  This book felt almost as if it were the marriage of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and Gangs of New York… Fantastic fun!  (I can’t wait until the second book in the series, The Devil’s Thief, is released in October.)

Happy Reading!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

court of thorns and rosesMy bestie has been telling me to read this book since it first came out, but I stupidly added it to my TBR list and didn’t really follow through.  Even when a coworker and a couple other acquaintances started telling me to read it, I decided that I had a few other things I wanted to read first and put it off a bit longer.  Well…  That was kinda dumb!  Although I will admit that part of me is actually glad I waited — because it means I don’t have to wait for the next couple of the books in the series to be published and can just keep reading!  😉

I am not a huge fan of “epic fantasy” because there always seem to be a million characters and countries to learn, but this book landed safely within my comfort zone.  Sure, there were several kingdoms involved and a handful of characters to track, but it was all very manageable.  I was also relieved to see that Maas avoided the “helpless damsel in distress” trope and went for a strong female lead.  Growing up, I found myself gravitating to Belle rather than any of the other Disney princesses because she spoke her mind and did the saving instead of waiting to be saved.  And though some people might draw comparisons between Feyre and Belle, what with the whole going to live with a beast and sacrificing herself to protect her family thing, she is really quite different.  Feyre was just so amazing.  She was courageous in the face of adversity, smart though she lacked education, and so selfless it hurt to see how poorly her family treated her.  To avoid anything “spoilery,” let’s just suffice it to say that she only got more amazing as her circumstances became more difficult.  So, yeah…  If you don’t like Feyre, we probably can’t be friends.

Between the graphic violence and the steamy sex scenes, many people will likely feel more comfortable with labeling this book as “New Adult” rather than “Young Adult.”  But, no matter how you choose to label it or which section of the library you choose as its home, this book/series is an essential purchase for public libraries!  And, though it is still labeled as “in production” on IMDB.com, the fact that it has been picked up by German producer Constantin Film is very promising… So you may want to get a few extra copies for when the movie news psyches people up and increases demand.

Happy Reading!

I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

I am still aliveBEFORE
Jess hadn’t seen her dad in many years.  She didn’t know much about him, other than the fact that he left her and her mom to go live in the wilderness of Alaska.  She didn’t really care to know him, though, because she and her mom were getting along just fine without him.  But when her mom died in a horrible car crash, she needed someone to look after her and bring her to all of the physical therapy and doctor’s appointments she would need to recover from her own injuries.  Jess had family friends who wanted to care for her, but she ended up with a foster family that had more experience in dealing with medical needs such as hers.  And then, before long, it was decided that Jess would go to live with her dad in Alaska.

AFTER
Now that Jess has lost both of her parents and been stranded in the Canadian wilderness, she isn’t sure how long she can last.  As if being all alone (except for a dog) with hardly any knowledge of survival skills isn’t bad enough, there is only one person who knows exactly where her dad was staying — and Griff isn’t due to come back for months.  Winter is coming on strong and Jess has no shelter or food, but her recovery thus far has helped her to hone her grit and determination like never before.  She knows she might very well die, but Jess is intent on working to keep herself alive until she can be found and rescued.

I am not always a big fan of this back-and-forth style of storytelling, but it worked extremely well for this story.  I found it especially helpful that the before and after were so very different that there was no chance I would get confused. Fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet will definitely want to check this one out.

Happy Reading!

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

the-cheerleadersSunnybrook High doesn’t have cheerleaders anymore.  It wasn’t a hazing scandal or a lack of funding that ended the cheerleading program, though.  It was the fact that Sunnybrook was trying to make it easier to move on from the tragic loss of five cheerleaders.  The first two died in a car accident.  The next two were brutally murdered.  And then the final cheerleader died by suicide.  Five years later, Monica is still struggling to come to terms with her sister’s death and to figure out what really happened.  First of all, Monica is convinced that her sister never would have killed herself.  She also finds it extremely troubling that the man who supposedly murdered two girls was killed as the police attempted to apprehend him.  Her stepfather and his partner swore that they were acting in self-defense, but their story doesn’t quite add up when you consider the evidence at the scene.

When Monica discovers a stack of letters in her stepfather’s desk, it becomes very clear that whatever happaned isn’t actually over.  The letters have been coming every year around the anniversary of the cheerleader tragedy, and they insinuate that all the deaths were somehow connected.  There is also the fact that Monica found her sister’s old cellphone hidden in her stepfather’s desk.  Why on earth would he have kept that?!?  Monica decides that something must be up and she becomes determined to figure out what really happened.  It’s pretty clear to her that *somebody* has to know something more, but she doesn’t know who they are or what they know.  How far is she willing to go to find the truth?  And why does she seem to be smack in the middle of whatever it is that happened?!?

Happy Reading!