Book Review: Everless

Everless by Sara Holland

First line: Most people find the forest frightening, believing the old tales of fairies who will freeze the time in your blood, or witches who can spill your years out over the snow with only a whisper.

Summary: In a world where blood is time and time is currency, resides Jules Ember. She is a young girl determined to save her father’s life by returning to the Everless estate in order to earn more blood irons (the currency that can add days to years onto a persons life). However, when her father dies at the gates of Everless Jules becomes entangled in a mystery about her past and the family she has been serving.

Highlights: The idea of blood being transformed into currency but can also be consumed to add more time to a person’s lifespan is very intriguing. I never would have considered this premise but it is fascinating to think about. I liked the twist at the end. I figured out several pieces but many of them were great details that added to the mystery. This is a typical dystopian YA novel but it still feels fresh and new.

Lowlights: Being a reader of YA I could easily predict several plot points.  There are similarities to books such as Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

FYI: Book 1 in a series!

Book Review: Tarnished City

Tarnished City by Vic James

*May contain spoilers–see my review of book one, Gilded Cage.*

First line: Jenner reined his horse to a halt, and it stamped and snorted in the long blue-black shadow of the trees.

Summary: In a modern day Great Britain the powerful are called Equals. They have magical powers called Skill. And the common people live their lives just as we do except for each person is required to serve 10 slave years during their lifetime. Many are sent to the slave towns to work in factories but the Hadley family are assigned to work at a home of an Equal. However, when Luke kills the Prime Minister he is condemned and sent to the dreaded prison island for a lifelong punishment. His sister Abigail is determined to rescue her brother. She escapes and tries to find the other rebels who are intent on bringing down the Equal regime and end the slave days. Revolution has begun in Great Britain and it will be a battle to the death.

Highlights: This series reminds me of the Hunger Games. There is lots of action and drama. The characters are really well established. I hate Whittam Jardine almost as much as President Snow. I was deeply saddened by several deaths in the story. I was completely shocked when they happened that I gasped and had to take a minute to recover from them. If a book can make you do that, you know that you are invested in it. I keep having complicated feelings about Silyean. He is an interesting character that I cannot decide if I want to trust or not. When I was nearing the end the whole story sped up and it was like a marathon. I had to finish it and was exhausted at the end. It was great! I cannot wait till the author releases the final book to find out how the story ends, if I can trust Silyean and see if the Hadley’s survive the revolution.

Lowlights: The magical powers of the Equal is called Skill. I felt like the word was over used at times. On several pages, the word is mentioned multiple times. As a reader of the series, we understand what they are doing. It does not have to be pointed out repeatedly.

FYI: Lots of violence.

Book Review: One of Us Is Lying

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

First line: A sex tape.

Summary: Five students are in detention. All were put there because they were caught with a phone on them in class. However, when one of the students, Simon, dies during detention the others are all suspects. Simon is the school gossip. He posts all the rumors and secrets of his classmates on the internet making him one of the most hated kids in the school. Each of the “Bayview Four” know that they were being framed but by who?

Highlights: This has been compared to The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars and I think that is spot on. I love both and together they are great. I really enjoyed this debut novel. The mystery is good with little twists. The characters are great representations of teens and the problems that they deal with. Problems with family, friends, relationships, sports, and school. There was the jock, the brain, the popular girl and the burn out. It was a fun fast-paced novel. I will definitely keep a look out for the author’s next book.

Lowlights: Nearing the end I started to guess at the conclusion. It felt like all the likely scenarios were too easy so the better option was the not so obvious one.

FYI: Great for younger readers who want a good thriller.

Book Review: Renegades

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

First line: We were all villains in the beginning.

Summary: Nova is a villain. Adrian is a super hero. Nova was orphaned as a child when the group called the Renegades failed to save her parents from an assassin. Fueled by hate for the group of super heroes she joins a group called the Anarchists. When the plan to kill the leader of the Renegades fails Nova devises a plan to join the super hero force in order to bring them all down from the inside. But she did not intend to like the people she is meant to hate. Or even fall in love with the son of leaders of the Renegades.

Highlights: The cover is amazing. It is truly a cover for a super hero book. The bold colors and design are perfect for the story. This book falls in during the perfect time. Super hero movies and books are on the rise and this one great for readers of this genre. I liked that the characters. My favorite was a minor character, Winston (the Puppeteer). He is creepy and funny at the same time.

Lowlights: Most of the book is an introduction to the world and characters. The beginning is slower moving with most of the action happening at the end of the book.

FYI: This is the first of a duology. If you like this check out the author’s series, The Lunar Chronicles, a sci-fi fairy tale adventure.

I was lucky enough to attend an event at Watermark Books in Wichita when Marissa Meyer was promoting this book.  She was wonderful!  I loved listening to her talk about her ideas and plans for the book.  She has a great sense of humor and can tell a great story.  I laughed a lot while listening to her stories about writing.  I was really excited to get her to sign Cress, the third book in The Lunar Chronicles series.


Book review: The Shape of Ideas

The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider

This review will not look like one of our normal reviews, because this graphic novel isn’t a story with a first line, or story, but a fun collection of ideas.

I love the subtitle of this book—”An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity” because I feel that’s the essence of this book. I’ve read a couple reviews that indicate that this book isn’t great at motivating or being a self-help book. However, I’m not sure that’s what it’s meant to be.

If you’ve ever consciously engaged in the creative process in any way (art, writing, creating in any form including sewing, fiber arts, paper crafts, anything!) you’ll find some familiar feels in this book. From variations on a blank page to a walk in the park, I love the thoughts and experiences shared in this fun book.

The pictures are so detailed and fun to examine. And it seemed like on every page I found words or a picture that just spoke to me and my own creative experiences.

Early September new releases

The holiday weekend means I’m a little behind this month, but here are some new releases we’re looking forward to this month. I hope you found some time to get some reading in on that last great weekend of the summer.

Yesterday really did seem to be our last blast of summer with temperatures in the Wichita area hovering near 100 degrees. Today feels like the beginning of fall with much cooler temperatures and a cloudy sky! But for us readers, that just means that we can move our reading indoors with a cup of our favorite warm beverage (librarians here are split between coffee and tea, although my favorite is hot cocoa).

Take a look at the titles below and see if something here grabs your interest. You can click on the title of the book to find it in our catalog.

Cover of Lie To Me by J. T. Ellison
A tale of a relationship built on lies, and how it can unravel.

Sept. 5: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison
Where does a life built on lies get Sutton and Ethan Montclair? Not very far it turns out. While it appears that the couple is made for each other, the truth is much darker. They have been consumed by troubles, both personal and financial, and the two both love and hate each other. When Sutton disappears, leaving a note that directs people not to look for her, the lies begin to unravel and Ethan finds himself at the center of the gossip and questions. A thriller full of twists and turns that will have you turning pages.

Sept. 5: All That Makes Life Bright by Josi S. Kilpack
This romance tells the story of Harriet Beecher and her relationship with Calvin Stowe. Harriet has a strong faith in God and believes that God will help her accomplish everything she is meant to be, including a wife, mother, and writer. When Calvin is called away on a European business trip, Harriet begins to wonder about her place in his life as she knows he still misses his first wife. Even when Calvin returns, life is much harder as Harriet tries to fulfill her many roles.

Cover of The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
A new tale from a literary master.

Sept. 5: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
Another masterful tale from Rushdie, this novel tells the story of the Golden family, from the perspective of their Manhattanite neighbor, confidant and aspiring filmmaker, Rene. Nero Golden is a real-estate tycoon with three adult children. They move into a mansion in downtown Manhattan after immigrating to the United States under mysterious circumstances. Rushdie calls on pop culture, cinema, literature, and current events to tell this story.

Cover of Lines by Suzy Lee
A magical picture book explores the designs a young skater makes on a frozen pond.

Sept. 5: Lines by Suzy Lee (picture book)
From Goodreads: “And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee’s books have been lauded around the world, recognized on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children’s book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.”

Sept. 12: Warcross by Marie Lu (young adult—not yet on catalog, but is on order)
For those who log in every day, Warcross is more than just a game. Emika Chen is a teenage hacker who also works as a bounty hunter, searching for those who bet on the game illegally. She needs to make some quick cash, so she takes a risk and hacks into a game, but accidentally glitches herself into the action. She’s convinced she’s going to be arrested, but instead ends up on a mission for the young billionaire creator of the game.

Sept. 12: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Cover of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng creates a simmering suburb in this story of how a secret can upend a community.

Shaker Heights is a carefully planned suburb of Cleveland, from the layout of the roads to the color of the houses. Elena Richardson embodies the ideas behind the suburb perfectly, as she absolutely believes in following the rules. But when Mia Warren moves in — an artist and single mom — and rents a house from the Richardson, life in this carefully ordered community gets upended.

Book Review: The Perfect Stranger

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

First line: The cat under the front porch was at it again.

Summary: Leah Stevens was once a reporter in Boston but when a story she wrote ruined her reputation she decided to pack up and move to a small town in the middle of the Pennsylvania wilderness with an old roommate.  However, the sleepy town is anything but.  First, a woman, who looks strikingly like Leah, is attacked and then her roommate, Emmy, disappears.  Very little is known about either woman.  Leah uses her skills as a journalist to help her find her friend and get the answers to who attacked the woman in the woods.

Highlights: Creepy.  Stalkers and mysterious voices on the phone.  Roommates with secrets.  A lookalike attacked nearby.  I was filled with many theories but each seemed to fall through as each new detail was revealed.  Megan Miranda has once again delivered a great psychological thriller that is hard to put down.

Lowlights (or what could have been better): The last chapter was a little anti-climactic.  It wrapped everything up which was good but at the same time disappointing.  I wanted to be left with a “didn’t see that coming” feeling.

FYI: It is number two in the All the Missing Girls series but it does not have to be read in any order.  The stories are completely unconnected.

Late August new releases

Man, it feels like we were just here talking about early August new releases, and now it’s time for late August new books already! The good news is we have THREE more Tuesdays in August for that much more good reading to be available!

Here are a few of the books we think will make an end-of-summer splash with their releases later this month. Which ones will make it onto your list of to-reads?

Cover of Bonaparte Falls Apart
This new picture book is great for Halloween or the start of the school year.

Aug. 15: Bonaparte Falls Apart by Margery Cuyler (picture book)
If you have a child who is anxious about starting school, check out this adorable picture book about Bonaparte, who has issues when playing catch (his arm flies off with the ball) and other minor mishaps. His good friends Franky Stein, Black Widow and Mummicula are there to help him out.


Aug. 15: How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas
Meet Isidore Mazal, an average 11-year-old who lives in France with his five exceptional older siblings. While his siblings are on track to have their doctorates by age 24, writing a novel or playing with a symphony, Isidore notices things and asks questions others are afraid to ask. When the Mazal family experiences a tragedy, Isidore is the one to notice how the rest of the family is handling their grief and he may be the only one who can save the family, if he doesn’t decide to run away from home first.

Aug. 15: A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor (young adult)
Emma and Henri are sisters who have always been best friends. Emma trusted Henri implicitly, and then something happens that wrecks them and they end up washed ashore. They are stranded with only Alex, a troubled boy who has secrets of his own.

Aug. 22: Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton
In the second-to-last installment of Grafton’s alphabet mysteries, Kinsey Millhone finds herself in drawn into one of her most disturbing cases yet. In 1979, four boys sexually assaulted a teenage girl, videotaped it, and not long after the videotape went missing and one of the boys was killed. Fast forward to 1989 when one of the perpetrators is released from prison. A copy of the missing videotape shows up with a note demanding ransom, and the perpetrator’s family calls Kinsey in.

Cover of The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen
Cricket and her grandmother Dodo go on a Manhattan adventure in this middle-grades novel by Catherine Lloyd Burns.

Aug. 22: The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen by Catherine Lloyd Burns (middle-grades novel)
From Goodreads: “Cricket Cohen isn’t a liar, but she doesn’t always tell the exact truth. She loves thinking about geology and astronomy and performing tricky brain surgery on her stuffed animals. She also loves conspiring with Dodo, her feisty grandmother who lives in the apartment right next door. And one Manhattan weekend when she’s in hot water with her teacher and her controlling parents over a fanciful memoir essay, Cricket goes along with Dodo’s questionable decision to hit the bricks. Imagining all sorts of escapades, Cricket is happy to leave home behind. But on a crosstown adventure with an elderly woman who has her own habit of mixing truth and fantasy, some hard realities may start to get in the way of all the fun.”

Aug. 22: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Aviva Grossman is a congressional intern in Florida. When she engages in an affair with her boss — a very married congressman — then blogs about it, she takes the fall when it goes public. She changes her name and moves to Maine to become a wedding planner. However, as events in her life unfold, she discovers that thanks to the power of the Internet, her past is never actually left behind.

Cover of Glass Houses by Louise Penny, the 13th novel in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series
Louise Penny’s beloved Inspector Armand Gamache faces not just a physical investigation into a murder, but an internal investigation of his conscience.

Aug. 29: Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #13) by Louise Penny
A mysterious figure appears on the village green in Three Pines. A body is discovered when it vanishes and it is up to Gamache to discover the ins and outs of the murder. The story takes the reader not just through the discovery of the body and the arrest of the suspect, but through the trial of the accused. All the while, Gamache wrestles with the actions he’s set in motion, and his conscience.

Aug. 29: Pretend You’re Safe by Alexandra Ivy
A serial killer buries his victims on the banks of the Mississippi. Years later, the rains and floods unearth the bodies. While his victims were disappearing, Jaci Patterson was finding “gifts” on her porch — the first was a golden locket with a few strands of hair wrapped around a bloodstained ribbon inside. The deputy sheriff at the time was convinced that Jaci was just a publicity-seeking teen. Until Jaci comes home again, and the nightmare has started again.

Aug. 29: Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties by Dav Pilkey
Dog Man is back in his third adventure from the author of the Captain Underpants series. Dog Man is on the police force, which hasn’t always been the best thing to happen. But now, Petey the cat has dragged in some trouble, in the form of a kitten, and Dog Man is going to have to work extra hard to stay top dog!

Book Review: The Fallen Kingdom

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May

First Line: I am the beginning of a girl: her throat filled with ash, desperately clawing her way from the earth with weak, trembling limbs and an urgent message on her lips.

Summary: In the third book in the Falconer series, Aileana has returned from the dead and with powers given to her by a faery.  She knows that in order to return her world to the way it once was is to find the Book and the only way to do that is to enlist the help of the faery who killed her.

Highlights: Very action packed with many fight scenes and witty remarks.  This book made me laugh often.  I love the character of Derrick.  He has been my favorite part since the very first book.

Lowlights: The story seemed a little weaker than the rest.  It could have been included in the second book as a short ending.  The author seemed to stretch it out at times.

FYI: Perfect for readers of Sarah Maas and Cassandra Clare.

Book Review: The Shadow Land

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

First Line: Sofia, the year 2008.

Summary: When Alexandra takes a summer job in Sofia, Bulgaria she thinks that it will be the perfect way to heal the loss of her brother who disappeared on a hiking trip.  But things do not turn out the way she had planned.  She meets a group of three people outside a hotel but when they go their separate ways she notices that she has kept one of their bags.  Inside are human ashes.  With the help of the friendly taxi driver, Bobby, she is determined to find the group and return the remains.  Everything is not as easy as she expected when threats and warnings start to appear as they dig deeper into whose ashes are in the urn.

Highlights: I love the pieces near the end when you get to look into the life of Stoyan Lazarov.  He details his time after the war and living in Communist controlled Bulgaria.  The strength that he possesses is astounding.  I have read a lot about prisoners during the Holocaust and it always scares me plus amazes me the will power and strength these people have.

Lowlights: The middle is slow moving as they are traveling around Bulgaria looking for the relatives of Stoyan.  It was a lot of detail gathering and talking that leads up till the ending but it got long.

FYI: Read her other book, The Historian! Amazing read.  But make sure you keep the lights on.