Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Carrier of the Mark

Title: Carrier of the Mark
Author: Leigh Fallon
Level: 12 and up
Location: YA Fallon

Within the first couple chapters of Carrier of the Mark I was apprehensive about continuing. It seemed to be following what I call the Twilight formula (Wait! Read the explanation before you decide not to read the book.) A girl moves to new place with her father, no mother in picture. The first day of school there’s a great looking guy that she is attracted to, but he acts weirdly towards her. Her new BFF and her associates warn her not to bother. There are rumors about his family. Then she meets his sister who seems to like her. He saves her when there is an accident. Sounds too familiar, but that is where this book continues on a different course. In Carrier of the Mark the mark has nothing to do with vampires or werewolves. Instead Megan, Adam DeRis and his siblings are marked as vessels for the four elements; originally created by the goddess Danu, who managed the elements keeping them aligned to maintain a perfect balance. Now that Megan, the fourth element, is present they must fulfill their true purpose. They have a protector, provided by an ancient order, The Order of the Mark, and a group called the Knox, who wants to take their powers for their own use. Megan has to learn how to call on her element and control it in time for the alignment that can only take place during the summer solstice, all without being found by the Knox. Oh, and she must figure out a way she and Adam can be together with fullfilling the 5th prophecy.

Bottom Line: Once I was past the similarities to the beginning of Twilight I found Carrier of the Mark to be interesting. The premise of a Celtic goddess who created humans to give her abilities to, a secret sect, the history of the marked ones and the Knox who are after them will keep you reading even if you aren’t into the romance between the teens.

Spy spy again true tales of failed espionage

Title: Spy Spy again true tales of failed espionage
Author: Tina Holdcraft
Level: 9-14
Location: J 327.12 HOL 2011

This colorful book is mix of comic type drawings and text with enough interesting stories and facts to keep reader’s engaged. You might not even realize you learned some history too. It covers ancient civilizations through 1985 and includes Greenpeace, Russian submarines, captured spies, and just plain bad plans. Of course spies sometimes have short lives so deaths are also mentioned, but nothing is graphic. The how hard can it be chapter is one parents may want to preview for younger readers as it mentions Mata Hari and describes how she was able to attract people to try and learn their secrets. There aren’t any details, but there may be a few questions after reading it.

Bottom Line: This book will appeal to anyone interested in spies. With colorful panels and short stretches of text it’s perfect for a browsing or reluctant reader looking for short interesting stories as well. It’s written with a slant towards boys, but girls can enjoy it also, I did. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to share the remarkable stories with others.

The Unwanteds

Title: The Unwanteds
Author: Lisa McMann
Level: 8-12
Location: J McMann L.

The Kirkus Reviews blurb on the cover of The Unwanteds is,” The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.” I would say it’s mostly Harry Potter as the leader of the country creates a dystopian world, but outside of their country the rest of the world is still functioning the same as always. In Quill thirteen year olds attend the annual Purge where the high priest Justine classifies them as wanteds, who attend university, necessaries who become the laborers, or unwanteds, who are shackled and put on a waiting bus for the ride to their deaths. The unwanteds are shocked when upon reaching the Death Farm and being turned over to the eliminators the entire area changes. They are welcomed to Artime by Mr. Today, an amazing wizard, who tells them they were unwanted because they are creative and imaginative which someone reported to the government when they displayed it. The government finds creative thinkers to be a weakness. In Artime the unwanteds have a chance to nurture and develop their creative skills as they also learn to fight with magic. They all know if they are ever discovered Quill will do it’s best to kill them so they can never contact their families. But what if you had a twin who made it through the Purge and was still in Quill? What would you do?

I thought The Unwanteds was a thoroughly imaginative story with characters that grew as the story progressed. I couldn’t help but feel for the teens as they tried to get past the betrayals that brought them to Artime and those that occur later. The family relationships will make you wince and silently cheer. Mr. Today was superb. He is the kind of teacher and leader we would all like to have in our lives. The magic is amazing.

Bottom Line: The Unwanteds has more magic than you can wave a wand at. You may wish you could perform some of the fantastic imaginative spells. Mr. Today is perfect as the wizard who gently leads the thirteen year olds on their journey of learning their creative crafts and reconciling their feelings for the families who let them go so easily. Join the world of Artime with the teens who thought they were going to their death and instead found a creative paradise. The Unwanteds will keep you enchanted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Beautiful Chaos

Title: Beautiful Chaos
Authors: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Level: Young Adult
Location: YA Garcia

Spoiler Warning: Beautiful Chaos is the 3rd book in the Caster Chronicles. If you have not yet read Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness, skip ahead to The Bottom Line. This review has spoilers for the first two books.

If you thought Lena claiming herself in Beautiful Darkness was an end to all Ethan and Lena’s troubles, you were completely wrong. Lena’s claiming has left the town of Gatlin on the verge of a full-scale apocalypse, sweltering heat waves, massive earthquakes and ravenous locusts are just a few of the things bent on destroying Gatlin. If that isn’t enough, Ethan is losing memories – parts of his life are simply vanishing from his mind – including the taste of Amma’s cooking. However, when the world is falling apart this time, Amma, Macon and the rest of Lena’s caster family is powerless to stop it. The caster’s abilities are backfiring and Amma is delving into magic darker than any before. Will Ethan, Lena and their friends figure out a way to put a stop to this chaos before it’s too late?

Wow, this was an amazing book! I enjoyed the 2nd book in the series but it did not entirely live up to my expectations. However, Beautiful Chaos, was a home run in every way. I was pretty annoyed with Lena after the last book. In this book, Lena is starting to develop a little more as a character and you understand her past actions much better by the end. You also get some absolutely fascinating glimpses into Seraphine’s past before she was dark caster and right after she was claimed.

Ethan is experiencing a multitude of problems in this book which lends the story its darker tone. The events of the last two books coupled with the plethora of problems he faces in this book help him to develop into a more complete character while simultaneously giving him a bleaker outlook on his situation. Through Ethan’s narration, you really sense the foreboding atmosphere descending on the once-peaceful town of Gatlin. Everything seems to be swirling hopelessly out of control and the stunning cliffhanger ending does nothing to relieve the tension. Have some tissues handy, you will need them! Now that my faith in this series is restored, I am happily looking forward to returning to Gatlin for the fourth and final book. It should be amazing!

The Bottom Line: If you enjoyed the first two books in the Caster Chronicles you will LOVE this one! All of the problems from previous books are nothing compared to the absolute chaos that descends on the people and town in this book. The cliffhanger ending is a little hard to take, but it makes sense for the larger story. Fans will ravenously devour this one and be waiting on pins and needles for the final book due out in 2012.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Level: Young Adult
Location: YA Lu

In the future the Republic of America, once known as the western United States of America, is at war with the eastern colonies. The plague is a constant threat, especially if you can’t afford a vaccine. Ten year olds report to a guarded stadium for The Trial, which decides if one gets to go to college and which one, or even high school. Others will be sent to factory jobs and those that fail are sent to labor camps never to be seen again.

Day is considered a criminal and the number one enemy of the Republic. His fingerprints don’t show up in any government records. He’s trying to hurt the Republic and help his family survive. He’s tough, resourceful, observant, and skeptical. He makes bombs, but doesn’t kill people or try to hurt them unnecessarily. He can emphasize and sympathize with others. He seems to be the complete package, combining the good traits of both Peeta and Gail from Hunger Games. He’s more up front than Four in Divergent.

June lives a privileged life with her brother, the only family she has, and attends the top college where at age fifteen she is in her final year. She has a problem following rules, but is totally committed to the Republic. She seems a little gullible at first, but that might be the circumstances of grief. She comes off as a bit of a brat at first, but she starts growing and changing early on in the story. She has the physical abilities of both Katniss (Hunger Games) and Triss (Divergent) plus some. She’s better at faking than Katniss and can figure out when she has been played in time to do something about it.

Both of these characters try to avenge a loved one’s death. Both are very intelligent. Imagine what might happen if they shared information and started connecting the dots when things don’t make sense.

Legend has plenty of action, a change to try to figure things out, suspense, and a bit of romance. A fan of Hunger Games or Divergent here’s a book for you! I really liked the use of a different font and color for the two characters. It made it easy to switch back and forth between the two narratives. The end of the story is a slight disappointment as it could be the end of the story, which isn’t a great ending, actually a fizzle after all the suspense, but it is also written in a way that leaves an opening for more. After all, can they really let the Republic get away with what they know it is doing now.

Bottom Line: Liked it, liked it, liked it! I’ve already recommended the book to three people while writing this review. By the second time I picked it up I didn’t want to put it down until I finished. Legend is a fast read dystopian full of action in what may be a series or trilogy. It has a strong likeable male character, Day, and a strong female character, June, who will grow on you as she grows through the book. Nothing is ever as it seems in a dystopian world and once these two stop fighting each other they uncover the Republic’s secrets and cover ups. Guys will like this one. For fans of Hunger Games and Divergent this is a must read (Unless you hated Mockingjay).