If you're like me and you're mourning the end of the Harry Potter series, then you'll want to devour Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. It's a five book series, with the fifth coming out one week from now. Instead of the wizarding world, Riordan takes us into Greek mythology. The series is set for the most part in modern-day New York, where sometime-problem child Percy Jackson learns that one of his parents is a Greek god. This means that Percy is a demi-god and spends his summers at Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for others like him where they learn the skills necessary for any quest they might be sent on by the gods.
The best thing about this series is how much all that Greek mythology information I learned way back in middle school suddenly returned to the forefront of my mind. Even though it's present-day, Riordan uses Greek myths alongside contemporary issues. They mingle together quite well. For example, Riordan explains that Mt. Olympus always sits over the world power at present. When it was in Greece, that's because the Greeks were the center of civilization. Currently? Mt. Olympus resides above the Empire State Building in NYC.
This series is the basis for B&N's summer reading program this summer, and for that I am so excited. I can't wait to get even more kids (and my friends!) hooked on this series. Percy is a likeable, realistic boy who I think most of today's attention-deficit, video-game-loving, always-in-motion youth can identify with. His problems--minus the whole Greek demigod, fighting minotaurs and sea monsters thing--are their problems. His friends are like their friends.
This series is a relatively quick read, but it's educational and adventurous. Recommended for, well, anyone really.
When first told to try the Southern Vampire Series, I was skeptical at first since I had heard about a show on HBO (True Blood) based on them and it didn't really seem like "my thing." I was so wrong! Dead Until Dark is the first of 9 (for now) books by Charlaine Harris about the feisty heroine, Sookie Stackhouse. It took me less than one day to finish and I bought all of the rest the next day so I didn't have to wait for the next book should I finish while the bookstore was closed for the night. This book (and the rest that followed) were laugh-out-loud funny! Sookie is such a dynamic character and she fills the pages with uproarious wit and stubborn panache. Her exploits, while firmly in the realm of fantasy, are so well-written that I felt as though I was right there with her, tending tables at Merlotte's.
The premise behind the Southern Vampire Series is also part of the appeal of the novels. While reading vampire novels in the past, I have always wondered what it would be like if the vampires were no longer condemned to the hidden underworld. Charlaine Harris begins her first novel of the series by answering this very question. In the series, vampires have just "come out of the coffin" due to the invention of synthetic blood. Since they have synthetic blood, they do not need to be a danger to humans and announce themselves to the world. Sookie sees the announcement on television and her bar, Merlotte's begins to carry True Blood, just in case. Sookie meets her first vampire when he comes into the bar for a drink and is drawn into the vampires' no-longer-hidden world due to her own abilities as a psychic and her blossoming relationship with the small town's very own resident bloodsucker.
Dead Until Dark combines so many elements of fiction, I recommend it to everyone. If you are looking for humor, fantasy, romance, drama, or just something new to try, I very highly recommend trying out Dead Until Dark. In the style of truly entertaining reading, it is extremely addictive and very hard to put down so beware! Should you wind up hooked on them as myself and so many others, the next books are Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #2), Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #3), Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #4), Dead As a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #5), Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #6), All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #7) , From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #8), and Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #9) .
Suzanne Collins combines the hot genre of teen fantasy with trendy reality TV. In a maybe-not-so-distant future, teenagers enter a lottery for the chance to participate in the Hunger Games, a competition broadcast on all channels where the winner takes fame and glory back to their home.
What I liked most about the book was that even for people who aren't fans of fantasy writing, The Hunger Games works just fine. The setting may be the future and the United States may not be recognizable, but enough current elements exist in the world Collins created that anyone will enjoy it. Of course I could expound on the universal themes of love and family and independence, but those are just side effects of the novel.
It's one of those books that I couldn't put down. In fact, it didn't even take a long time to get into it, like many books I've been reading lately. It started off quick-paced. It stayed quick-paced. Surprises lurked around every corner. The characters are real. I can compare them to my friends in real life. I want them to be my friends. I care about what happens to them and hope for the best. Those are some of the things I look for in a great young adult read. And The Hunger Games pretty much holds all of them.
Whenever someone asks me what the best book I've read this year is, I answer with The Hunger Games. In Katniss Everdeen's world, which is set in a not-so-different future, America has come to be run by a totalitarian government, and has simply been divided into thirteen districts. The people of Katniss's District 12 live mostly in poverty, thanks to the legend of District 13. The story goes that District 13 tried to rebel against the government, which then nuked the entire district. In order to keep the remaining twelve districts from trying anything similar, the government came up with the Hunger Games.
Every year, all children from the ages of 12-18 must enter their name in the Reaping. One boy and one girl from each district are selected at random to participate as tributes in the Hunger Games, in which all twenty-four children must fight to the death in a diabolical stadium. The Games are all broadcast live, and they don't end until there is only one child left alive. The prize for winning? Food, wealth, and a sturdy home for the winner and their family for the rest of their life. Poor children can enter their names into the Reaping more than once for an extra rations of food, making their chances of being picked even greater -- but the risk is worth it, since the government controls the trade of food between districts so tightly. The Games are a symbol of the government's power to the people of the districts, but to those who live in the Capitol (a place of great wealth, vanity, and frivolity), the Games are pure entertainment. It's a twisted mess of survival and reality television where drama and danger can earn you helpful gifts from your sponsors based on how much the Capitol viewers like you.
16-year-old Katniss, of course, ends up as a tribute in the Hunger Games. Katniss is a born fighter -- she alone has provided food for her family since her father died. She relies only on herself, and is very clever and stubborn. She has a real chance of winning the games and coming home like she promised her little sister she would. She steels herself to be ready to do what's necessary to get home, but when the Games begin, she finds that she has more trouble with the concept of killing the other tributes than she realized. This compassion, and the subsequent anger and frustration at the world she lives in, is part of what makes Katniss such a relatable narrator. She is forced to become a person she doesn't like (which includes killing and participating in a fake romance to garner sympathy from viewers) in order to survive.
Once you pick up The Hunger Games, you won't be able to put it down. It's definitely a thrill ride, with Katniss facing inevitable death with every turn of the page, but it's also got plenty of heart, as Katniss struggles to remain herself through this horrible ordeal. The series is classified as Teen, but it has widespread appeal, and adults will love it, too.
And once you've devoured The Hunger Games, you can pick up the second book in the trology, Catching Fire, which was just released. Catching Fire is just as terrifyingly good as the first book, but it delves even more into the history and politics of the Capitol and the Districts, and you'll discover the lengths the Capitol is willing to go to in order to crush any sign of a rebellion.
If you value your sleep and free time, do not read this book.
If you start this book, you will not be able to put it down.
You will find yourself totally immersed in the unique world Patrick Rothfuss has created. Kvothe is such an instantly likeable character you will immediately be emotionally attached to his plight. Getting to know this mysterious character and his origins, in his own words, on his terms, is entertaining to say the least. This is a great novel to get lost in. From first meeting Kvothe, to his parents and their traveling troupe of performers, to his burgeoning education with Abenthy. From his life living on the rough streets with a knack for putting himself into the sights of danger, to his determination to get into the University and continue his knack for keeping himself in the sights of trouble and danger. From his first meeting with the girl of his dreams to burning down a town. Rothfuss has created a complete world that will envelope you, and leave you craving more.
When Kvothe begins his tale , he says he needs three full days to tell it properly. The 672 pages here are only day one. Which leads us to the second problem, waiting for the next installments of the series.
I have always loved fantasy novels. Growing up I loved to spend time in Narnia, Middle Earth, and Redwall, and even now as somewhat of a grown up, some of my favorite haunts can be found between the covers of a fantasy novel, And maybe that is why I fell in love with The Magicians so quickly. I could really relate to Quentin Coldwater, who even though he is near the end of high school he is still in love with the books of Fillory (think Chronicles of Narnia) even though they are much to young for him. Of course he knows that magic isn't real, that is, until he finds himself in upstate New York at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy.
This isn't just Harry Potter dressed in a new robe. Lev Grossman has created an original, engaging story that melds literary fiction with that of the fantasy genre while paying tribute to some of our favorite fantasy worlds. The narrative really zips along, and I found myself reading it at every opprotunity. Don't expect any "happily everafters" here though, as this one is certainly for the adult audience. Quentin and his friends often find themselves in darker and darker places, as growing up is never as clean and simple as we pretend it will be.
If you are looking for that next fantastic place to escape to, you can't go wrong with The Magicians.
Grace was attacked by wolves when she was eleven years old. Given her young age and the traumatic nature of it, her memories of the event are sketchy. But she knows there was a single wolf who saved her life that day. What she has always remembered is this: his yellow eyes. I thought I'd never see them again.
The wolf has also never forgotten seeing members of his pack tearing the life out of her while she just held his gaze, letting the other wolves mutilate her. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen, a tiny, bloody angel in the snow, and they were going to destroy her. So he stopped it.
Six years have passed, and Grace still feels a connection with her wolf. She watches him at the edge of the woods every winter when the earth is bitter with cold. She spends her summers mourning his absence. However, this peaceful seasonal pattern is interrupted when the wolves attack and kill a human. The community now feels threatened and a hunt ensues. When Grace realizes this, she does everything she can to stop it, lest her harmless wolf be slaughtered. She knows she may too late, though, as she's already heard many shots fired followed by the painful howls of wolves. A police officer forces her to go home that evening, and she is shocked by what she finds on her deck: her wolf, twisted and bloody...and human.
Here's the part where I must curb my compulsion to tell you every heartrending detail of this book (and there are so many!). But I will say that what follows is an exquisitely written story of discovery, love, and loss. This fairy tale unfolds offering ethereal delights and shocking revelations not just about our newly inseparable duo, but also the peculiar events that have been transpiring around them.
Shiver is easily the best Teen Fiction book released so far this year. A bold statement, I know, but I genuinely believe it. A must-read, especially for the Twilight-obsessed reader, any lover of paranormal romance, and those who just enjoy a well-written book.
It will make you shiver.
Being an ardent Jane Austen enthusiast, I was nonplussed when the news hit the Internet about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, combining Jane Austen's classic novel with bone-crunching zombie mayhem! What? Did two genre's ever seem more incompatible? Even though it did not appeal to my genteel sensibilities, I was intrigued and thought it worth a look. The co-author Seth Grahame-Smith had taken about 85% of Austen's original text and interwoven a zombie subplot. I have to admit that the first line had me smiling. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." What follows is quite a surprise. He has changed feisty Elizabeth Bennet and the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy into ninja warriors, ready to spar in the ball room as well as the battlefield against the sorry stricken who they delicately call unmentionables. It appears that anyone who is not a ninja warrior is a target for zombie destruction, so if there is a character from the original plot ripe for reproach, then it is sure to happen. Brains and gore abound, so the delicately minded take heed. If you enjoy a good ribald parody, the play between the original text and the new storyline is hysterical. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is sure to please those who live to make sport for their neighbors, and laugh at them in their turn! Read my complete review at my literary blog Austenprose.
Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose
How does memory constitute identity? What is it to be human? Such immense questions underlie much of the gripping drama in Stephanie Meyer's latest novel, The Host. Melanie, a protagonist of this psychological thriller, guides her other part using memories and her internal voice. She helps her other part to adapt to new challenging emotions, pains, and relationships. Trapped between two societies, they find themselves on a quest to find loved ones and learn who can be trusted. If you did not find any interest to read Meyer's Twilight series, than perhaps you were waiting for her to exhibit her talent in this science fiction novel that is likely to be the premiere of a new exciting series.
A long loved adult author has made her way into teen fiction with the recent Darkest Powers series. Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld series), shows she can impact all age groups with heroine Chloe Saunders.
The Darkest Powers series, The Summoning, The Awakening, and the newest installment The Reckoning, follows a group of supernatural teens as they battle to survive. Armstrong incorporates several supernatural elements including werewolves, witches, sorcerers, and necromancers.
It is a great follow-up series to anyone who is having difficulty finding something to read after finishing the addicting Twilight series (you know what I mean!). It features exciting characters with twists and turns all the way through.
I love love love the Sookie Stackhouse books! It's like jumping into someone else's weird world every time I read one. Each of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series books is deliciously entertaining and I have been enjoying reading about Sookie's life and adventures since book one!
Dead In The Family picks up after the Fairy War, which was traumatic for Sookie both mentally and physically. Things should be getting back to normal as she continues her steamy relationship with Eric, but trouble is always around the corner in Bon Temp, LA. Not only does Sookie have an unwanted house guest, but tensions are rising over the recently outted Shifters. Nothing is ever easy when Supes are involved.
These books are endlessly entertaining, but at the same time, not much happens throughout the book. Honestly, I like that. It's like peaking into Sookie's world and experiencing all of the weirdness with her. I now impatiently look forward to book 11 as Harris has kept my intrigue and has also set up a lot upon which to continue.
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I have read it more times than I can count and have given it as a gift to every friend, family member, or person I don't know very well who needed a gift because it is great for all age groups and different types of people. You don't have to be a science fiction fan to enjoy it, although Ender's Game and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, both won the Hugo and Nebula awards for outstanding sci fi. I first found Ender's Game in my middle school library and picked it up because it said something about gifted children and I had been in gifted classes so I thought it might be about something like that. I read it in a little under a week and was completely hooked. I immediately wanted everyone I knew to read it because I felt like it was something that needed to be shared. I read it a few years later in high school and found whole new aspects of it I'd never noticed the first time. I started following the rest of the series, which divides and follows two main characters (I followed both). The next books that follow the character, Bean, stay in the same difficulty level. The ones that follow Ender turn into more hard-core science fiction, but were still thrilling. For this reason, the book is sometimes coded as children's, sometimes teen, and sometimes adult science fiction. It can definitely be read and enjoyed at any age! The story itself is essentially about an Earth of the future, united under a world government that formed when the "Buggers" attacked Earth decades earlier. Since that time the International Fleet has started taking incredibly bright young children away to Battle School, a space station designed solely for training future soldiers. Andrew (Ender) Wiggin is an illegal "third" in the population controlled world but the International Fleet has already turned down his older brother, Peter, and older sister, Valentine, for Battle School so his parents are allowed a third child. Ender winds up in Battle School having to participate with his "army" in a series of war-games. Meanwhile his brother and sister manipulate Earth's politics and we learn more about the International Fleet. The conclusion is shocking and hits hard, leaving you hoping there's more. And there is of course!
Right before I started reading The Time Traveler's Wife, I read Octavia Butler's Kindred. It was a strange transition to make since they both deal with involuntary time travel, but it was easy to appreciate both books. In Kindred, Dana, a modern, African-American woman is pulled back in time to a plantation in the early 1800s. There, she saves the life of Rufus, a young, white, slave-holding boy, whom she later discovers is one of her ancestors. Dana is then pulled back in time again and again in order to help save Rufus's life, their relationship growing both closer and more contentious as time goes on.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife, I felt that Butler did a better job than Niffenegger at examining the potential ramifications of time travel. For example, would you save a person if you knew that he was going to end up raping a woman, but if you also knew that that act would lead to your own birth? Butler manages to deal expertly with that issue and others, such as slavery. This was one of the most thought-provoking novels I've ever read.
Octavia Butler was a terrific story-teller, and if you haven't read any of her books yet, this would be a good place to start.
Jekel Loves Hyde is coming out in May!
As soon as I finished the last page of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, I immediately rushed to the computer to look up Beth Fantaskey's other books. To my dismay, there were none. So when I came across the advance reading copy of Jekel Loves Hyde, I was delighted! It didn't let me down, either!
Jekel Loves Hyde is a great love story with twists and turns and an ending as unpredictable as Fantaskey's first novel. It is also a murder mystery heavily enmeshed in the lore of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (although not a retelling).
The funeral of Jill Jekel's father opens the novel and is the introduction to the character, Tristen Hyde, the dark, unusual student from England. He waits in the back of the cemetery until Jill is about to break down and then unexpectedly approaches her and lets her cry on his shoulder, tells her "It does get better, hurt less. Trust me, Jill," then leaves.
The story resumes with the first day of school. Jill and Tristen go to school together and share a chemistry class. Jill's mother is not coping with her new life as a widow at all, and Tristen's father is distant and demanding. Both are good chemistry students and Jill recruits Tristen to help her win a chemistry scholarship. Don't be fooled by the innocent-sounding plot, however: it quickly turns ugly and gets complicated. I'm not telling any more of that though; you'll have to read it for yourself!
The story is dual-narrated by Jill and Tristen alternately, but is does nothing to alleviate the suspense. When one narrator leaves you on a cliff-hanger, you turn to the next chapter only to find that it's the other character and you have to wait! I read the book in one sitting and was dead to the world furiously turning pages until I finished (much to my family's dismay!). So for teens and older kids, it's a great book! For adults, it's a quick read but still definitely worth it so be sure to check it out this May!
Keep 'em coming, Beth Fantaskey!
Some of you may have seen my posts about Sookie Stackhouse and the Southern Vampire Novels. This is the most recent addition to the collection. Be aware before you get too excited: this is a collection of short stories already published in various anthologies! Nevertheless, I am a diehard fan of the series (aka I cannot WAIT for more!) and loved getting to stave off my craving for a little longer. The wait between books can sometimes feel like forever so a little extra Sookie was nice. That being said, if you're NOT a diehard fan just looking for every last little bit of Sookie you can get, this will probably not be satisfying for you. The stories are pretty short (even as short stories go) and don't really have much to them. They feel more like deleted scenes from previous books (which I happen to like to watch in movies so that works for me). It fills in some interesting tidbits. You get to see when Sookie first hears about (and then meets) Claude. You also get to see her first encounter with Mr. Cataliades and her first run-in with the Queen of Louisiana. There's also a little bit of Bubba (and who doesn't love that?) and some insight into Eric's personality. There's also a part where you realize that Niall actually is a pretty cool guy to have as a great-grandfather (if a bit unconventional in the way he handles Christmas gifts...).
All in all I liked it a whole lot but will tailor my recommendation just for people who feel the same way I do about picking up every little bit possible. Enjoy these deleted scenes and I'll be back in May when the next book comes out!
Cassie isn’t like the other teenagers that she knows. She doesn’t even know any other teenagers. Her life has been spent entirely in the Arctic, accompanying her father as he tags and researches polar bears. Knowing nothing else, she loves this life, and polar bears have become her passion, too.
On the day before her 18th birthday, she crosses paths with the most amazing polar bear she has ever seen. He reminds her of the Polar Bear King, who according to her grandmother's legends, kidnapped her mother. Although she never believed that story, she did grow up without a mother. Come to think of it, her grandmother also disappeared from her life as a young girl. However, I digress. Let’s get back to the story. So, when she sees this bear she absolutely must tag him for herself, not only because he is magnificent, but also to prove that she is grown up and can accomplish things on her own. Cassie loses the bear, but the next day he visits her… as the Polar Bear King. She must come to terms with the fact that the fairy tale is true, and she is now to be his bride. Trying to dodge her fate, Cassie makes a deal with him. She agrees to be his bride in exchange for her mother’s rescue. Disbelievingly, her mother shortly reappears and Cassie must uphold her end up the bargain.
Bear is forced to leave her, with no explanation. This sends Cassie on a terrifying adventure to unexplained and unimagined realms in order to rescue Bear and in turn, restore the balance of the natural world. Her task seems impossible until she starts to mature, understanding the value of family, friendship, and love.
This novel is an extraordinary and unique read…great for those who believe in fairy tales, even better for those who don’t.
Looking for a book that demands rereading as soon as you’ve finished? This is that book. Set in a post apocalyptic world, author Nick Harkaway blends elements of road novels and Sci-fi with an Asian influence and as many twists and turns as a wild rollercoaster. The story follows Gonzo Lubitsch and his friends to edge of the civilization in an attempt to save their world. It’s a fast paced book that draws you into a world with a Go-Away bomb, a weapon that transforms the people that it touches…maybe they’re dead or maybe something worse happens. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again because the twists it takes would make a second reading seems like a whole new book. I did read it again, and it was even better the second time around.
After reaching the end of Breaking Dawn (Stephanie Meyer, Twilight saga) I, like thousands of others, felt a void and wondered what I could possibly find to fill it. While I am particularly fond of vampire stories, a vampire story alone is not enough to make a good read. I actually picked up Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side because my name is Jessica and I needed something quick to read on a break. As it turned out I couldn't put it down and kept thinking about it in between breaks and longing to return to the pages. It is written as a teen book but, like Twilight and Harry Potter, it is a great adult read also. It is not a romance in the traditional sense because Jessica resists her arranged marriage to Lucius right from the beginning. The story more tells the tale of coming of age in an entirely new way and becomming who we really are. The novel kept me guessing the whole time. With a great deal of teen fiction, I often find myself accidentally guessing how it will end but I was wrong every time I thought I had this one figured out! This is Beth Fantaskey's first novel and I hope she plans to write many more. So curl up in a comfy place because, once you start this book, you'll be there until it's done!
What if a group of influential politicians in Britain managed to broker a peace with Nazi Germany early in 1941, avoiding years of bloody war, but also allowing Hitler to remain in power with a sympathetic government in place in London? This is precisely the situation the world is in at the beginning of Farthing when one of the architects of that peace is found murdered at the Farthing estate, with a Star of David stabbed into his chest. Told from the points of view of Lucy Kahn, the daughter of one of the members of the Farthing Set who married a Jewish man, and Inspector Carmichael, the Scotland Yard detective sent to investigate the murder, what follows is a taut mystery, full of political intrigue. Jo Walton manages to deliver a terrific story that combines the best elements of alternate history with a classic country house mystery.
Changeless (Parasol Protectorate Series) If you haven't checked out the new paranormal series by Gail Carriger you are missing out terribly. The first book Soulless, got me hooked and this one was even better.
Alexia is a curse-breaker. A soulless preternatural that can render vampires fangless and werewolves tooth and clawless. She is married to the alpha werewolf in London and has some political prowess of her own. Using her smarts and a very interesting parasol, she matches wits with assassins and some very bad food on a dirigible. With her French maid, a suspicious inventor and the rest of her gaggle of friends and servants, she descends on Scotland to figure out the latest mystery plaguing the supernatural community.
This book does not disappoint. It is a page turner and you will catch yourself laughing out loud. Sleep is optional while reading this author. I don't think I can wait for September for her newest installment.