Matched by Ally Conde is the story of one 17-year-old, Cassia Reyes, living in a society that makes all major decisions for everyone, including where to live, your profession, and who you will marry. Cassia is finally told her Match on her 17th birthday, Xander, her childhood friend and confidante. But when she goes to look at the microchip containing his information after the ceremony, another boy’s face appears. An Official arrives to tell Cassia there has been a mistake and Xander is her Match, but her curiosity about Ky, the other boy whose face she saw, is piqued. She finds herself wondering about Ky and trying to spend more time with him and learn his story.
Cassia’s family is also going through tough times as Cassia deals with her feelings for the two men in her life. Cassia’s grandfather reaches the age of 80 and dies right on schedule an hour before midnight on his birthday. Cassia’s father loses the sample of her grandfather’s DNA and with it the possibility of his being cloned in the future. Cassia’s mother is sent on multiple trips to other areas of the Society as part of her work as an employee at an Arboretum. All this rule bending and breaking means increased scrutiny for Cassia and her family.
Cassia is an intelligent, likable main character and the two men in her life are both sympathetic and interesting. Matched is the first book in a planned trilogy and I look forward to reading more about Cassia, Ky and Xander and learning about how they confront the Society. This dystopian young adult novel is not full of action like The Hunger Games. It is more psychological and introspective. It should appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, though, as well as to people who enjoyed The Giver by Lois Lowry.
In his novel Broken Jewel, David Robbins tells the story of Los Banos prison, a camp near Manila that held civilian internees during World War II. Remy Tuck and his son Talbot are forced to march from Manila and build their own prison camp, along with 2,000 others from all walks of life. The story follows their lives and the hardships and abuse they are forced to endure at the hands of the Japanese soldiers. Finally, after 2 years, American planes fly overhead and the prisoners begin to hope that they will survive their ordeal. Remy and Tal risk their lives to become involved with the operation by American forces to rescue those in the camp before they are executed by the Japanese. Author Robbins has created a multi-faceted novel–a love story, a suspenseful war story and a story of family, hardship, hope and the will to survive. Carmen is one of the “comfort women”, a Filipina teen kidnapped by the Japanese and forced into relations with the Japanese soldiers, suffering brutality and degradation at their hands. Her character offers insight into the Japanese attitudes towards the war and her compassion and hope, even after the suffering she has encountered, is uplifting. The book is based on fact and the author’s thorough research is evident in his annotations, which give names and dates of the actual people and events involved. The rescue of the prisoners at Los Banos by the American military was an operation that included Philippine guerilla units, and the description of the daring operation is based on factual accounts. This is a book that, although at times is difficult to read, conveys through it’s characters the spirit that helped them to survive unbelievable hardships but still retain the hope that allowed them to survive and move forward with their lives.
Five-year-old Jack was born in Room and has never known anything of life outside Room, the 11-square-foot space he shares with his mother. Jack has learned to read, count, and process an imaginary world “Outside” through television. Worried about his growing curiosity, Ma finally tells Jack that she was kidnapped by “Old Nick” and has been held secluded in Room for seven years. At night Jack sleeps in a wardrobe to avoid Old Nick when he comes to visit, bringing their only supplies. Hiding out-of-sight, hearing noises and talk he doesn’t understand, Nick’s visits are a frightening intrusion. Facing her own desperation, Ma reveals to Jack that the “Outside” is real and that they must escape.
Told in the poignant voice of five year old Jack, Room is a story of unconquerable love and harrowing circumstances.
Fragile begins in Hollows, a quaint little town near New York City where everybody knows everybody. Or do they? When Charlene, a young local teen goes missing, her disappearance strikes uncomfortably close to home for psychiatrist Maggie and Jones, her policeman husband.
The death penalty as capitol punishment elicits a strong feeling among most people whether pro or con. John Grisham has tackled this topic in his newest novel, The Confession. The Reverend Keith Schroeder, a thirty-five year old Lutheran minister in Kansas, is surprised to have a recently paroled convict come to his office and confess to the murder of a Texas high school teenager years ago. Travis Boyette knows that an innocent black teenager was arrested nine years ago for the murder and now is just days away from being put to death. He convinces the Reverend of his guilt and the pair head to Texas in a race to save the life of Donte Drumm.
I’ve written about this series before, but this book was so sweet I just couldn’t resist revisiting. I also want to note that this book would be perfectly understandable even if you haven’t read any of the others. In the Pink Carnation series Willig has continued to provide hilarious, suspenseful, and romantic fare that will leave you clammoring for the next in the series.
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is so much more than an exercise in witty dialogue and amusing secondary characters. It is a trip around New York City in the bustling period around Christmas and the New Year and a glimpse back in time (for adults) to what it was like to be a teenager embarking on an adventure that leads to self-discovery and romance.
For Dash, the adventure begins in his favorite bookstore when he finds a red moleskin notebook next to Franny and Zooey that contains a set of instructions he must follow in order to get in touch with Lily, the owner of the notebook. Dash is intrigued but decides two can play that game and leaves his own set of instructions for Lily. The pair embark on a dance composed of correspondences and trips around the city to typical tourist destinations (at the height of the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy) as well as to places mostly known only to residents.
The intriguing secondary characters, many plot twists and choice use of words keep this novel moving and make it a quick, fun and timely read as we head into the holidays.
In 2005, Sean Aiken graduated from college. He spent the next year and a half traveling and avoiding making a decision about finding a job. In 2007, he decided it was time to find a job about which he could be passionate, so he started The One-Week Job Project. He built a website, sent an email to all his friends and family then started taking jobs that lasted for one week doing a wide variety of things for an entire year (his first job was as a jump master for bungee jumpers). He didn’t ask for any wages, just that whoever employed him for the week donate some money to a campaign called ONE that fights extreme poverty.
Aiken garnered media attention and started doing guest spots on radio programs and being featured in segments on local television stations. He landed a sponsor who donated $1000 a month to help with travel expenses after week 5. The job offers rolled in and over the course of the year, Aiken tried jobs ranging from florist to computer-software sales to aquarium host, preschool teacher, and finally mayor of his home town.
It was interesting to read about the variety of jobs Aiken tried. His journey led to a number of discoveries about himself and a wide variety of insights from the people who employed him along the way (most of the people who offered him jobs were individuals who love what they do).
As one of Aiken’s employers pointed out, the project gained as much attention as it did because so many people settle for careers they don’t love. It was refreshing to read about someone with the drive (and willingness to live with uncertainty) to find his passion.
Aiken’s website is still up and can be viewed at http://www.oneweekjob.com/.
The holiday season is upon us and what better way to get ready then to read a Christmas novel. One of my favorites is Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. The Krank’s have always been all about Christmas. They have the neighborhood Christmas Eve party every year at their house. They put frosty on top of their roof just like all the other neighbors. But when their daughter is spending Christmas out of the country, what better time to leave the hustle and bustle of Christmas behind and spend the holiday on tropical beaches catering to themselves. The one catch is that they can’t celebrate Christmas in any way. Nora finds it hard not to do the little Christmas things that have meant so much over years. On the other hand, Luther is loving being Mr. Scrooge. Neighbors think they are crazy, but they made a deal—No Christmas in exchange for the beaches. You’ll find other great Christmas novels on display at the Library this month.
The history of the miracle drug, penicillin, that helped the U.S. efforts to win World War II is the subject of Lauren Belfer’s new novel, A Fierce Radiance. She has written a gripping fiction read blending enough fact to create a desire to learn the truth about the history of this important medicine.
There are a ridiculous number of books being published right now featuring vampires (and werewolves and zombies). The Passage by Justin Cronin happens to feature vampires. But if you’re not a Twilight fan, don’t let the vampires put you off of The Passage. These vampires don’t sparkle and don’t get involved in melodramatic love triangles. These vampires are out of the Stoker tradition, although in this wonderfully captivating novel the vampire condition is caused by a virus harvested and modified by the government to create super soldiers.
One hundred years after “virals” escape a government testing facility in Colorado, there live a group of people in a place known as “The Colony” in what was California. On a maintenance trip to the power station powering the lights that keep their settlement from being overrun by the virals, they find a girl on her own. She has a chip implanted in her neck recording her vitals that has been recording for approximately the past hundred years. They have also discovered a radio transmission repeating the message “if you found her, bring her here.” The obvious conclusion is that the transmission refers to this mystery girl.
A small group sets out to discover the source of the transmission and find out if the reason this girl is still alive after one hundred years is information that can save the rest of humanity. The lights at The Colony are failing, and there isn’t much time to find an answer.
The images of tornadoes that can frequent the Midwest from spring to fall are both fascinating and terrifying, and many of the video images seen on TV news coverage of storms may well have been filmed by Reed Timmer, author of the book Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes and Death-defying Adventures in Extreme Weather. Timmer describes his adventures as a storm chaser and his obsession with extreme weather, an interest he has had since he was a child. As a meteorology student at the University of Oklahoma, one of the premier programs in the world, Timmer began storm chasing in order to study and learn more about violent thunderstorms and what conditions cause them to evolve into tornadoes. He describes himself as an adrenaline-fueled chaser who wants to intercept and get as close to a tornado as possible. His willingness to charge into extreme situations has made him a celebrity on the Discovery Channel’s Stormchasers, which follows several teams as they chase storms across the Midwest in their efforts to gather data and increase understanding of these weather phenomenon. A recent PhD graduate, Timmer provides clear explanations of meteorological terms and helps us to understand the forces that come together to create severe storms. Timmer is headstrong in his obsession to come close to and film storms, but is also genuinely distressed at the devastation tornadoes cause to lives and property. He shows how storm chasers benefit both the local communities and the National Weather Service by providing accurate and timely information about the force and the path of deadly storms, thus saving lives. These scientists are continually trying to expand their knowledge of severe weather by developing new ways to study and compile data from storms. This is an exciting and fascinating look into the weather that affects us in Kansas and of the commitment of these researchers to gain knowledge about these storms despite the dangers involved.
Letters to Juliet tells the story of the hundreds of letters that arrive in Verona, Italy, addressed merely to “Juliet”–letters from people around the world who want to express their feelings about love–loves lost, love remembered or elusive love. They are seeking the advice of Juliet–the romantic character in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The Juliet Club is a group of women of Verona who have volunteered to send each correspondent a hand-written letter from Juliet, offering compassion along with advice in their replies. The book details the history of the first letters that arrived for Juliet and the man, a custodian at Juliet’s tomb, who began the tradition of replying to each letter. It also contains several of the letters that have been left in the hopes that Juliet’s romantic advice can be of help, as well as the replies from the Secretaries of Juliet. It is a fascinating look at the hopeful nature of love and romance.
Faith West is a children’s librarian in Chicago who is jilted on her wedding day for not being exciting enough. She decides to go on her honeymoon to Italy by herself, where she meets and spends her time with the handsome Caine. After finding out he is the employee of a rival private investigation firm to her family’s firm and was sent to keep an eye on her (and that he blames her father for precipitating his own father’s suicide), she ditches him and heads back to Chicago. Taking her ex-fiance’s cricism to heart, she quits her job at the library and goes to work for her father as a researcher and investigator. In her new job, Faith keeps running into Caine, and things just continue to become more complicated wtih each encounter.