The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen

October is "I Read What I Want!"
With so much required reading (off the clock of course), I get burned out. This month, I'm taking a little break and enjoying some titles I really want to read! *Mwa haa haa* That being said: These are pretty awesome books. Some are sequels that I've been anticipating for a long time!

It's always been Mason and his mom, he's never known his father. After a horrible accident as a child, his mother gives him a DVD of a man reading a children's book and tells him it is his father. This is the only link he has to the man.

As he approaches his senior year in high school, Mason starts to ask more and more questions. Why does his mom hate TroDyne so much that she doesn't want him to pursue a scholarship opportunity? He doesn't need her anyway, just a copy of her signature to forge...but looking through her papers yields more secrets than he anticipated. There's some serious dirt here! His mom has a master's degree - and she used to work for TroDyne?!
Heading up to the rest home she works at, The Haven of Peace, he again finds more than he bargained for: there are kids here, kids like him...just staring off into space. What could have happened to them? A fight with his mom doesn't get him any answers, but the beautiful blonde girl has his full attention. On a whim, he plays his DVD for her, the one with his dad reading. Against all odds, she suddenly wakes up! Can this be happening? She doesn't seem to know how she got here or who she is, but she does know one thing: she needs to get away from here before the Gardener realizes she's awake.

Dazed and confused, Mason plays the hero and kidnaps this strange girl with the help of his friend. They make their way to his cabin to decide their next move, and discover that maybe there's something to her claims. Someone is definitely following them...

They run to Seattle to ask a former TroDyne employee what she knows, but nothing could prepare them for what she knows. First off, the "girl" (as they had been calling her) is named Laila. Second, TroDyne developed a project to solve the inevitable hunger crisis: humans who don't rely on food, or autotrophs. Worst of all? Laila's one of them. This beautiful girl in front of him isn't really human...and the Gardener is hardly going to let one of his subjects just go free. There's too much at stake. Who is the Gardener? Can Mason find a way to help Laila escape them, and free the others under TroDyne's control?

Fast paced, and a quick read, Bodeen has another winner. Raises some interesting questions about environmental issues and ethics, which could spur some interesting debate. How far is too far? Decent sci-fi for middle school and up.
"'The arrival of the Gardener was met first with the trembling, then with a shared stirring, as if we were all awakening at once. We knew the arrival meant the stimulating part of our existence was about to occur.
The Gardener moved to the front; the odd accompanying squeaks were familiar sounds to me. In anticipation, my heart beat faster. I waited for what I needed. Craved. Desired. And then, with a loud clank, the Gardener pulled the switch up front, and the light came.'
God, it was so weird, like she was watching a movie, narrating it. I glanced around to see if anyone noticed. A woman and a little kid were looking at books nearby, but they weren't paying any attention to us.
'As one, our heads turned upward to the false sun. A murmur rose, like one big satisfying Ahhhhhhh....'" (Bodeen pg. 111, 2010).

If you liked this, check out:

Bodeen, S. A. (2010). The Gardener. New York: Feiwel and Friends.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Alex doesn't suffer from your traditional teenage angst. No, she has real problems, like the fact that both her parents died in a helicopter crash three years ago, and that her body is slowly killing her with a brain tumor. So when she takes off for the hills, it's not on a whim. She's making her peace with the future. The last thing she ever expected was for things to get worse.

First, there is the pain. It's fire in her brain, so intense that she watches a man she just met spit blood, and sag to the ground, dead. Birds fall from the sky, deer catapult themselves over the cliff. What is going on? When the pain stops, there is a little girl trying to revive her Grandpa...and she's suddenly pushed into survival mode. She can't just leave this poor kid alone in the desert. She tries to piece together what could have happened...and suddenly realizes she can smell. It was one of the things the tumor had killed, how is this possible?

Down to business, they need to get out of here and find out if this is an isolated problem. Their electronics are all fried, even the stuff that wasn't on: radios, cell phones, mp3 players - all dead. What does it mean? Her only plan is to get to the ranger's station for some help. Kid in tow, they make their way, until they are attacked by some rabid campers she had seen on her way down. They've gone full on zombie, and are out for blood. The other weird part? All the attackers are kids. Like a hero in the movies, Tom comes out of nowhere and rescues them. Now they are three.

They begin to piece things together. The "zap," as they're calling it, must have been some EMP. It wiped out all the electronics, and killed everyone but kids and old people - and most of the kids are changing. Alex isn't sure why she and the others were saved, but she feels better than she has in forever. Her sense of smell has almost gone supernatural, and she has a little family. If it wasn't for the seeming apocalypse, things might be ok. They begin to make their way to Rule, a town that seems to have some sort of order. Will they find safety? Will they turn? Can there possibly be an explanation for everything that is going on?

Good suspense, and an interesting plot twist toward the end. Curious to see where they take the rest of the series, but not too sure I'll keep reading them.
"'A word of advice. You two and that little girl? There's a lot of anger out there, and fear. People'll either shoot you, or decide you're worth your weight in gold.'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean, you're an endangered species. I don't know about the rest of the world, but we had eight kids in our group when we started and not one survived. So you be careful.' Larry clapped Tom on the shoulder again. 'Go on now. I'll wait until you're gone.'" (Bick pg. 205, 2011)
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick (Ashes Trilogy, Book 2)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Maze Runner series, Book 1)
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (Benny Imura series, Book 1)

Bick, Ilsa J. (2011). Ashes. New York: Egmont USA.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3)

SPOILER ALERT! This is the 3rd book in a series!

The gang's all here! Finally, the Romans and the Greeks are working toward a common goal. Jason, Piper, Leo, Annabeth, and Percy are in the Argo II on the way to Camp Jupiter. They know they must forge an alliance to complete the quest to save the world from Gaea, who is slowly awakening. While their initial meeting goes well, and Reyna begins to trust them, something goes awry. Someone is firing on the camp! Of course, the Romans believe they've been double crossed, and they're soon in such a frenzy, there's no telling them otherwise.

The crew, with the addition of Hazel and Frank, manage to climb back aboard and make their hasty retreat. It seems they'll have to go it alone. The prophecy always told of maybe they aren't doing everything wrong. They make their way across the country, meeting some noteworthy company along the way. It seems the gods aren't doing so hot with Rome and Greece fighting. The two sides of their natures are at war, and most are struggling to keep it together. The demigods don't have much hope for any celestial assistance. Their goal is Rome, where they will face the giants. While still unsure of what awaits them, Piper's prophetic knife isn't showing good news.

Annabeth, meanwhile, has been charged with a task by her mother. She must recover the Athena Parthenos, a famous statue lost to the ages. Many children of Athena have tried to find it, and failed. She knows, however, that it holds the key to reuniting the Greeks and Romans, and hopefully to helping the gods get a hold of themselves!

While leaving the U.S. puts them out of the legion's way, they know that the Roman camp will turn their anger on Camp Half-Blood. It's a terrible choice, but they will have to trust their friends. Having outrun Camp Jupiter as they approach the old world, the terrors start afresh. Gaea never tires of throwing obstacles in their way. They are on a collision course with her children, the giants, if they can make it that far. The sea isn't without its dangers, and neither is the sky.

They encounter Narcissus, Athena as Minerva, Hercules, Bacchus, some relatives of Chiron, and more. This is another great one by Riordan, leaving me saying "are you kidding!" at the ending. Fans of mythology will be in thrall, and fans of adventure may soon become fans of mythology after reading this series. Highly recommended.
"'If you let Gaea drive our camps apart,' Annabeth said, 'the giants have already won. They'll destroy the Romans, the Greeks, the gods, the whole mortal world.'
'Don't you think I know that?' Reyna's voice was as hard as iron. 'What choice have you left me? Octavian smells blood. He's whipped the legion into a frenzy, and I can't stop it. Surrender to me. I'll bring you back to New Rome for trial. It won't be fair. You'll be painfully executed. But it may be enough to stop further violence. Octavian won't be satisfied, of course, but I think I can convince the others to stand down.'
'It wasn't me!'
'It doesn't matter!' Reyna snapped. 'Someone must pay for what happened. Let it be you. It's the better option.'
Annabeth's skin crawled. 'Better than what?'
'Use that wisdom of yours,' Reyna said. 'If you escape today, we won't follow you. I told you - not even a madman would cross the sea to the ancient lands. If Octavian can't have vengeance on your ship, he'll turn his attention to Camp Half-Blood. The legion will march on your territory. We will raze it and salt the earth,'" (Riordan pg. 251, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The House of Hades by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 4) Fall 2013
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 1)
The Fire Thief by Terry Deary (Fire Thief Trilogy, Book 1)
The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer (Gideon Trilogy, Book 1)

Riordan, Rick. (2012). The Mark of Athena. New York: Hyperion.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas is continuing the family profession: killing the dead. Not to brag, but he's never failed. This time, however, he may have met his match. "Anna Dressed In Blood" they call her, the vengeful spirit who's throat was slit, causing blood to cascade down her front. She kills anyone who steps foot into her house. Cas has his athame, inherited from his father, passed down through the ages. With it, he intends to lay Anna to rest. His first visit to the house doesn't go as expected. He ends up getting whacked over the head by some jealous high schoolers, and barely escapes with his life. It's almost as if she spared him...but that isn't possible is it? She has no problem tearing his new acquaintance into four pieces. It's not exactly the outcome he expects.

Too many people saw Mike die...Cas can't go about this alone, like he usually does. He's being followed around by some kid who thinks he's a witch, the most popular girl in school, and Mike's football cronies. It's turning into some kind of supernatural ghost buster killing party.

Despite everything, Cas is inexplicably drawn to Anna. He wants to know her story. He knows that she isn't a normal ghost, she is stronger than any other he has faced, and a normal cut with his athame won't kill her. Fascinated by her, he visits the house again. Again she spares his life. There is something about him that is different. She tells him she can't control her bloodlust; he's the first one she hasn't been forced to kill in a horrific way. After exploring his options, and getting his butt kicked around a bit, he finally conceeds to some help. This rag-tag group of demon hunters is going to attempt to exorsize her from the house.

The group witnesses the night of her death in detail, watching as her mother forbids her from leaving, growing increasingly angry and finally revealing her true nature, she binds her spirit to the house. Reliving it must be horrible for Anna, but not as horrible as the ghosts of all the dead she has killed. They are tied to the house as well. It's a cursed place. Do the kids have a chance at freeing Anna's spirit? Once they do, will Cas be able to kill her? He and Anna have a connection unlike any he's had with a living person before. When the time comes, will he be able to say goodbye?

Well written and compelling, it's Supernatural meets Scooby Doo. There's a little romance maybe, lots of blood, and even some personal growth. I enjoyed this one a lot.
"I look at Anna, facedown on the floor, terrified but not nearly scared enough. I watch this girl, struggling to escape, not just from Elias's grip, but from everything, from this stifling house, from this life like a weight around her shoulders, dragging her down and planting her in dirt. I watch this girl as her mother bends over her with a kitchen knife and nothing but anger in her eyes. Stupid anger, baseless anger, and then the blade is at her throat, dragging across skin and opening a deep red line. Too deep, I think, too deep. I listen to Anna scream until she can't anymore," (Blake pg. 204-205, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood, Book 2)
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Grisha Trilogy, Book 1)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle, Book 1)

Blake, Kendare, & Tor (Firm). (2011). Anna Dressed In Blood. New York: Tor.

The Kill Order by James Dashner (Prequel to Maze Runner trilogy)

SPOILER ALERT! This is the 4th book in a series!

The day everything fell apart started pretty normal. It wasn't until later in the day that the flares struck. Sun flares torching everything, and everyone. The only reason they survived is because they were underground. They've been running ever since, first through the subway tunnels, then they ran from other survivors, then they ran from the scorched city, and just when they think they can stop...the people in the green suits come with their darts...and the horror starts all over again.

First, it's only the people who have been hit that die. Then it becomes apparent that what infected them is contagious. Others start to act strangely, the disease is mutating, taking longer to affect its victims. After the first week, it almost seems like the survivors could be okay, but one by one they begin to succumb to the horrifying illness. No longer just killing quickly, it is warping their minds. The infected begin acting aggressive, violent, crazy, even causing hallucinations...and soon they are mobs of people with "the Flare". That's what they're calling this mysterious disease.

The gang started with Mark and Trina, Lana and Alec, Darnell, the Toad, and Misty. Mark and Trina are still teenagers, barely 16 when the sun flares changed everything. Lana and Alec are former military, and their training has saved them all countless times. Darnell, Toad, and Misty are about the same age, and they thankfully provide some much needed humor and entertainment. When the people in suits come, Darnell goes down first. One by one, they all start to show symptoms.

On a mission to find the people responsible and find a cure, they travel toward the location of the Berg they saw carrying the PFC: Post-Flare Coalition. Along the way they meet a young girl, Deedee. She's been abandoned by her village as they all slowly succumb to the sickness and insanity. They bring her along, how could they leave a child? She can't be more than three years-old.

Catching up with the rest of her village, it is clear they are past help. They talk of demons, blaming Deedee for the evil that has befallen them. Mark and Alec learn that Deedee's village was attacked months before their camp, and it seems that the girl truly is immune. She could be the key to everything! They are separated from Trina and Lana, and do whatever they need to do to get them back. Who are the people in the green suits? Can they escape the contagion? There must be a cure right? It's the only thing keeping them going as one by one they start to feel the unsettling pain in their heads, a sign that it's only a matter of time...
"It was as if a mental hospital had released all its patients. There was no order to the madness that Mark witnessed below him. Here he saw a girl lying flat on her back, screaming at no one. There he saw three women beating two men who'd been tied together, back to back. In another spot, people were dancing and drinking some kind of black liquid out of a pot that boiled over a makeshift fire pit. Others were running around in circles, still others stumbling about as if drunk.
But then Mark saw the worst thing of all. And he no longer had any doubt that the people who'd gathered there were beyond any kind of help.
A small group of men and women were fighting over something that looked like it had once been a person, their hands and faces covered in blood," (Dashner pg. 243, 2012).

If you liked this, check out:

Dashner, James. (2012). The Kill Order. New York: Delacorte Press.