“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.

“Life among Giants” Bill Roorbach

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published November 13, 2012. Algonquin Books (Workman Publishing). 331 pp.

This was my first Adult book in a long time and, while reading it, I realized why I don’t particularly like Adult books. It was WAY too long and WAY too boring.

Told through memories and present day snapshots over a time period flipping back and forth over more than 40 years, Lizard (David) recounts the story of his mother and father’s murders, his numerous sexual escapades, his sister Kate’s mental instability, his football career, his quest for revenge, and every major milestone in his very confused life. I wasn’t sure whether I was coming or going, and had to keep leafing back through the book to find out more information about something he had previously glossed over and which he was now describing in depth.

Overall, I thought “Life among giants” was confusing, uninteresting, boring, and had a very unsatisfying ending. I didn’t like it, but will leave it up to you to see if you want to Read It or Not.

“Emily’s Dress and other missing things” Kathryn Burak

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published October 2, 2012. Roaring Book Press. 232 pp.

I couldn’t decide if I really wanted to keep reading, or give up due to boredom. I stuck it out and can only say it was definitely not worth it.

Fans of Emily Dickinson may find some joy in it while those like myself, who barely remembered reading her work in high school, will completely miss all the seemingly obvious references to her poetry. In a nutshell, Claire is very upset because her mother committed suicide and left her to deal with finding the body. She didn’t deal very well, and is now in Amherst, Massachusetts (former home of Emily Dickinson) with her father hoping to finish up her second attempt at her senior year of high school. Claire finds herself drawn to the Emily Dickinson Museum, and spends her evenings sneaking into it.

While wearing Emily’s priceless dress, she is startled out of her reverie by Tate, her English student teacher. The two of them run out of the Museum, into the night, then spend the rest of the book trying to figure out how to return the dress. Hmmm. Has anyone ever heard of the U.S. Post Office? But, I digress…

Intermingled with what to do with the missing dress is the mystery of how Claire’s former best friend Richy disappeared. Clues seem to fall into place, but between all that was going on with Claire’s rambling thoughts, Emily’s poetry, Claire’s poetry, as well as Tate’s elusiveness, I had rapidly lost interest.

So, I’ll leave it up to you readers to see if you want to Read it or Not. I should have Not.

“Dead Girl Moon” Charlie Price

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published October 30, 2012. Farrar Straus Giroux. 263 pp.

After being sexually abused by her brothers, Grace runs away and creates a new life for herself in the small town of Portage. Mick has spent his life running from the law with his criminal dad. When they find themselves in Portage, he hopes to finally set down some roots. Loner JJ has lived with her semi-comatose aunt and drug dealer uncle for years in their tiny trailer in Portage, never having had a chance to make friends with anyone. She loves looking at the moon and naming its different phases, as it helps her forget her life and imagine a new one.

The three teens wind up living so close to each other they soon become friends. After a visit to a nearby river, they find the body of a young girl who had been murdered. Afraid to tell the police what they suspect about the murderer, they decide to leave it there and lie about what they’d seen. When lies don’t work they run away and, thus, become prime suspects. They don’t know much about who would have killed the girl, but the murderer is sure they know more than they’re telling. He is willing to murder again to keep his secret.

I enjoyed this murder mystery, as the clues often kept me in the dark wondering whodunnit? Readers ages 13 and up will also enjoy it.

“The Bridge” Jane Higgins

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). First Published in 2011 in Australia. Published in the USA October 9, 2012 by Tundra Books (Random House). 340 pp.

This dystopian novel places two groups of people at war. On one side of the bridge, in Cityside, live the privileged. In Southside, located on the other side of the bridges, live all of the poor people called Hostiles. The Hostiles have been at war with Cityside for years, seeking equal rights and treatment.

Nik has lived in Cityside all his life and has worked hard for the chance to be recruited by ISIS (the Internal Security and Intelligence Services), an elite squad in the army. He is the only one who has never had family visit him, and is understandably upset when ISIS refuses to recruit him, and seem to be quite upset when they hear his name. His life turns upside down when the Hostiles bomb the school, killing his best friend and forcing him and a few of the students to flee for their lives. When he gets separated from his friends, he finds himself in Southside.

While there, he finds much of what he’d been about the Hostiles were lies. Unfortunately, they also had their share of stories they’d been told about Cityside people, and Nik has a lot of convincing to do if he expects to be allowed to live. He wants answers to the many questions in his head about his past and the current war, but learns more than he’d bargained.

“The Bridge” has lots of adventures, shootings, murders, escapes, intrigue, spying, and all sorts of mayhem to attract even the most reluctant reader ages 12 and up. Higgins cleverly left the ending wide open, which will lead to a nice sequel if she had it in mind to write one. I hope she does.