Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“The Story of Owen” by E.K. Johnston September 22, 2014

The Story of Owen cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

312 pages; published March 2014

The Basics

Siobhan is a gifted musician. Owen is the youngest in a line of famous Canadian dragon slayers. Siobhan enters his life as his algebra tutor, but soon finds she had really be recruited as his bard, charged with the task of helping change the way the small community of Trondheim and the world behind see the work of the dragon slayers who labor to save humanity from carbon-emission-and-people-eating dragons.

Booktalk

It’s not easy being a dragon slayer. Dragons are ruthless in their pursuit of carbon emissions and people are idiots about not only making the emissions, but about the dragon slayers during a battle. Lottie Thorskard–once the most famous dragon slayer in Canada and maybe the world–paid a terrible price for the shortcomings of others. Now, she is determined the things will be different for her nephew, Owen, dragon slayer-in-training and high school students struggling in algebra. Using algebra as a cover, Lottie arranges for Owen to take on a bard, Siobhan, with the idea that she will use her considerable musical talents to shine a positive light on the world of the dragon slayer. Siobhan, Owen, Lottie, and the entire community of Trondheim are in for more danger and excitement that any of them could have imagined.

Random Thoughts

  • This book is droll and clever, but not quite as action-filled as I thought it might be for a book about humans battling dragons. On the other hand, the characters are completely charming and the social commentary is pointed and biting. It is more of a thinking person’s action/adventure.
  • Owen’s aunts, Lottie and Hannah, may be my favorite literary couple this year so far. I simply adored them both.

But Wait, There’s More!

The Story of Owen is book 1 in The Dragon Slayer of Trondheim series. Prairie Fire is due out sometime in 2015.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Smart readers with sophisticated senses of humor
  • Teens who want a little climate change allegory mixed into their adventure stories
  • People who want a teen book with no romance, but a true mixed-gender friendship
  • Aspiring writers who want to read something deliciously crafted
 

“Of Metal and Wishes” by Sarah Fine September 16, 2014

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:25 am
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Of Metal and Wishes cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

320 pages; published August 2014

The Basics

Wen’s life is disintegrating. After her mother died and she was forced to move into the compound of a factory where her father serves as the doctor, she gets drawn into the social tension that grips the Itanyai workers when 200 Noor willing to work cheap are brought in. As illness and injury grip the compound, Wen is drawn into the mystery of the “Ghost” who haunts the workers.

Book Talk

It starts as an angry impulse. Wen is embarrassed after one of the new, barbaric Noor workers lifts her dress and shows her underthings in the factory cafeteria. She impulsively approaches the shrine other workers have set up to communicate with the factory Ghost and – while also proclaiming her disbelief – challenges the Ghost to avenge her. When the Ghost grants her wish in a terrible way, the ripple effect of her flash of anger lead to death, social unrest, a budding forbidden romance, and the slow reveal of all the factory’s many dark secrets.

Random Thoughts

  • The author has taken the concept of the Phantom of the Opera and moved it to a startling post-industrial Asian setting. Her creative re-telling and the beauty of the writing create something deeply compelling.
  • This was an intense book. I was at turns enthralled and disturbed, thoughtful and grossed out.

But Wait, There’s More!

This is a series opener. Of Dreams and Rust is set for publication in August 2015.

I’ll Recommend This to …

  • Fans of Phantom of the Opera
  • Readers who love romantic stories
  • People with a high tolerance for gore
  • Older teens who love fantasy and dystopia
 

“Beyond the Door” by Maureen Doyle McQuerry May 24, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:37 am
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Beyond the Door cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

384 pages; published March 2014

The Basics

Siblings Timothy and Sarah Maxwell and an unlikely ally are drawn into a new adventure spun from Celtic myth.

Booktalk

The night started as a dull evening home with the babysitter Timothy James doesn’t think he needs anymore. But Timothy’s life takes an unexpected turn when an open door lets in living, breathing characters from Celtic myth. As Timothy learns why he might be the target of the hunt for Herne and his hounds, he also learns there is more than he ever suspected to The Clapper, his middle-aged babysitter, and to Jessica, the bully who has been torturing him for years. Drawn first into a wild and dangerous adventure on the ritual night of Beltrane, and then into a magic Market in a mad quest to save his mother, Timothy finds himself at the apex of the struggle between Light and Dark.

Random Thoughts

  •  This enticing middle grade fantasy covers a lot of ground – mythology, danger, bullying, Scrabble, family loyalty, fate, and evil.
  • For more patient and persistent readers than I, this book offers a wonderful bonus – a coded message in Ogham running along the bottoms of the pages.

But Wait, There’s More!

Beyond the Door is the first in the Time Out of Time series that is to continue with The Telling Stone at a yet-to-be-named date.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Fans of Rick Riordan’s mythology-infused novels
  • Middle-grade readers eager for adventure
  • Parents looking for “appropriate” reading matter for their teens
  • Kids who hope they too might have a secret calling
 

“Splintered” by A.G. Howard May 3, 2014

Splintered cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

371 pages; published January 2013

The Basics

Alyssa is a sassy, artistic skater girl and the great-great granddaughter of THE Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame. Tortured by the curse that has plagued the women in the family since Alice’s return, Alyssa seeks out the rabbit hole in a wild-eyed attempt to save her mother from irreparable damage in an insane asylum.

Booktalk

See, what you don’t know is that Wonderland didn’t come from Lewis Carroll’s imagination. It was a real place – a place Alice Liddell visited as a young girl, returning forever changed and forever strange. Her legacy has passed through generations of women in her family to her great-great granddaughter Alyssa Gardner. Alyssa is an intense, risk-taking skater girl, an artist, a vintage fashionista, and is plagued by her ability to hear bugs and flowers talk. She is pushed to the edge when her father decides to administer shock treatments to the mother who has been confined in an asylum since Alyssa’s childhood. Alyssa plunges into the rabbit hole, looking for answers and a way to undo the curse brought on by the mistakes of her ancestor. Her Wonderland isn’t so quaint and pretty as Alice’s. Accompanied by her “above-ground” handsome best friend, Jeb, and led through Wonderland by the disturbing and sexy Morpheus, Alyssa faces a psychedelic array of creepy and dangerous creatures.

But Wait! There’s More:

The sequel, Unhinged, was released in january 2014 and a third book – Ensnared – is expected out in 2015.

Awards/Honors

  • Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (2014)
  • Winter 2012 Kids Indie Next List (2012)
  • YALSA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee

I‘ll Recommend This Too …

  • LOTS of people
  • Anyone who loved Alice in Wonderland
  • Readers who enjoy fantasy
  • Teens looking for clean, but pulse-pounding romance
  • Fans of vivid, beautiful writing and strange, creative stories
 

“Etiquette and Espionage” by Gail Carriger May 11, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Science Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:50 am
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Etiquette and Espionage cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

307 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Sophronia has a special talent for getting herself into undignified situations and causing trouble. After her latest mishap  Sophoronia’s quite proper mother has had enough. It’s off to finishing school with her wayward daughter. Sophoronia’s horror at the thought of being “finished” into a proper lady is soon replaced with delight as she discovers that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is as likely to teach you how to poison your tablemate as to do a proper curtsy.

The Booktalk

Sophronia is not like other girls. She likes to climb and sneak and invent and take things apart and generally cause trouble. Exciting? Yes, but not a great fit for her proper Victorian household. After she manages to hit a guest with a flying trifle as part of a “modification” to the household dumbwaiter, she is unceremoniously shipped off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Horror of horrors for Sophronia, who has no interest in being a lady.

But she soon discovers not all is as it seems in the string of dirigibles that make up Mademoiselle Geraldine’s. After she is brought aboard by a werewolf and greeted by a vampire, Sophronia discovers that her lessons in eye fluttering and proper curtsies will be coupled with knife-throwing and the subtle art of poisons. And there’s a ready-made mystery to unravel. Sophronia is going to have an exciting year indeed.

 

“Poison” by Bridget Zinn April 2, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:41 am
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Poison

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

288 pages; published March 2013

The Basics

Kyra is on the run after a failed attempt to assassinate her best friend and the future queen of Mohr. As a Master Potioner and weapons expert who never, never misses, Kyra knows the attempt on her friend’s life should not have failed. And she knows – as only she can know – that Mohr will be destroyed if she doesn’t find the princess and finish the job. If only her life weren’t being complicated by the entire kings guard, one awfully cute little pig, and one distractingly handsome traveler named Fred who keeps wandering into her path.

Booktalk

Kyra is really just like any other 16-year-old girl. Except that she’s a super-clever and resourceful potions master. And a weapons expert that never misses (well, there was that one time …) Oh, and the best friend of the princess of the Kingdom of Mohr who Kyra recently tried to kill for very good reasons that no one else knows about.

But she missed (how did that happen, again?), which turned Kyra into a fugitive, on the run from the king’s army and just about everyone else. Her only companion is her weapons, her wit, her potioner’s bag, and a seeker pig that just couldn’t be cuter. Also, there is the matter of the devastatingly handsome Fred and his dog Langley who keep appearing out of nowhere and hanging around.

In fact, Kyra isn’t much like any other girl or anyone you’ve ever met or read about. Which is why readers – especially those looking for good, clean fantasy – should rush to get their hands on the non-stop action, witty fun, and wild twists and turns of Poison.

Random Thoughts

  • The sad part of this very enjoyable book is that the author died at the age of just 31 and did not live to see its publication. Her friends and fellow authors have championed her legacy in an amazing and touching way. I offer my thanks to Inara Scott – author The Talents and The Marked – for recommending it.
  • If I had better aim, I can think of times when I would love to have some of Kyra’s throwing needles dipped in Doze.

 

 

“Jinx” by Sage Blackwood March 25, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:47 pm
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Jinx cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

368 pages; published January 2013

The Basics

Jinx is having a pretty rough time. Born into a humble clearing in the magical forest of the Urwald, his stepparents (both his real parents have died) have decided that he’s a bit inconvenient, what with the new baby coming and all. So, his not-very-nice stepfather is planning to abandon him to die in the thick of the forest. Jinx is saved at the last minute, but unfortunately by Simon, who is a good cook and a decent-but-possibly-evil wizard who may or may not be planning to do something dastardly to Jinx.

Booktalk

The bad news: Jinx’s stepfather is about to abandon him in the thick woods of the Urwald to die.

The good news: Jinx has been saved by a wizard named Simon.

The bad news: Simon may be evil.

The good news: Trolls have carried off Jinx’s stepfather to his death.

The bad news: Jinx is now sort of enslaved by the wizard.

The good news: Simon makes excellent pumpkin pie.

The bad news: Jinx may have been the victim of Simon’s evil spell that has stolen Jinx’s ability to see people’s feelings.

The good news: He can still talk to the trees.

The bad news: Jinx has headed out alone into the dangerous Urwald to seek his fortune and solve the mystery of his missing powers.

The good news: He has found two companions to come with him on his adventure.

The bad news: Both his new friends seemed to be cursed … and intent on sending Jinx straight into the arms of the almost-certainly-evil wizard, the Bonemaster.

Will there be any more good news?

Random Thoughts

This well-written, clever, rollicking fun fantasy gives me the perfect thing to recommend next time someone asks for a romance-free story for a middle-grade boy.