Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's the end of the world as we know it...

dystopia [dis-toh-pee-uh] noun : a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, , disease, and overcrowding (from

- an imaginary place where everything is as bad as it can be


What better to live the what if's of an apocalypse without having to actually live through the apocalypse?  I love a good dystopia.  They are gritty, bleak, and terribly depressing (an odd thing to love I suppose ??).  At the same time, they are inherently stories about hope and determination.  Stand up and fight back!  Be the change! (I might or might not have pumped my fist in the air with enthusiasm...) 

Putting on my Librarian hat, here are a list of popular teen dystopias to go along with The Hunger Games, Uglies, and school classic The Giver.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (IL - MG+, 690 lexile, 336 pages)
In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl. [4/5 Gnomes - Not my favorite dystopia, but exceptionally written with an intriguing, creative storyline]

Matched by Ally Condie (IL - UG, 680 lexile, 384 pages)
Cassia has always followed the autocratic Society without question. So when Xander's face is displayed on the screen at the Matching ceremony, she knows that they are the perfect mates. However, Ky Markham's face also flashed on the screen, if only briefly. Although the Society claims it was a glitch and Cassia knows she is to be with Xander, she cannot stop thinking about Ky. [4/5 Gnomes - Very much a love story, but also about tyranny, mistrust, and fear.]

Wither by Lauren DeStefano (IL - UG, 800 lexile, 368 pages)
After modern science turns every human into a genetic time bomb with men dying at age twenty-five and women dying at age twenty, girls are kidnapped and married off in order to repopulate the world. [3/5 Gnomes - This book gave me the creeps.  It definitely stuck with me days after.]  

The Declaration by Gemma Malley (IL - MG+, 930 lexile, 300 pages)
 In 2140 England, where drugs enable people to live forever and children are illegal, teenaged Anna, an obedient "Surplus" training to become a house servant, discovers that her birth parents are trying to find her.  [4/5 Gnomes - Quick and nail-biting read.  A definite must for fans of the genre.]

Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (IL - MG+, 790 lexile, 288 pages)
Fifteen-year-old Stephen, born after a war that left most of the population dead from influenza, goes to Settler's Landing, a community too good to be true. The plot contains profanity and graphic violence.[Still on the wait list.  Accelerated reader site notes that plot contains profanity and violence.]

Divergent by Veronica Roth (IL - UG, 700 lexile,  pages)
In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group. [4/5 Gnomes - One of my favorites of 2011.  Intriguing plot, familiar setting upping the creep factor, strong female character, and a touch of romance.] 

Rash by Pete Hautman (IL - UG, 730 lexile, 256 pages)
In a future society that has decided it would "rather be safe than free," sixteen-year-old Bo’s anger control problems land him in a tundra jail where he survives with the help of his running skills and an artificial intelligence program named Bork. [4/5 Gnomes - Love Hautman, and not just because he's had his picture taken with my gnome.  Thought provoking storyline, great for discussion, and easily relate-able.]

XVI by Julia Karr (IL - UG, 272 pages) Nina lives in a future society where an XVI wrist tattoo is required for all girls on their sixteenth birthdays, which announces they are ready for sex, a claim Nina is not ready to make. The plot contains profanity, sexual situations, and violence. [Haven't read it yet, but she has visited my library.  Wonderful lady.]

Ashfall by Mike Mullin (IL - UG, 750 lexile, 466 pages) Nina lives in a future society where an XVI wrist tattoo is required for all girls on their sixteenth birthdays, which announces they are ready for sex, a claim Nina is not ready to make. The plot contains profanity, sexual situations, and violence. [Another I haven't read it yet, but have heard great reviews.  Also a really nice, great guy that offers reasonable library visits.]

Feed by M.T. Anderson (IL - UG, 770 lexile, 240 pages)  In a future where most people have computer implants in their heads to control their environment, a boy meets an unusual girl who is in serious trouble. [The audiobook was fantastic.  Another great book for discussion, is our digital connection really as great as we might believe?]
The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchinson (IL - UG, 700 lexile, 256 pages)  After receiving a letter telling him he has 24 hours to live, Ollie is convinced by his best friend to use the time to try and set things right with a girl who broke his heart. The plot contains profanity and explicit sexual language and situations. [Maybe not purely dystopia, but can you imagine living in a world where you received a letter letting you know you were going to die in a day?]

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd(IL - UG, 690 lexile, 384 pages)   It is 2015, a time when global warming has begun to ravage the environment. In response, the United Kingdom becomes the first country to mandate carbon rationing, a well-intentioned plan that goes tragically awry. [Socially relevant; not the doomsday scenario as many dystopias.]

Friday, April 27, 2012

False Memory

By Dan Krokos
Available August 14, 2012
3.5/5 Gnomes

Miranda wakes up alone on a park bench with no memory. In her panic, she releases a mysterious energy that incites pure terror in everyone around her. Except Peter, a boy who isn’t at all surprised by Miranda’s shocking ability.
Left with no choice but to trust this stranger, Miranda discovers she was trained to be a weapon and is part of an elite force of genetically-altered teens who possess flawless combat skills and powers strong enough to destroy a city. But adjusting to her old life isn’t easy—especially with Noah, the boyfriend she can't remember loving.
Then Miranda uncovers a dark truth that sets her team on the run. Suddenly her past doesn’t seem to matter...when there may not be a future.

~Amazon Description~

I tried to write my own quick summary, but after twenty minutes of "So there's this girl, and she does this thing with her mind..." I decided to go with a nice description already created.  Science fiction can sometimes be tricky to explain, and I wanted this book to receive the justice it deserves.

So there's this girl, and she does this thing with her mind...Genetically manipulated teens are fighting an evil organization to save the world.  Even though it might sound a little familiar the writing is fast-paced, filled with some great fight scenes, and has intrigue around every corner.  Can you imagine meeting your evil doppelganger clone who wants you to use a power you don't fully understand to destroy whole cities?  Kind of creepy.

Following a theme of several books I've been reading lately, the story centers around a strong, independent female protagonist.  Miranda North can hold her own in any fight, especially when two boys are vying for her attention, and the boys, while protective, let her kick some serious butt.

On the surface, the plot may seem to follow a well-worn template, but the SciFi elements are intriguing and the action well worth the read.

If you like books filled with adventure, wicked weapons, and ninja like fight scenes this is a definite must.  You might also like:

Stormbreaker (Alex Rider series) by Anthony Horowitz
The Recruit (Cherub series) by Robert Muchamore
The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride series) by James Patterson

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 10 All Time Favorite Characters
Top Ten Tuesday (Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

My first Top Ten Tuesday!!  I'm super excited.  Probably shouldn't have waited until Tuesday afternoon to tackle the list, but hey, I'm a new blogger.  I'll get the hang of this eventually.  And what an awesome list to kick things off.

1.           Jeanne Louis “Scout” FinchTo Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

One of my favorite books of all time, and Scout is definitely one of my favorite characters.  Seeing the harsh moments of life through the eyes of child definitely allows you to gain some perspective.  She’s curious, inquisitive, and yet so absolutely sincere that you can’t help but fall in love with her.

2.         Meg MurryA Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

I tend to relate to the outsiders in books.  When I first read A Wrinkle in Time oh so many years ago, I immediately liked Meg and understood her awkwardness.  Something about the awkward, steadfast characters that tug at your heart.

3.         Ron Weasley Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Oh Ron Weasley, how I adore you.  I am not shy about my affections for the ginger haired wizard.  Though he has his flaws and insecurities, he never falters in his friendship and dashes headfirst into danger out of loyalty.  Ron always came through when it really mattered.

4.        Samwise GamgeeThe Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

The same as Ron Weasley, without the red hair.  Definitely the most loyal, brave, humble character I have ever gotten to meet.  I would definitely want Sam by my side on any great epic adventure.

5.         Augustus WatersThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Augustus Waters blew me away.  Funny, articulate, compassionate, sincere, adorable…this boy is everything in one totally special package.


6/7. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. DarcyPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

       You can’t like one without the other.  They might be my favorite literary pair.  Not original choice, I know, but come on, it’s Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy!

8.    Stargirl Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

       I wish we all could have a bit of Stargirl in us.  She lives her life exactly the way she wants, without allowing others to dictate how she should behave or dress.  She is beautiful on so many levels, and her courage to just be different blows me away each time I read the book.

9.    Skulduggery PleasantSkulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy
       He is a skeleton that is a detective.  Just about enough said for this one.   But just to drive it home.  He’s a sarcastic, witty, no-nonsense skeleton detective.

10.  Mercy ThompsonMercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
        I have some pretty heavy hitters on the list, so I don’t mind including my guilty pleasure.  Mercy Thompson is definitely my favorite shape-shifting, butt-kicking, supernatural heroine.  She’s strong, independent, and a magnet for trouble.  Totally fun.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Girl in the Steel Corset

By Kady Cross
3.5 stars

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret. 

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in. 

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.

~Amazon Description~

STEAMPUNK!  One day I will author a book, and it will be filled with steampunk awesomeness.
Really.  Does it get any better than evil masterminds, crazy automaton robot men, Queen Victoria, and a hot Duke?  No I say.  No it does not.

Finley Jayne is having a rough time with things.  One minute she’s all sweetness and sugar, and the next, she is a fierce fighting machine that can kill a man with a single punch.  Scared of her evil “other”, Finley finds comfort in the home of Griffin King, Duke of Greythorne.  Griffin is known for taking in outsiders, and he uses the special skills of his friends to protect the crown, and as luck would have it, a nasty mean dude is rearing his ugly head.

I really like female characters that can hold their own.  Sure, there’s a love triangle brewing, but Finley’s independent and strong.  Even better, the two men vying for her attentions treat her that way.  No uber-protectors in this story.  When a fight is brewing, send Finley to the front!

Cross has created a fun world that is close enough to the Victorian London of history that it remains believable.  The characters, even the somewhat shady ones, are likable, the fashion is spectacular, and the gadgets are wicked.  Plus, it’s just a good old fashioned adventure mystery.  And…it’s a part of a series.  I hate series.  I get attached and then I must wait.  And I don’t like to wait.

You might also like:
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
The Affinity Bridge by George Mann
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur G. Slade

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None
By Agatha Christie
4.5 /5 Gnomes

"Ten . . ."
Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious "U. N. Owen."

"Nine . . ."
At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.

"Eight . . ."
Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . as one by one . . . they begin to die.

"Seven . . ."
Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?

~Amazon Description~

I first read Christie’s classic in middle school.  I thought it was okay, but at that time I was impressed with little when it came to reading.  Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t enjoy it more.  I was an Encyclopedia Brown enthusiast despite my complete lack of deductive reasoning.  And Then There Were None  is like the ultimate who-done-it mystery.   Ten characters are introduced at the beginning of the story, and one by one those characters succumb to an untimely death.  Being trapped on an island in a storm with a killer is creepy enough, but the characters had this exceptionally creepy nursery rhyme following them around, basically telling them how the next person would die.  AWESOME!

Having a deep infatuation for a soothing English accent, I decided to pick up the audiobook and was very impressed with Hugh Fraser’s reading.  There was some difficulty keeping names straight, but Christie smartly gives each character a description (doctor, judge, spinster woman) so I was never confused even without having the names right in front of me.  My only complaint (and this goes back to Encyclopedia Brown and Sherlock Holmes), there is absolutely no way you could have figured out the murderer.  Without the epilogue like bit, the mystery would have remained unsolved.  Sure, I didn't feel like a failure for not having picked up on expertly placed clues, but trying to guess is half the fun.  I would have at least enjoyed the opportunity to solve the crime on my own.  That being said,  I am definitely going to continue reading from her vast collection.

P.S.  If you’re a fan of Christie’s And Then There Were None and you haven’t seen the 1985 cult classic Clue starring Tim Curry, you absolutely must.  And vice versa.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Syncopated Teen Books

Having attended at least 100 concerts over the years, books that feature music are some of my favorites.  They also provide some unique opportunities to connect reluctant readers to literature and plan some fun, different programs.  Here's a list of some great books that bring the rock.

1.  Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes
     (IL - Upper Grades, 800L, 352 pages)
A disparate group of high school students thrown together in detention form a band to play at a school talent show and end up competing with a wildly popular local rock band.

 2. If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
     (IL - Upper Grades, 830L, 280 pages)
While in a coma following an automobile accident that killed her parents and younger brother, seventeen-year-old Mia, a gifted cellist, weighs whether to live  with her grief or join her family in death. 

3. Amplified by Tara Kelly
    (IL - Upper Grades, 550L, 304 pages)
When privileged seventeen-year-old Jasmine Kiss gets kicked out of her house by her father, she takes what is left of her meager savings and flees to Santa Cruz, California,to pursue her dream of becoming a rock musician.

4. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
    (IL - Upper Grades, 308 pages)
Colby's post-high school plans have long been that he and his best friend Beth would tour with her band, then spend a year in Europe, but when she announces that she will start college just after the tour, Colby struggles to understand why she changed her mind and what losing her means for his future.

5. Born to Rock by Gordon Korman
    (IL - Middle Grades +, 780L, 261 pages)
High school senior Leo Caraway, a conservative Republican, learns that his biological father is a punk rock legend.

6. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
    (IL - Upper Grades, 760L, 320 pages)
While trying to score a date with her cute co-worker at the Scooper Dooper, sixteen-year-old Audrey gains unwanted fame and celebrity status when her ex-boyfriend, a rock musician, records a breakup song about her that soars to the top of the Billboard charts.

7. Beat the Band  by Don Calame
   (IL - Upper Grades, 600L, 400 pages)
Paired with the infamous "Hot Dog" Helen for a health class presentation on safe sex, tenth-grader Coop tries to regain his "cool" by entering his musically challenged rock group in the "Battle of the Bands" competition.

8. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn
   (IL - Upper Grades, 1020L, 192 pages)
High school student Nick O'Leary, member of a rock band, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to avoid his ex-sweetheart.

9. Fat Kid Rules the World by  K.L. Going
   (IL - Upper Grades, 700L, 224 pages)
Seventeen-year-old Troy, depressed, suicidal, and weighing nearly 300 pounds, gets a new perspective on life when a homeless teenager who is a genius on guitar wants Troy to be the drummer in his rock band.

10. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
    (IL - Upper Grades, 810L, 384 pages)
Isolated from friends who believe the worst because she has not been truthful with them, sixteen-year-old Annabel finds an ally in classmate Owen, whose honesty and passion for music help her to face and share what really happened at the end-of-the-year party that changed her life.

11. King of the Creeps by Steven Banks
   (IL - Middle Grades +, 169 pages)
When a nerdy, unpopular high school senior notices his resemblance to Bob Dylan, he leaves home for Greenwich Village, in 1963, to become a folk singer.

12. Things Hoped For by Andrew Clements
    (IL - Middle Grades +, 770L, 176 pages)
Seventeen-year-old Gwen, who has been living with her grandfather in Manhattan while she attends music school, joins up with another music student to solve the mystery of her grandfather's sudden disappearance.

Music Program Ideas

  • Create a playlist for your favorite book
  • Name that tune or finish the lyrics
  • Music mediums through the ages (LPs, 8-tracks, Cassette Tapes, CDs)
  • Rock band contest using random items for instruments
  • Create your own CD covers or concert posters for musical books
  • Recycled crafts with cassette tapes and CDs 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mike and The Fault in Our Stars

After several unexpected changes at work, it was time for me to take a few days off to regroup and regain my sanity.  The weather was surprisingly beautiful and warm for early April in Indianapolis, so I headed out on an outing with my parents to explore the beauty of the city.  After touring the amazing Crown Hill Cemetery, we found ourselves at the park surrounding the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  No fear, I came prepared.  With the sun shining and the birds singing, it was the perfect opportunity for a photo shoot with Mike.  

As luck would have it, the 100 Acres park is a setting in John Green's latest The Fault in Our Stars.  With ease, we found the statue mentioned in the book on a lush green hill.  Luckily, the area was nearly vacant, so I pulled out my trusty traveling companion, a copy of the book, and set about capturing the moment.  We only received a few odd glances and snickers along the way (something I am now quite use to, and truth be told, relish just a bit).

"Funky Bones", April 2, 2012, Indianapolis, IN
"We walked down what passes for a hill in Indianapolis to this clearing where kids were climbing all over this huge oversize skeleton sculpture.  The bones were each about waist high, and the thighbone was longer than me.  It looked like a child's drawing of a skeleton rising up out of the ground."
~John Green, The Fault in Our Stars, pg. 86

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Entwined by Heather Dixon

3.5 / 5 Gnomes

Come and mend your broken hearts here.

Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it’s taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
~Amazon Description~

This is not the first retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” that I’ve come across, but it might be my favorite.  Mourning the loss of their mother and distraught by the cold shoulder shown by their father, the king, twelve sisters find solace in a magical realm.  Many of the retellings feel like fairy tales, one-dimensional, lacking depth.  But Dixon’s retelling has a heart that took me by surprise.  The story was really about family.  And there is a LOT of family when you have eleven siblings.  Entwined is a story about hope, forgiveness, and healing held together by this oddly supernatural evil.  Azalea is a strong female character at the core of the book.  Despite leading her sisters to the wicked Keeper and harboring a bit of a temper, she understands sacrifice and elevates family above all else.

Heather Dixon’s Entwined is a perfect selection for fairy tale enthusiasts.  You might also like:

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (YA GEO)
Beastly by Alex Flinn (YA FLI)
Impossible by Nancy Werlin (YA WER)
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (Adult Science Fiction Fantasy CON)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

By Jennifer E. Smith

Rating: 4/5 Gnomes

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

~Amazon Description~

If I were the type of person to say “OMG” (Oh! My! Goodness!)  I would totally use the phrase to describe my infatuation with this book.  What single girl hasn’t imagined the serendipitous meeting of an attractive, thoughtful, intelligent young man with an accent while traveling!

Hadley is hostile.  Her father is getting remarried leaving her feeling abandoned and bitter.  Oliver is mysterious and harboring his own inner angst, but the two make a connection in the airport that starts a whirlwind of a day.  Smith does an amazing job of setting the scene.  She is an all-knowing narrator, following the pair around the airport, observing the witty conversations from a distance, and letting the reader get to know each character’s  pain and frustration.  The story unfolds in real time with smartly placed flashbacks to give the story context and substance.  Both Hadley and Oliver are likable throughout, which isn’t always a trait in similar stories.

I read Jessica E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight in a day, and by the end I was blubbering like a fool.  Definitely a tearjerker, but a sincere love story filled with forgiveness and the promise of hope.  Readers who enjoy sweet love stories, great dialogue, and chance meetings in airports will really enjoy this selection.

You might also like:

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (YA DES)
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (YA GRE)
Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott (YA SCO)

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