Good Books and the Random Movie

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29 March 2015

Winger

Winger by Andrew Smith is a great coming of age novel.

Winger is Ryan Dean West. He got the nickname for playing wing on his school's rugby team. He attends Pine Mountain, a high school for rich kids who get into trouble - usually due to inattentive parents. Ryan Dean is a fourteen year old junior.

This year, Ryan Dean has ended up in Opportunity Hall - where they put the bad kids. He will miss his plush old room with two of his friends while he rooms in a stark concrete room with the biggest, scariest kid at school. He is pretty sure that Chas Becker will kill him before the term is out. His only hope is that Chas will wait until after the rugby season for the good of the team.

Ryan Dean has to deal with many things at his school - from bullies to distracting hot girls to people picking on his teammate for being gay. Through it he will try to focus on his best friend Annie Altman.

Told through both great storytelling and the occasional comic or graph, Smith has written a great book that is funny, painful, and beautiful. It should be read by everyone. A sequel is due out in September 2015.

Smith, Andrew. (2013). Winger. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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24 March 2015

Death Marked (Death Sworn #2)

Death Marked by Leah Cypess is the second book in her Death Marked series.

Ileni grew up in a mountain village founded by people who were opposed to the Empire's power and its use of magic. She left that village when her magic began to fade and was sent to the Assassin's caves to be a teacher. Now she has left the assassins, including the boy she loves, and is entering the Empire. Everything she has been taught about the Empire - both at home and by the assassins - will be tested.

Ileni is amazed to realize that at the Academy of Sorcery she can use magic. After feeling like a part of her was lost, she has powers again. But this power comes at a price. Her village told her that the load stones used to gather magic are supplied by slaves that the Empire kills. While using magic feels amazing, she must find out where the magic really comes from.

Cypess has created a series where one young woman must evaluate everything she was taught and learn to trust herself to find the truth. While she finds her place in the world she will be thought of as a traitor and a spy. Follow her adventures as Cypess puts her in tricky situations where she doesn't know who to trust.

Cypess, Leah. (2015). Death Marked. New York: Greenwillow Books.

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20 March 2015

One Wish (Thunder Point #7)

One Wish by Robyn Carr is the seventh book in her Thunder Point series about the people in a small coastal town in Oregon.

Grace Dillon moved to Thunder Point to start over. She bought a flower shop and has made some great friends. No one in town knows about her past. Grace has had a crush on Troy for a while, but he is off limits because he dated her best friend Iris.

Troy Headly is a high school history teacher who loves to teach and spends all of his time off doing some extreme sport. He only thought of Grace as a friend - a friend who works too hard and doesn't have enough fun. So he offered to be her fun coach.

As Grace and Troy spend more time together and grow to like each other it becomes important for their relationship to open up about her past. Grace is worried that her past will affect how the people of Thunder Point see her.

Carr's series is a look at the people in a beautiful, small town. Each book focuses on one couple, but updates readers to the lives of previously introduced residents. This is a wonderful, sweet romance series.

Carr, Robyn. (2015). One Wish. New York: Mira.

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18 March 2015

Blue Dragon (Dark Heavens #3)

Blue Dragon by Kylie Chan is the third book in her Dark Heavens fantasy series about humans, gods and demons in Hong Kong.

John Chen, also known as Xuan Wu - God of the Northern Heavens, is living in human form in Hong Kong. He is becoming weak from being in human form for so long and all of his efforts are to make sure his daughter, Simone, can take care of herself before he returns to the Celestial plane. Once he does, it will take years to regain enough power to return.

The family has been attacked repeatedly by a demon who wants to advance in the demon hierarchy. Demon One-Two-Two is hoping to collect the head of Xuan Wu to gain a position as Number One, second only to the King of the Demons.

Emma, Leo, and Michael, along with a host of lesser gods and the Four Winds themselves are around to help protect Simone and allow her to spend time with John before he must depart. One-Two-Two will force his hand, making him choose between staying longer and removing a threat.

This third book in the series continues the journey of Emma in her study of martial arts and energy work. Fans will be surprised to see there is not a fourth book in the series, but instead another trilogy that continues the story eight years later: Journey to Wudang (Earth to Hell; Hell to Heaven; Heaven to Wudang). This is a great fantasy series for fans of mythology.

Chan, Kylie. (2007). Blue Dragon. New York: Harper Voyager.

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13 March 2015

A House in the Sky: A Memoir

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett is a memoir of a time when Amanda was kidnapped and held for ransom in Somalia.

At nineteen, Amanda decided she wanted to travel. She saved money earned as a cocktail waitress and she and her boyfriend went to Venezuela - where she became enamored of discovering new places.

For the next few years Lindhout alternately spent enough time at home in Canada to save money then spent it on travel. By 2008 she had been to more than forty countries. Along the way she had met some great people who became her friends. One, Nigel, was a photographer and gave her the idea to pursue a job that could be part travel.

Amanda worked a freelance journalist and photographer, and even as a news anchor for an English language station in Baghdad.

In August of 2008, she traveled to Somalia to follow a story on the civil war there. Nigel flew in to join her. As with any country where it is dangerous for Westerners to travel, she wisely found a guide to keep them safe and help plan their days. After arriving in Mogadishu, they planned to visit a refugee camp that was helping people displaced by the war and differing factions fighting in the city. On the way to that camp, their car was stopped by men with guns.

Amanda, Nigel and their three guides were kidnapped. A ransom of 1.5 million dollars was demanded for the release of each Amanda and Nigel. Amanda's family had no where near that amount of money. What followed was more than a year of captivity.

Written in a fast-paced, gripping narrative, A House in the Sky is engrossing and will keep readers up late while they devour the pages. Knowing Amanda survived to write a book does little to ease the tension you will feel while reading. Read this gut-wrenching tribute to the human spirit.

Lindhout, Amanda and Sara Corbett. (2013). A House in the Sky. New York: Scribner.

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06 March 2015

Bomb

Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is a book of science, espionage and war.

In 1938 a German chemist discovered it was possible to split an atom - by putting uranium next to radioactive material - a thing previously thought of as impossible. Because this phenomenal advancement in physics happened while Nazi Germany was attempting to take over Europe, scientists thought about how to harness the energy created during the fission.

Sheinkin looks at the Manhattan Project. The best physicists and chemists collected by the government to work on a secret weapon in the American Southwest. He describes the British and Norwegian plan to sabotage the German effort to create a weapon - including kidnapping prominent German scientists. And third, an exploration of Soviet attempt to steal the bomb's plans from the Americans.

Sheinkin is a masterful researcher and storyteller. His narrative nonfiction flows in a way that few others writing for children have achieved (others include Susan Campbell Bartoletti and Jim Murphy). This fascinating time in history comes alive in this book.

Sheinkin, Steve. (2012). Bomb. New York: Roaring Book Press.

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03 March 2015

Driving Lessons: Soph Year (You Know Who Grils #2)

Driving Lessons by Annameekee Hesik is the second book in her You Know Who Girls series.

Abbey Brooks is now a sophomore. She has gotten over the awkward year when she figured out she was a lesbian and had her heart broken. Now in the new school year she will focus on basketball and her friends - and maybe a new girlfriend or two.

Hesik has captured the feeling of high school and the struggle to figure out who you are. Abbey is a wonderful and flawed character who is surrounded by good and bad friends as she finds her way through another school year. The You Know Who Girls series is a must read for any teen questioning her sexuality.

Hesik, Annameekee. (2014). Driving Lessons. New York: Sililoguy.

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01 March 2015

Hunter's Pursuit

Hunter's Pursuit by Kim Bladwin is the story of a woman who retired from her job and just wanted to live in peace and quiet.

Kat is an assassin who went by the code name Hunter. She hasn't taken a job for over five years. She has plenty of money and just wants a quiet life now. She is currently living in one of her safe houses - one built into the side of a mountain - more of a bunker than a house.

One night while she is out hunting for food, she sees a car drive off the side of the icy road and flip. Though she is not normally one to help a stranger, she is compelled to help the woman in the car. She pries her out and takes her back to her house.

It is suspicious that a woman showed up on an isolated mountain road on the same day Kat found out that here is a contract on her head. Kat does not believe in coincidences, but the woman has amnesia. Kat's instincts tell her that the woman is not a threat.

But according to her source, three people (one woman and two men) have accepted the contract to collect one million if she is killed. And if it doesn't start snowing again soon, the tracks she left from the car accident to her hidden home will be easy to follow.

Baldwin has created a tense action packed story on one woman's quest to stay alive. Readers will stay up late to see how it ends.

Baldwin, Kim. (2005). Hunter's Pursuit. New York: Bold Strokes Books.

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