“Vengeance Bound” Justina Ireland

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published Apr. 2, 2013. Simon & Schuster. 310 p.

VengeanceBoundWhen Cory was a young girl, she was kidnapped. Years later, she has vague recollections of that awful time in her life, only remembering that she had somehow murdered her captor with the help of The Furies. The Furies are sisters from mythological times, with the sole mindset of seeking revenge against all men who have committed both real, and imagined, crimes.

The sisters helped Cory escape so now they own her mind, body and soul. They constantly whisper in her mind, ordering her to kill and materializing at random moments. As a result, Cory has been forced to constantly move around the country and assume numerous identities. Sometimes she feels like she’s losing her mind.

Now that she’s almost 18 Cory hopes to be a normal teenager, but The Furies will never let that happen. Their murderous tendencies must be sated, and Cory is their vessel. Until she met Niko, Cory thought she didn’t have a future. Somehow Niko calms The Furies’ murderous thoughts in her head, and gives her hope that she can be free of them. However, The Furies don’t plan to ever let her go, and they won’t let anything stand in their way.

“Vengeance Bound” has good action, and will be enjoyed by teens 14 and older.


“The Loop” Shandy Lawson

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). Published April 30, 2013. Disney Book Group. 198 pp.

TheLoopHave you ever seen the movie “Groundhog Day?” If so, you’ll remember Bill Murray’s character having to relive every day as if it was Groundhog Day with very humorous results. “The Loop” takes the idea of reliving the same day over and over, but adds a dark twist.

Sixteen-year-old Ben and Maggie hit it big at the OTB, but never got a chance to enjoy their winnings because they were robbed and shot dead by Roy, a killer and career thug. Unable to stay dead, Ben and Maggie get to relive their day and deaths over and over, caught in a Time Loop. Desperate to change the outcome of what will inevitably happen to them at the hands of Roy, they try all sorts of ways to defeat Fate, but The Loop always brings them back to Roy and their deaths.

After weeks of living in the same, endless loop, Ben and Maggie have fallen in love but don’t seem to be any closer to changing their fates. It takes awhile but they manage to change some aspects and can only hope that, by doing so, they’ll be able to cheat Fate, escape death, and get to enjoy life together. However, they haven’t counted on Roy’s Time Loop.

“The Loop” will keep readers aged 12 and older, even reluctant readers, on the edges of their seats hoping that, this time, Ben and Maggie will outsmart Roy and The Loop.

“Strike Three You’re Dead” Josh Berk

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published March 12, 2013. Alfred A. Knopf. 250 pp.

StrikeThreeYou'reDeadTwelve year old Lenny, Mike, and Other Mike have been best friends for years. Mike and Lenny live, breathe and eat baseball, and know everything there is to know about their hometown heroes – the Philadelphia Phillies. Other Mike (so named because Lenny knew him after Mike), is clueless about baseball but is an excellent resource for everything computer and Wizard related.

With the help of his friends, Lenny enters a contest to announce one of the innings at a Phillies game. No one is more surprised than he when he wins. Unfortunately he never gets a chance to announce because soon after he arrives at the field and the game commences the young, but terrible, pitcher suddenly falls over dead on the mound. Lenny is sure he was murdered, and thus begins a slapstick dance between the friends as they set about combing for clues and looking for the murderer.

“Strike Three You’re Dead” is a good read for boys aged 10-12, as it contains great boy humor complete with ultimate farting and silly jokes this age group would find hysterical.

“Out of the Easy” Ruta Sepetys

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published February 12, 2013. Philomel Books (Penguin). 348 pp.

OutoftheEasyHaving read Sepetys’ wonderful book “Between Shades of Gray,” I was eager to see what “Out of the Easy” had in store. After I wiped my tears at the end, all I could say was “Wow!” Yes, it was that good.

Forced to grow up before her time, Josie was her prostitute mother’s bartender by age 10, and living on her own by age 11. Her resourcefulness enabled her to avoid her mother’s way of life and focus on one day getting a chance to go to college. Between her bookstore job and housecleaning for Willie, a Madam who cares for her like the mother she never had, Josie finds herself involved in a murder mystery.

Despite wanting to keep her distance from her mother and everything she stands for, Josie finds herself drawn into the murder of a rich tourist. Her mother and mob friends are the primary suspects, with Josie soon finding herself underwater as lies weave a web that threaten to pull her into the smoldering world of New Orleans’ seamy underbelly.

Sepetys’ historical fiction story of everyday life in 1950’s New Orleans of a Madam and her House is hard hitting and very emotional. Readers aged 14 and older will find themselves drawn into Josie’s plight, wishing for her hard luck life to take a turn for the better. Her pain becomes our pain, and her joy our joy because Sepetys has created a believable character and events that draw in readers.

2014 UPDATE: Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and on YALSA’s 2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

“Shadowlands” Kate Brian

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published January 8, 2013. Shadowlands #1. Hyperion (Disney Book Group). 326 pp.

ShadowlandsWhen I read the blurb on this ARC at ALA’s recent conference in Seattle and saw it was the first in a planned trilogy, my first thought was not to read it as I hate waiting for the next book in a series to be written. However, I recognized the author’s name from the “Private” series, having read a few of those books, plus the blurb sounded interesting so I decided to go for it. I was glad I did.

Rory’s cross country running and love for all things Science kept her sane after her mom died of cancer. Her relationship with her sister Darcy and her father was strained, especially when Darcy accused her of stealing her boyfriend Christopher who Rory secretly liked. He actually liked her back, but everything changed when Rory was attacked by her Math teacher Steven Nell, who turned out to be a serial killer. Unlike the 14 other girls he’d killed, Rory managed to escape. With the threat of his retaliation hanging over her, the FBI sent the family to a safe location under the Witness Protection Program.

With a new identity, Rory planned to put her former life behind her and learn to live life to its fullest in the sleepy beach town of Juniper’s Landing. Despite her intentions to forget about what had happened, she still felt as if she was being watched and kept having flashbacks of what happened with Mr. Nell. She also noticed the teens on the island kept acting very strangely towards her, almost as if they knew her. When a good friend disappeared, Rory felt the clues seemed to point towards the fact that Steven Nell was really on the island but no one believed her. It seemed as if Rory would be next on his list.

As I read, I had a few “Huh? What just happened? What the heck is going on?” moments, but loved how Brian gave glimpses into Steven Nell’s seriously twisted killer thoughts, as well as how she used the daily Island fog to create mystery and fear in Rory. She dropped a lot of clues hinting something was going to happen, but nothing prepared me for the cliffhanger ending. When I read it, I screamed “you’re kidding me!” It took all my willpower not to fling the book across the room.

Readers aged 13 and older will love this new series, and will be just as anxious as I am to find out what happens in “Shadowlands Part 2.”

“Envy” Gregg Olsen

Empty Coffin series , Book #1. Splinter (Sterling Publishing). 2011. 285 pp.

EnvyTwins Hayley and Taylor appear to be normal teenagers, but they are hiding a secret. Somehow, they have the ability to discover people’s thoughts, either in the present or the past, by touching objects, concentrating or through various other ways. When their school friend Katelyn is found electrocuted in her bathtub, the twins have a feeling that her death was caused by someone close to them. As they set about proving their hunch and searching for clues they find themselves in the middle of a mystery that concerns something that happened when they were just children. This event is alluded to throughout the book, but Olsen doesn’t get any closer to solving it by the time “Envy” ends.

I had read an ARC of part 2 “Betrayal” back in September and wasn’t too impressed with the series. However, now that I read part one I have a better feeling about it. In fact, I’m planning to reread part 2 in the future to fill in the gaps that usually happen when you read a book out of sequence.

The series is based on real life crimes with a twist of the paranormal. “Envy” is based on the cyberbullying crime committed against Megan Meier.  Fans of detective novels and the paranormal ages 14 and over will enjoy this series.

“Running the Rift” Naomi Benaron

Algonquin Books, 2012. 360 pp.

Running the RiftThis book was an amazing read. It follows the life of Rwandan Tutsi Jean Patrick, from his youth to manhood. Readers learn of his trials, tribulations and great desire to run in the 800 meters at the Olympics. We are immersed in the life and customs of Rwanda, learning of the closeness of his family unit, his deep love for his older brother, his love for his country, his love for running, the massive amount of training required for an Olympic dream, and his love for Bea, a Hutu. All are threatened when Rwandan politics get in the way of the peacefulness Jean Patrick had always envisioned for his life.

The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 comes to life in “Running the Rift.” By the time the slaughters have begun, readers have grown to care for the Tutsi people because of Jean Patrick, and suffer all his losses with him. Benaron has done her research very carefully, and exposes the horror of what happens when countrymen turn against each other in a mob mentality. Massive radio propaganda egged on ordinary Hutu citizens, along with their militia groups, which combined to murder over 800,000 Tutsi and any Hutu believed to have sided with them in a short period of time. Their actions bring to mind the horror of what happened in Hitler controlled Germany during World War II, and the resulting mass murder of over 6 million Jews. That shameful history of allowing one group to murder another just for being “different” should never have been allowed to be repeated. What was also shameful was that no country in the civilized nation, including the United States, lifted a finger to help Rwanda in their time of crisis.

I am sure “Running the Rift” will win some sort of award at the upcoming ALA Media Awards in Seattle at Midwinter. I will be there, at the edge of my seat, and will report back as soon as I hear what award it has won. I am THAT sure it’ll win something.

For mature high school readers and adults.