Cress by Marissa Meyer


Cress by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles Book Three

Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (550 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Poinsettia

In this third book in Marissa Meyer’s bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Is Carswell Thorne the hero Cress has been waiting for?

Born a shell, a Lunar without power, Cress was given up by her parents when she was only days old. Sybil, Queen Levena’s second in command, imprisoned Cress on a satellite orbiting Earth and uses her hacking abilities to manipulate and spy on the governments of the planet. However, Sybil never counted on Cress caring for the Earthens she spends her life watching.

Cress is one of the sweetest heroines I’ve come across. Her harsh upbringing could have left her feeling bitter, but while she certainly does resent the way the way she’s been treated, she is remarkably optimistic about the world. Unfortunately, most of what Cress knows about Earth is from the shows she watches on her net screens. When she learns about Cinder and Thorne’s escape from prison, Cress immediately develops a crush on Thorne. She learns everything she can about him and imagines him as a misunderstood hero destined to rescue her. When Cinder and Thorne finally do rescue Cress, it is a dream come true, but can Thorne ever live up to Cress’ fantasy?

Cress is very naïve about love, but this feels realistic considering how long she has been imprisoned. Watching her discover how things work in the real world was bittersweet. I loved seeing the world through her fresh eyes. Everything was new and interesting to her, but the harshness of reality was understandably shocking to Cress at times. However, Cress is stronger than she looks, and I think she handles it all very well considering her situation.

Cress and Thorne make an interesting pair. Thorne has a roguish reputation he gleefully perpetuates, and he’s a wonderful character with a great sense of humor. However, something changes when he meets Cress. She sees him differently, and I think for the first time in his life, he wants to be better and desires to be the hero Cress believes him to be.

The pacing gets faster with each book in this series. Cinder’s team mismatched team of heroes is really starting to come together. The conflict between Earth and Luna is escalating, and Cinder and her crew come up with a daring plan, one that will surely awaken Levena’s wrath.

Cress is a thrilling addition to this series! I’ve come to care about Cinder, Kai, Iko, Scarlett, Wolf, Cress, and Thorne. I’m completely hooked on The Lunar Chronicles, and I can’t wait to find out how it will end. I’ll be reading the next book immediately.

What Time Is It There? by Christine Potter


What Time Is It There? by Christine Potter
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (167 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

Just over a year ago, Bean and Zak headed for colleges two thousand miles apart, promising to write, but to see other people … until Bean fell for the wrong guy and Zak fell off the planet. Now, Bean’s got two weeks’ worth of Zak’s year-old letters that she still can’t bear to open—and a broken heart. Her new best friend, a guy named Amp, wants her to read the letters and be done with it, but he may have his own reasons for that. When Sam shows up at Bean’s school unexpectedly and Bean tumbles into the 19th century from the cellar of a ruined church, things start making a bizarre kind of sense. That is, if she can just fit all the pieces together again…

On the surface Bean seems like an ordinary college girl, but she has a secret. She can travel in time. During her first year in college new events and people make Bean forget the love of her life and now she regrets it. Unfortunately Zak has now disappeared, although she sees him when she travels.

I found this story fascinating. What at first seems to be a straightforward tale of time travel turns out to be far more sinister. I love the way Bean’s friends play a major part in the story, those from her past and the present. From day to day events, to Thanksgiving and Christmas I followed Bean and her friends as they tried to work out where they were going with their lives. Bean has the added problem of where is Zak?

A good story, a little slow at first, but intriguing and fast paced once it gets going.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer


Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles Book Two

Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (452)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Poinsettia

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of Marissa Meyer’s bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Can Scarlet trust Wolf?

Scarlet has a good life living with her grandmother on a farm in France. She loves living in the country and working the land. Everything changed the day her grandmother disappeared, and Scarlet is the only one who suspects foul play. When a mysterious man named Wolf claims to have information about her grandmother, Scarlet is skeptical. Desperate to find her grandmother, Scarlet and Wolf form a fragile partnership. As Scarlet digs deeper into her Grandmother’s disappearance, she realizes her grandmother has many secrets, secrets others will kill for.

Scarlet is a great heroine. She’s smart, determined, and fiercely loyal. Even though the odds of finding her grandmother are slim, she never gives up. Her strength and persistence are admirable. She’s also very kind. Scarlet is the kind of woman who gives people a chance. This is especially true with Wolf. She has no reason to trust him, but Scarlet sees something good in him.

I must admit I find Scarlet and Wolf’s romance a bit strange. Understandably, it took them a while to warm up to each other. However, once they did, they seemed to have an instant, powerful connection. At first it didn’t feel very realistic to me, but I was warming up to the idea by the end of the book. I’m curious to see how their relationship will develop as the series progresses.

I enjoyed seeing more of Cinder in this book. She is slowly adjusting to the idea that not only is she Lunar, but also Princess Selene. A bit more of Cinder’s history is revealed, and it is heartbreaking. So many people risked so much to save her. That’s a lot of pressure for a young girl to live up to. I believe Cinder is up for the challenge.

I absolutely must mention Cinder’s new friend, Carswell Thorne. Cinder and Thorne find themselves stuck together in rather unusual circumstances, but they make a good team. He is thoroughly entertaining, and always knows how to lighten the mood. I can’t help but like him, and I look forward to seeing him again in the next book.

Scarlet is an excellent addition to this series. I really enjoyed following Cinder and Scarlet’s plots, and they came together beautifully at the end of the book. The switches between viewpoints are very smooth, and it kept the pace moving and the tension steadily building. By the end of the book I was racing through the pages. I will definitely be picking up the third book immediately!

See by Lee Ann Ward


See by Lee Ann Ward
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (221 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 star
Review by: Orchid

Carlie Henson is pretty, popular, and an All-American girl. She has a gorgeous boyfriend and a mother who lives to keep her safe. Probably because everyone is drawn to Carlie…including the murderers she has the ability to identify when she looks in the eyes of their victims. Keeping Carlie’s secret is pretty simple when all she has to do is avoid dead people. But when a cheerleader at her high school is murdered and the killer seems to have gotten away with it, Carlie knows what she has to do. With the help of her boyfriend, Dillon, she devises a plan to see what she must, no matter her personal safety. But when Dillon is the one who’s injured in the showdown with the killer, Carlie vows to never help anyone again…until the next young woman attacked is her best friend, Jenna.

A nice, scary story which had me sitting on the edge of my seat wondering whether Carlie would survive her psychic abilities. How does an almost sixteen year old cope with being able to see a murderers face in the eyes of his victim? Scary enough, but the murderer is also drawn to her by some sort of psychic link.

I liked the way Carlie’s life carried on despite her need to either hide her abilities or put them to good use. Despite telling her boyfriend Dillon she will not lie to him, she does and justifies it by saying it’s for the best, but then has to face the consequences.

The author paints a great character picture of Carlie and Dillon, plus her new friend Jenna. The story has a nice balance between the normal life of a teenager who’s trying to come to terms with her parents divorce, and wanting to help with the nastiness that’s going on around her.

I have to admit, at first I didn’t think I’d like this story, but as I got further into the book it hooked me, making me want to find out what happened next. Good book, satisfying ending and well written.

Book or Bell? by Chris Barton


Book or Bell? by Chris Barton
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The first page has Henry hooked.

The second page has him captivated.

The third page . . .

BBBBRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGGG!

. . . will have to wait.

That is, unless Henry ignores the bell, stays put, and keeps on reading the most awesome book.

By not springing up with the ringing of the bell, Henry sets off a chain reaction unlike anything his school or town has ever seen. Luckily, Mayor Wise, Governor Bright, and Senator Brilliant know exactly what the situation calls for:

A louder bell. MUCH louder.

With this hilarious, high-energy satire from bestselling author Chris Barton and illustrator Ashley Spires, readers will be cheering louder still as one of their own continues to just stay put.

What could be worse than being interrupted in the middle of reading a great book?

The chain reaction that Henry set off by refusing to stop reading was incredibly creative. At one point in the plot, words were actually blown off of a whiteboard as a consequence of his choice. This was only one example of the many imaginative things that happened in this story, and the rest of the consequences became even more outlandish over time.

The ending was one of the most original endings I’ve ever read in this genre. While I liked it quite a bit, I do wish that the last scene had focused a little more on Henry. It would have been nice to know if my theory about when and why he’d stand up and rejoin his classmates would turn out to be the correct one. With that being said, this was a very minor criticism of something I’d happily read over and over again.

Seeing how the adults reacted to Henry’s stubborn refusal to stop reading was one of the best parts of the storyline. They were so shocked by his behavior that they ended up doing all kinds of wacky things that were totally out of character for teachers and other authority figures. The sillier their antics became, the more curious I was to find out what they’d try next in order to get him to listen to them.

Book or Bell? kept me laughing from the first scene until the last one. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Be Brave, Little Penguin by Giles Andreae


Be Brave, Little Penguin by Giles Andreae
Publisher: Orchard Books
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (42 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Little Penguin Pip-Pip would love to join in with all his friends swimming in the sea, but there’s just one problem . . . he’s scared of water. Can Pip-Pip overcome his fears and finally take the plunge? This irresistible story shows that sometimes all it takes is a little bit of encouragement — and a whole lot of heart — to finally make that leap and be BRAVE!

Be Brave, Little Penguin is the eagerly awaited new picture book from the creators of the bestselling Giraffes Can’t Dance. Written in true Giles Andreae style, this feel-good rhyming story portrays a positive message of confidence and self-esteem. Illustrations filled with humor and warmth by Guy Parker-Rees will help make this touching tale a family favorite.

 

Everyone gets scared sometimes.

This story was full of empathy. Not only was the audience given the chance to understand why Pip-Pip was so afraid of jumping into the water, the narrator also talked about the fact that everyone is frightened of something at some point in their lives. It was a brief message, but it was also an important one. Feeling alone can be one of the worst parts for someone who needs to admit that they’re afraid of something. The sooner kids realize how common this is, the better off they will be.

There was a scene early on where Pip-Pip was teased for being too frightened to jump into the ocean. While the taunts were mild and ended pretty quickly, I do wish the other penguins had been a little nicer to Pip-Pip. This was an incredibly minor complaint, but the inclusion of this scene would make me a little hesitant to recommend this book to kids whose anxiety includes thoughts about other kids making fun of them.

With that being said, I adored the way this character’s parents reacted to his fears. They were so warm and supportive of him while also encouraging him to find out if the things that made him worry were actually likely to happen. I also appreciated the way Pip-Pip’s mother taught him to imagine happy things happening to him instead of only focusing on what could go wrong.

Be Brave, Little Penguin is a must-read for anyone who has ever been worried about trying something new.

The Girl Before by Cassandra Jamison


The Girl Before by Cassandra Jamison
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short (137 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Miley has only one year left in the foster system and is sent to finish it in the home of an older couple, Anne and Clive Winchester, who are still coping with the death of their sixteen-year-old daughter. Miley is soon drawn into deadly mind games and deception that make it clear that they have their sights set on more than just replacing their deceased daughter. Hidden secrets within the home and chilling revelations about their past bring Miley’s worst nightmare to life.

Miley Fairchild arrives at her new foster home and immediately feels something is not quite right. The man of the house gives out strict punishment for misdemeanors while the woman seems to be trying to make Miley into the daughter she lost.

Things grow even weirder when she discovers the couple have a son who is never mentioned. He’s on the local police force and seems quite friendly. It’s always difficult to make friends in a new school, but some of the students go out of their way to make things unpleasant.

This book is quite intense and has a really unexpected twist The plot is hidden behind a well written story and as the reader I was never quite sure whether I had worked out what was happening., Every time I thought I’d got it right, something else happened and I wondered if Miley was imagining her trials, but then something proved she wasn’t. Definitely a book to keep me on my toes about what’s going on.

Good book, a little gruesome in parts, but definitely a book that took me into the story and kept my attention.

Oh Susannah: Things That Go Bump by Carole P. Roman


Oh Susannah: Things That Go Bump by Carole P. Roman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, suspense
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Xeranthemum

Susannah Maya Logan is not having a good day. She doesn’t want to go to her best friend, Lola’s sleepover. Susannah thinks the house is big and spooky, not to mention the ghost that is said to live there. Lola’s big brother, Kai, loves to tease Susannah with scary stories. Throughout her day, she sees people deal with things that scare them. Her sight-impaired friend, Macy, is terrified of unicorns, of all things. She sees a boy at a party who’s frightened of clowns. Her teacher is afraid of getting a cold. Susannah realizes everybody is scared of something. She wishes she was more like Lola, who is not afraid of anything, or so it seems. Susannah discovers people have different ideas of what is scary and what is not, and only they can determine the difference. Join Susannah as she learns to confront her fears and not let her imagination prevent her from having fun.

Adults that remember Alfred Hitchcock’s belief ‘The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement” can also relate it to young children, especially those that are on the verge of awakening to the bigger world and all its linguistic complexities. We take things for granted; our allusions, metaphors and colloquialisms and idioms. Those are big words to explain that what you hear isn’t always what is meant. Susannah, the heroine of Things That Go Bump learns firsthand how scary life can be as her imagination fills in the gaps for things she doesn’t understand, is worried about or is unknown. This little novella reminded me that our tendency to fear those kinds of things don’t necessarily go away just because we ‘grow up’.

I get the impression that Susannah is a lot braver than she gives herself credit for. She questions even when she’s nervous or confused at times, and her best friend’s brother can sometimes be a huge pain in the neck. I think Kai has figured out how much fun it is to tease Susannah because of her reactions. He’s a typical boy who means no harm; he’s just mischievous with a heightened sense of fun that gets carried away now and again. There is a grin worthy payback at some point in the story and I enjoyed that scene.

I really liked Things That Go Bump and I think it’s great for kids to read, or adults to read with their children because it shows and explains how what we take for granted, what we think is ordinary, isn’t so for kids just learning about how the world works, making even simple things big and scary. I enjoyed the ending when Susannah finally faces her fears about sleeping over at Lola’s house and eventually comes to the realization, after a bit of excitement, that everything is going to be alright. The wrap up made me feel good and assured me that Susannah is going to be just fine.

I wish this book had been available when my own kids were younger; I would have absolutely shared it with them. That’s the best recommendation I can give.

Day Moon by Brett Armstrong


Day Moon by Brett Armstrong
Tomorrow’s Edge Book One

Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Inspirational, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (376 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stargazer

BoM LASR YA copy

In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global soft-ware initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

In making the world accessible for everyone-sometimes there are those who manipulate that accessibility to ensure their own motives are achieved.

Day Moon is an extraordinarily written book that follows Elliott, a college student, working on adding written books to Project Alexandria, a computer system designed to make all human knowledge accessible to all throughout the world. Through the course of his work, Elliott begins to notice that an original copy he possesses of Shakespeare’s plays is startlingly different than the electronic copy in Project Alexandria. It is not a huge jump to realize that there are those that would alter human records to reflect a different body of knowledge than one currently possessed.

I love the mystery and suspense surrounding Elliott. The plot unfolds so smoothly and seamlessly that it envelopes the reader in mystery and suspense without the overtones of immediate suspense. The strengthening and breaking of friendships between Elliott and his friends throughout the journey also leads to must suspense and suspicion. In a world where science and electronics have all but pushed out religion, Elliott finds himself looking deeper and deeper inward to understand the various riddles within Project Alexandria.

The dialogue is strong and the descriptions are thorough; in fact, some of the best character interaction involves the look or action rather than words. Brett Armstrong shows a definite understanding and appreciation for human communication, especially when cloaked within suspicion. The story is not overly violent or graphic, but finds the right amount of description and suspense to catch the reader and propel them into the story without going over the top.

The reality behind Day Moon is one that should seriously be considered since the similarities with our own technology and records certainly follow a similar path to the one described within Day Moon. The technological impact within the society and culture of the story could very well be on the horizon for our own society as well. While Day Moon is the first of the Tomorrow’s Edge Trilogy, it ends at a point that leaves the reader desiring to go to the next book, but not feeling unfulfilled as some trilogies do. It stops at a point that is perfect to give the reader an opportunity to pause, catch their breath, and then make the move to pick up the next in the trilogy!

If you are into an enveloping suspense story that shows you what could be with just a hint of human manipulation, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Day Moon!

Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer


Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (185 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Within the walls of the Bastion, it’s an honor to become a host for an Unending—the bodiless, immortal spirits who rule the country. But for Faye, it meant her sister would have to die. When Faye sneaks into the Mother Duchess’s manor, she just wanted to see her sister one last time. Instead, Faye finds a manor in chaos, a murdered man, and an Unending assassin named Aris who needs a new body—Faye’s body—to bring the Bastion to its knees. Now Faye’s harboring the Bastion’s most wanted criminal. And if she wants to live, she’ll have to escape the Duchess and her immortals, all while keeping Aris from harming anyone else. There’s just one problem—Aris is not the villain. And now Faye is the only one who can help her stop the Duchess before anyone else—and especially Faye—has to die for the Unendings’ whims.

Faye just wanted to say goodbye.

The Unending rule Faye’s world, but she never imagined that her sister would be claimed by one. Everything happens quickly and Justine is whisked away before Faye’s had a chance to properly say goodbye. Sneaking into the manor brings her face to face with Aris, the mad immortal. Is Aris really the villain, or is something sinister going on in the Mother Duchess’ manor? Will Faye discover the truth or is she simply a pawn in an ancient feud?

Faye is a very likable character. She’s very willful and stubborn, which isn’t always convenient for those around her, but I count this as her greatest strength. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, and her determination to stand up for what she believes is impressive. I do wish that Faye had been more willing to listen to Aris. They were sharing the same body, but Faye seemed determined to close herself off from Aris as much as possible. I think they could have avoided a lot of trouble had Faye been willing to listen. On the other hand, I also believe that the journey Faye and Aris take helped form their bond and understanding of each other. The glimpses into Aris’ past were particularly interesting, and I believe that as Faye learns more about Aris, they will be a great team.

The secondary characters definitely have potential, but haven’t been developed fully. At this point, they are mostly a background to Faye and Aris and I never felt that I got to know any of them well. The villains are also interesting, but I would like to know more about them and their motivations as well. The Mother Duchess in particular has piqued my curiosity. She seems to have had good intentions at one time, but her own wants and needs have blinded her to the horror of the society she has created.

I thoroughly enjoyed Justice Unending. The main characters are realistic, their story is compelling, and the pacing is excellent. I sincerely hope that Ms. Spencer has plans for a sequel because I would love to learn more about Faye, Aris, and the Unending.