Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

daughterBook – To her friends and classmates Karou appears to be an ordinary foreign exchange student studying art in the timeless city of Prague. She has typical relationship troubles and is dealing with the disappointment of a cheating ex-boyfriend. However, it becomes apparent how extraordinary she is when she fends off the continued advances of her ‘ex’ armed only with wishes.Then she is summoned on a clandestine mission of….tooth collecting? Karou’s true identity is a mystery hidden even from herself, until she meets a winged echo from her past.

This book was listed among the YALSA top ten best fiction titles for young adults in 2012. The audiobook was nominated for several Audie Awards, and the movie rights have been sold to Universal Pictures. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first in a fast paced trilogy that takes on a much darker tone with the second book Days of Blood and Starlight. Taylor is thoughtful about the impacts of war on her characters and the worlds she has created. This world-building trilogy might appeal to fans of Greek mythology and stories about angels such as Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments Series.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

codeBook - Code Name Verity follows the World War II adventures of two young Scottish women.  Sensible Maddie, who grew up in her grandfather’s bike shop, has a skill with machines matched only by her love of aeronautics.  As a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force she mostly flies supply planes, but her missions become a lot more interesting once she meets Queenie, the girl with many names.  Queenie is fearless and funny, brilliant and aristocratic—and a spy.  Thrown together under extraordinary circumstances, it isn’t long before the girls form a fierce friendship.  When Maddie’s plane is shot down over occupied France and Queenie is captured on a mission, however, both girls will find their strength, and their bond, tested to the limit.

Told through letters and documents written by both young women, Code Name Verity introduces two equally vivid lead characters whose affection for each other makes them jump off the page.  Elizabeth Wein does an extraordinary job of building tension and maintaining the novel’s pace, making it hard to put down.  Code Name Verity functions equally well as an action-packed war story and as a coming-of-age novel, but for me the absolute highlight is the friendship between the girls—perhaps the single best female friendship I have ever read.  There are mentions of off-screen torture that may be uncomfortable for some, and readers are definitely advised to keep their tissues handy, but the depth of emotion and exquisite writing in this top-notch story make it well worth the ride.

 

 

 

The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow

brilliantBook – In The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise, Francis Wootten lives in Northern England and comes from a loving if dysfunctional family. His mother is tough as nails and his grandmother is the same. His father is absent, caught up in his new life elsewhere. His brother works on a magazine no one reads and raids their pantry on a regular basis along with his flatmate, Fiona. Quiet, reserved and a bit of a loner, it isn’t until his leukemia lands him in a hospital unit, that Francis makes a friend and finally falls in love.

I found myself far more interested and invested in Francis and his family than Amber. The Woottens were easier to care about and connect to while Amber was explained too often and shown too little. That said, Francis’ voice is a compelling one and the book was quite enjoyable. This would be a good read for fans of John Green, unique narrators, and strange family dynamics.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

annihilationBook – No one quite knows what happens in Area X. Cameras don’t work, modern technology breaks down, and all remnants of human civilization are slowly disappearing into the local biosphere. The first expedition reported a pristine Eden; the members of the second expedition all killed themselves; the members of the third expedition all killed each other. The members of the eleventh expedition all died of cancer. One of those was the biologist’s husband, and she’s going to go into Area X as part of the twelfth expedition. Maybe they’ll find some answers.

If you ever watched Lost and thought that the island just wasn’t creepy and weird enough, Annihilation, book one of VanderMeer’s award-winning Southern Reach Trilogy, is for you. The narrator never gives her name, only a biologist’s fascination with the flora and fauna of Area X and a scientist’s dispassionate narration of some extremely weird events. Later books in the trilogy offer some answers, but rest assured – there’s no disappointing explanation lurking in the back of this series.

Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

gates of threadBook – Gates of Thread and Stone is the first book in a series by Lori M. Lee.

Kai is different, she lives with Reev, her ‘brother’ that has kept her safe and alive in a world that is littered with dangerous people and ideas. In this world only one person is allowed magic. So Kai has to hide her ability to twist the threads of time. With Reev’s help, this hasn’t been a problem, until people start going missing and Reev is one of them. Now desperate to find him she has to trust the shopkeeper’s son, Avan, and a slew of people that do not have her best interests at heart.

I don’t often do this, but I gave this book a 5-star rating on Amazon and Goodreads. This was a fantastic balance of dystopia, magic, brutality, romance, and familial strife. I loved this book and am even more excited that I can share it with my teen daughter. There is romance in the book, but it doesn’t tip into what I feel is inappropriate for my young daughter to be reading about. The first in a planned trilogy, Gates of Thread and Stone is a must read.

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken-HarborBook – Many thought the Spains had the perfect life. Sweethearts as teenagers, they are happily married with two wonderful children. They buy their dream starter house in a luxury development in Broken Harbor near Dublin.  But something goes horrifically wrong! Patrick and the children are brutally murdered and Jenny the wife and mother is miraculously found still alive at the murder scene, but barely. It is up to veteran detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his new rookie partner Richie Curran to solve the crime. As the detectives further their investigation they find that things are not what they seem. The victims’ façade of the good life begins to unravel and secrets and various suspects surface including the Spains themselves. We also learn of Kennedy’s mysterious attachment to Broken Harbor. The author, Tana French, is a master of psychological suspense and this book will not disappoint. This is the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. They do not need to be read in order, but if interested, here are the titles in sequence: In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, and The Secret Place.

 

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

fool moonBook- Fool Moon is the second book in a sixteen book series (with an additional eight short stories based in the world.) This audio book is read by James Marsters.

Fool Moon deals with the notorious gangster ‘Gentleman’ Johnny Marcone and the repercussions of the events from the previous book, however you do not need to read it to understand what’s happening, it’s just more fun that way.

Harry is broke and hungry and so listens to someone that needs his help over a steak dinner. This slip opens up an investigation involving five different flavors of were-wolves and endangers his life over, and over, and over, and over again. Basically a normal day in the life of Chicago’s only practicing wizard. With his wits and a whole lot of anger he works his way through a case that makes him look at humanity and the creatures of the Never-Never a little differently.

I adore this series and have read it no less than four times. A heroic tale ala Don Quixote, Harry always tries to do the right thing; even if it’ll kill him. This is my first time listening to it and I love it. James Marsters does a phenomenal job giving life to the various characters.

Majestrum by Matthew Hughes

majestrumBook – Henghis Hapthorn is a creature of logic. He uses his skills and talents to solve puzzles for the elite of the Archonate, the vast empire of human colonies spread throughout known space. Recently, though, he’s suffered a few setbacks. A dangerous encounter with a rogue magician – rare in this age of science and reason – has transformed Hapthorn’s computer assistant into an animal familiar, which now needs to sleep and eat, and has developed a personality of its own. Worse, the intuitive part of his mind has become its own person, and Hapthorn finds himself having increasingly bitter disagreements with himself. And now the Archon himself has hired Hapthorn to investigate a mystery that goes back to the origins of the Archonate, deep within the last age of magic, which may cause the foundations of the world to turn, leaving Hapthorn’s valued logic entirely useless.

Hughes’s prose is elaborate and ornate, making this relatively short book a somewhat denser read than I was planning on, but I loved it anyway. Hapthorn is a Sherlock Holmes type, but with problems Holmes never had (Watson never passed out in the middle of the action, or refused to work without regular deliveries of exotic fruit). The mystery is well-constructed, but the real joy is in exploring the universe Hughes has created, one based on science but where magic is real and increasingly important in the most important events of the universe.

Revival by Stephen King

revivalBook – King’s most recent novel has been hailed as a return to classic form, closer to a real horror novel than he’s written in a while. If you go into it looking for that, you might be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fascinating. The story follows two men, narrator Jamie Morton and the man he refers to as his “fifth business,” the catalyst to all the really important events of his life, Reverend Charles Jacobs. Charlie (as he prefers to be called) is fascinated by “special electricity” all his life, but his interest takes a darker turn when his wife and son are killed in a car crash. After that – well, a horror novel called Revival with a lightning bolt on the cover does evoke a certain famous Doctor F., after all.

Revival isn’t as focused as the classic King novel it most evokes, Pet Sematary, and dealing as it does with similar themes and ideas, it suffers by the comparison. Where the plot meanders, though, the characters pick up the slack, and a few genuinely creepy moments (Jamie’s birthday-party nightmare sticks in the mind) carry you through rapidly to the end. The ending is, at least, classic Stephen King – sprawling, grotesque, and a little out of left field.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

a man called oveBook – Ove is a grumpy man. He’s exasperated with his neighbors, the stray cat who keeps hanging around, the postman and anyone else he encounters in his daily rounds through the neighborhood. He’s recently lost his job and cannot understand why the rest of the world cannot follow life’s “rules” and be more productive and sensible. His wife Sonja says that Ove is “unforgiving.” Ove calls it “having firm principles.” And, while Ove is trying to stick to his principles, life keeps straying from the plans. Despite his grumpiness, Ove is kind (in a grouchy sort of way). When his new neighbors accidentally back their U-Haul over his mailbox, Ove’s world begins to change in ways he never could have imagined. This story is charming, funny and slightly off-beat. If you liked The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, you may enjoy Ove’s quirky tale.