The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she can't refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers the story of Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest--to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.
This book was not "spooky" or "bedeviling." It was, however, an awesome piece of historical fiction. The interludes featuring Deliverance and her ancestors were the most interesting parts of the story. Unfortunately, Connie's end of the story didn't quite keep up. It wasn't boring so much as drawn out. Towards the end of the book, Connie's story was just as interesting as Deliverance's, although the two were very different. The historic parts of the book were fascinating because of the light they shed on the Salem Witch Trials and what it was like for the accused women. Connie's story was more academic, but the love story was sweet.
The biggest reason Connie's story didn't interest me as much as Deliverance's is the book's extremely long exposition. Two thirds of the book, at least, are mainly exposition, detailing Connie's search for the physick book. It was interesting, peppered with historical facts with a good amount of research behind them. But a description of a scholarly hunt for a historical book should not take up over 200 pages. Again, however, once Connie's story picked up, it was really very good. It just took a while to get there.
I have a couple other little problems with The Physick Book, but nothing else major. Howe uses the suspense technique of keeping her character from realizing something excruciatingly obvious, which annoys me to no end. And I found some of her generalizations about New Englanders, "Yankees," a bit untrue. But I must admit that Howe is a talented writer, even if she draws her story out a bit too long.
Despite being a realistic, thought-provoking piece of historical fiction, I can only give this book three stars. After all, the actual historical fiction chapters make up less than a third of the book, and their contemporary counterparts don't quite match them in quality. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in the Salem Witch Trials or America's occult history, because Howe does a very good job with that material. I would not recommend it to anyone looking for a book about magic, spells, and Harry Potter-like things.
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.
As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?
The Fever by Megan Abbott
The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.
As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.
17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen
No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.
Until Claire meets Luke.
But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.
With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
Amara is never alone. Not when she's protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they're fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she's punished, ordered around, or neglected.
She can't be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.
Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he's yanked from his Arizona town into Amara's mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He's spent years as a powerless observer of Amara's life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she's furious.
All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan's breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they'll have to work together to survive--and discover the truth about their connection.
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
A novel of a future in which bands of children and teens survive on the detritus--physical and cultural--of a collapsed America. When her brother is struck down by Posies--a contagion that has killed everyone by their late teens for generations--fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star pursues the rumour of a cure and sets out on a quest to save him, her tribe and what's left of their future. Along the way she faces broken hearts and family tragedy, mortal danger and all-out war--and much growing up for the girl who may have led herself and everyone she loves to their doom.
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman transforms a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders—where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under "Pest Control," and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality, obscured by smoke and darkness yet brilliantly tangible, in this collection of short works by a master prestidigitator.
I was first introduced to this book when my friend made me read the short story Babycakes, in which the animals disappear and babies - yes, babies - take their place as lab subjects, leather suppliers, and a food source.
Babycakes and stories like it fill the pages of Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of Gaiman's short stories written over the years and all compiled into one place. Some of them, like Babycakes, are terrifying and disgusting. Others are silly but fantastic, while still more are serious. A few are sexually explicit and even pornographic. They all contain elements of fantasy, ranging from creepy to entertaining.
Every story is of a high caliber, since it's Gaiman writing them, but as usual a few rise above the rest. They're the creepiest or weirdest ones. Some of them even make me afraid to turn out my light. That would be because they all seem very, very real, like if you were to be observant enough, you might find a troll under your nearest train bridge or a fictional H.P. Lovecraft town off the highway. Fantasy lovers will be thrilled with this anthology, as will any Gaiman fans who haven't read it yet.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love.
This book was a birthday present, and it is probably the best present I got this year. I finished it, sobbing, close to midnight, and it now holds a place of honor on my shelf.
We Were Liars starts off as a story of a girl recovering from a traumatic incident she can't remember, and it becomes a story about love, privilege, and tragedy. I was almost afraid, after reading the summary, that it was going to be a story about rich kids on their private island with problems that don't really matter, but the book proved itself to be so much more from the first page.
The romance was spot-on. Cadence never sounded whiny, and the love story never felt forced. The characters were all gorgeous and drove the plot well. Written in Cadence's clear, almost lyric voice, the story unfolds with perfect pacing. I wasn't bored for a minute.
And then the plot twist hit. Seriously, honestly, the best plot twist I have read in YA. I wasn't expecting it at all, but I could see all the little hints Lockhart had left throughout the story. It was done so well I had to pause and re-read the paragraph three times before I convinced myself that I hadn't read it wrong. And then I dissolved into a puddle of tears.
There's a good amount of suspense and mystery throughout the whole book, which starts to subside a little towards the end, after the climax of the novel. After that point, I was nothing but a mess of shock and awe for Lockhart's talent. This book ripped my heart out, but it made me happy about it.
Read it. Weep. And then come back for more.
Trouble by Non Pratt
When the entire high school finds out that Hannah Shepard is pregnant via her ex-best friend, she has a full-on meltdown in her backyard. The one witness (besides the rest of the world): Aaron Tyler, a transfer student and the only boy who doesn’t seem to want to get into Hannah’s pants. Confused and scared, Hannah needs someone to be on her side. Wishing to make up for his own past mistakes, Aaron does the unthinkable and offers to pretend to be the father of Hannah’s unborn baby. Even more unbelievable, Hannah hears herself saying “yes.”
Told in alternating perspectives between Hannah and Aaron, Trouble is the story of two teenagers helping each other to move forward in the wake of tragedy and devastating choices.
Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters
When Alix's charismatic girlfriend, Swanee, dies from sudden cardiac arrest, Alix is overcome with despair. As she searches Swanee's room for mementos of their relationship, she finds Swanee's cell phone, pinging with dozens of texts sent from a mysterious contact, L.T. The most recent text reads: "Please tell me what I did. Please, Swan. Te amo. I love you."
Shocked and betrayed, Alix learns that Swanee has been leading a double life--secretly dating a girl named Liana the entire time she's been with Alix. Alix texts Liana from Swanee's phone, pretending to be Swanee in order to gather information before finally meeting face-to-face to break the news.
Brought together by Swanee's lies, Alix and Liana become closer than they'd thought possible. But Alix is still hiding the truth from Liana. Alix knows what it feels like to be lied to--but will coming clean to Liana mean losing her, too?
Don't You Forget About Me by Kat Karyus Quinn
Welcome to Gardnerville.
A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies.
There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.
Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.
Inland by Kat Rosenfield
Callie Morgan has long lived choked by the failure of her own lungs, the result of an elusive pulmonary illness that has plagued her since childhood. A childhood marked early by the drowning death of her mother—a death to which Callie was the sole witness. Her father has moved them inland, away from the memories of the California coast her mother loved so much and toward promises of recovery—and the escape of denial—in arid, landlocked air.
But after years of running away, the promise of a life-changing job for her father brings Callie and him back to the coast, to Florida, where Callie’s symptoms miraculously disappear. For once, life seems delightfully normal. But the ocean’s edge offers more than healing air … it holds a magnetic pull, drawing Callie closer and closer to the chilly, watery embrace that claimed her mother. Returned to the ocean, Callie comes of age and comes into a family destiny that holds generations of secrets and very few happy endings.
The Merciless by Danielle Vega
Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned
Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
Brazen by Katherine Longshore
Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?
The Fault in Our Stars
Adapted from: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Release Date: June 6, 2014
Directed by: Josh Boone
Produced by: Wyck Godfrey
Screenplay by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
I was one of the lucky ducks who got to see The Night Before Our Stars, but it's taken me a full twenty-four hours to form a coherent thought about this.
I am in awe.
John Green is one of the most talented writers I have ever read, and the TFiOS production team somehow transferred this incredible story to the movie screen. Some things had to be left out, obviously, but everything important was there. The screen writers deserve a huge round of applause for the way they transformed Green's story without changing it.
We already know Hollywood can tell great love stories, jerk tears, and show heartfelt grief. I had faith that those elements of TFiOS would be carried over to the movie, but I was worried that the characters wouldn't have the same effect onscreen as on the page. Hazel Grace and Augustus are so incredibly real in the book that I wasn't sure any actors could portray them. I was wrong. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort were absolutely perfect for the roles. All of the actors did an incredible job. I cannot get over the amount of talent in this movie.
The only thing that the movie didn't quite manage to do was capture Hazel's voice, the way she tells her story. It would have been impossible, requiring constant narration, but they did the best possible. Hazel's wit and voice were there in the small parts Shailene did narrate, and the dialogue was as brilliant as John Green wrote it.
Everyone associated with this movie deserves so much praise. The Fault in Our Stars is a book beloved by thousands of people, and the cast and crew had to turn it into a two-hour film. There were so many subtle touches - the bit of blue in every scene, the Hectic Glow poster in Hazel's room, the texts and emails popping up on the screen, the beautiful soundtrack, the gorgeous set and costume designs - it was clear how much thought, time, and creativity was put into this movie. The effect was stunning. I want to hug everyone who had anything to do with the awesomeness of this movie.
The actors and the production crew did this story justice. When I first heard that TFiOS was going to be made into a movie, I didn't want to go see it. I was afraid the movie adaptation would ruin the book for me when I reread it. Not the case at all. If anything, having seen the movie will make the book even more amazing when I read it again. I cried for more than half of the film, big, ugly sobs with snot on my face. I laughed through my tears and sat on the edge of my seat even though I already knew how it ended.
I am so extremely happy with the way The Fault in Our Stars turned out. Even the movie-poster cover of the book is lovely. I will watch this movie over and over again for years to come. This has become more of a fangirling rant than a review by now, but there's really no other way to describe it. The Fault in Our Stars is a masterpiece both on the page and in the theatre.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within the world's digital confines - puzzles that are based on the creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win - and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
The extent of my video gaming prowess is winning de Blob 2 last year and making painfully slow progress through Portal - so I guess you could say I'm not exactly a master gamer. Luckily, you don't have to be an expert Xbox player to enjoy Ready Player One, but you do have to be something of a geek.
The OASIS is basically nerd heaven, where fictional words are recreated and you can play as an elf, Vulcan, wizard, etc. The online world is incredibly detailed and comes with a backstory more complete than half the fictional universes out there. Occasionally that background information gets a little lengthy, but it was pretty neat to see that Cline put so much time and effort into developing Wade's world, both real and virtual. Both of them were fairly realistic for all the high-tech computer wizardry and mass video game addiction.
Halliday's Easter egg hunt, the focus of the book, was just as well-thought out as its backstory. It was exciting, but really only when Wade was about to get a key, crack the clue, or run in with the Sixers (the bad guys). In between clues, Cline's writing became really technical and boring, outlining minutiae of Wade's life and computer history. I learned more about the 1980s from Ready Player One than I did from five years living with a stepdad who never really left the decade. There are page-long tangents about this old video game or that early computer, some of which was interesting, but most of which felt like reading through a bunch of Jeopardy! answers.
Although some of the 80's trivia was a bit of a distraction from the plot, some of it actually was important. Cline also mentioned more recent nerd-culture phenomenons, like Doctor Who, which was pretty awesome. The whole book was one big tip of the hat to nerds everywhere. I also absolutely loved Cline's portrayal of online relationships, particularly the one between Aech and Wade. He completely refutes the "they're not real friends, it's just the internet!" argument by having 90% of the world's social interactions take place in a virtual reality. I really liked Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto, and how their relationships with Wade developed through the contest - that was pretty realistic.
I'm not such a big fan of the romance between Wade and Art3mis. He's been, and I quote, "stalking" her for years, and suddenly he gets the chance to meet her! It's pretty cliche. When Wade started getting all lovey-dovey, his character got a lot more annoying. The romance wasn't all bad, though, and the last scene of the book was actually really sweet; I loved it.
Speaking of endings, Ready Player One ended exactly like you'd expect it to. I was hoping for one last good plot twist, but Cline stayed the course of predictability. It wasn't a bad ending, it just wasn't a surprise. The predictable ending and overabundance of nerd trivia lose two stars for Ready Player One, but it's still an enjoyable story. Definitely worth the read for any nerds out there.
Say What You Will by Callie McGovern
Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.
When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.
The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson
Robert "'Cali" Callahan is a teen runaway, living on the streets of Venice Beach, California. He's got a pretty sweet life: a treehouse to sleep in, a gang of surf bros, a regular basketball game...even a girl who's maybe-sorta interested in him.
What he doesn't have is a plan.
All that changes when a local cop recommends Cali to a private investigator who is looking for a missing teenager. After all, Cali knows everyone in Venice. But the streets are filled with people who don't want to be found, and when he's hired to find the beautiful Reese Abernathy, who would do anything to stay hidden, Cali must decide where his loyalties truly lie
Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery by Abby Sher
Somaly Mam was born in the forests of Cambodia in the early 1970’s and sold into sexual slavery by her “grandfather” before she was even twelve years old.
Maria Suarez came to America from Mexico when she was fifteen with her family. She went on a job interview to be a maid. When she got inside, her “interviewer” locked the door and told her he owned her body from that moment on.
Minh Dang was born in San Jose, California. Her house was always neat and there were bright rose bushes in her front yard. Nobody knew that behind closed doors her parents were raping and abusing her from the time she was three years old. Soon they started selling her body to neighbors as well.
These three women could easily have been voiceless victims, lost to the horrors of their own histories. Instead, they not only fought their way out of sexual slavery, they have each become leading advocates and activists in the anti-trafficking movement.
Smart by Kim Slater
I found Jean’s friend dead in the river. His name was Colin Kirk. He was a homeless man, but he still wanted to live.
There’s been a murder, but the police don’t care. It was only a homeless old man after all.
Kieran cares. He’s made a promise, and when you say something out loud, that means you’re going to do it, for real. He’s going to find out what really happened. To Colin. And to his grandma, who just stopped coming round one day. It’s a good job Kieran’s a master of observation, and knows all the detective tricks of the trade.
But being a detective is difficult when you’re Kieran Woods. When you’re amazing at drawing but terrible at fitting in. And when there are dangerous secrets everywhere, not just outside, but under your own roof.
Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Sam and Hannah only have the holidays to find 'The One'. Their lobster. But instead of being epic, their summer is looking awkward. They must navigate social misunderstandings, the plotting of well-meaning friends, and their own fears of being virgins for ever to find happiness. But fate is at work to bring them together. And in the end, it all boils down to love.
Clockwork Fairy Tales by Various
A collection of steampunkn fables, combining the timeless fairy tales that we all read as children with the out-of-time technological wizardry that is steampunk, this collection of stories blends the old and the new.
I am a huge fan of steampunk, but good books are hard to find in the steampunk genre. Most of the books have only one tiny clockwork device, and when I think steampunk, I think automata everywhere, fantastical machines, and half mad scientists. Clockwork Fairy Tales delivers all that as well as a sizeable dose of magic and tall tales.
Because it is an athology, the stories in Clockwork Fairy Tales range in quality, although they're all very good stories. The various authors showed awesome inventiveness in combining the fairy tales and fables with clockwork machines. Mixing the two genres gives the stories a new take on both steampunk and fantasy, and it works really well. The stories also take place in a wide range of settings, not just the typical Victorian England.
Although I'm still holding out hope for a kickass steampunk novel, Clockwork Fairy Tales deserves some recognition as a great anthology.
Ex Libris, Veritas
Welcome to Verity Reviews, a book blog to promote, review, and critique YA books of all genres.
As Simple as Snow