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The Outside – A Review

Posted on May 27th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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The Outside

The Outside by Laura Bickle

Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

The Outside is the sequel to The Hallowed Ones. This is a two book series about an Amish girl, Katie, who’s about to leave her community to spend a year outside, getting to know what the rest of the world is like before she makes the tough decision to be baptized into the Amish religion or to stay on the outside. However, Katie’s plans are abruptly changed when something horrible happens to the people outside her Amish community. Humans are being attacked by vampires and those that don’t die, are changed, forever seeking the blood of other humans, no matter what might get in their way. The gates to Katie’s community are closed. No one must get in and no one must leave. But what about the Amish who were caught out? How can they not let in friends and family when they come calling? And what about a stranger who arrives wounded? Katie isn’t sure what’s keeping the vampires out of her community, but she’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way, but she’s sure the stranger isn’t a vampire. He’s just a young man in great need of help. Her actions spark the elders in her community to cast her out, along with a rescued horse, the young man, Alex, and a mother from the outside who’d been caught in the community when the gates were closed.

Now, in the second book, Katie, Ginger, Alex, and the horse, now named Horace, are on their own, doing their best to survive in a vampire riddled world, where the darkness means certain death, and even holy ground isn’t always so holy anymore. Together, they fight the darkness, make new friends they never would have otherwise, and even lose one of their own. When Katie returns to her community, she finds that things have changed, and yet, not nearly as much as she has. Will she and her friends be able to find the answers and destroy the vampires? Or is this truly the end of the world as we know it?

Both of these books were super fantastic. Yes, there are some religious overtones, however, they aren’t there to hit the reader over the head with it. I’m not a fan of religious fiction, but I enjoyed learning about the ancient religions of the world as Alex tells the stories he learned in college. He and Katie have an ongoing debate as to what’s going on in the world, is it God’s wrath or a disease that’s wiping out humanity? It’s a healthy debate, as there might not be a true answer by the end of the book. I only had one problem with this book and that was that Alex’s original plans to find his family are aborted toward the end. I’m glad he sticks with Katie, but I’d been wondering about his family and whether or not they survived. I enjoyed the romance, and the fact that it wasn’t the usual romance seen in YA novels these days. Very well done. And last, but not least, this second book was freakin’ creepy! I’m not normally afraid of the dark, and I’ve read scary books before bed in the past. But this one, I was loathe to read right before turning out the light. Those vampires are like no vampires I’ve read about before! Certainly no Lestat, or Edward Cullen for sure!

I highly recommend this if you like creepy stories and a very light romance. If you’re not into religion, that’s okay too. You can still read it, and enjoy it. I know I did.

the hallowed ones

Forever – A Review

Posted on May 13th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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Forever

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Read by:  Anna/Central Library

Forever is the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy and chronicles the lives of Sam, who can no longer shift into his wolf form, his girlfriend, Grace, who is now learning to live life part-time as a wolf, Isabel who’s still not entirely thrilled with events as they unfold, and Cole, who has taken this opportunity to search for a cure.

Isabel’s father, Tom Culpepper, has gone to those men high up in the government that he can trust to get a helicopter raid on the wolves. He wants them dead for killing his son and several other teens. He wants the wolves dead. Now. The four teens, Sam, Grace, Isabel, and Cole, struggle to figure out what their future will look like post high school graduation while at the same time feeling lost as to what to do about the helicopter raid that will wipe out their family and friends.  What’s a part-time werewolf to do?

This book was just as good as the others in the trilogy. Even toward the end, the characters stayed in character. Those that did change, did it gradually and over a long period of time, keeping things very realistic for a book about werewolves. The believability of these books was something I really enjoyed. Reading this, I can very well believe that werewolves actually do exist. Of course they do. These are teens who are thrust out into the world on their own, struggling to figure out where they belong, and how to survive in a cruel world. It’s not easy. Yes, these teens do have parents who are also struggling with their own lives, but even so, the teens know they’re on their own. They can’t go to their parents for help because their parents wouldn’t understand. If you’ve read the other two books, you’ll know exactly why Sam doesn’t like trusting outsiders with the information that they’re not entirely human. Help does come in the most unlikely form, and when it does, it doesn’t take over the story. This new person doesn’t have all the magical answers, but helps them the best way possible. Nothing is perfect. And the romance between Sam and Grace, once again, was believable and sweet; a quiet assuredness that they’d found The One . It was great to see that in a young couple. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Isabel and Cole. They don’t really get along. And yet, they also get along extremely well at the same time because they’re a lot alike. It was good to see them in contrast to Grace and Sam. They were a good balance to the relationship spectrum.

In short, I loved this series because I love werewolves, I loved the relationships here, and I loved just how realistic these books were.

Incarceron – A Review

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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Incarceron

Incarceron by: Catherine Fisher

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

Incarceron is the book our TBOM group decided to read for March and April. Our final discussion of the book will be today, April 24th at 3pm in the Central Teen Room.

Incarceron is a prison. It is a prison that speaks for itself, feeds its prisoners, takes over the dead bodies, grows new ones, and ensures no one escapes, all from within. There is a Warden, but even he, doesn’t have complete control over the prison. Once, there was a prince, Giles. When he was only a child he was killed to allow his half brother to take the throne. And yet… inside Incarceron there is a boy who bears a birthmark that is a match to the one the prince had. This boy, Finn, is the son of Incarceron. He was born there, created by the prison three years ago. And yet… he remembers a birthday cake, the candles, a pretty girl he was set to marry some day. Are they one and the same? Outside, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden, is set to marry Giles’ horrible half brother and in the eventual death of the queen, take over. But things are not as they seem. Lies and assassination plots abound, and one can’t be sure who to trust any more. It is Finn’s  goal to escape the prison and find out just who he really is. But no one escapes Incarceron. It is Claudia’s goal to free Finn and his friends, to restore him as prince and free the world from the tyrant of a Queen, but no one knows where Incarceron is located or how to get to it.

When I first started reading this book I will admit I was very confused about what was going on inside the prison. It’s not a prison like anyone has ever heard of. There’s a whole world inside the prison, there’s weather, hills, rocks, barren land, whole cities with guards and rock walls surrounding them, forests, roving bands of criminals, mothers, babies, moving vehicles, animals, fake rats who’s duty is to clean up the dead bodies and garbage, you name it, it’s in Incarceron. Yes, weapons are there too. I didn’t understand this at first, and I wish I’d gotten a better handle on it right from the start. And yet, I will also admit that the opening scene is very riveting. It throws you in and scares you half to death. And so I was confused about how the prison worked at first. But the more time I spent there, the more it began to make sense and the more I wanted to know what was going to happen. Right up until the very end. There is a sequel entitled Sapphique, so there are a few things left unanswered. And while I’m anxious to read the next book, I’m also thinking if this one was just a little bit longer, it could have been a standalone novel. But, not having read Sapphique, I could be entirely wrong. We’ll have to see.

While I was expecting a bit of romance to color the plot, it doesn’t, and that was a relief. Too many YA novels rely on the standard romance trope these days that they ruin what could have been a good story. Not every novel needs to have a romance and I’m glad this one allows the actual story to shine. I like Claudia. She’s a tough girl who knows what she wants and is determined to get it. And Finn, who sometimes seems weak, rises to do what’s right when others wouldn’t. The Warden always leaves you with questions as to his true loyalties, making him an intriguing character. Though the Queen and her son, Jasper, do seem a little flat, the other characters quickly make up for it.

Yes, I do recommend this book. My only issue was in the beginning, as I said. Once I understood the world building, I could see just how fantastic and unique it really was, inside the prison and out. Then I was able to really enjoy this page-turner. Read it if you enjoy fantasy, urban fantasy, and classic fantasy.

 

 

Linger – A Review

Posted on April 16th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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Linger

Linger by: Maggie Stiefvater

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

Linger is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. Sam has been cured of being a werewolf. He’s human now, thinking about a future with Grace, the girl he loves. When a dead wolf is found, having bled to death, and Grace begins feeling very ill, things take a turn for the worse. Grace’s parents discover that Sam has been sleeping over more often than they would like and start to take a more active role in their daughter’s life. At the same time, Sam meets the last people Beck transformed into wolves, and nothing goes smoothly for the two musicians who don’t get along right from day one. Can Sam take over where Beck left off? And is Grace’s illness just a simple bug, or a werewolf trying to claw its way out of her?

This was a gripping second installment that I could not put down, just like the first book. Again, I enjoyed the way these wolves aren’t your typical fictional werewolves. While most werewolves shift with a full moon, or can shift whenever they want, these are trapped within the time frame of the winter months and rough spring warmth/cold. And yet, in this second book we start to see that that might not be the case after all. That perhaps everything they’ve believed all their lives was wrong. Nothing is ever easy. That sums up this book a bit. There is no easy solution at the end. We’re left wondering what will happen to each character. Whether Cole will become a little friendlier after interacting with equally cold Isabel, and whether Sam is actually cured of being a werewolf. I liked the fact that there aren’t invisible parents in this series. While a lot of YA novels just seem to skip out on having parents, this series does not, and I think it also portrays them in a realistic fashion. The teens themselves, have a lot of depth to them and are not flat characters. Grace wants a red coffee pot, as a symbol of her surviving humanity and her future as a human. It’s little mundane things like this that mean so much in the real world, it’s nice to see it mean something to Grace too.

Forever, the final volume in the trilogy will be one of my next YA reads. I wish I’d read Linger and Forever back when I read Shiver, but even so, I’m glad I finally did pick them up. So far, I highly recommend these books if you enjoy fantasy, urban fantasy, and especially werewolves with romance. But I do have to say, these books, while containing a strong romance between Sam and Grace, go beyond the romance and are about so much more than that.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – A Review

Posted on April 11th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor

Listened to by Anna/Central Teen Room

Karou is a young art student in Prague with ties to another world where she grew up as a child. Her father figure is  a demon who collects teeth, though for what reason, she does not know. She is caught in the middle of an otherworldly war, and yet, she’s stuck on the outside having no idea a war is going on. But when black hand prints start appearing on portals all over the world she begins to wonder what’s happening, until her curiosity gets the better of her. It’s then she meets beautiful angel, Akiva, and learns of a very violent past she might, or might not, have been a part of in another life.

Instead of picking up the print book or putting the ebook on my Kindle, I opted for the ten disc audio book. I have to say, listening to the audio book was a real adventure and one I will always remember. The first thing I want to say is that the narrator, Khristine Hvam, is super fantastic. She’s able to do so many different voices and accents for all the characters. I didn’t think that was possible. Just when I thought she’d exhausted her collection, a new character would enter the picture and she’d be off with another voice. Not only that, but I really enjoyed the sound of her voice. It’s got a real storytelling quality to it that’s great to relax and listen to for hours on end. Listening to the audio book also meant I could spend more time knitting, or doing other crafty things while a story was read to me. Yay, for multitasking with crafts and books!

The second thing I really enjoyed were the locations used in the book. Most Young Adult novels are set in some boring small town, or some fantasy setting. But this was set in the city of Prague for the most part, with occasional jaunts to other cities and places around the world. And, oh yeah, there was still that fantastical setting too. There was variety in the places and in the characters that we don’t normally see, which was a breath of fresh air.

The third thing I want to talk about is the plot. It’s interesting. There are angels and demons, but you’re not seeing them the way you typically see them in books. Both sides have good and bad parts to them. Individual characters are both good and bad. They’re realistic while still being fantastical. Because of this, you can’t really know what will happen next with the plot. Nothing is predictable. At the same time, I feel I should warn you that the book does jump around in time. A LOT. Be prepared. Especially while listening to an audio book where you won’t get the cues of an extra space between paragraphs or a symbol telling you something’s changing. This changing around doesn’t get too confusing. At least, it didn’t for me. But don’t let that keep you from reading, or listening to, the book.

Overall, I can’t recommend this audio book enough. I’m already looking forward to the next one!