Good Books and the Random Movie

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29 April 2015

Lockdown (Escape from Furnace #1)

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith is the first book in his Escape from Furnace series.

Furnace Penitentiary is the most secure prison for young criminals. It was built a mile below the Earth's surface. And once those sentenced there are delivered via the longest elevator ride of their lives, they are never to return to the surface. All sentences are life. No parole. No visitors. No mail. Just other prisoners, evil guards and mutant dogs who will eat anyone found outside of their cells after lockdown.

Alex Sawyer is a criminal. He and his best friend went from robbing classmates on the playground to breaking into houses. While he knows it is wrong, he is addicted to the cash and the rush. Then everything goes wrong. He and Toby are in a house when men in black suits appear. One of them shoots Toby and throws Alex the gun. With his prints now on the weapon he is told to run.

Now Alex is in Furnace for a crime he did not commit. And he is in for life. Unless he can figure out a way to escape - from one mile below the surface. Smith has created a high intensity thriller from which there seems like no escape.

Smith, Alexander Gordon. (2009). Lockdown. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

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26 April 2015

Curtsies and Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger is the second book in her Finishing School series set in an alternate history England and focused around Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality - a school that trains spies.

Sophronia's story continues in the middle of her first year of finishing at Geraldine's. She and her friends will be joined by one teacher and a few boys from Bunson and Lacroix's Boys Polytechnique - a school training boys to be future evil leaders. And the school, housed in a large dirigible will be floating to London for the testing of a new technology.

Sophronia will try to find out who is behind a plot to control the new prototype that will change travel forever - a plot that includes a kidnapping of her best friend to use for leverage.

Carriger has created a delightful, fun series set in an interesting version of 1851. Filled with gadgets, political intrigue and great characters, this series is a must read. It is also on the NYC Summer Reading List for Young Adults.

Carriger, Gail. (2013). Curtsies and Conspiracies. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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22 April 2015

Changers: Oryon (Changers #2)

Changers: Book Two: Oryon by T. Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper is the second book in their Changers series about a race of humans who spend their four years of high school as different people - a race that is meant to ensure empathy continues to exist.

The main character of the series is Ethan. He was Ethan from birth until the first day of high school when he awoke as a blond girl named Drew. Now sophomore year is beginning and she will wake up as Oryon, an African-American boy.

The Changers society has a lot of rules that the teens must follow both in order to remain secret and to protect themselves and others. One rule that Oryon has a problem with - new versions of selves are not allow to have a romantic relationship with anyone they dated as someone else. But Drew, now Oryon, is the same person inside and is still in love with Audrey.

Cooper has created a fascinating series that illustrates how people are treated in our society based on appearance. The series looks at gender, race and who people are on the inside. Set in a typical American high school, readers will see how Oryon is treated by the same people who knew Drew in the last school year. Great concept for a teen series - a must read for everyone.

Cooper, T. and Allison Glock-Cooper. (2015). Oryon. New York: Black Sheep.

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20 April 2015

Secret City

Secret City by Julia Watts takes place in the Oak Ridge, Tennessee - a town created by the government for scientists to develop the atomic bomb during World War II.

Sixteen year old Ruby Pickett has moved to Oak Ridge with her family. None of them know what is being developed in the town of secrets. While the rest of her family is sad to have moved away from her grandparents, Ruby is excited to be less isolated. She now lives in a town with a library - and she loves to read more than almost anything else.

Ruby meets a woman who likes to read as much as she does. Iris is a young mother and wife, moved to Oak Ridge with her physicist husband. At twenty-three she finds herself in the role of house wife - not a great use of her college education.

Ruby and Iris work out a deal where Ruby will babysit, which will help her family's income and give Iris someone intelligent with whom to have conversations. Over time, Ruby and Iris grow closer together.

Watts has written an account of the changing times of 1944. Her two main characters are wonderful and trapped in a time that does not necessarily appreciate their curiosity and ambition.

Watts, Julia. (2013). Secret City. Tallahassee, FL: Bella Books.

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18 April 2015


Endangered by Eliot Schrefer is the story of one girl and one rescued bonobo surviving a war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sophie is the daughter of an American father and a Congolese mother. She lived in DR Congo until her parents split up. Now she attends school in the United States and spends summers in Congo with her mother just outside of the capital of Kinshasa. Her mother runs a bonobo rescue.

This year when Sohpie arrives in Congo, she sees a man selling a bonobo. While the sanctuary has a policy to never buy bonobos because it will help continue the cycle of violence toward the apes, Sophie knows that by the time the authorities arrive the man will have moved on. So she gives him the money in her pocket and takes the young ape.

Now Sophie must act as a surrogate mother for the bonobo she has named Otto. She will have to be with him at all times as bonobos need emotional support as much as nutrition.

A few days later, her mother has left to go up river and release a few adult bonobos and Sophie is staying at the rescue. The radio announces that the President has been killed and rebels are taking over the capital. All foreigners are being collected to be put on United Nations planes and flown to safety, but Sophie cannot leave Otto.

What follows is the story of war and survival and of love as Sophie and Otto try their best to survive in a world of chaos. Her only hope it to somehow make it a couple hundred miles to where she hopes her mother is safe from the fighting.

Schrefer has written a great novel that explores both life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with untold wealth in minerals and no stable government, and bonobos as a species - a gentle and endangered great ape. This is a wonderful book that was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Schrefer, Eliot. (2012). Endangered. New York: Scholastic.

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14 April 2015

Rivals in the City (The Agency #4)

Rivals in the City by YS Lee is the fourth book in her Agency historical mystery series featuring Mary Quinn.

It is 1860 in London and Mary Quinn finished her last assignment with the Agency nine months ago. She has started her own detective firm with James Easton and they are taking case.

She is approached by the head of the Agency about a case - a follow up to Mary's very first case. Mr. Thorold is serving a life sentence in prison and is ill. His wife fled England under suspicion and has not been heard from since. She may return to see him before he dies.

Mary is to chance an encounter with their daughter, Angelica, to whom she is a lady's companion (as she was disguised in her first case). If her mother is captured it will mean one less evil schemer on the streets.

Lee has created a wonderful series set in a fascinating time in history. Mary Quinn is a wonderful character who passes for English while learning more about her heritage and her Chinese father's past. Fans of the adult series Maisie Dobbs will love this younger heroine.

Lee, Y.S. (2014). Rivals in the City. New York: Candlewick Press.

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13 April 2015

Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1)

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger is the first book in her Finishing School series - an alternate history, steampunk tale about a finishing school that teaches dance, dress and etiquette along with death, diversion and espionage.

Sophronia Temminnick is the youngest child in a London household. Her sisters are all about dressing and following social rules while Sophronia is more interested in how things work. She is always getting into trouble and while trying to eavesdrop on a conversation between her mother and a friend, she tumbles out of the dumbwaiter and splatters food all over her mother's friend.

This is the same day she learns that she is being sent to a finishing school - Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. She will be traveling to the school with an academy representative and two other students.

Even before she can arrive at the school, the action begins. And the longer Sophronia is at school the better suited she thinks she is to be there - in spite of the fact that she regularly breaks the rules.

Carriger has created a wonderful steampunk world. The Finishing School series takes place in the same world as her adult series, the Parasol Protectorate. This first book in the series is a delight and I cannot wait until I can start the second book.

Carriger, Gail. (2013). Etiquette and Espionage. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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08 April 2015

The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson is a book about dealing with the past.

Hayley Kincain lives with her father. They just moved into his mother's house that he inherited. For the last few years Hayley was home schooled - or more accurately, she and her father lived in his semi and they drove all over the United States. Now Hayley is in a normal high school for her senior year.

Hayley's father is a retired soldier. He liked to keep moving to try to outrun the memories, but felt like Hayley needed stability. He uses different methods to try to cope with the terrible things he saw and the people he lost. And Hayley does what she can to help while keeping an eye on him to see if he is going to fall apart.

Anderson's look at the damage done to those who experience war, and the people who love them, is a compelling story. This is an important book by an author known for dealing with serious subjects.

Anderson, Laurie Halse. (2014). The Impossible Knife of Memory. New York: Viking.

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05 April 2015

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks is the story of high school and what happens when the school leaves it up to the student council to decide who gets the limited funding - the cheerleaders or the robotics club.

Charlie is minding his own business when his neighbor and classmate informs him that the school doesn't have enough money for both new cheerleader uniforms and the national robotics competition. Since Charlie used to date the head cheerleader, Nate thinks he needs to hear the unjust story of it all.

When Nate decides to run for school council president so he can vote where to use the money, the cheerleaders decide to elect Charlie. As the captain of the basketball team, he is popular and they think he will vote their way - because he is scared of them.

Creative ways to get money for both projects lead to compromise and working together - for groups that do not mix at most schools. Shen and Hicks have written a fun read that graphic novel readers will enjoy.

Shen, Prudence and Faith Erin Hicks. (2013). Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. New York: First Second Books.

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02 April 2015

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs #11)

A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear is the eleventh book in her Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series.

Maisie is a psychologist and detective but has taken time off of work to focus on other parts of her life. Continuing the story after four years, Winspear catches up readers with letters describing what Maisie has been doing and leaves us up to date to begin the new mystery.

Returning from India to England at the request of her father's wife, Maisie leaves her ship in Gibraltar - unable to going home. Much has changed in her life in four years and she is not ready to face the memories that await her.

In Gibraltar, Maisie discovers the body of a photographer. As is her nature, she decides to find out what happened to him - was it a senseless killing by a refugee from the Spanish Civil War who fled across the boarder seeking safety? Was he killed because he was Jewish? Or was being silenced?

Maisie is one of the best characters ever written. She is an intelligent woman who found her own place in spite of the societal rules of her time that limited women. In this volume, she confronts much of her past and uses a case to make peace with her past so she can move on. Winspear is a brilliant writer who everyone should read. If you haven't started this series, buy Maisie Dobbs today!

Winspear, Jacqueline. (2015). A Dangerous Place. New York: Harper.

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