Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

December Defies Definition 
One of my favorite things about YA lit: its flexibility and willingness to think outside the box. This month I'm focusing on titles that are written in a non-traditional way. One plays with typography and space. One crosses out text to show thought, but not speech. One is written entirely in verse style. Technology continues to provide us with new ways of telling stories, and these are just a few. What is your favorite? 

Everything is different without you. It's been a year, your birthday again...I'm not thinking of you again. I'm not. Walking to school, and I find an envelope just sitting there in the woods. Inside was a picture...of the same woods. Where was it from? Who left it here? I want to show it to you.

The next day, there's another picture. This time it surprised me. It was of me. I never let anyone take my picture. Except you. I showed it to Jack. He said it was freaky. Freaky. Another after school, nailed to a telephone pole. A picture of a bridge. So I went there, and I found another one. A picture of someone taking a picture. Someone else was there that day...

In my locker, another picture: this time of you. Not shoved between the cracks, but taped up; someone broke in to put this here. But I had never seen this picture. "I have never seen this photo before. I have never seen this photo before," (Levithan pg. 52, 2011). How? I knew you better than anyone. Me and Jack. But he doesn't know either. Weren't you the one who said, "He'll never know me like you do," (pg. 61)?

The next photograph showed up in Jack's locker. A picture of a grave. Your first kiss with Jack. Are you punishing us? It had to be someone who knew you, someone with whom you shared a connection...but who? And why don't I know? And why?

More pictures appear holding images of you and someone else. "Sparrow" it says on the back. I'm starting to lose it, I've been losing it ever since you disappeared. Jack doesn't want to talk about it, he wants to 'move on' and he accuses me of being the one who is doing this. He just wants to turn it off, all the hurt and pain and forget you...but I can't.

Evan and Jack tried to be everything for Ariel. Evan was her undyingly loyal best friend, and Jack was her boyfriend. The three of them...until Ariel started getting sucked under by mental illness. Can Evan and Jack discover who is playing this sick game on them? Will they ever forgive themselves for their choices?

Written as a series of pictures and words, this novel is a new take on incorporating mixed media. The photographs are powerful, and the style Levithan choses to express emotion and inner voice are too. Highly recommended, a great story for high schoolers about doing the right thing and forgiving yourself.
I knew you were at the center of it.
This should not have surprised me, since you had always been at the center of things. Nobody would have put you anywhere else. Especially me.
Even now, you refused to be pixelated, forgotten, silenced, erased. Not that I wanted to erase you. The opposite. I wanted the opposite," (Levithan pg. 42, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

Levithan, David, & Farmer, Jonathan. (2011). Every You, Every Me. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

The Geography of Girlhood by Kirsten Smith

Penny is just a girl. Fourteen, no mom, no boyfriend, two pretty good friends...and dread for the fall: the start of high school. Her one best friend is going a little wacko. Her other best friend is starting to push for popular. She's just stuck in between.

The Jenny's run the school. She should know, since Jenny Arnold has threatened to end her life for flirting with her boyfriend. Penny didn't mean to, but who would turn down attention from a hottie like that? It was strictly hands off.

Besides, Randall Faber has a crush on her. Elaine encourages this match, almost more for the normalcy than mutual attraction. Your first kiss has to be someone, right? It feels too controlled, he even picks out her lip gloss flavor.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

There are advantages to having a dad who buys you guilt gifts...like getting a new computer when your dad has his first baby with his new wife! It's 1996, and Emma decides it could definitely be worse. When her next-door neighbor, and childhood best friend, Josh brings by a new AOL disk with a free trial on it, she can't wait to get started! Something weird happens when she signs on though, a site she's never heard of pops up: Facebook. There's a picture of a woman whose name is Emma Jones...and she looks alarmingly like an older version of herself. Whoa, they have the same birthday too.

Weirded out, Emma enlists Josh's help. He's on it too, and he's married to Sydney? One of the hottest girls in school? Wait a minute, what kind of sick joke is this? It isn't until they look through some of the pictures posted as "The Good Old Days," and find a picture that hasn't even been developed yet (they rush to the one hour photo to confirm), that they start to accept the truth: this Facebook thing is a portal 15 years into their future!

Emma starts to notice that little things change, and she decides to experiment. She's going to change her future. She's going to make it better. This guy she's married to now seems like a real jerk. She's not sure what an iPad is, but she's pretty sure her husband shouldn't be using her money to buy one! Goodbye, Mr. Jones; hello, Mr. Right...or so she thinks.

Josh on the other hand can't believe his future good fortune! He wants nothing to do with any actions that could negatively influence his happy union with Sydney. Not to mention, ever since last summer when he kissed Emma, things have been weird. This latest adventure bringing them together doesn't change the fact that things can never be the same between them.

When Emma starts acting recklessly, pushing boundaries that a friend shouldn't push, Josh isn't sure what to do. He's trying to move on, and build a future with Sydney. Why is Emma pulling her old tricks? Is she really so selfish? Josh is having his own doubts: could perfect, future wife Sydney be not as perfect as everyone thinks? Now, future Emma is threatening to cancel her Facebook account!

This paired narrative is told in alternating chapters, Asher writes Josh, Mackler writes Emma. Relive the spot on 90s references, along with this sci-fi tinged coming of age story. I related to so much of this story, having been a sophomore in high school in 1996. Some of the references will be lost on this generation, which makes this a great crossover title for adults.

If you liked this, check out:
Asher, Jay and Mackler, Carolyn. (2011). The Future of Us. New York: Razorbill.

My Name is Mina (and I Love the Night.) by David Almond

Mina loves the night. She loves birds and moonlight. She loves black cats named Whisper and weird creatures, like herself. She's writing a journal with all her thoughts and whims. Sometimes she leaves pages blank, just to leave them. Sometimes she reiterates, to let us know something is important. Sometimes she fills the whole page with words that she likes. If she wants, she can write a story in 3rd person. The mind is a place of wonder! It is!

There was a time when she couldn't be so free with her words. When she used to go to St. Bede's, her teacher Mrs. Scullery told her to plan everything she would write. Mrs. Scullery didn't understand why Mina's story did not follow her original plan, or Mina's explanation of "I don't want it to," (Almond pg. 15, 2011). Mina likes being nonsensical!

So she doesn't go to St. Bede's anymore. Schools are cages. She is homeschooled, and Mina and her mom do wonderful things. They eat bananas and make clay models and read encyclopedias and learn about archaeopteryx and talk about Heaven. That's where Mina's dad lives. Once, Mina thought she would go down to the Underworld to steal him back from Pluto and Persephone...but she got scared by Cerebrus, so she decided to go back home.

"Perfection is BORING! Perfection is EMPTY! Perfection is NOTHINGNESS!" (pg. 31). Speaking of imperfection: Mr. Myers' house is far from perfect. Since he died, they have put the house on the market. Mina and her mother are hoping for people who are Interesting! Mina's mom thinks it will be someone who wants a fixer-upper.

Did you know that most dust is made up of tiny fragments of human skin? "EXTRAORDINARY ACTIVITY: Stare at Dust that Dances in the Light" (pg. 73).

Two things happened that led to being homeschooled: SATS Day, and Corinthian Avenue Pupil Referral Unit. Those stories have to be told in 3rd person. The good news is that Mina created some very lovely words like claminosity! and blippistrakor! She also made some friends at Corinthian, but I'll let her tell you the rest.

This prequel to the Prinz Honor award-winning Skellig, is delightful in its whimsical look at early adolescence. Every girl should have a journal filled with just as much fun and honesty, and the publishers did a lovely job with typography. Highly recommended for middle school, and anyone who needs more joy in their everyday. Mina doesn't fit in, but she shows us that it's ok to be different.
"I look into the night. I see owls and bats
that fly and flicker across the moon.
Somewhere out there, Whisper the cat
is slipping through the shadows.
I close my eyes and it's like those creatures are moving inside me,
almost like I'm a kind of weird creature myself,
a girl whose name is Mina
but more than just a girl whose name is Mina," (pg. 10).

If you liked this, check out:
Skellig by David Almond
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous-Life by Rachel Renee Russell (Dork Diaries, Book 1)
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford 

Almond, David. (2011). My Name is Mina (and I love the night. Anything seems possible at night when the rest of the world has gone to sleep). New York: Delacorte Press.

The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu (Chronus Chronicles, Book 1)

November is Messing With Mythology
This month's titles deal with mythology. What does that mean, you may ask? Mythology relates to the study of myths as they relate to a culture. Frequently this means gods, goddesses, creation stories...and the like. It's a rising trend in YA lit, and I am a fan. Several of these take traditional mythology and turn it on its head. All promise to entertain.
Charlotte doesn't quite know what to think about this latest news. Her cousin (who lives in London) is moving to the States. While she had hoped to use his prime location as a jumping point to pursue her dream of living in France as a photographer, that was also her only aspiration involving said cousin. Plus, since she found Mew (Bartholomew, Mew for short), her new kitten, very little upsets her. Of course, the fact that her best friend seems to have contracted a mysterious illness is upsetting, now that she thinks about it.

Zee (Zachary, Zee for short)'s story starts a bit earlier. He planned to spend the summer in Exeter with Grandmother Winter, just like every year, and he would play on the club football team (that's soccer, for you Yanks), and maybe - just maybe - get to see Samantha sometimes. Everything started out okay; when he arrived, Grandmother had been baking up a storm! He even sees his crush Samantha, and makes plans to hang out. That's when disaster strikes: Grandmother Winter is dead. With her dying breath, she whispers "Metos." Zee is left with a hole where she used to be. Of course, he's supposed to meet up with Samantha not long after. He goes to tell her he can't make it, but she's come down with a mysterious illness...just like almost every other kid in Exeter - except him. Zee is starting to get weirded out.

When they go back to London, Zee starts to think maybe it was all in his head. That is, until all his friends in London start succumbing to the same mysterious illness. When he tries to tell his parents that he feels like it may be following him...they ship him off to a therapist, and then to the States. *sigh*

When he arrives, Charlotte and Zee have a very crazy conversation, in which he outlines how he feels somewhat responsible for the weird illness. More pieces start to fall into place when they are chased by creepy tall faceless men in tuxedos. They are rescued by none other than Mr. Metos, Charlotte's substitute English teacher, who has most recently been teaching Greek mythology (a subject she knows rather well). It isn't until he tells them the real story that they begin to put the pieces together. Philonecron is a disgruntled demigod: born in the Underworld, and desperate for power. After his last play for the throne, Hades banished him (did I mention that the Greek Underworld is a real thing? Well, it is...), but now he's hatched another crazy plan. This one involves Zee and Charlotte. This one involves stealing the shadows of the children of the world, enchanting them with a drop of Zee's blood, and using them to overthrow Hades, King of the Underworld.

Whew. Sounds complicated. Good thing Mr. Metos is going to take care of it...except then they get a note saying that he's captured, and everything is up to the two of them! A bird guides them to some weird corridor in the Mall, and they make their way down. Only at the point of no return do they realize that Mr. Metos didn't summon them after all, Philonecron did! Can they find a way to stop him before the Underworld is in chaos? Can they save the shadows of the children whom they've been stolen from? Can they stop the power-hungry demigod before it's too late?

Well written, and told in a slightly non-sequential way, this is a story that keeps you interested. It holds some of the draw of Riordan, and some of the whimsy of Rowling. I enjoyed the wordplay, and the inner dialog. I may even read the others in this series!
"The man-like men were extremely tall, extremely think, and extremely pale. They were wearing old-fashioned tuxedos, and their skin looked like dirty plaster. One of the man-like men was holding the boy, the other was reaching into the boy's chest, which was giving way like jelly. The boy was screaming. Zee stood, absolutely unable to move, while the second man-like man started pulling something long and black and flimsy from the boy's chest. And then the boy stopped screaming and seemed to collapse on the spot. The second man-like man took the bladck thing and folded it up like fabric, while the first picked up a shiny black physician's bag and held it open with an accomodating nod. The second smiled graciously and carefully tucked the black thing away, while the first tapped the boy on the forehead three times. The second took the bag, latched it, and gave his partner a satisfied nod, and they both brushed off their hands," (Ursu pg. 159, 2006).

If you liked this, check out:

Ursu, Anna. (2006). The Shadow Thieves. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

The best part of Alice's day is watching "Skateboard Guy" cruise past her window, every day at 9:30 am. The rest of the day is devoted to hiding out, keeping her mother's secret, taking care of herself and her mother's business, and pretending that everything is ok. No one can know that Belinda Amorous, "Queen of Romance," suffers from bipolar disorder. No one can know that she's been practically comatose for the past three months. No one can know that Alice dropped out of boarding school to come home and take care of all the business that her mother isn't capable of handling...because then everything would fall apart.

At 16, Alice has been doing this for most of her life: taking responsibility for her mother's illness. She has been answering emails, and fielding phone calls. Today, she's standing in for her mother at a book signing (which she forged beforehand), and assuring everyone that Belinda is overseas, researching her next book. If her fans knew the truth...but Alice doesn't have time to think about that. While there, something weird happens. An alarming cute guy in a black hoodie (Errol) comes up to her, and insists that she write his book. Not sure what to do after he shoves a smelly envelope of notes at her, she gets stuck holding it. Great, all she needs is some weirdo trying to get his book published.

At home, there's a new problem: the publishing company is threatening to reclaim the $100,000 advance unless they receive a new book. In addition to not having $100 grand, Alice needs the royalty checks to pay the bills. In-patient care is far from reasonably priced...especially for a facility that offers massages and manicures. The hospital is threatening to kick her mother out if she can't pay by the due date. Mom's not exactly up to writing the next Hunger of the Heart.

Maybe she can kill two birds with one stone...write Errol's story and submit it to Heartstrings Publishing! Did I mention that Errol thinks he's Cupid, the real Cupid, and his story is about his love affair with Psyche? He insists that the true story needs to be told. She doesn't believe him until he flings something at her, and she can't stop thinking about him. Find Errol are the only two words that seem to fit inside her head. When she does find him, he's moved into her building, and forces her to drink Craig's Clam Juice...which he alleges is the only thing that can cure the love-sickness his arrows inspire. Yeah, you read that right: he is saying he shot Alice with an arrow of love. She must admit, it doesn't really make sense that one minute she can't stop thinking about Tony (cute skateboarding guy), and the next she's crazy for Errol...whom she thinks is creepy and crazy. Could there be any truth to his story?
"I wanted, more than anything, to be near Errol. Yes, that demanding, handsome guy in the black hoodie who believed he was Cupid and who had thrown something at me. That guy.
When I reached out, I wanted to find him standing there. When I listened, I wanted to hear his voice. When I inhaled, I wanted to inhale his scent. I didn't ask myself why I felt that way, didn't wonder why my thoughts had moved from Tony - who was clearly obsession-worthy - to Errol, who was clearly...weird," (Selfors pg. 98, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors
Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman
Temping Fate by Esther Friesner

Selfors, Suzanne. ((2011). Mad Love. New York: Walker.

Temping Fate by Esther Friesner

Ilana is reaching the last of the last chances to land a summer job. If she can't, her parents have "promised to figure something out"...which pretty much translates into something horrible (like band camp *shudder*). This last interview is actually a shot in the dark. She found a business card for D.R. Temps in her sister's room.

All the other prospective employers have been turned off by That Attitude Thing, or maybe her "ORC: the other green meat" shirt. She's determined to behave herself this time. The only thing that really has her worried is the small skull she drew on her cheek that won't come off...shouldn't have used permanent ink I guess? The temp agency is...not what she expected. First she has to jimmy her way in the door, then the crazy woman in charge berates her for everything about her appearance but the tiny cheek skull! Maybe this job won't be so bad after all? That's when Mrs. Atatosk starts in with the "We love your sister" bit, just like everyone else. How can she possibly live up to perfect Dyllin expectations? Just when Ilana is about to say forget it, she is handed an envelope containing $500. In advance. For a job she hasn't even tried to do.

Friday morning arrives, and so does she, at Tabby Fabricant Textiles. Let's just say it isn't what she was expecting: what with the proprietors actually being the Fates and all. You know, the women in charge of your life line? The ones who make (Clotho), measure (Lachesis), and cut (Atropos) the span of your life?!?!?! This cannot be happening. There cannot be a temp agency for the gods, can there? The weekly temp meeting that afternoon convinces her that she isn't losing it, and actually calms her down a bit. It turns out Dyllin actually did this for years, and (outside of being a complete psychotic Bridezilla lately) doesn't seem worse for wear. She could get used to this...

The summer is progressing nicely: she's made friends with Arachne, as well as with some of the other temps. While there have been a few bumps in the road (manipulating life threads can be very entertaining), overall she's having a great time. With the end of summer - and Dyllin's wedding - approaching, it seems she might survive after all! It's not like one of the other temps will steal power from a god to try and wreck the wedding...that wouldn't happen...nah...

Light-hearted and funny, this is a great quick read. Friesner weaves in mythology effortlessly. Recommended for middle school and up.
"'Like it?' The spider lounged in the empty tray, idly paging through a small booklet with the title So, You're Going to Control the Destiny of the World. "Aren't you glad you stopped whining about 'Ooh, I wouldn't, I couldn't, I shouldn't, what if the Fates found out?' and just tried it? See? Nothing bad happened. In fact, I'd say you are definitely having a major educational experience here.'
'This is just...awesome.' Ilana wasn't really listening to the spider anymore. She was too fascinated by the wonders passing before her eyes to remind Arachne that she'd been the one who'd been so upset at the thought of a newbie temp being given spindle-sitting duty," (Friesner pg. 104, 2006).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
The Wee Free Men by Terry Prachett
Pandora Gets Jealous by Carolyn Hennesy

Friesner, Esther. (2006). Temping fate. New York: Dutton Children's Books.

The Warlock by Michael Scott (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 5)

Sophie and Josh are back in this much anticipated fifth installment. The twins are still with their respective immortals: Sophie with Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel, and Josh with John Dee. After the thwarted rise of the Archon Coatlicue, the twins are both upset by the other's behavior. As the Flamels and their supporters continue to try and stop the return of the Dark Elders into our world, John Dee, Virgina Dare, and company move forward with their plan to release the monsters on Alcatraz onto the unsuspecting residents of San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Scathach, Saint Germain, Palamedes, Shakespeare, and Joan of Arc are whisked off to the distant past by Marethyu, the hook-handed man. He tells them they have returned to the fall of Danu Talis (aka Atlantis). They must ensure the fall of the island if they hope to save their own present. Whoa.

Back in the present, Mars Ultor is freed by his wife, the Witch of Endor. Along with the unlikely group of Odin, Hel, and Black Hawk, they meet Prometheus, Niten, the Flamels, and Tsagaglalal (aka Aunt Agnes) to receive ancient tablets prepared by Abraham the Mage 10,000 years previously (in anticipation of this meeting! He had some serious powers of prophecy...)! Confused yet?

The Necromancer's plans continue to spiral out of control. He begins to plot to overthrow all the Elders, and take control of all the shadow realms for himself. Machiavelli begins to doubt his choice to follow his elder without regard to the consequences. He tries to convince Josh, with the help of Billy the Kid. Josh continues to be poisoned by the cursed sword Clarent, and influenced by the evil aspirations of Dee.

Can Sophie bring Josh back to reality? Will the world be destroyed by monsters? Will the entire universe be destroyed by Dee and his nefarious plans? Who is this Marethyu character...and why does everyone refer to him as "Death"? Talk about cliff hanger ending...I can't wait until May!

I love the way Scott weaves all the different mythological characters into an extended family, seamlessly connecting unrelated times and tales into a continuous stream. This series is a great opportunity to link in a study of mythological figures (as I have done here). Highly recommended, especially for Riordan fans! As always, I prefer the audio version. Boehmer does a masterful job of keeping all the characters separate with subtle accents and tones.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand," (Scott, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Enchantress by Michael Scott (Secrets, Book 6) May 2012
The Thirteen Hollows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman Dec. 2011
Magyk by Angie Sage (Septimus Heap, Book 1)
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (Kane Chronicles, Book 1)

Scott, Michael. (2011). The Warlock. New York: Delacorte Press.

Scott, Michael & Boehmer, Paul. (2011). The Warlock: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. New York: Random House/Listening Library.

Relic Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher

Raffi doesn't quite know what to think, now that Galen has lost his power as a Relic Master. While he is still only an apprentice, Raffi must act as the guide and guard for both of them. They are sought out by a man claiming to be from a village where a relic has been found. Recklessly, as he has acted since the accident, Galen decides to follow the man. Raffi knows they must be cautious. The Watch is looking for them, hoping to gain their secrets of the Order. With the Makers gone, the followers of the Order have been hunted and exploited for their relics. It will be up to him to monitor their progress and guard against possible traps.

They make their way to the castle of Alberic, and quickly learn they have been tricked. This is a camp of thieves who only want to exploit Galen for his powers, and use him to recover something stolen from them. In the ensuing scuffle, one of their relics is taken. Galen begrudgingly agrees to search for the Sekoi responsible, while secretly pursuing his own motives. There are tales that the Crow is alive! The messenger of the Makers may still exist in Tasceron, and there may lie their only hope of recovering Galen's lost power, and fighting back against the Watch. The Crow may be the last hope for Anara.

On their journey, they encounter Carys: readers know she is a spy for the Watch. She claims to have lost her father to the Watch, and falls in with them. She has Raffi fooled for sure, but she is wary of Galen. On their trip, her faith is tested. She was always told that the Order's magic was trickery...but the things she has seen prove otherwise.

They finally arrive at Tasceron, the ruined city of the Makers. The city is shrouded in darkness, and fires still burn deep below the city, covering the whole expanse in smoke...and worse. There are creatures in the dark. The Sekoi they are searching for finds them, and leads them into the heart of Tasceron, to others of the Order. Will they find a way to restore Galen's powers before they are captured? Could the Crow still exist? Will everything fall apart under Carys' treachery?

Fisher had me at Incarceron, and I couldn't wait to pick up this series. There is a deep story here, the first book only scratches the surface. Get sucked into the world of Anara. Highly recommended for fantasy fans! Appropriate for middle school or high school, great recommend for fans of Percy Jackson.
"Carefully, he sifted the tiny scraps that had fallen, trying to find more.
'The Crow!' Raffi breathed the words in awe. 'Still alive!'
'Tesk died twenty years ago. That dates it.'
But Raffi could see the news had shaken Galen, stirred him deep. He wanted to ask more, about what it meant, but instead he picked up the ball carefully....'Once I saw an image of the Crow carrying such a glass ball in his mouth. A most secret sign," (Fisher pg. 100-101, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher (Relic Master, Book #2)
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (Ranger's Apprentice, Book #1)

Fisher, Catherine. (2011). The Dark City. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 2)

Percy is back! Well, back is a strong word...more like less lost? He can't remember anything from before the wolves found him...except for Annabeth. He's pretty sure she's his girlfriend. At least Lupa and her wolves found him, and put him on the path to Camp Jupiter. He almost doesn't make it to their front door! After being chased relentlessly by some gorgons who just *refuse* to die, he manages to make it to the camp relatively unharmed, with the help of some new friends: Frank and Hazel.

Once inside, he learns that all demigods are found by Lupa, trained, and sent to Camp Jupiter for 10 years of service fighting monsters and defending the camp. After that, many choose to enter the real world, or move into the city, where they can grow up and build families in the relative safety of Rome. (Wait...demigods can grow up? Something about that seems odd to Percy.)

He is assigned to the 12 Legion (aptly named Lightning), 5th Regiment. They aren't exactly known for their winning streak, but things get a little crazy after dinner at War Games. Frank comes up with a plan that just might give them the upper hand! It even gets him noticed by his dad. After a personal visit from a god, the three are charged with a quest to stop Gaea and her sons the Giants.They must act quickly, because Gaea's army is already approaching Camp Jupiter. If they can't return successful in three days, the entire city is doomed.

Along the way, Percy starts to get bits and pieces of his memory back. Some are bigger than others, and leave him in less than fighting condition. Without Frank and Hazel, there's no telling what could have happened. The three work together, stopping for help along the way. Frank must discover what his family secret is if they are ever to stop the Giants, let alone Gaea. They run into Isis, the Amazons, some Laestrygonians, and much worse...will they ever defeat Alcyoneus and rescue Thanatos?
“Um...is that thing tame?" Frank said.
The horse whinnied angrily.
"I don't think so," Percy guessed. "He just said, 'I will trample you to death, silly Chinese Canadian baby man',” (Riordan, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) Fall 2012
Eon by Alison Goodman (Eon, Book 1)
The Power of 4 by Pittacus Lore (Lorian Legacy, Book 1)
The Ruins of Gorlan by (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1)

Riordan, Rick. (2011). The Son of Neptune. New York, NY: Disney/Hyperion Books.

The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinx

October is Scaring Up a Good Time!
In honor of Halloween, I've been reading spooky books! Horror, vampires, werewolves, ghost stories...get ready to be scared! I have some tamer titles for those who aren't fans of the macabre, but (let's face it) I'm a little off. I like dark and creepy, so I'm all about this theme :)

Toby is just a normal kid. He doesn't know how he ended up in that dingo pen. Seriously! Regardless of what his mom thinks, he's not on drugs. Waking up in the hospital with no recollection of the previous night is bad enough. When a mysterious envelope appears on his pillow containing a letter with vague offers of help, things just get weirder. His mom is freaking out. The doctor thinks he could have epilepsy! Great, just what he needs.

Ignoring the letter, Toby is surprised when Father Ramon and Reuben turn up at his front door. As delicately as they try to put it, what they are insinuating is just too far-fetched to believe. Reuben seems to know things though, like how Toby's hair grows *really* fast, and that he's got an amazing sense of smell. When they start suggesting that this is going to be a reoccuring problem, that's when Toby starts freaking out. They want to lock him in a bank vault! Why would he start threatening his family or friends all the sudden? Then he hears it..."werewolf." Yeah, right. What a bunch of nutters.

Fergus and Amin talk him into playing a prank on Reuben, something they can use against him later. When Reuben shows up, his seriousness is alarming. The evidence they find is starting to make him wonder: could there be something to his claims? When the police show up to question him, he doesn't know how things could get any worse...until it turns out they aren't the police.

Two guys drug him, and he wakes up in a cell. Managing to escape, he discovers another boy is trapped. They find their way outside, only to come to the disheartening conclusion that they are in the middle of nowhere. The new kid, Sergio, is very unstable. It seems the two blokes upstairs kidnapped him months ago, and have been forcing him to fight whenever he changes...into a werewolf. Rescue arrives in the form of an equally unstable, equally abused werewolf: Danny. He assures the boys that Reuben sent him, and that help is on its way. Of course, it's never that easy. The "rescue" turns into a comedy of errors, and even Toby's mom is dragged into it. Will they make it out alive?

Fans of The Reformed Vampire Support Group will recognize several familiar faces, and a similar style: disaster follows disaster until you can't help but laugh. This follow-up is not as good as the original, but still offers a refreshing look at the paranormal genre.
"'I bet you'd be famous all over the world!' he exclaimed. 'I bet they'd fly you to America and everything! They might even make a movie about you!'
'That's right,' said Nina flatly. 'Toby would be famous. Wherever he decided to go, people would know who he was. All the scientists who'd want to treat him like a lab rat, and all the crazies who'd want to get rid of an unnatural freak, and all the evil billionaires who'd pay big money to have a stuffed werewolf - all those people would know who Toby was,'" (Jinks pg. 136, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks
White Cat by Holly Black (Curse Workers, Book 1)
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments, Book 1)

Jinks, Catherine. (2011). The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group. Boston: Harcourt.

The Devouring by Simon Holt

When Reggie finds a mysterious journal mixed in with the other books delivered to the bookstore, she can't resist bringing it home to take another look. The Devouring is the title, and it talks about the story of a girl whose brother is taken by the Vours on Sorry Night. His body remains, but his soul is taken.

Now that their mom is gone, Reggie has taken over most of the mom duties for her younger brother Henry. She's a little sick of the normal bedtime stories, so she reads him a chapter from The Devouring. She should have known that he couldn't handle it, he's always been a bit of a scaredy cat.

Now, no matter what she tells him, Henry is convinced the Vours will come for him on the night of the winter solstice...tonight. They will come to devour his fears. Reggie and her best friend Aaron are big horror buffs, so they decide to take the challenge. They taunt the Vours with one of their biggest fears, and come out relatively unscathed...but Henry is different.

The next day he maims his favorite teddy bear, Kappy. Reggie chocks it up to Henry's struggle to deal with the fact that their mother walked out on them, and their father's inability to cope. Kids that deal with heavy stuff like that act out, right? After several other incidents, Reggie is starting to think that it's something more. She and Aaron consult her boss, the proprietor of Something Wicked, a bookshop specializing in the gothic, gruesome, and grisly. Together they start investigating the author of the journal.

After visiting the home of Macie and Jeremiah, the three are convinced that Vours do exist. Reggie will do whatever it takes to save her brother, even if it means taking on the Vour herself! Will they find a way to banish the evil, and return Henry to normal? High suspense, interesting plot line, and well written details keep the reader interested. Quick read for reluctant readers, recommended for high school.
"When dark creeps in and eats the light,
Bury your fears on Sorry Night.
For in the winter's blackest hours
Comes the feasting of the Vours
No one can see it, the life they stole,
Your body's here but not your soul...." (Holt pg 4, 2008).

If you liked this, check out:

Holt, S. (2008). The Devouring. New York: Little, Brown.

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera

Ivy is pretty excited about moving to Sherbert. After the last seven years with a Jinx following her around, she is ready for some good luck! Her great aunt V has left a house to her mother Pearl, and the two are just sure their luck is about to turn around. It seems like that is the theme of the day when a piano is delivered to their house, followed by their neighbor Mr. Staccato - a piano teacher!

The other girls on Gumm Street aren't sure what to think of her. Franny, the adventurous and somewhat clumsy one, is excited at the possibility of a new friend. Pru, the overly cautious bookworm, doesn't know if she should bother with someone who seems to be so...accident prone. Cat, the free-spirited cartwheel queen, is a bit preoccupied with how awesome she is to pay too much attention to Ivy. It isn't until the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Staccato that the girls band together.

Not long after, Cha Cha blows into town. Cat is visited by a strange man in a balloon, and she knows the new resident of Gumm Street is bad news. The girls seem to be the only ones who can see through her facade, however, and even their parents are taken in! The more they investigate the mysterious silver shoes left for Ivy by Mr. Staccato, the more they think all of this might be related to The Wizard of Oz! Well, it does seem a little far-fetched, but nothing else makes nearly as much sense. The girls are convinced that Cha Cha's a witch after the silver slippers.

It doesn't take long for Cha Cha to prove them right! She bewitches them to SPOZ, and the girls are off on an adventure they won't soon forget...even if all they want to do is go home. Their summer vacation is spent in the service of Cha Cha's nieces Bling-Bling and Coco...who threaten to beautylyze them as soon as their aunt returns. Will the girls ever find a way out? Can they locate the other silver slipper before Cha Cha? What untold horrors await them along the way?

Whimsical, suspenseful, and even scary at times this story has just the right amount of Oz, but still manages to be very original. Recommended for 4-6th grades, there are scenes of similar scariness to the original Baum tale.
"Ivy's got a Jinx, an eye on her hand, and a wicked witch after her, but what do you care? Pru, you're too busy reading and eating cereal all summer, and Cat's got to do cartwheels up and down Gumm Street, so of course you don't have the time. But I don't have anything else to do more important than helping Ivy, so whether or not you guys want to join, I'm having a club. Maybe I'll even be president!" (Primavera pg. 207, 2006).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Libby of High Hopes by Elise Primavera (June 2012)
Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers
The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell

Primavera, Elise. (2006). The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Sanctum by Xavier Dorison and Christophe Bec

In the time of Stalin, a crew of men on a submarine faces mysterious circumstances to locate and retrieve an ancient statue. Led by the ruthless Comrade Colonel, the head of the crew takes drastic measures.

Fast forward to 2029, the crew of the U.S.S. Nebraska is drawn off course toward an emergency beacon of unknown origins. They discover the tragic fate of the ancient Soviet sub, and go to investigate.

One by one, crew members begin to be affected. One contracts all the symptoms of plague...but without the actual infection. Another turns on his beloved machines and fellow soldiers to murderous effect. The search team that heads out is trapped behind a wall, and all communication is cut off. Suddenly the ship is taking on water! Will they abandon the men, and try to save themselves?

The ship's doctor is baffled: several soldiers are showing high levels of the "violence hormone" in their blood...all they have in way of explanation is a document seemingly written in the oldest known language: Ugarit. Decoding what they can, they discover horrific poems of the evil god's destruction and devastation. With a damaged ship, there is little hope of survival. A desperate plan is hatched: it may be their only chance of survival, but it also doesn't have the greatest chance of success.

A second team is sent out to retrieve the first, finding only horrors in the cave. A horrific site greets them as they locate the main chamber: could this have been the end of the Ugarit civilization? Meanwhile back on the ship, the situation is getting more frantic. Time is running out, and the crew is starting to fracture. As more information is uncovered about the recovered Ugarit text, the truth seems even more horrible than they could have imagined.

Beautiful art, really innovative panel structure. It may be confusing to novice comic book readers, but it is very visually stimulating. The plot is a little cliche, but it does manage to draw you in, and get your attention. It has a bit of a Lovecraft feel as well.
"Give me one of your brothers that I might feed myself
and divert the rage that keeps me company.
Thus I will exterminate all humanity.
I will exterminate the multitudes of the earth," (Dorison pg. 121, 2005).
Dorison pg. 7, 2005.
*Library Link*
If you liked this, check out:
Long John Silver: Lady Vivian Hastings by Xavier Dorison (Vol. 1)
The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
The Fourth Power by Juan Gimenez

Dorison, Xavier and Bec, Christophe. (2005). Sanctum. Los Angeles, CA: Humanoids/DC.

Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan (Book 1)

Darren is just a kid when the Cirque Du Freak comes to town. His friend Alan is the one who tells him about it, after all, Alan's the one who got the invitation! Well, he sort of stole it from his brother...but who's counting? The boys are so curious they even ask their favorite teacher about it. He immediately begins decrying the horror of freak shows, and how the members were so mistreated back in the day. He claims such things don't exist anymore, and tries to pump them for more information, but the boys aren't stupid.

They know enough to keep their mouth shut to anyone who might put a stop to their plans. The show is by invitation only, and their flyer only lets in two. They have to decide who, out of the five of them, will get to go. They don't know much about it, except what the flyer tells them: snake-boy, wolf-man, performing spider, bearded lady, world's fattest man...it all seems too good to be true. Could Mr. Dalton be right? Could it all be a hoax?

The night of the show comes around, and Darren and his best friend Steve are the lucky winners of the tickets. Every act is even more amazing than the last. There is no way this is fake! During the wolf-man's set, a woman's hand gets bitten off! Even more amazing? The creepy guys in blue who come up and reattach it...and in a matter of minutes, her hand is back to normal, with only the stitches to prove that anything had happened. What kind of a messed up show is this?

Most captivating of all for Darren is Madam Octa, the performing spider. Her keeper Mr. Crepsley controls her with the use of a flute. Even he admits that without it, he would long ago have been killed by his pet. Entranced, Darren watches as Madam Octa gracefully follows Mr. Crepsley's music, hanging, swinging, rocking back and forth.

After the act, Steve is determined to talk to Mr. Crepsley without Darren. Of course, Darren isn't missing out. Hiding, he hears an unbelievable conversation: Steve is accusing Mr. Crepsley of being a vampire! As if that wasn't bad enough, Darren is having thoughts about what it would be like to have Madam Octa all to himself. This freak show is bringing out some crazy things in both boys. What does Steve want from the vampire? Will Darren fall prey to his criminal impulses? Is this just the beginning of a much darker story? Well, yes...but it's one you won't want to miss!

Warning: a good amount of bloody violence/intentionally spooky prose. Not recommended for younger than upper middle school ages, but great for male fans of vampires and horror.
"People screamed and those nearest him lept from their seats and ran. One woman wasn't quick enough, and the wolf-man leaped on her and dragged her to the ground. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, but nobody tried to help her. He rolled her over onto her back and bared his teeth. She stuck a hand up to push him away, but he got his teeth on it and bit it off! ... While the crowd hesitated, the woman with the bitten-off hand went on screaming. Blood was pumping out of the end of her wrist, covering the ground and other people," (Shan pg. 60, 2001).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The First Kill: The Slayer Chronicles by Heather Brewer
The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey (Monstrumologist, Book 2)
Shan, Darren. (2001). Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Co.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking, Book 2)

September is Seeing Double
There are so many great books to read out there, I don't always get a chance to read sequels. This month, I'm focusing on some great follow-up books! Some I may even like *more* than the original. Series lovers, get ready for sequels worth reading.
Haven is not what they expected. They arrived to the silence of submission. Shocked to see people, but not hear their noise, Todd and Viola aren't sure what to think. Seeing Mayor Prentiss looming over them doesn't exactly bode well.

Todd is desperate to see Viola after they are separated. She was so injured, he needs to know she's ok ... but he can't really trust the Mayor, uh, "President" Prentiss (as he keeps being reminded). Todd can't believe that the entire town of Haven just rolled over and let the threat of an army win them over. Todd gets thrown into a makeshift prison with the former Mayor of Haven, and all he wants to know is why? Why would you give up your freedom without a fight?

After everything that has happened, nothing could make Todd trust him. The former mayor tells him that they found a cure to the noise, they found a peace, and they decided surrender was the best way to prevent loss of life. Of course, the "President" has commandeered all of their cure for his own men. He threatens to kill the former mayor, but relents. Todd isn't sure what to think except that he knows that the President is manipulative. He knows that it's the bandage after the beating that gains your trust, allows you to let down your guard.

Viola has been taken to the healers. She and the rest of the women have been separated from the men. Mistress Coil is the best healer in all of Haven, and the former leader of the town. She is a formidable woman, and Viola wants to trust her...but she seems to be wary of Viola's attachment to the President. No matter how she tries to protest her innocence, the President's visits have put them at odds. Viola is surprised at the President's kindness, although she knows he is not to be trusted.

The hesitant feeling around town is, "this isn't as bad as I thought it would be," especially after the women are allowed to start coming out during the day. But only in groups of four, and not after dark. Soldiers still patrol the streets with guns. Viola wants to get to the communication tower and try to contact the ships, but it all goes wrong, and now she's alone again.

Sides are formed, "The Ask" and "The Answer." The tentative peace is slowly being eaten away. Can the residents of the town ever find common ground? Will Todd and Viola find a way to reunite?
"Battle not with monsters
lest you become a monster
and if you gaze into the abyss
the abyss gazes into you," (Nietzche, quoted in Ness, prologue, 2009).

If you liked this, check out:
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking, Book 3)

Ness, Patrick. (2009). The Ask and the Answer. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 2)

Flashback to Scott at 16, starting at a new school (St. Joel's), and immediately getting into a fight. While waiting outside the principal's office, he meets Lisa. Together, they start a band (basically to improve their social standing), and recruit Kim to play drums (after Scott rescues her, and starts dating her).

Fast-forward to now: Scott is back, still crushing hardcore on Ramona Flowers (American Ninja Delivery Girl). Unfortunately, he still has to break up with Knives. It doesn't exactly go well...luckily, dinner with Ramona is a success. Who knew Scott could cook?

Also, there are still several of Ramona's ex-boyfriends that want a piece of him, preferrably the kind you get from beating someone to a pulp. Next up is Lucas Lee (yeah, the famous guy!), who Scott seems a little star struck over.

To complicate things further? His ex-girlfriend (who left him for another guy, and sent him spiraling into a year of depression) is back in town - and she wants his band to open for them. Her band is quickly becoming famous, and this could actually be a good thing for Sex Bob-omb, but can Scott handle that?

There is also a totally sweet fight scene between Ramona and Knives.

If you enjoy cheesy, comic book hijinks, band humor, epic fight scenes, and ninja delivery girls, look no further. Thoroughly entertaining.

Ramona comments that his hair is getting long; Scott immediately freaks out.
(O'Malley pg. 61, 2005).
 *Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 3)
Super Crush by Sean McKeever (Spiderman Loves Mary Jane, Vol. 1)
Sana's Stage by Miho Obana (Kodocha, Vol. 1)

O'Malley, Bryan Lee. (2005). Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: [Vol. 2]. Portland, OR: Oni Press.

Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely, Book 3)

Now, I know you're saying to yourself I thought she said sequels...and I did. Although this is technically number three in the series, it is a sequel to book one (book two introduces new characters, and is followed by book four).

Aislinn has been chosen as the Summer Queen, Donia as the Winter Queen, Niall (Keenan's former advisor) is now the Dark King ... and Keenan is flexing his unbound power as full Summer King. Ash only agreed to be Summer Queen if she got to maintain her relationship with Seth, but that is proving to be more difficult than she first anticipated. For one thing, the mortality issue is constantly looming over them. How long until Seth is too old for her, in her never aging body? For another, she had no idea that the link between Summer King and Queen would be so instinctual, so powerful. As Summer approaches, it only grows stronger. When she isn't around Keenan, she feels his absence. What kind of a girlfriend is she?

Seth has befriended Niall, and won the protection of the Dark Court - but that doesn't make him invulnerable. There are dark forces brewing, namely Bananach (Faerie of War) has been stirring up trouble. Her visits are unwelcome at the best of times, but she is prophesying an impending war.

Donia and Keenan have tried to make it work. Keenan admits that he loves her, even tries to deny his feelings for Aislinn. But Winter and Summer were never meant to be together. Their brief time together at the Solstice isn't enough, for either of them. They agree to use the time they have (aka until Seth is out of the picture), and try to enjoy it.

When Seth starts asking about becoming a faery himself, everything gets really complicated. Everyone in the mortal world denies his request (although Ash is on his side), so he follows Bananach to Faerie. The High Queen Sorcha agrees to grant his request, but there is always a price.

Has Seth unknowingly started the next war? Will Aislinn and Keenan manage to handle this new wrinkle in their arrangement without the destruction of their court? Can Donia put the needs of her court before her own feelings? Will Niall be the tipping point - the last straw - letting his dark emotions and resentment of Keenan lead him into battle?

I will always have a soft spot for tales of Faerie. This is a well-constructed series with good characters, intricate plot lines and plenty of star-crossed lovers. Even those who have left high school behind will relate to the complications that life throws into the best relationships, although (if you are like me) you may also end up yelling at Aislinn for her inability to make a decision.
"'What am I going to do?' He sank to the floor.

'Hope that some of us are kinder to you than you've been to us,' she whispered. Then, before she could soften again, she walked away and left the Summer King kneeling in her foyer,” (Marr, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely, Book 4)
Glimmerglass by Jenna Black (Faeriewalker, Book 1)
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (Darkest Powers, Book 1)

Marr, Melissa. (2009). Fragile Eternity. New York: Bowen Press.

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (Kane Chronicles, Book 2)

We return to Brooklyn House, home of the Kane siblings, and now home to many new initiates. After they sent out their recruiting hieroglyph, several kids answered the call. Good news: more help. Bad news: Apophis is supposedly rising in 5 days. No big deal, the rise of Chaos and the end of the world...blah blah.

Sadie and Carter are hunting for the three scrolls of the Book of Ra in order to summon him back from his retirement deep in the Duat. He is the only one with the power to defeat Apophis. Their top recruits, Jazz and Walt, join them in the Brooklyn Museum to gather the first scroll. When a fire spell is released (complete with creepy white demons) Jaz manages to banishes them, but quickly falls into a coma.

Hijinks continue on Sadie's visit home for her birthday. Let's just say her grandparents have been possessed, and a giant vulture and giant baboon end up chasing Sadie and her mates around the London Underground. They get by with a little help from Bast's friend Bes, the dwarf god. Sadie doesn't understand the hostility, aren't the gods supposed to be on their side? Don't they want to stop the rise of Apophis, and welcome back Ra?

One scroll down, two to go - but now Desjardins (newly appointed Chief Lector) knows they are searching for the Book of Ra. They get a tip that the second scroll is with Desjardins' right hand man, Vlad the Inhaler, in Russia. Upon arrival, they find more than they bargined for: it seems Vlad is working for the other side!

Carter has been searching for Zia since he discovered that the girl he knew was just a shabti. When he hears that she's been hidden in the ruins of her old village, even the rise of Apophis can't stop him from going to rescue her. (Love makes you do crazy things...) Can they possibly complete all their tasks, and make it to the Duat to summon Ra before the rise of Apophis the Chaos Snake?

Lots of familiar characters make an appearance (my favorite cameo is *cough*Set*cough*), and Riordan seems to continue to improve his writing. Highly recommended for fans of Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, mythology, history, action, adventure, fantasy - almost anyone, in other words.
“The sign was spray-painted in Arabic and English, probably from some attempt by the farmer to sell his wares in the market. The English read: Dates-best price. Cold Bebsi.
'Bebsi?' I asked.
'Pepsi,' Walt said. 'I read about it on the Internet. There's no 'p' in Arabic. Everyone here calls the soda Bebsi.'
'So you have to have Bebsi with your bizza?'
'Brobably,'” (Riordan, 2011). 
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (Kane Chronicles, Book 1)
Hero by Mike Lupica
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott (Secrets of Nicholas Flamel, Book 1)

Riordan, Rick. (2011). The Throne of Fire. New York, NY: Disney/Hyperion.

The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade (Hunchback Assignments #2)

Modo is back for another adventure. After almost losing his life against the Clockwork Guild, he takes some time off. Of course, evil never rests, so in no time he's back to helping The Permanent Association and Mr. Socrates. His latest assignment is tricky ... he must pose as husband and wife with Octavia on a sea voyage.

If there is one thing he never wants to show to Tavia, it is his true face. Modo's special ability to shape-shift comes in very handy for his spy work. Unfortunately, he can only hold a different face for a limited amount of time. His true face is so disfigured that he knows Tavia would be horrified. He must wear a mask and lie low while they gather information.

On their arrival in New York, they discover that their contact has been murdered! Without much to go on, they decide to continue with the plan to hunt down French-Japanese agent Colette. While they are not exactly sure what she has been investigating, they know it must be important. The coordinates they retreive are in the middle of the ocean. They hire a boat to take them into the icy waters, but everything goes wrong.

The ship is rammed from below, and Modo is thrown from the boat. Barely managing to escape with the vessel in tact, the crew and Octavia flee for safety. All she can think about is how to get back to save him, but no one will help her. The locals think the area is haunted, and only a fool with a death wish would risk going back out there. Can she find someone willing?

Modo plunged into the freezing depths, only to be confronted with a bizarre submarine-like vessel. After forcing his way in, he is greeted by Captain Monturiol. This strange fish-shaped ship is apparently also the first underwater civilization, and she is at the helm. Shortly after arriving, Modo meets Colette who is also aboard. It seems her presence isn't exactly voluntary...

As if things weren't backwards enough, the Clockwork Guild is on their tail. A secret agent has been following their every move. Will Modo ever make it out alive?

Great steampunk adventure novel with excellent strong female characters. It explores some ideas about male beauty that I find interesting. Good for reluctant readers, recommended for 5-12 grades.
"Modo gestured around him. 'I've never seen such a vessel. What is it?'
'It's a submarine ship,' the captain said matter-of-factly. 'Welcome to the Ictineo. You were not invited, but please consider yourself our guest anyway.'
'By guest she means prisoner,' Colette added.
'I do tire of your sharp tongue, Miss Brunet,' said the captain. 'My apologies...I am afraid in her short time here she has grown impatient. Should she offend you at some time during your visit, I apologize in advance on her behalf,'" (Slade pg.101, 2010).

If you liked this, check out:
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade (Hunchback Assignments, Book 1)
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan, Book 1)
Mister Monday by Garth Nix (Keys to the Kingdom, Book 1)

Slade, Arthur. G. (2010). The Hunchback Assignments #2: The Dark Deeps. New York, NY: Wendy Lamb Books.

Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton

August Falls Apart
 What do you do when everything you know changes? When the person you most relied on isn't there anymore? When the place you grew up in isn't your home? August takes a hard look at stepping outside your comfort zone, and growing up.
Today is Jane's birthday, and not just any birthday, it's her 12th birthday. The year her parents promised she could get her ears pierced. She can't wait to show off to everyone at school. She's so excited, she almost wants to rush through her favorite breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes just so they can hurry up and get to the mall! Almost ... until breakfast becomes more than a birthday celebration, and instead disintegrates into another war between her sister and her mother.

Pretty soon Lizzie is storming off on a run, "working off" the one bite of pancake her parents forced her to eat. Mom is staring off into space, sitting in her "I'm upset" spot. Ok, maybe this can still be salvaged. There's still time to go to the mall, and later there's dinner and a movie with Zoe. It was just a bad morning ...

But it's not that easy. Mom won't snap out of it. Lizzie is not the sister that Jane knows anymore. She accuses her of "being one of them" and "not understanding," like Jane doesn't feel the pressure of always being perfect. Like Jane doesn't know how hard her parents push. Then it gets so much worse, and the ambulance is here, and they are taking Lizzie away.

The next weeks are a blur. Lizzie is gone, hospitalized for her eating disorder. Her parents are shells: beautiful, perfect, and hollow. Her mother has almost disappeared, and her father is trying to pick up the slack. But how? When Lizzie comes home, it almost seems like things could get back to normal, but Lizzie is different. She is angry and bitter, sarcastic. Jane doesn't know what to think when Lizzie promises to teach her "new diet tricks" she learned in the hospital.

And then she is gone. Lizzie is gone. There is a hole where Lizzie used to be. There is no end to the tears. There is no end to the grief. There is only pain. Then the sun rises on another day. And another. It seems the world can continue without Lizzie, but can Jane?
"She sets the vase on my desk. 'This is for you, ' she says. 'They reminded me of your family. Out of one stem, four white blossoms.' I see what she means. All four roses are growing from one stem. The largest is pure white in full bloom. Ethel points to it.
'That there's your dad.' Then she points to the second largest rose. It is a bud halfway opened with some pink running through the petals. "And this one's your mama.
'That's you Jane.' Ethel indicates a tight bud with pink all around the outer petals and white on the inner petals. It is just beginning to flutter open on the edges. 'Just beginning to bloom.' There is only one rose left. It's a bloom in the early stages of opening, but it has already begun to die. The edges of the white rose have turned to parchment. It is frozen forever midbloom.
I touch the rose gently. No fear of killing this flower. 'Lizzie,' I whisper," (Lytton pg. 137, 2009).

If you liked this, check out:
Lytton, Deborah A. (2009). Jane in Bloom. New York, NY: Dutton Children's Books.