Passenger (Alexandra Bracken, 2016)

passenger.jpg

Why did you choose this book?

Partially for the premise, but primarily for the cover.  So stunning!

What’s it about?

Teenage Etta steps onto the stage at the Met for her first solo violin performance with a full orchestra.  As she begins to play, she is interrupted by overwhelming feedback only she can hear.  Another musician grabs her and pushes her through a portal, where she awakens in a ship’s cabin with a frantic battle and roaring cannon fire overhead.  To give you the basic premise, the head of the travelers is a ruthless grandfather-type-figure who is holding Etta’s mother hostage and will harm her unless Etta returns in a week with an astrolabe that can be used to further his power.

Bracken has a fascinating premise in these books.  Essentially, there were four families of “travelers” who could use passages throughout the world to travel through both time and space.  These four families have now been consolidated into one under the power of “Grandfather.”  The passages are an intriguing idea.  The passage in the Met of 2015 leads to 1776 Nassau.  Passages only connect two times and places, however, so to get to, say, mid-1500s Damascus, travelers would have to take multiple specific passages.  It’s mind-boggling, especially because travelers have to keep track of their movements to avoid crossing paths with themselves.

Categories

Fantasy, teen, time travel

Other recommended reads?

Although it doesn’t have daemons, the portals in this book reminded me of those in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

Review

I started to lose interest toward the end, but it’s a smart and engaging fantasy.  I appreciated the fact that there were no magical powers and the passages were the only fantastical element.  It was also an intelligent read for teenagers and didn’t over-simplify, though I certainly wish that the characters had spent more time getting immersed in many of the eras to which they traveled.  The second book is due out next year and is entitled Wayfarer.

Up next?

Hot Attraction by Lisa Childs

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Pax (Sara Pennypacker, 2016)

pax

Why did you choose this book?

It’s an adorable novel about a fox!  What more need I say?  Those of you who read my review of Tor Seidler’s Firstborn know that I have a thing about books told from the perspective of a dog/wolf/fox.

What’s it about?

Peter’s father is headed to war and sends Peter to live with his grandfather until the fighting is over.  Peter’s father forces Peter to turn his pet fox, Pax, loose in the woods.  Chapters alternate between the perspectives of Peter and Pax.  Peter runs away from his grandfather’s house, trying to travel the hundreds of miles back to Pax.  Pax runs into a pack of foxes and tries to learn to survive in the wild.

Categories

Juvenile fiction

Other recommended reads?

I know this one is old, but one of my favorite books from childhood was Child of the Wolves by Elizabeth Hall.  The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford is also a good one.

Review

I was expecting this book to be a real tear-jerker with a heartbreaking conclusion.  I read it in one sitting, being completely sucked into the story.  But I didn’t shed a single tear.  I loved Pax and wanted the best for him, but Peter struck me as overly whiny and self-centered.  I also was bothered by the unspecific setting.  It was wartime, but when and where?  We don’t know.  Definitely a cute read, recommended for animal lovers.  It’s a little unique because the portions told from Pax’s point of view don’t tell the reader his thoughts, like many other books with this sort of perspective do.  It is also difficult for adult readers to believe, since no one seemed to try to find Peter during the weeks he was gone.

Up next?

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman or The Infidel Stain by MJ Carter

 

Violent Ends (Shaun David Hutchinson + 16 others, 2015)

violent ends

Why did you choose this book?

For many of the same reasons I chose This is Where It Ends (scroll down to read that post – it was 2 posts ago).  I was also intrigued by the subtitle: A Novel in Seventeen Points of View.

What’s it about?

During a school assembly, Kirby Matheson entered the gymnasium and began shooting.  This book doesn’t tell the story of the shooting, but recounts the lives of sixteen people and one object who knew Kirby at various points in his life.

Categories

Teen

Other recommended reads?

I’m not sure.  Maybe a nonfiction about school shootings?

Review

This book was infinitely better than This Is Where It Ends.   I really liked that this was a book not about a moment in time, but about a person and all of the facets of his flawed character.  I enjoyed getting to know the rest of his community and seeing the good in Kirby as well as the bad.  That being said, I still didn’t have a clear concept of Kirby’s motivation other than being an angsty teen.  I also didn’t have the emotional investment I wanted.  I wasn’t angry or sad or happy at any point in the story.  This clearly reads like a collection of short stories, since each perspective is a different author.  I liked most of the stories, though I thought having one from the perspective of the gun was a little strange.    A decent read, but not a perfect one.

Up next?

Stormstruck by John Macfarlane

This Is Where It Ends (Marieke Nijkamp, 2016)

this is where

Why did you choose this book?

There was a lot of pre-publication buzz about this book online and in professional journals.  Also, I took a class on the memory of catastrophe in graduate school, and it was quite probably my favorite history class of all time.  While the tragedies we studied were horrific and incredibly sad, learning about the different ways that individuals and communities treat the places tragedy occurred can be incredibly fascinating.  School shootings fall into the realm of such tragedies, and I was curious to read a fictional recounting of a shooting.

What’s it about?

The story is told over the span of 54 minutes from four different points of view.  The points of view are: the shooter’s ex-girlfriend, the shooter’s sister, the shooter’s sister’s girlfriend, and the shooter’s sister’s girlfriend’s brother.  Confused yet?  These interlocking points of view cover different aspects.  One person is outside the school, two are in the auditorium where the shooting starts, and one is outside the auditorium but breaks in to start freeing hostages.

Categories

Teen

Other recommended reads?

If you’re reading this because it’s about a school shooting, don’t.  Read Violent Ends instead.

Review

I did read this book in one sitting.  It was a fast read, but it wasn’t a great one.  I never understood the shooter’s motivation or who he was as a person.  He was just a stock character with a lot of numbness and rage.  I also didn’t care about the other characters in the book.  When reading a novel about any kind of tragedy, be it the sinking of a ship in wartime or a school shooting, I want to be emotionally invested.  I wasn’t.  I didn’t care which characters survived and which didn’t and I didn’t have that sense of needing to finish and to know what happened.  I could have put the book down, gone to sleep, and finished it the next day without constantly wondering what would happen next.  So it was an okay read, but that’s all.

Up next?

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Glass Sword (Victoria Aveyard, 2016)

glass sword

Why did you choose this book?

Because the rest of the series has been amazing!!!!

What’s it about?

Please see my previous post to learn about the amazing magic system in this book.  In short, Silvers (the ruling class) have magical powers.  Reds do not.  Until Mare Barrow appears, no Red had ever been known to have powers.  At the end of Red Queen (SPOILER ALERT), the kingdom has fallen into the hands of the evil second son, Maven Calore.  His older brother, Cal, and Mare are on the run.  They have joined forces with the Scarlet Guard and are on a mission to find other Reds like Mare with never-before-seen abilities, and to create an army to take down Maven and his evil mother, Elara.

Categories

Teen, fantasy

Other recommended reads?

The new series by Sabaa Tahir is another fantasic teen fantasy read.

Review

Oh my goodness so good!  That’s not to say that the book was perfect.  I think I should have reread Red Queen first.  But you find yourself rooting for Mare and Cal throughout the book, as well as constantly curious to find out about the new abilities popping up throughout the kingdom.  There were a couple of betrayals that shocked me, and it ended on a cliffhanger that left me uber frustrated and flipping pages to be sure there wasn’t more on the endpapers.  So good!

Up next?

This is a two-part answer.  If I decide to finish it, Ronald Feinman’s Assassinations, Threats and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama.  If I don’t, Court of Fives by Kate Elliott.

Cruel Crown (Victoria Aveyard, 2016)

cruel crown

I’m officially terming this my official week of awesome cover art!  Seriously!

Why did you choose this book?

I read the first in the series, Red Queen, last year and absolutely loved it.  In preparation for the release of the second book in the series, I thought it was time to read the prequel novellas, especially since they were released in print and in a combined volume in January.

What’s it about? 

Note on world-building: in this world there are two blood types: red and silver.  Reds are just like you and I, but silvers have magical powers.  There are, for example, silks (superspeed), whispers (mind control), magnetrons (control of metal), etc.  The silvers are the ruling class, while the reds have been the peasantry.  But the protagonist of the main series, Mare Barrow, is a red with a new power: she can control lightning and electricity.

The first novella focuses on Queen Coriane, the mother of the heir to the kingdom, Cal.  Coriane was a singer, meaning she could use her voice to control others (though unlike a whisper, she needed eye contact to do so).  This novella describes her life up to her premature death.

The second novella focuses on Captain Farley, one of the leaders of the Scarlet Guard.  The Scarlet Guard is composed primarily of reds, and aims to overthrow the silver ruling class.  The novella describes Farley’s missions prior to meeting Mare.

Categories

Teen, fantasy

Other recommended reads?

This series was one of my favorites last year.  Another amazing fantasy series for teens?  An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. The second novel in that series will come out this summer.

Review

I probably should have reread Red Queen before diving into this volume (I couldn’t remember who Capt. Farley was), but it was still good.  Not as good as the main books in the series, but good.

Up next?

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Salt to the Sea (Ruta Sepetys, 2016)

salt to the sea

Why did you choose this book?

It was on my TBR list to begin with, but my officemate read it and RAVED about it.  He said he couldn’t put it down, he cried five times, and it was amazing in so many ways.  With a recommendation like that, and an ARC in my hand, how could I not read it?

What’s it about?

This story is told in 4 points of view.  Joana is a nurse fleeing Germany, Florian is on the run from Nazi officials, Emilia is a young pregnant Pole, and Alfred is a Nazi sailor.  All four end up evacuating Germany on the Wilhelm Gustloff, a cruise ship loaded with 10,000 refugees and soldiers.  The ship was torpedoed and sunk, with around 9,400 passengers perishing.  It remains the largest maritime loss of life in history.

Categories

Teen, disaster reads, mulitple POVs

Other recommended reads?

It depends why you’re reading this book.  If you like World War II fiction, try Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.  If you like reading about maritime disasters like Titanic, try Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.  Both were among the best books I read last year, with Dead Wake being the absolute best nonfiction I picked up.

Review

I wanted to love everything about this book like my officemate did.  I thought Joana and Florian were too perfectly heroic and Emilia and Alfred were too flawed and annoying.  I loved learning more about the disaster but I wanted more information.  My coworkers bemoaned the loss of a good premise on a teen book.  I don’t agree with that – I think teen books can be just as amazing as their adult counterparts, but I do wish the author had treated it with more detail, respect, and research.  It is a great premise that just needed a bit more oomph, for lack of a better word.  I wanted to cry but couldn’t summon a single tear.  It fits into the category of good reads, but not great.  But can we talk about that cover art???? Gorgeous!

Up next?

Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard