“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins

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Following the events of the original hunger games, catching fire brings more action, story, and plot to the expanding universe of the hunger games franchise. Katniss, after surviving the 74th hunger games, enter into a special 75th game in which all of the previous winners participate. Catching fire again examines the class difference between the elites in the capital and the lower class’ that live in the 13 districts except this time the resistance within the districts are struggling to fight against the government. The themes in this novel consist of societal analysis on the social economic divide between these two types of people and the actions necessary to balance back the scales of justice. I would suggest this book to those who read the first book and enjoyed it. I would also suggest this book and the previous book in the series to those who are interested in dystopian societies.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Tyler M.

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“Black Widow: Forever Red” by Margaret Stohl

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Eight years ago, Natasha Romanoff is sent to Ukraine to kill Ivan Somodorov, the man who trained her to become a Black Widow. S.H.I.E.L.D. has discovered that Ivan was trying to create more Black Widows, and cannot let that happen. Natasha rescues a young girl, Ava Orlova, from Ivan’s hideout before the base explodes. Natasha promises young Ava that she will always watch over her because they are both “Ivan’s girls”. Fast forward to the present and Ava Orlova is now a teenager who lives on the streets after escaping from a S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house. She has dreams of a boy named Alex Manor, and she goes to a fencing competition in Philadelphia to attempt to meet him. When she meets him, he doesn’t recognize Ava at all, and she wonders why she is having dreams of him. When she tries registering for the competition, the lady running the registration table turns out to be Natasha, and she tells Ava that Ivan has sent men to kidnap her because he wants to continue testing on Ava. They go to the roof to escape from the men when Alex Manor appears because he was concerned about Ava. The three of them get to safety, and Alex joins Ava and Natasha to finish Ivan off once and for all.

Teens that are fans of Marvel comics or the Marvel cinematic universe will enjoy this story about the Black Widow. Marvel fans will pick up on the subtle references to the Avengers that other teens may not; those who have never seen a Marvel movie or have never read a Marvel comic may want to do a little research if they are interested in picking up this novel. Stohl’s version of Natasha Romanoff is up to par with the Natasha Romanoff portrayed in the Marvel cinematic universe and the comics, and the bits of Russian spoken by the characters make them seem even more realistic. Each chapter starts off with an excerpt of an interrogation of Natasha Romanoff by S.H.I.E.L.D., and they are meant to tell Natasha’s reflection on the events that have occurred in the novel. The ending will contain unexpected events, and it will be heart wrenching for some readers. Teens who want more Marvel stories should check this book out.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Caylee P.

“Nil” by Lynne Matson

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Seventeen-year-old Charley is standing in a Target parking lot in her Georgia hometown when she suddenly feels burning hot. The next thing she knows, she is lying on a stretch of rocks with no clue where she is. After surviving alone for twelve days, she meets Thad and Jason, who tell her that she is on the island of Nil. Thad introduces Charley to a group of teenagers who have also been sent to the island and are trying to escape it. The only way to escape the island is through “gates”, which are portions of shimmering air that randomly move across the island. Trying to catch one of the gates is challenging, and another hitch is that each teenager only has a year after they arrive to try to leave Nil or they die. Together Charley, Thad, and the rest of the group are trying to figure out how to catch the gates to escape the island of Nil before their time is up.

This book is very similar to the popular book The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Both books involve teenagers that end up in unfamiliar and dangerous locations and have a limited time to escape before they will die. A unique element of Nil is both Charley and Thad are narrators. This gives the book dual perspectives: Charley is female and an island newcomer; Thad, a male and island veteran.  The book is set in the present, which is a nice change from all of the post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels that now dominates much of the young adult genre. The novel is devoted to advancing the plot rather than trying to explain the backstory of how Nil came to exist and why it is the way it is, which helped the island appear more mysterious and dangerous. There are romantic feelings between Charley and Thad, but these only make the situation of being stuck on the island even more complicated than it already is.  The ending is very suspenseful and dramatic as Thad’s time is running out. Fans of The Maze Runner or action and adventure novels should check out this book so they can be transported to the mysterious island of Nil.

 

-Check out this book or place on hold.

-Caylee P.

“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a loose retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, but with a much darker twist. When Feyre slays a wolf in the forest she believes she has merely procured the means to help her family survive the harsh winter; until a faerie shows up demanding retribution from Feyre for the death of the wolf which was actually a faerie in disguise. The people of Feyre’s land have long held an uneasy alliance with the High Fae, but now Feyre is given a choice; die or live out the rest of her life with the faerie Tamlin.

Feyre soon learns that although at first glance the faerie realms seem prosperous and beautiful, the various courts are at war with each other and all are threatened by various dangerous creatures controlled by a psychopathic High Fae. As her connection and attraction to Tamlin grows, Feyre’s life is increasingly placed at risk.

Maas’s story clearly owes a lot of inspiration to myth and fairy tales, but influences from recent YA series such as the Hunger Games are also clear. Feyre is a skilled hunter who provides, and sacrifices, for her family. She is a strong protagonist who is willing to go to great lengths to protect those she loves.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first time I have encountered the genre classification of New Adult. New Adult books are targeted slightly older than traditional YA, more for 18-21 year olds. A Court of Thorns and Roses is slightly more graphic and violent than many YA books, but it should still be suitable for older high school students. Overall, A Court of Thorns and Roses is an action-packed and romantic fantasy adventure.

-Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Caitlin C.

“The Sin Eater’s Daughter” by Melinda Salisbury

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“The Sin Eater’s Daughter” easily features one of the most engaging premises of any Young Adult book I have looked at this year.  Twylla works at the order of the Queen, regarded as the embodiment of a deity.  The catch: she can kill a man with a single touch.  Thus, while revered, she is deeply feared and destined to live a life of isolation and guilt as the royal executioner until she marries her betrothed, the Prince.  When she strikes up a close friendship with her new guard, Leif, she begins to question her place at court and the brutality of the Queen’s rule.

Twylla is a compelling main character and I enjoyed seeing her progress from a victim of the atrocities she is forced to carry out at the Queen’s order, and being regarded almost on the same level as a deity at court, to beginning to find out some surprising truths about her life.  The mythology of Twylla’s world is also very interesting; some kingdoms embrace science and alchemy, while her kingdom worships a pantheon of gods with similarities to ancient Egyptian mythology.

I’ll admit that as I finished “The Sin Eater’s Daughter” I was undecided as to whether I considered it a three- or four-star book.  The ending seemed too rushed, and featured a twist that seemed to veer towards melodrama.  Twylla’s strength in the end, however, along with Salisbury’s restraint in not giving us too many “happy ending” clichés, elevated my opinion of “The Sin Eater’s Daughter,” and I would definitely read the sequel.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Caitlin Connelly

“The Stepsister’s Tale” by Tracy Barrett

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The story of Cinderella is one that has been told and re-told in countless versions, across many cultures. Yet, Tracy Barrett still finds a way to put a new twist on this classic tale in The Stepsister’s Tale by having one of the “wicked” stepsisters narrate the book. The roles of the stepsister and Cinderella are seemingly reversed in Barrett’s story. Jane Montjoy lives in a crumbling mansion, her family’s fortune long since squandered by her father, and she struggles to keep enough food on the table for her mother and younger sister, Maude. After her mother remarries and her stepfather dies suddenly, Jane is also left with a stepsister to care for. Ella is spoiled, pampered and selfish, and is at odds with Jane and Maude from the time they meet.

The greatest strengths of The Stepsister’s Tale are Barrett’s descriptions of the Montjoy’s once grand mansion that is falling into ruin around them, as well as the forest and the forest people who befriend Jane. A terrific main character, Jane really sets this novel apart from other fairy tale retellings. She is strong and resourceful and you can feel her struggle to hold it together for the sake of her mother and sister, even when she has reached her lowest point. The book also ends with a satisfying change to the traditional encounter between Cinderella and the prince at the ball, and the ensuing search for the owner of the glass slipper. Highly recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Caitlin Connelly

“Antigoddess” by Kendare Blake

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The Greek gods are living unknown among the humans. They have starting dying and must find a way to survive. Athena and Hermes have discovered from Goddess Demeter that a prophet can become a weapon against those seeking to destroy them. Meanwhile in Kincaid, New York, the woman once known as Cassandra of Troy begins having horrifying visions filled with death and violence. Can Athena and Hermes reach Cassandra before the dark images haunting her disrupt her peaceful life?

Why I picked it up: I thought the plot sounded intriguing. Also, Greek gods! Yea!

Why I finished it: I really enjoyed the book. It moved quickly and didn’t lag in any spots. The action pushed the plot forward at just the right pace. I really had to find out if Athena and Hermes would get cured.

I’d give it to: Anyone who likes strong female leads (especially for Athena), anyone who liked the Percy Jackson series, or anyone who likes mythology.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Natalie Martinez