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Archive for the ‘Jess’s Picks’ Category

jacket (1)“If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned. If she float, she be a witch and must be hanged.”

Fantasy blends with historical fiction and romance in this first novel of the Tudor Witch Trilogy. The story is set in England in 1554, in the time of Princess Elizabeth, who has been sent into exile at Woodstock Palace by her half-sister Queen Mary. Political tensions are running high and there is talk of treason.

Just months ago, young Princess Elizabeth found herself a prisoner in the Tower of London after being accused of conspiring to overthrow the Queen. As no true evidence can be found she is instead sent faraway to crumbling Woodstock Palace. This sets the scene for Meg Lytton, the Princess’s newest hand maiden. Meg has a powerful gift, one she must hide from all. She comes from a long line of witches and is very much one herself. But there is no room for witches in Catholic England, and should she be discovered she would be hanged.

Meg soon finds that the Princess has her own interest in the Craft, and often calls on Meg and her aunt to help her see into the future and answer the always pressing question, “Will I ever be Queen?” But Meg and her aunt must exercise extreme caution, as the famed witch hunter Marcus Dent has taken an intense interest in Meg and wishes for her hand in marriage.

Things only get worse when Meg learns that her own family is conspiring against the Queen. Meg’s association with the Princess puts Elizabeth in further danger. When it seems all is going wrong and there is no one Meg can trust, in walks Spanish priest-in-training Alejandro de Castillo.  Suddenly everything is beginning to look a little better and a whole lot more dangerous…

Check the WRL catalog for Witchstruck

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jacketThis is the first installment in The Bartimaeus Trilogy. The story focuses on young Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice beginning his training in the art of magic. From the very beginning he shows incredible promise but is unfortunately paired with a sub-par and rather boring instructor. Out of boredom and internal motivation, Nathaniel begins his own private studies, quickly gobbling up book after book in the old magician’s study.

Things would have continued slow and steady for Nathaniel, but a fateful and humiliating event leaves him burning with rage and a desire for revenge. And so he summons a powerful djinni to help him get retribution on the magician who caused him so much hurt. But the djinni, Bartimaeus, is more formidable and cunning than Nathaniel could have imagined, while his rival magician, Simon Lovelace, is even more dangerous than he expected.

A simple plan turns into a catastrophic ordeal when Nathaniel orders Bartimaeus to steal a priceless token from Lovelace, the Amulet of Samarkand. Now, around every corner lurk unseen threats and hidden perils. Worst of all, Nathaniel has done the one thing a true magician is never supposed to do: he has lost control, not only of his djinni but of everything around him.

Check the WRL catalog for The Amulet of Samarkand.

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jacketEvery century, one is born who is chosen by God to be the bearer of the Godstone. This time, he has chosen Elisa, an unlikely princess whose primary loves are reading religious texts in their classic form and making frequent visits to the kitchen for pastries. Those who bear the Godstone are expected to carry out a mission on behalf of God at some point in their lives. However, many die young and never realize their goal, or at least that’s how history records them. Though she’s a studious scholar of the religious text, Scriptura Sancta, Elisa knows very little about the Godstone and often wonders what task she will have to perform.

On her sixteenth birthday, Elisa is married to the handsome and charming King Alejandro de Vega of Joya d’Arena. But after arriving in his kingdom, she realizes things are a bit off. He is keeping their marriage a secret and is more interested in her serving on a military council than building a life together. Elisa soon discovers it was her powerful Godstone and her father’s promise to send troops to assist Joya d’Arena that ultimately led to their marriage. Disappointed and confused, Elisa finds the only comforts to be her lady-in-waiting, the church, and of course, copious amounts of food.

The story takes an unexpected turn when Elisa is kidnapped and taken to a far-off desert town. The kidnappers know that she is the one who bears the Godstone, and they have high hopes she can help them to defeat their enemy. Because if she cannot, if she fails, all the kingdoms will fall, one by one, to the darkest and oldest of armies, the Inviernos. Yet despite the fact that everyone has put their faith in Elisa, can she find it within to have faith in herself? A good choice for fans of Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

Check the WRL catalog for The Girl of Fire and Thorns

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coverA Hundred Summers is set in the 1930s and takes place primarily in the town of Seaview, Rhode Island. We are immediately introduced to Lily Dane, a New York-born socialite with quite the interesting past. While all she may want is a quiet summer in Seaview, away from busy Manhattan, she is in for a shocking surprise.

After a seven-year absence she unexpectedly must share Seaview with the two people she never hoped to come across again, her once best friend Budgie Byrne and her former fiancé, Nick Greenwald. Much to the absolute dismay of the upper-class tight knit community of Seaview, Budgie and Nick have wed and return to restore Budgie’s old summertime home. Lily manages to put on a very strong air, but she is breaking on the inside. Her feelings for Nick never really went away, and the reader can infer she still cares for him deeply, maybe even loves him. For the people of Seaview the matter is even more complicated, as Lily has a six-year-old sister she is the primary caregiver for (whose skin and eyes are nearly an identical match to Nick’s). However, it soon becomes clear that all things may not be as they appear.

Told in alternating chapters between the years 1931 and 1938, the story slowly unfolds into a tale of young love, jealousy, misunderstanding and betrayal. Also included are a fair number of deeply buried family secrets that have the ability to rock both the Dane and Greenwald names and reputations.

This novel seemed much like a present to me, and as each section of wrapping was removed the contents became clearer and clearer and very much so in an unexpected way. Well-written and gently told, this book holds a great deal of appeal for anyone looking for a multi-layered story that accurately portrays both a very real period of our country’s history and a fairly realistic, though at times heartbreaking, love story.

Check the WRL catalog for A Hundred Summers

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Kami Garcia/UnbreakableWhat a thrill! This action filled novel is the first in the new series The Legion by Kami Garcia, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures young adult series.

We first meet Kennedy, a teen living a pretty normal life…until the day she mysteriously finds her mother dead at home. Devastated and alone (her father also left rather oddly years before) Kennedy cannot begin to imagine what is in store. When she is suddenly attacked by a force she can’t explain, twin brothers Jared and Lukas spring to her rescue. Confused, Kennedy doesn’t know whether to trust the brothers, or run away screaming in search of the police. But when they reveal they are part of a secret organization that has existed for hundreds of years to protect the world from a powerful demon, and that Kennedy’s mom was a part of the organization as well, she is truly baffled. Yet there is something in the brothers that she trusts and her curiosity gets the better of her.  While the brothers continue to fill her in (including the fact that she must take her mother’s place among the other four members, all teens who lost their parents on that one fateful night) Kennedy finds herself in a new place surrounded by four exceptional people, all with unique talents and skills which far surpass the ones she believes exist within herself.

As the book progresses Kennedy surprisingly seems to fall into her new role and proves she has something to offer the others. But something is wrong too. Something that separates Kennedy. Something no one can seem to put their finger on. What will it mean for the team? More importantly, what will it mean for all of humanity? A great start to what is sure to be a fast paced, mystery-filled series (with a hint of romance) that brings in not only the paranormal but religious type-themes found in The Da Vinci Code as well.

Check the WRL catalog for Unbreakable.

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RuinedRuined is a hauntingly mysterious ghost story that takes place in the heart of New Orleans. When Rebecca finds out that she has to leave her beloved hometown of NYC for a few months while her father is away in China for business, and stay with a little-known family friend in New Orleans, she is mortified. What about her friends? What about school? But there’s no choice, and Rebecca soon finds herself in the heart of the Big Easy, wandering through the Garden District and casting curious glances at the cemetery down the street from her “Aunt’s” house.

When she follows a group of the popular, old-money kids from her new private school into the cemetery one night, she surprisingly encounters a lonely girl, about her age, wearing a slightly torn dress. Interested but concerned that she will be discovered by the other teens, Rebecca asks the girl for a way out of the cemetery and runs off.  As the days go by, Rebecca finds herself thinking more and more about the girl in the graveyard. When she returns a few nights later, Rebecca once again talks to the girl, but can’t help thinking there is something a little off about her. It is only when the girl, Lisette, takes her hand and she becomes invisible to the living that Rebecca makes a startling realization. Lisette is a ghost. But there’s a lot more than that to the story.

Once Rebecca looks into Lisette’s past, and her death, a shocking trail of clues, curses and hundred-year-old buried secrets comes to light. And the rich and powerful of the city are willing to do anything to keep the past hidden and their good names intact. A chilling tale with not only mystery and intrigue but also cultural detail and historical insight, this story will appeal to a range of readers.

Check the WRL catalog for Ruined.

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alteredAltered is a thrill ride from the beginning to the last page. We immediately meet Anna, who lives with her father in a rather isolated farmhouse. Anna and her father share some weekly traditions, like fresh lemonade and homemade cookies. She is also home schooled  and learns not only the academic side of things but some tough hand-to-hand combat courses as well. However, the best part of Anna’s routine is her work, which she also shares with her father. Together they administer treatments and monitor the four teen boys who inhabit their basement. The boys have each been “altered” in some way, but the details are unknown.

Anna and her father work for “The Branch,” a completely secretive organization that they themselves know very little about. As readers, we demand answers. But the author seems skilled at giving little away, especially upfront. This incredible amount of “holding back” will keep readers flying through the pages on a search to know “why, who and how.” Each boy has a distinct personality; there’s Nick, resentful and angry, Cas, fun and playful, Trev, soft-hearted and exceedingly intelligent and Sam, the quintessential silent and strong leader who has Anna’s heart from the start.

When The Branch comes to retrieve the boys, Sam creates an escape and Anna’s father demands that she go with them, making Anna question everything she knows. As the boys hunt for clues to their pasts (which proves difficult as they cannot remember anything before the lab), Anna is searching for answers of her own. What the boys discover will shatter not only their own worlds, but Anna’s as well. The first in a series, Altered promises an exciting ride to readers who are desperate to find out the truth behind The Branch and the lives of everyone involved.

Check the WRL catalog for Altered.

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enclaveGet ready for a fast paced, post-apocalyptic thrill ride. Author Aguirre appeals to a wide range of readers in this first of a planned trilogy, which has ample amounts of action, suspense and adventure.

The world now isn’t a place we would easily recognize. The ruins are all that remain, along with the violent gangs who inhabit them and the underground subcultures living in communities known as “Enclaves.” However, roaming the underground tunnels is another set of creatures as well. Known by members of the Enclaves as “Freaks,” these creatures are absolutely zombie-like, with a lust for human flesh. In this frightening view of the future we meet Deuce. She exists within the Enclave, a strong and dedicated member who lives for her coveted position as Huntress.

The Enclave has assigned the role of Hunter/Huntress to members of the community who will defend them against the “Freaks.” On her naming day, after fifteen years of training and waiting, Deuce is assigned the role of Huntress. Ever diligent and never questioning, she takes on the role with fervor. But everything begins to slowly change when she is partnered with another hunter, Fade. Fade is an outcast who arrived at the Enclave after surviving for years on his own topside. Never fully accepted and a self-made loner, Fade still possesses a unique skill set that is highly valued—fighting and killing. Together, Deuce and Fade begin to make notable discoveries about their leaders and start to get a glimpse of the dystopian society they have called home for years. After a devastating event forces Deuce and Fade to be banished from the Enclave, they must learn to survive not only the topside gangs, but the “Freaks” who have found their way up as well. An ideal read for fans of The Hunger Games and Graceling.

Check the WRL catalog for Enclave

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eleanorGiven the multiple starred reviews of this realistic fiction read, I had fairly high expectations. And it didn’t disappoint.

Eleanor is an outsider who dresses strangely and is a target for bullying with her curly red hair, curvy build and freckles. Her home life is nothing short of a nightmare, and with no friends to turn to, Eleanor is completely alone. Park is well adjusted, and though a bit different with his Korean heritage, accepted. His parents are as in love as the day they met, and outside of getting his driver’s license, Park wants for little.

Needless to say, it’s not love at first sight. But Park’s inner kindness comes through, and he gives Eleanor the empty seat on the bus next to him. While the two remain silent at first, Park begins to notice Eleanor reading his comics through sideways, downcast glances. To his own surprise, Park starts bringing Eleanor comics to take home and read on her own. From that point on, a fairly unpredicted relationship begins to emerge. The comics progress to mix tapes and even more heart-turning, conversation. And all of a sudden, Park wonders how he didn’t fall head over heels for Eleanor the day she stepped on the bus.

With more in common than most, Eleanor and Park develop a strong bond that keeps them together through all the high and lows in Eleanor’s life. Unknowingly, Park provides Eleanor with an escape from her terrifying stepfather and secret home life. For once, Eleanor begins to feel safe and loved and cared for. But with so many factors in the works throughout the novel, something is bound to test their commitment and pull them in opposite directions. For two sixteen year olds, they show a remarkable level of depth and emotion. Rowell has truly managed to craft an imperfect love story that will leave readers with both smiles and tears. Even romantic skeptics will enjoy the push and pull and leave cheering on the unlikely couple.

Check the WRL catalog for Eleanor and Park

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OriginFor the scientists at Little Cam, a top-secret research compound hidden deep within the Amazon rainforest, immortality is no longer an ambition but a reality.  With the creation of Pia seventeen years ago, the scientists achieved their dream after more than a hundred years of experimentation. Hidden away from the world at Little Cam, Pia has always considered her life to be perfect and absolute. But one night curiosity takes over, and she dares to venture outside the facility through a newly created opening in the fence. Once on the other side, Pia is so transfixed by the freedom of the jungle that she fails to notice a native boy, Eio, and runs right into him. Soon, Pia is discovering a new community of people, a different way of life and emotions that she never knew existed. The tropical forest and its native Ai’oan inhabitants along with handsome Eio all call to Pia in a way the compound never has. As the story progresses, the history and happenings at the research facility become strikingly more disturbing, and shocking secrets about Pia’s creation are revealed. When every ounce of her morality and humanity are questioned, Pia is torn between the life she is expected to live and the one that speaks to her heart.

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Mystic CityGlobal warming has caused the melting of Antarctica and the rise of sea levels across the globe. The once prosperous, show stopping city of Manhattan now finds itself a series of submerged buildings and canal-lined streets. The city is divided between those who live in the Aeries (enormously tall high-rise buildings) and those forced to live down below, in the Depth, existing on raised sidewalks and dilapidated abodes. The Aeries is home to the wealthy elite, including all those in positions of political power. The Depth is the refuge of mystics, those with supernatural abilities, who once helped to build the incredible city itself. After a “mystic spurred bombing” the mystics were forced out of the Aeries for the protection of those without power. What remains is an uncomfortable and unwelcome balance between those above and those below, each fearful of what the other’s actions could bring.

This is the world in which Aria Rose exists. The daughter of one of the most powerful and richest businessmen in the Aeries, Aria has grown up in the lap of luxury. Now, on the dawn of one of the most important elections in the city’s history, Aria finds herself engaged to Thomas, the son of the only family in the Aeries whose wealth and power rivals her own. Once they’re married, their families will be united and control all of the Aeries. But from the first page, all is not as it appears. Aria has suffered memory loss after overdosing on a drug called “Stic,” a drug she does not remember buying or taking. She also can’t remember a single moment spent with Thomas, not to mention falling in love with him. But she can remember almost everything else. The story itself takes turn after turn after turn as Aria begins to learn more about the people who inhabit the Depth below, her family’s lust for nothing but power, and the strange but gorgeous rebel-mystic, Hunter. Reminiscent of a three-way Romeo and Juliet tale set in a futuristic dystopian world on the brink of rebellion, Mystic City is sure to appeal to a variety of readers.

Check the WRL catalog for Mystic City

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Department 19Fans of Will Hill’s first book, Department 19, will not be disappointed by The Rising. In this exciting and fast-paced sequel, the Operators of Department 19 are tested beyond measure when their director, Admiral Seward, reveals that the world’s oldest and most powerful vampire, Dracula, has risen once again. As the disturbing news sparks more vampire attacks and a higher level of secrecy between department members, Jamie, Kate and Larissa all struggle to keep their bond intact. Subplots abound throughout Hill’s 600-page novel, and familiar characters such as Frankenstein and the Rusmanov brothers reappear at center stage. But there are plenty of new mysteries to be solved with the introduction of a seemingly friendly, genius scientist and a wandering desert man who knows all about vampires and the inter-workings of Department 19. Readers will find many of the aspects they loved from the first book here as well, including technological super weapons, intense battle scenes, a good level of descriptive gore and moral dilemmas that call human nature into question. The Rising is written in an almost movie script-like fashion that allows the reader to visualize the story in exceptional detail. There is no doubt that Hill is once again able to captivate readers and leave them begging for more.

Check the WRL catalog for The Rising

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timgunnDo you ever wonder how t-shirts went from being a simple undergarment to a stand-alone icon of American fashion? Did you ever say to yourself, “Khaki, what a strange word. I would love to know where that came from?”  Though clothes constitute a large part of our day-to-day life, and are even called “defining” by some, it is surprising how little we actually know about them.  The latest book in Gunn’s literary treasure chest, Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, is entirely interesting and offers the most fascinating insights into the history and evolution of our wardrobe staples.  From t-shirts to jeans to ties and scarves, Gunn provides information on the history of the fashion pieces we have come to love in an easy-to-read and enjoyable format.

Gunn effortlessly incorporates popular culture into his writing that readers of all ages are able to identify with and understand.  For example, Gunn discusses the near death of the t-shirt in the 30’s when he writes, “And then one man threatened to take down the entire t-shirt business: Clark Gable. In the 1934 film, It Happened One Night, Gable’s character takes his shirt off and he’s not wearing an undershirt… By appearing naked under his shirt, he signaled that he was too cool, too manly, too liberated for an undershirt. At that moment, American men took his lead…”  This single illustration of the near collapse of our most beloved fashion garment is nothing short of fascinating. What would we be wearing today if the t-shirt, in all its glory, had died over seventy years ago?

While historically captivating, Gunn’s book also offers tips and opinions on today’s fashion choices for both men and women.  Finding a good tie that will last can be a bit trying. Gunn suggests the following: “When you’re shopping for a tie, you want to look for a lining that gives it some weight. Without that infrastructure, ties can be limp.”  This and other general guidelines will help every man and woman find quality pieces that fit correctly.  Tim Gunn’s book is great for both fashion lovers and those simply interested in learning more about what they wear.  A pleasant and entertaining read, this book should appeal to all types.

Check the WRL catalog for Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible

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shadowandboneShadow and Bone is the first in the new Grisha Trilogy that takes place in the land of Ravka. Alina is unremarkable in every regard. Raised as an orphan alongside a single friend, Mal, only to become a sub-par mapmaker for the First Army, Alina has no illusions of grand beauty or remarkable skill.  Her only pull is towards Mal, who has grown to become a very handsome young tracker for the Army. They both serve together for Ravka, a land torn by war and the darkness of the Shadow Fold. Created by an evil Darkling, the Shadow Fold is a sea of complete darkness, full of flesh-eating monsters, that cuts Ravka off from the True Sea.  The Second Army, made up of those with magical abilities, has been working to undo the Shadow Fold as well.  But it seems all their power is useless against the darkness.

During an Army-led excursion attempting to cross the Shadow Fold, Alina and Mal come under attack from the “Volcra,” vicious monsters that fly out of the sky to kill anyone trying to cross the Fold.  While trying to save Mal, Alina spontaneously emits a strong radiating white light. Its raw energy leaves her unconscious and when she awakens she is among the Second Army (the Grisha). However unbelievable it may be to her, Alina is in fact a Sun Summoner, one who can call and control light.  She is the only person who has the ability to destroy the Shadow Fold and the Volcra. Taken to a Grisha training area and introduced to a whole new way of life, Alina isn’t sure how to proceed and has little faith in her own gift.  Only after extensive hard work and a close relationship with the beautiful Darkling himself does Alina began to hope she is the one who can save Ravka.

But everything may not be what it seems and Alina’s gift might turn into a curse she never could have imagined.

Check the WRL catalog for Shadow and Bone

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