Category: Supernatural


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When we think of summer reading, we think of books we choose because we like them—books for fun.

In the past I’ve read long lists of YA books over the summer and have encouraged you to read some of them as well. This year I think I need to feed my soul with some not-so-light adult books that probably don’t have wide teen appeal. I will also be reading some books about bullying—both the cyber sort and the in-person attacks. (I listed choices in a recent post.)

Since I think you should pick some fun reads for summer, I hope you’ll read some YA books that are soon to be movies. Reading the book before you see the movie provides a good opportunity for you to compare and contrast two works; it’s a great way to think at a higher level without even realizing that your brain is working.

 Win-win.

 So many good teen books are coming as movies in the next few years. Here are some that I’ve read and reviewed:

 2013:

Catching Fire

(Second book in the Hunger Games trilogy)

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

The Great Gatsby

(OK, it’s an adult book, but teens read it in school, it’s short, and it’s great—

romance, betrayal, mobsters–all the stuff teens love)

2014 and possibly 2015:

Divergent

Graceling

The Knife of Never Letting Go

(first book in the Chaos Walking series)

Incarceron

The Maze Runner

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The Fault in Our Stars

(Yea! It will star Shailene Woodley as Hazel. No word on Gus yet.)

Coming as movies soon, but I haven’t had the chance to read the books yet:

Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austen, of course.)

Actually, I have had the chance to read this one,

but I didn’t like it, and I quit after a few chapters.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Have a great summer reading on your own and at the theater!

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Ontario City Library and Best Buy Children’s Foundation

are sponsoring another Teen Book Fest!

May 11, 2013

9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Merton E. Hill Auditorium

(on the Chaffey campus–next to the district offices)

211 W. Fifth Street, Ontario

You must reserve a ticket, but it’s free. Call 909-395-2225.

Doors open at 8:30. Come early and buy a book

so that you can have the author sign it!

This year’s authors include:

Carrie Arcos–Out of Reach

Leigh Bardugo–Shadow and Bone

Jennifer Bosworth–Struck

Jessica Brody–My Life Undecided

Stephen Chbosky–The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Sara Wilson Etienne–Harbinger

Suzanne Lazear–Innocent Darkness

Marie Lu–The Legend series

Morgan Matson–Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour

Gretchen McNeil–Ten and Possess

Gregg Olsen–The Empty Coffin series

Andrew Smith–The Marbury Lens and others

Ann Stampler–Where  It Began

Lex Thomas–Quarantine: The Loners

See you there!

Envy by Gregg Olsen

Katelyn Berkley dies in a freak accident. She is electrocuted in the bathtub when her expresso machine either falls into the water or when she threw it in. Or when someone else threw it in.

Katelyn is a ‘cutter’ whose many serious problems included an alcoholic mother. So is her death a suicide or an accident? Or maybe even murder?

Port Gamble is Katelyn’s home. It’s a seemingly perfect historic town in Washington with a lot of rules—the past has to be preserved—and a lot of secrets. It’s called “Empty Coffin” as a nod to an old tale about the mysterious disappearance of a body that was supposed to be buried at sea.

Katelyn’s death occurs just before the tenth anniversary of a horrific bus accident in which several Port Gamble children were killed. Thrown from the vehicle, Katelyn survived the bus accident only to later meet her bizarre fate in the bathtub. Two other girls, twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan, also survived the accident, but their survival was implausible. They had been plunged into a freezing river. They remained in comas for a month before waking. Now, no one talks about what happened.

While the truth about Katelyn’s death is surfacing, a nosey reporter is also uncovering some uncomfortable truths about the twins. Taylor and Hayley prove to be the snoops who take it upon themselves to investigate strange occurrences, to dig into the uncomfortable past. This seems natural for them. Their mother is a psychiatric nurse; their father is a writer of true crime books, a man who researches the lives of serial murderers; the girls themselves have a powerful paranormal connection and can visualize letters and words which they must deconstruct to get clues to the crimes.

Envy is the first in the Empty Coffin series. An important element of the book is based on a true cyber-bullying story. If you are one to follow big news stories, you’ll guess pretty quickly some of what happened to Katelyn—although knowing this news story won’t resolve the circumstances of her death, so you’ll still be in for some surprises.

Envy name drops many pop stars and current TV personalities, which may date the novel quickly. And some of the characters are one-dimensional. The twins are unrealistically sweet; opposite them is the super-witchy, egocentric Starla. She’s the school’s queen bee and cheerleading beauty, who had formerly been Katelyn’s BFF, but has dropped her for some reason. She’s the girl we’ll love to hate as the series moves forward. Still, the book is a lot of fun. It reminds me of the old TV series Murder, She Wrote because of the small town setting. But the twins have a lot more teen appeal than Jessica Fletcher. Maybe they are a super-updated version of Nancy Drew.

If you like quick murder mysteries with topical themes (like cyber-bullying or cyber-stalking), you’ll enjoy this who-done-it. If you are a fan of the Dead Is series, you’ll appreciate the paranormal element. A quick read for any teen.

Note: Author Gregg Olsen will be at the Teen Book Fest on May 11. Tickets are free, but to go, you need to have a ticket. Call 909-395-2225 to reserve one.

ZOM-B by Darren Shan 

Darren Shan is popular with kids of all ages. His Cirque du Freak, Demonata and The Saga of Larten Crepsley series have been bestsellers. He’s got a new series. And ZOM-B is the first book. Considering the nonstop action—the zombie apocalypse explodes about halfway through the book, but its beginnings in Ireland are described in a prologue—this is really a teen book, one that will appeal to even the most reluctant readers.

Sitting in front of the television in their London home, ‘B’, just like Dad, doesn’t believe that the zombie footage on the news is real. The zombies appear to be attacking a rural Irish town, and everyone in England thinks it’s just a stunt for a new movie.

As B, Dad and  Mum interact, we see learn a lot. B’s dad is a racist and a brute. He beats his wife, and B as well if B tries to stop the beatings. And B does try.

B is growing up to be like father. Terrible at school, a petty thief, a vandal, and a bully, as a protagonist, it would be hard to have any sympathy for B except that somewhere in that dark soul, there appears to be a kernel of light.

B has one Black friend and  keeps that a secret from Dad in order to avoid a beating. B harasses people of color (Indians—from India, not Native Americans—this is England—as well as Blacks) and Muslims at every chance, while claiming not to be a racist.

At a museum display about the Holocaust, B gets a sense of the horrors that racism can cause. B also acts heroically in helping a baby, who is Indian. While the rest of the community is giving B props, Dad tells him that he shouldn’t have helped any Indian, even a baby. And this is where a major conflict comes into the novel.

B both loves and hates Dad and can’t reconcile these emotions. And Shan does a great job of showing what this is like for a teen coming from a racist home with a brutal dad. In fact, I thought the tension in the family was better stuff than the zombie scare. But the appearance of zombies in London will force B to start connecting to all sorts of people if B and others are to survive.

This is a short book with black and white illustrations, some of which are of zombies munching on the students and teachers at B’s high school. It’s a super quick read and ends with “to be continued.” So while you’re having scary fun living through the horror story, you’ll also be forced to question prejudice. And you’ll be waiting for the next title to come out. Not bad for a few hours’ reading. Try it.

Look what arrived in both our libraries–book 2:

Days of Blood & Starlight

Come on over and check it out!

   Ethan’s family has lived in Gatlin, South Carolina, “the epicenter of the middle of nowhere,” for generations. The town is full of history and superstition, as Ethan believes can only happen in the South. The neighbors are obsessed with the Civil War, which they call (like many Southerners) “The War of Northern Aggression.” His dreams of a mysterious girl become reality when he begins his sophomore year at Stonewall Jackson High and sees Lena for the first time. And this new girl is special—not only is she a break from the extraordinary boredom of the town (finally!), but she has extraordinary powers.

Lena’s big problem seems to be that she is old man Ravenwood’s niece. As the relative of a shut in who makes ‘Boo Radley look like a social butterfly,’ she is prejudged as a social nobody. She plays the haunting song of Ethan’s dreams “Sixteen Moons.” She also comes to school in a hearse. But much worse is in store for Lena than being shunned by the cheer squad. She’s a Caster (think ‘witch’) and has no control over whether, on her sixteenth birthday—coming soon—she will be changed to dark or light, good or evil. If she goes dark, she won’t retain any compassion or love for others (that, of course, includes Ethan). It’s what happened to Lena’s cousin, Riley, a year earlier. And Riley is one scary witch.

Ethan is energetic, funny, and escapes the boredom of his town life through books. If he were a girl, you’d call him sassy. I related to him immediately. It’s fun that he narrates the book because Gothic romance almost always has a female narrator.

I’m pretty late in realizing that Beautiful Creatures was becoming a movie. I ran out and got a few more copies for each of my schools, and then read it as quickly as possible. I usually have complaints about Gothic/fantasy books because they repeat themselves so often, but not so in Beautiful Creatures. It’s a long book, but we regularly get new information and the story moves along. It’s true that a few big scenes are pretty straight steals from Stephen King’s Carrie (another big dance gone wrong!) and the “Harper Valley PTA” song, but I enjoyed the writing, the characters, and the setting. When people act out of character, there is a reason, revealed in the book’s climax. The fact that it’s multigenerational—information about Casters and Seers comes from aunts, uncles, grandparents—adds to the fun of the mystery and gives us more people to worry about when the spells and supernatural evil starts flying.

   Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry

So, I know this isn’t a real review because it’s a labor of love and I’m a bit overwhelmed (or not feeling the love—or something) BUT—

Still the best zombie apocalypse ever!

Before reading Dust & Decay, you should read the first title in the series, , because you don’t want to miss any of the action.

I don’t always read full series, even when I really like the first book, because my goal is to get students started on something they like and hope they will continue. I have to move along to other titles. But sometimes, I just have to keep going. That’s the case with Benny Imura.

We readers thought we got rid of Charlie Pinkeye, the Motor City Hammer and Gameland at the end of book one. But Gameland is back and this time takes center stage, with its gladiator-style contests of teens pitted against zoms—while folks who are otherwise considered pillars of the community lay their bets.

Something I was afraid was going to happen did happen. Heartbreaking.

Yup, book two has the same thoughtfulness about life and alliances, good and evil, and (some crazy) religious hypocrisy.

Oh, yeah. And epic zombie action. That’s right, even the surf dudes are getting involved. What next? On to book three, Flesh & Bone.

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I’ve just read a couple of novels from the Orca Soundings series–a series that I think of as high quality/quick reading. Pick up one of these for a fast page-turner.

Exit Point by Laura Langston

Logan can’t believe he’s dead. And what really shocks him is being told by a tattooed guardian and his (also dead) grandma that he has just taken the easy way out of life—that he chose to leave at the second possible exit because he didn’t want to work hard enough to get to the fifth exit, when he was supposed to die, in his seventies.

Logan’s grandma has a challenge for him. Before crossing over and permanently leaving the living, he needs to be able to manifest himself in a way that will help his little sister, Amy, to stay safe from “that rat bastard.” At first, Logan thinks the rat must be another nine-year-old who is bullying Amy. But as he realizes that it is an uncle who preys on Amy, Logan must figure out how he can make his parents believe him—especially when the uncle is well-respected, and Logan is someone they can’t even see.

Yellow Line by Sylvia Olsen

Small town prejudice between whites and Indians/First Nations people runs so deep in Vincent’s home town that things seem about the same in the twenty-first century as they did one hundred years earlier. It’s like there’s a dividing line—that yellow line that runs down the center of the road and lets you know which side to stay on. Indians on one side of town, whites on the other. Indians on one side of the street, whites on the other. Indians in one section of the school bus, whites in the other.

Until, Vincent notices, his childhood best friend and now very hot next-door neighbor, Sherry, takes an interest in an Indian guy named Steve. Steve is the biggest, strongest guy in the school. He’s popular, too. And Vincent is both jealous of the relationship and sad that he is losing his old best friend.

Still, Vincent isn’t exactly the school loser. He is a basketball hero—he’s only a junior, but he’s all-county and the best player at his school. But when conflict breaks out between Indian and white students, Vincent loses some of his confidence as some Indian girls continually make fun of him and his hairy, skinny white legs. One girl, Raedawn, tells him not to pay attention. Vincent is drawn to her, but his parents and friends, with their prejudice against Indians, would never understand.

With the whole school, and even the whole town, watching these relationships and doing everything they can to prevent them, it appears that there is no way out except through violence.

First Kill by Heather Brewer 

(First book in The Slayer series, a companion series to the Vladimir Todd series)

How would it affect your life if one night you awoke hearing noises from your little sister’s bedroom? You waited outside her door hoping she’d go back to sleep. And when you finally open the door, you find that she’s just been killed by a vampire who is standing over her and who touches his thumb to your forehead, erasing much of the memory.

Still—you know that a monster of some sort killed little Cecile, but you can’t get anyone to believe you.

If you’re Joss McMillan and your uncle is Abraham, you’re on your way to becoming a slayer, a member of a secret society that works to eradicate vampires everywhere. Once a slayer, you’d find yourself on a mission in the woods near a hive of vampires. You’d train to be a worthy slayer. This is no easy task as training largely consists of being dropped in dangerous and even life-threatening situations, and then being expected to figure out how to survive. If you want a hatchet or a stake to drive through a vampire’s heart, you have to earn it first with a kill.

You, dear friend, are in for a lot of action. To complicate matters, slayers are being killed, and it appears that one of them is a traitor.

And if you aren’t likely to live this scenario?

Well, it is likely that your interest in vampires has made you a fan of the Vladimir Todd series, in which Vlad, half human and half vampire, has enemies on all sides—including, ironically, vampires, who don’t want the prophesied half-breed Vlad; and Joss McMillan. Joss begins the series as Vlad’s friend, but he turns enemy when he learns of Vlad’s true nature.

If you’ve heard me book talk, you know I love Vladimir Todd. Although I’m a bit less enthusiastic about this first Slayer book, it’s for reasons that I don’t think will affect most teens’ enjoyment of the book. I though that tossing Joss into numerous situations where he could be killed wasn’t very realistic (and certainly not very smart) training, and though Joss is quite intelligent, he can be pretty stupid if the action of the novel requires it. But, honestly, the combination of Joss’s whippings, exposure to the elements, and general torment along with his refusal to admit reality in the face of all evidence does make for some crazy action, and that’s going to be appealing for all readers.

You don’t have to have read the Vladimir Todd series to enjoy the Slayer series, but if you have read Vlad, it enriches the new series.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Some of you have said you’re tired of teen horror that focuses a bit too much on romance. You want something creepier, but you’re not sure if you have the time to read the nearly 1,000 page Stephen Kings.

I have a book for you.

The Haunting of Hill House is creepy in the best sense. Jackson is known as a master of horror and plot twists. If you’ve read her short story “The Lottery,” you’ll have an idea of what she can do with the unexpected, the shock factor.

Here, four young adults are selected by Dr. Montague, an occult scholar who wants his research taken seriously, to spend a few weeks in Hill House. The house is reported to be haunted, and no one who has rented it has ever stayed more than a few days. Nonetheless, they always give rational reasons for leaving, as if they think people will find them crazy if they admit to the haunting.

Of the four young people, Eleanor, grabs the attention of the reader immediately. She had to care for her ailing, unappreciative mother until her mother died. She is bound to her sister and her sister’s family and must share a car with them. Eleanor, who has been selected to stay at Hill House because she had a documented event with poltergeists in her childhood, feels that the trip will be a chance to break free of the patronizing behavior of her sister and her sister’s husband. When they refuse to allow her to take the car, Eleanor takes it early in the morning before anyone else has awoken. The reader wants her to escape, and cheers her through her trip toward the house.

Once she arrives, she befriends the others. It looks like she is finally going to get what she desires from life. But Hill House isn’t haunted in the traditional sense of having ghosts. It is a personality of its own—and it wants Eleanor. Though all the others see the evidence of this, they pull away from Eleanor, accusing her of creating some of the frightening and bizarre episodes.

And for someone as fragile as Eleanor, dealing with the house alone is more than a challenge.

The Haunting of Hill House is pretty short—a few hundred pages—and Jackson doesn’t waste your time with extraneous detail. What starts as a very ordinary trip and an opportunity to find friends ends in spine chilling creeps.

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