Thursday, August 29, 2013

Monument 14

by Emmy Laybourne
“Your mother hollers that you're going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don't stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don't thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother...only, if it's the last you'll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you'd stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.” (Laybourne 1) All is quiet on this tranquil morning in  September 2024, as Dean Grieder and his younger brother Alex board their school buses in Monument, CO. The normal, yet rowdy atmosphere of the school bus is interrupted only by a torrential and violent hailstorm, and before the students know it, their bus has been driven into a nearby Greenway superstore and they are trapped. Fourteen kids of varying ages from five to eighteen need to learn how to survive together. And it gets much, much worse. Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14 shows what happens when a group of children from many different backgrounds, of many ages, with many different opinions on the world around them are forced to cooperate and make the best of their situation.
The novel is told from the point of view of Dean Grieder, a high school junior who becomes trapped in the Greenway with a plethora of fellow students. Just a few of those trapped with him are from the antisocial but street-smart Niko, religious tattletale Batiste, twin kindergartners Henry and Caroline, and Astrid Heyman, the blonde-tressed queen bee of Dean’s dreams. After the initial hailstorm, it is revealed that a gaseous chemical agent has been released into the air near Monument, and the gas affects people with different blood types in different and dangerous ways. The story follows the children and teens electing a leader, sorting out the little things like sleeping arrangements and bigger things like the water supply. They seem isolated, their only connection to the outside world being an outdated radio and the type-O affected crazies trying to gain entry to the Greenway.

         Not wishing to spoil the ending, but the book ends in an abrupt but powerful cliffhanger, perfectly setting up a sequel; Monument 14: Sky on Fire, which in turn demands a completion to the trilogy that is still in the works. Returning to the original novel, though, it was difficult to find many aspects that could have been better. Whilst other reviewers critique the characters as too stereotypical, it is exactly the opposite. Aside from one or two of the younger children, there isn't a flat character in sight. Each student is multifaceted, with unexpected feelings, opinions, and characteristics. For example, the popular jock Jake; somewhat promiscuous eighth grader Sahalia; and Max, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks; all are not what they seem to be. Monument 14 is a light work of dystopian fiction suitable for anyone ages thirteen and over. Teens and adults alike will enjoy Laybourne’s style of mixing bleak tragedy with raw emotion and light humor. Monument 14 is a rollercoaster ride of plot twists, surprising discoverirs, and sudden bursts of togetherness that will satisfy any reader searching for a new dystopian novel to flip through.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cinders and Sapphires (At Somerton)

By Leila Rasheed

Just as tomboyish Lady Ada Averley has given up all hope on finding a decent man and is dead-set on studying at Oxford, she meets a dashing young man named Ravi on her ship back from India. After their 10-minute encounter, Ada has had her first kiss and wonders if she will ever see Ravi, who is traveling with Ada's father's friend, again. Meanwhile at the Averleys' English mansion Somerton, the servants and staff are eagerly awaiting Ada, her sister Georgiana, and their father, Lord Averley.  What they are not expecting is the arrival of Fiona Templeton, who is to marry Lord Averley, and her three children. Sebastian, Charlotte, and Augustus are certainly not low-maintenance. In all this chaos, simple housemaid Rose Cliffe is promoted to the position of Georgiana and Ada's ladies' maid. Ada and Rose soon become fast friends and confidantes, for each has a secret that would tear their lives apart if told to the wrong person. However, Ada and Rose are not the only ones with secrets. Sebastian is worried that his mother will find out about his relationship with his valet, Oliver. Michael, the current love of Georgiana's life, is smitten with love for Polly, an Indian servant girl, which doesn't make Georgie very happy. And Lord Averley is keeping particularly quiet about just why he was sent back in disgrace from India.
With well-developed characters, fast-moving plot, and various story twists, Cinders and Sapphires is a wonderful read for anyone looking for a tale of lavish balls, evening gowns, and trail rides over mansion grounds. This novel is not unlike Downton Abbey, but is much more palatable with the teenage set than the show because of the lower average age of the characters. This is only the first in Rasheed's At Somerton series, and it leaves you hanging and wishing for the sequel.

Monday, January 14, 2013


 by Veronica Roth

After a few months of refusing to read another huge monster book of dystopian fiction, I have bowed to the inevitable and picked up Divergent.  As stated in the author interview in the back of the book, the idea for the setting of Divergent (a futuristic Chicago area governed by factions based on virtues) was originally Veronica Roth’s idea of a utopia, but she soon discovered it was actually at the opposite end of the spectrum. The five factions; Candor for those who value truth, Amity for those who value peace, Dauntless for those who value bravery, Abnegation for those who value selflessness, and Erudite for those who value knowledge; each control a part of society suited to their respective values. At sixteen, teenagers born into one faction find out their aptitude for each faction and are allowed to switch factions based on their test result. But when Abnegation Beatrice Prior takes her aptitude tests, her results are inconclusive, meaning she is compatible with multiple factions. These people are called Divergent, and they are a danger to whatever faction they are loyal to. Beatrice chooses to leave her faction to become Dauntless on Choosing Day, and she takes a new nickname (Tris) and a new life. During the ruthless dauntless initiation, she meets new friends, enemies, and the mysterious Four, an instructor who is not all he seems.

Most dystopian fiction is set so far in the future that items we use today are ancient in their world. In Divergent, however, things we use today like glasses, hamburgers, and tattoos are still relevant. This makes the reader wonder just how futuristic the book is. Another element of the average dystopian novel that Divergent lacks is the fraught love triangle. There’s not much I can stay without spoiling anything, bout those of you who think the whole Team Peeta/Team Gale deal is old, this book will be perfect for you. Divergent is thrilling and unexpected, with plot turns that will leave you gasping for breath, wincing in pain, and yelling with joy along with Tris. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction and coming-of-age novels.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Suite Scarlett

by Maureen Johnson

Scarlett Martin has no idea what just happened to her.  On top of that, the hotel her family owns, the Hopewell, is falling into disrepair. And, as Scarlett must frequently point out, owning the Hopewell does not mean her family is rich. Not by a long shot. That's not all. After two years of searching, her older brother Spencer has just snagged a role in an off-off-off Broadway production of Hamlet...under the condition that the cast can rehearse without Scarlett's parents' knowledge in the basement of the Hopewell. To Spencer's dismay, her older sister Lola is dating quite possibly the most blissfully ignorant old-money boy New York has to offer. Her cancer-survivor younger sister Marlene is acting like she owns the world (as usual) and Sarlett's friends are nowhere to be found.
Enter Amy Amberson, the middle-aged eccentric full-time Hopewell guest who seems to have become Scarlett's sole responsibility. Among her attempts to take New York by storm, Ms. Amberson takes on the co-directorship of Spencer's play and asks that Scarlett assist her. Scarlett doesn't mind though, because into the cast and into her basement comes hottie Eric Hall, the NYU freshman with a Southern accent and a knowledge of physical comedy that rivals Spencer's. Hilarity ensues.
Johnson has again astounded readers with Scarlett's down-to-earth nature and dry wit. Avid chick-lit fans will devour this book, as well as the sequel, Scarlett Fever (review coming soon!) with enthusiasm. Sparkling with romance, humor, and drama, Suite Scarlett is a must for teenage girls, especially those interested in city life or the theater.
Buy on Amazon

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Night She Disappeared

By April Henry

     The only car that Gabie Klug's ├╝ber-strict surgeon parents will allow her to get is a Mini Cooper. Gabie doesn't mind the car, because it lets her work delivery hours at Pete's Pizza, a small cafe in a Portland strip mall. One night, her coworker, Drew, takes an order for three Meat Monster pizzas to go. Kayla, the universally accepted senior and born leader among the Pete's employees, takes the delivery. And doesn't come back. It's only after the police have pronounced Kayla officially missing that Drew confides in Gabie. That maybe the kidnapper wasn't after Kayla at all. That the man who made the order asked if the girl with the Mini Cooper was working that night. With the help of each other, some covert sleuthing, and a whole lot of self-discovery, Gabie and Drew find clues that are almost certainly contradictory to the police force's idea that Kayla is dead, her body dumped in the rushing river and in the ocean by now.
     The Night She Disappeared is a mystery thriller that throws more than a few plot curveballs. Told in a strangely haunting 3rd person omniscient narration that gives the opinion of heroes, villains, suspects, cops, and victims in a poignant day-to-day style, this novel hooks crime fans from the first syllable and reels them in tightly until the last letter. Anyone looking for cliffhangers, suspense, and just a bit of romance should pick this off the shelves.
Buy on Amazon

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

the Son of Neptune Sinks....again.

NOTE: I was assigned to complete a book review for a contest. However, my English teacher made very specific qualifications for a good book review. Here is a more "appropriate" book review for the Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. If it doesn't win because it's negative, the judges don't know what they're missing.

          In Rick Riordan’s newest novel, The Son of Neptune, once again we follow the storyline of Percy Jackson, demigod son of Poseidon, as he discovers a whole new realm of demigods, the New Roman haven of Camp Jupiter. He has been brainwashed by the goddess Juno, and can’t remember where he came from, or barely who he is. At Camp Jupiter he meets an old friend and some new ones, and wins the honor (somewhat) of a quest. But this quest isn’t just any old quest. No, it has to be to fulfill a deathly prophecy (Another one? The avid Riordan fans among us might wonder.)  This time, the journey takes Percy to Alaska along with Hazel, daughter of Pluto, and Frank, son of Neptune to stop Gaea, the evil earth goddess, from rising to power and turning the world into chaos with the help of the innumerable beasts stirring in Tartarus.
          Another elementary yet addicting installment in the Heroes of Olympus series brings heaps of suspense, humor and more than a few confusing plot twists into the world of junior fiction. This book was quite well written, and I recommend it with reservations to fans of Riordan’s writing style. If you are looking for another mythological fluff read, don’t hesitate to pick this one up and devour it as quickly as the enormous amount of pages will allow.
          However, I must say that as a teenager, I think this book was a little generic. The first five Percy Jackson books were amazing, deep, hilarious, and emotional. These long, 500-page monsters are getting a little tedious. Die-hard fans, however, just want to see Annabeth and Percy have their back-together-again kiss. But we will have to wait until October for that, when The Mark of Athena, the final book in the Heroes of Olympus trilogy, is released. I’m not sure where Riordan thinks he’s going with his mythology phase, because avid Percy fans are getting bored. I also don’t understand which age level the author is going for with this series. The characters in the book are in their mid-teens, but the Lexile rating of the Son of Neptune (660) is the amount late elementary-level novels usually receive. It was a good read, but in all fairness, it was dull. This book occasionally had its moments, but I would not recommend it for any avid mythology fan. They will most certainly be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kiss Me Kill Me

Lauren Henderson

The first time one looks at the cover of Kiss Me Kill Me, they would think, oh, another dark racy romance novel. Ugh. Then when they begin to read it, perhaps because they are bored, or stressed, or just plain brain dead, they will realize what a delicately thrilling tale tart noir goddess Lauren Henderson has spun. The story revolves around Scarlett, a teenage gymnast, and her brushes with the in crowd. At one of their parties, she manages to woo the elusive-but-so-sexy Dan McAndrew. However, that’s where things start going downhill. It’s only after the ambulances have driven away, lights ablaze, that she realizes the full truth. When she kissed Dan, he died. Suffocated to death after the most exciting moment of Scarlett’s life. And according to Plum and Nadia, the reigning queens of the populars at the exclusive St. Tabby’s School for Girls, Scarlett killed him. With the help of Taylor, a P.I. wannabe, and Lizzie, one of Nadia’s cowardly worshippers, Scarlett finds out the shocking truth about what really happened that night on the roof. And all clues point to…dum dum dum…Plum. Or do they? And of course, Scarlett can’t get Jase Barnes, the super-hot gardener’s grandson, out of her mind. But she’s also afraid. What if he drops dead like Dan when she tries to make a move?
            With suspense, action, and a couple laughs pushed in there for fun, Kiss Me Kill Me is not the best book on the market. But it is far from the worst. The plot twists around the truth, red herrings are around every corner, and there are at least three sequels to look forward too. This book may never make the #1 on the charts, but it will definitely pique the interests of avid romance fans. It may not be as racy as the title suggests, but it’s definitely a page-turner.