Book review: Shadow Run, by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller

Strickland, AdriAnne and Michael Miller. Shadow Run. (Kaitan Chronicles, book 1) Delacorte Press, 2017.  ISBN 978-0-399-55253-3.  $17.99.  Ages 12+.  P7Q8

Qole is a 17 year old space ship captain, and one of the best.  Unfortunately, a lot of her skill can be traced back to the poisonous cargo (Shadow – an elusive energy source found only in the deeps of space) her ship carries, which has caused most of her friends and family on her home planet a slow descent into insanity and certain death.  Qole hires on Nev to help her and her extremely talented crew harvest Shadow.  What Qole doesn’t know is Nev is the prince of the ruling family and his main goal is to convince Qole to come to his family’s planet to research the effect of Shadow on her and her family. If Nev can’t convince her to come on her own, he’ll kidnap her.

The story is told from a dual perspective, Qole and Nev’s, so we get to see both sides of the story.  Because the two flirt with romance, this has the typical, eye rolling, consequences of misunderstood gestures and words.  However typical this scenario is, the story itself was very interesting and the supporting characters made the book well worth the read.  All crew members on the ship are exceptional at their job and have a back story we don’t get to see much of.  I’m hoping in the next book(s), this is book one in a series, we’ll get to know these characters better.

Verdict:  This book has action from the beginning, and while has the standard YA romance, the story and supporting characters more than make up for the trite romance.  Recommended for middle school, high school, and public libraries.

September 2018 review by Terri Lippert.

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Book review: Devil in Ohio, by Daria Polatin

Polatin, Daria. Devil in Ohio.  Feiwel and Friends, 2017.  ISBN 978-1-250-11361-0. $17.99. 324 pages.  Ages 13 and up.  P8Q7

An entire town of devil worshipers in Ohio are put on high alert when one of their “flock” escapes.  Has she escaped or is she being punished?  The town knows Mae will come back because she’s been programed to do exactly that and there are consequences for those who help her.  What the devil worshippers don’t know is Mae will be taken in by a psychologist, Dr. Suzanne Mathis, who can relate to her and her struggles.  Dr. Mathis will fight with all she’s got, including endangering her own family, to save this girl.   Told from the perspective of Dr. Mathis, Dr. Mathis’s daughter, Jules, and Mae, you see the perspective of all three “victims”:  Dr. Mathis and why she can relate to Mae, Jules who has to share her life with a girl she doesn’t know or trust, and Mae who’s been horrifically abused and is trying to live a “normal” life, without ever having lived one before.

Based on a true story, the details the author puts in this novel are horrific and unbelievable, though the writing itself isn’t exceptional.  All female co-leads are portrayed as both hero and victim as can only be the case in a story of such cruelty.  Additionally, the author leaves the story on a cliff hanger and I feel we will never know the outcome.

Verdict:  I didn’t like this book because of the cruelty and control humans inflict on humans, but it was written well enough and, unfortunately, will intrigue the high school crowd.  Recommended for high school and public libraries.

September 2018 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Genuine Fraud, by E. Lockhart

Lockheart, E.  Genuine Fraud.  Delacorte Press, 2017.  ISBN 978-0-375-99184-4.  $10.99.  262 pages.  Ages 14 and up.  P7Q8

Jule moves through her life as though she is the female Jason Bourne or James Bond.  Their lives are so exciting and those two can do whatever they want, right?  Don’t they always kill the bad “guy”, aren’t people in awe of them, and don’t they always get the “girl”?  What happens when Jule finds out life isn’t a Bourne movie and that she is very much responsible for her actions?

I really like how the author sets this story up.  In the first chapter we know Jule is running from someone, probably the police, and she seems to have an endless supply of money.  Every chapter thereafter we travel back a little further in time to see what transpired prior to create the previous chapter’s cliffhanger, ending with the answer to why she’s on the run and where and how she got the money.  What I don’t like is we never find out why Jule is the way she is.  This is consistent with the charade Jule plays the entire novel and if Jule wants to pretend, then why should we know the reality?  I imagine this is intended by the author, but still frustrating.

Verdict:  An action packed novel with more than a touch of sadness.  Mental illness is real.  The actual recommended age range is 12 and up, but due to some explicit violence I recommend for high school and public libraries.

September 2018 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Stone Mad: a Karen Memory Adventure, by Elizabeth Bear

Bear, Elizabeth. Stone Mad: a Karen Memory Adventure. “A Tom Dougherty Associates book.” Tor, 2018. 183 pages. $14.99. ISBN 9781250163837. Ages 14-up. P6Q7

An evening not long after the end of the first Karen Memory adventure finds Karen and Priya celebrating ownership of their own house and ranch with dinner at a fancy restaurant and a magic show.  When suspect spiritualist sisters and a tapping table interrupt their dinner—and the hotel begins to tear itself to pieces around them—Karen throws herself heedlessly into the adventure, endangering herself and her friends. As the night’s events lead not to the anticipated homecoming, but to the couple’s first major fight, Karen and Priya have to decide what they each want in life and what they each owe the other as partners and lovers.

Verdict:  For me, much of the joy of reading the first book in the Karen Memory series was carried by the steampunk tropes.  Though the novella Stone Mad still features steampunk touches such as a reappearance of the sewing machine which functions as wearable armor, the major focus of the story is on another Victorian fascination, the supernatural.  And, though interrupted by action and adventure, the crux of the story is on discussions of how two people can relate to each other honorably.  I think this would have been a stronger story as a novel; the shorter form of the novella made it difficult for the author to balance the action sequences with the philosophical bits.  Still, this second book in the Karen Memory series is well done and I recommend it for high school and public library collections.

September 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Stolen Secrets, by L.B. Schulman

Schulman, L. B. Stolen Secrets. Boyds Mills Press, 2017. 303 pgs. $17.95. ISBN: 978-1-62979-722-9. Gr. 9. P8 Q9

Livvy and her mother are living in Vermont when they suddenly make a move to San Francisco, California. A move that is made to help to care for Livvy’s grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and harbors a very secret secret. This grandmother was unknown to Livvy till the move to San Francisco. Livvy’s mom returns to Vermont for alcohol treatment, leaving Livvy to help in the care of her grandmother. Livvy thinks that her grandmother’s secret is that she is really Anne Frank, a Jewish girl made famous through her book “Diary of Anne Frank,” who died in a concentration camp during World War II. The story becomes sinister when those who are seeking her grandmother come demanding the last pages written by Anne Frank.

Verdict: I loved the concept of this book, that Anne Frank lives. But the intrigue of the story was finding out the true identity of Livvy’s grandmother. There is romance, humor and a strong cast of characters who will appeal to readers.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, by Melanie Crowder

Crowder, Melanie. An Uninterrupted View of the Sky. Philomel Books, 2017. 289 pgs. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-399-16900-7. Gr. 9+. P8 Q8

In Bolivia, in 1999, Francisco is a young man in high school at this time. His father owns a car and runs a taxi service, his mother works and his younger sister attends elementary school. The day his father is arrested for a minor traffic violation is the day that all their lives change. Francisco’s father’s taxi is confiscated and he is thrown into prison. Days later the children wake up and their mother has abandoned them which leads to them going to the prison and living with their father. Every day they leave by the gates and go to school and at night they must return before the gates are locked. It is only at the end of the story that Francisco and his little sister are safe as they go into the mountains to live with their grandparents.

Verdict: A very realistic look into the corruption of the Bolivian government in 1999 and the impact it had on families.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Relative Strangers, by Paula Garner

Garner, Paula. Relative Strangers. Candlewick Press, 2018. 17.99. ISBN 9780763694692. 359 pages. Ages 14 – Adult. P7Q8

Searching for a baby picture for the yearbook, eighteen year old Jules uncovers the shock of her life: finding a picture that reveals that as a baby, she spent a year with a foster family. In the pictures she looks so happy and so does the family she is with. Did they love her? Do they miss her? Who are they? With the help of her two best friends, Jules sets out on a quest to find them. The journey involves confronting her single mother, an ex-addict, who has built a life around attending support meetings and art to keep from relapsing. This has left little space and time for a daughter yearning for a family life. Perhaps finding this foster family will be the answer to all Jules has wished for. Finding her foster brother takes a few simple clicks of the internet, but that is where the simplicity stops. The joyous reunion spirals into uncontrolled feelings that put Jules on an emotional roller coaster. This story explores the complicated family relationships that Jules navigates as she finds her way in the world.

VERDICT: Young adults will enjoy reading this book; it is realistic in confronting the angst of growing up in an non-traditional household.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.