Posted in book review

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

scytheIn the future, humans are more or less immortal. Society is controlled by the Thunderhead, an AI cloud that has conquered all our problems: hunger, war, pollution, disease, death. So…. I know what you’re thinking–Thunderhead runs amok and goes all dystopian on the world. Wrong. People love Thunderhead. It has every thing worked out and life is pretty good. The only problem is over-population, which is an unavoidable byproduct of immortality. But not to worry because the world has the Scythes–an honorable, fair system of using assassins to randomly kill people. (Ha, that’s one sentence I never thought I’d be writing…) The Scythe system is the only part of humanity not governed by the Thunderhead but it follows strict rules to make sure deaths are not discriminatory or targeted. So far, it’s been working pretty well. But humans will be human so that can only last so long…

In this surprisingly non-dystopian world, we also have Citra and Rowan, two teens who are chosen as apprentice Scythes. Only one of them will be picked to continue on as a full Scythe, causing some tension between them. But their situation also causes them to bond as they move from relatively normal lives into one in which death is an every day occurrence. And then, they start to find out that the system is not as honorable as they thought. Politics, combined with a group of sociopaths, have corrupted the Scythe system and chance has put Citra and Rowan right in the middle. Before they know it, they are embroiled in life or death situations that most of the world doesn’t even realize are happening. Only the outcome is sure — one of them will die.

Fast-paced, suspenseful and interesting, this is a book that is hard to put down. Citra and Rowan are strong, thoughtful characters, as are Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie. The plot throws some twists at you while periodic journal entries tell the back story and shed insight into the motivations of the adult characters. Highly recommended!

 

 

Find SCYTHE in the BEHS Library

Submitted by Ms. Bing

Genre: Science Fiction

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Posted in about us, book review

Four Fun Fantasy Novels

books-6How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, set in Salem, Massachusetts, brings the old Salem Witch Trials to life. Fifteen-year-old Samantha Mather has moved to Salem, into her father’s childhood home with her stepmother because her father is in a coma. It’s been 300 years after the Salem witch trials, but Samantha soon realizes that time doesn’t matter to the descendants of the original Salem witches. From the first day of school, she finds herself the target of eerie happenings, not to mention all too real glares and snubs from the kids in school known as “The Descendants,” who really, really resent her for being a descendant of Cotton Mather–you know, the one who almost single-handedly burnt their ancestors at the stake. Apparently, the sins of the fathers are taken very seriously in Salem, as is witchcraft. The only ally Samantha can count on is her new next door neighbor and his mother, which is good, because life at home also is getting creepy and Samantha starts to realize that ghosts and witches, complete with evil intentions, may be all too real. Can she trust the cute next door neighbor or is he part of the conspiracy?

Written with both humor and creepiness, How to Hang a Witch capably combines suspense, magic and horror. Samantha’s character is a likable blend of brains, awkwardness, grit and smarts. It appears to be a stand alone, but I certainly would love to see a sequel.

Watch the Trailer!

books-1In The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, Irene is a professional spy for a shadowy organization that exists in multiple realities. That’s right, there is more than one world out there and when Irene gets sent on a mission, she never knows what reality she’ll end up in–or what type of enemy she’ll face. Some enemies are real monsters, others could be the person you trust most. Now, she and her new enigmatic but cute (not that she’s noticed…) assistant, Kai, have been sent to an alternate London reality. Their mission: retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: by the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that in this world supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something–secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option–because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself.

This book is so much fun. The characters are real, the world-building fantastic. Can’t wait for the sequel!

booksPaper and Fire by Rachel Caine, continues The Great Library dystopian/fantasy series (I love the trend of fantasy libraries!) with non-stop action and suspense. Jess Brightwell, demoted to a soldier in the Library’s army at the end of Ink and Bone, is determined to rescue his friend Thomas. He’s up against almost insurmountable odds though. He doesn’t know who to trust, the deadly automata seemed to be programmed to kill him, and the leaders of the Library definitely want him dead. Can he navigate his way through the maze of real danger and, if he succeeds, will he be saving his friend or bringing about the fall of civilization?

An excellent sequel to Ink and Bone, this is a great read for those who like action and suspense, perfect for fans of The Maze Runner series.

books-2Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley, finally released four years after the The Rook, is well worth the wait. (Well, not really–four years? Seriously? I had to pull out The Rook to remember the storyline. Anyway… ) Myfanwy Thomas, the hero in The Rook, plays a smaller role in this story as she tries to negotiate a tricky merger between the Grafters and the Brotherhood of the Checquy. The merger is tricky because the two groups hate each other, based on the fact that they tried to exterminate each other a hundred or so years ago. Not surprising that only a small section of each group realizes that the merger is the only way they will survive. As Myfanway tries to keep the merger moving, two new characters, Felicity Clements of the Brotherhood and Odette Leliefeld of the Grafters take over the main roles. Their jobs: 1) spy on each other and 2) save the world from really bad things.

Just as he did with The Rook, O’Malley combines suspense with humor and an assortment of odd and somewhat scary happenings in Stiletto. The book is a bit long but lots of fun; you definitely should read The Rook first so you’ll know what’s going on.

Watch the Trailer for The Rook Files!

There you have it, four fun fantasies for fall.

Submitted by Ms. Bing

 

Posted in book review

Spring Reads – Action & Suspense to Give Your Brain a Break

Here are some fun books that you definitely should add to your spring reading list. Unless you don’t like great stories, likeable characters, fun plot twists, and lots of action. In that case, you probably should skip these.

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The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Elizabeth Grey might be female, rather delicate looking, and just a tad insecure but she’s also one of the best witch hunters out there. If you’re smart, you might not want to turn your back on her. On the other hand, if you have her loyalty you can be sure that she has your back. The question, in this plot-twisting magical thriller, is who should Elizabeth give her loyalty to? The good guys–who might be the bad guys? Or the bad guys–who might be the good guys?

I don’t want to give too much away here but I can say The Witch Hunter delivers. With a fast-moving story line, believable characters, chase scenes, lots of magic, a little bit of romance and some credible suspense, how can you go wrong? Plus, even though it’s a series (The King Slayer is coming in June), the ending is satisfying with the promise of more to come–no dreadful cliffhanger leaving you swinging in the wind. And, can I just say thank you for a normal name for the main character?

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Solara Brooks (you see what I’m saying?) is heading just about as far away as one can get–to the outer galaxy, in fact. Unfortunately, she has a little problem–no money. And another little problem–a criminal record. But she does have a job waiting if she can just get transport in exchange for work. Well, as you can imagine, she does get transport. The only problem is her new boss, Doran Spaulding, has never liked her and is planning on making her life miserable. The trip takes an interesting turn, however, when Doran threatens to drop her off in the middle of the journey with no resources. Suddenly, a miserable but necessary space flight turns into a dangerous road trip through the galaxies and Solara finds herself part of a starship crew that may or may not also be on the run. Lots of plot twists combined with space pirates and other dangers make this a fun SciFi read and, hopefully, the start of a new series.

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

Lady Truthful Newington (fortunately known to her friends as “Newt”) is about to celebrate her 18th birthday and be introduced to London society. Naturally, she’s excited, especially because she finally will see the amazing and magical Newington Emerald, a family treasure that she will inherit when she turns 25. Her birthday dinner goes a bit awry, however, when the Emerald gets stolen and her father becomes ill. Not one to sit around and wait, Newt decides that she needs to take matters into her own hands to get the Emerald back. Needless to say, events do not go quite as she plans and she gets herself into a series of magical mishaps that just seem to get worse by the day. Fortunately, there are several cute guys involved, not to mention subterfuge and sorcery. This is a magical romp of a story that is perfect for spring reading. Enjoy it with tea and crumpets on the side.

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Georgiana likes science and she’s curious, two personality quirks that just are not acceptable in London society in Regency England. After she accidentally burns down the stables, Georgiana is banished to Stranje House where girls go to be disciplined into acceptable behavior. After only an hour in the house, Georgiana realizes she needs to escape. But her curiosity soon gets the best of her. Is Stranje House what it’s supposed to be? If so, then why are there secret passages and, apparently, secret meetings going on? And what about her fellow inmates/students who seem to have even more unusual “personality quirks” than Georgiana has? You’ll  have to read it to find out, but you’ll definitely enjoy this fast-paced genre-bending historical fiction/suspense/paranormal/gothic novel.



All of these books feature strong female leads supported by a well-developed cast of characters, both male and female. Combine that with fast-moving plots and quirky characters and you have some fun reading–perfect for students who want to take a break from tests and research papers in the spring.

Submitted by Ms. Bing

Find all of these books and more in the BEHS Library!

Posted in book review

Fantasy Picks … What the Book Club Read Last Month

So many excellent books in the fantasy genre lately! Here are some of the top fantasy picks the BEHS Library Book Club read last month. Curiously, several have characters who are thieves. Perhaps not so curiously, none involve football players so football fans who were lured in by the Fantasy Picks title, sorry about that … but stick around to learn about some fun books to read!

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A few of the fantasy novels the Book Club read in December. See short reviews of four of the titles below.

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab – Four separate but coexisting Londons, four different levels of magic. Two people left who can travel between the worlds and one street thief who accidentally gets caught up in the political intrigue between the worlds. When Kell, one of the few who can travel between the different versions of the city, is tricked into bringing a dangerous artifact across the border, a chain reaction of disasters embroils him and street thief Lila Bard in what could be the end of all four worlds. A fast-moving fun read that reveals secrets and character twists as the plot unfolds.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Set in the gritty underworld of Ketterdam, where both magic and thieves prosper, Six of Crows is the somewhat dark story of a dangerous, definitely illegal, and virtually impossible quest to kidnap a chemist from an unassailable fortress. This is not a noble quest, the prize is a huge pot of money. Kaz, a mysterious young con artist, assembles his ragtag band of brilliant loners into a Ocean’s Eleven-ish type band of anti-heroes who have what it takes to survive on their own and, hopefully, beat impossible odds. Fully realized characters who play against each other, plenty of action, and detailed world building make this a good read.

Winterspell by Claire Legrand – What’s not to like when you mashup steampunk, fantasy and dystopia with a twist on The Nutcracker? Clara Stole, the genteel daughter of the mayor, leads a prim and proper life while secretly being trained in self-defense. On one fateful Christmas Eve she finds out why she’s been training all these years after her home is brutally attacked, her father kidnapped, a statue comes alive and a doorway to another world is revealed. Follow Clara and Nicholas on their wild adventure to save her family and the kingdom.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – A fantasy/dystopian crossover with a lot of action and plot twists. In a world where people with silver blood and magical abilities rule, life is brutally hard for the ungifted red-blooded humans. While trying to survive in this dystopian world, 17-year old pickpocket Mare inadvertently finds herself embroiled in deception, rebellion, the queen’s court, and possible love interests with two different guys. So many twists and turns, trials and trust issues make Red Queen a fun read.

Posted in book review

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

booksThe Fire Sermon is a great dystopian novel about what happens after all technology burns up in a nuclear apocalypse. It takes place years after the earth has been all but destroyed and the human gene pool has gone a bit wacky. For some reason, only twins are born — one twin is perfect (the Alpha) while the other twin is “deformed” in some way (the Omega). The connection between the twins (if one dies so does the other) is really cool and kind of freaky. You could just be walking around one day and drop dead because your twin got kicked in the head by a horse.

When Zach, an Alpha with a lot of ambition and power, turns on his twin Cass, an Omega whose “deformity” is a psychic ability, she finds herself on the run with an unexpected stranger. And she never expected to end up where she does. The twist that came at the end was unexpected and a little shocking. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

Submitted by Cathy D.

Genre: Dystopian

Rating: 4 stars star_yellowstar_yellowstar_yellowstar_yellow

 


Check Out The Fire Sermon in the BEHS Catalog!


Posted in book review

The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

The Sky so Heavy by Clare Zorn

Ahhh, a realistic young adult dystopian novel–no super powers and the kids don’t save the day. Ordinarily I would say, “what a refreshing change,” but since we’re talking nuclear winter here, that doesn’t really work. What does work is this novel–a hauntingly, realistic look at what might happen after a large-scale nuclear incident.

Set near Sydney, Australia, The Sky so Heavy follows an every day kind of teenager, Fin, and his younger brother Max as they learn how to survive in the days and months following a nuclear bomb. Fin and Mac unexpectedly find themselves without parents when the catastrophe happens. At first they’re coping well and are pretty sure their parents will return but, as time passes, they realize that they’ll have to make some drastic changes in their thinking, from who will take care of them to how they’ll stay warm to how they’ll interact with their neighbors in an increasingly hostile community.

When they realize that they need to go in search of their parents, their story becomes increasingly dangerous and, oddly enough, more heartwarming. You will grow attached to Fin as he unexpectedly reunites with some high school friends, including the very cool Lucy Tenningworth, and makes new friends along the way. The question is, on the way to what?

Rating: 4 stars!

Genre: Dystopian Fiction

Get the Book in the BEHS Library

Reviewed by Ms. Bing

Posted in book review

The Iron Trial : Magisterium Book One by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Callum Hunt wants to fail the Iron Trials. He wants nothing to do with magic, nothing to do with the mages, nThe Iron Trialothing to do with being a student at the Magisterium, just as his father taught him. But, of course, that is not his fate. Because sometimes magic is more powerful than the people who control it. Especially when that person is just a teenager with a bum leg.

The Iron Trials–a test to get into The Magisterium–are just the beginning of this great collaboration by two favorite authors–Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. You know they’re going to give you a good story and they do. The book starts out looking like a twist on Harry Potter, but soon veers off on its own path, complete with multiple twists and turns, both literal and figurative. You will quickly fall under the spell of this new series as Callum learns not only how to handle magic but also the meaning of friendship, loyalty and honor. And, in the end… well you’ll just have to read the ending yourself. But remember … chaos wants to devour…

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: Fantasy/Magic

Watch the book trailer!

Find The Iron Trial in the BEHS Library.

Review by Ms. Bing