Thursday, November 21, 2013

Soaring Eagle nominees 2013-2014

It's been a particularly busy fall this year, so I have not yet posted reviews of this year's Soaring Eagle book award nominees.  Our staff has, however, already been in one junior high school to do booktalks for these titles, and will be visiting our city's second junior high next month.

To refresh your memories -- the Soaring Eagle book award is sponsored by the Wyoming Library Assocaition and the Wyoming Reading council, to introduce students in 7th-12th grade to a variety of young adult literature.  The nominations come from students in this age group; are reviewed by a state committee; and are narrowed to this list.  After students have several months to read the titles, they can vote for their favorite each spring. 

This year, 13 titles made the final nomination list: a variety of science fiction, dystopia, fantasy and reality fiction.  To begin, this week I will review three titles that are geared toward the younger end of the target group.  All three of these titles offer action and adventure, and will particularly appeal to boys:

Framed,  by Gordon Korman:  Gordon Korman has been our visiting author in the junior high schools this week; each year, Campbell County Public Recreation District grant money allows the library to bring an author to visit in the junior high schools.  Framed, part of his Swindle series, has been popular with middle school and junior high readers.  In the first book of the series, Swindle, we meet Griffin Bing, the "Man with a Plan."  Griffin, it seems, always has a scheme for getting rich or making it big, and he always has a group of friends willing to do whatever he tells them . . . unfortunately, his plans result in more trouble than riches!  In Framed, Griffin is in more trouble than ever.  When he has to wear an ankle alarm; when even his parents don't believe him; when the only person who will talk to him is the meanest kid in JFK . . . then what?  Then Griffin's friends come up with a plan of their own -- to find the Super Bowl ring that Griffin is accused of stealing, and find the real thief . . . even if it ends up being the school principal! 

Framed is the third title in this series:  others are Swindle, Zoobreak, and Showoff.  In his school presentation this week, Korman said he intends to write eight books for this series, so Griffin's adventures will continue!

I, Q.: Kitty Hawk, by Roland Smith:  In the first book of this series, I, Q: Independence Hall, Q. (short for Quentin) and his new stepsister, Angela, think that they are just normal teenagers, dealing with a newly-blended family. Well, maybe not THAT normal – their parents are world-famous musicians, after all.  They quickly discover, however, that their world is even less normal than they thought: Angela’s mother is a deep-level undercover spy who is infiltrating a terrorist group in hopes of destroying it. In a fast-paced adventure that includes a 100- year-old dog, a CIA agent/ bus driver, and Q’s unusual “itches,” the team travels all over the United States to stop the terrorists.

In this third book, Q., Angela, and the others must stop a bombing at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and rescue the daughter of the President of the United States. . . all before a hurricane smashes into the Eastern seaboard.

Other titles in the series include I, Q: The White House; I, Q: The Alamo (just released) and I, Q: The Windy City ( out in January 2014).

The Outcasts, by John Flanagan:   John Flanagan, author of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, takes us back to his historic fiction world in The Outcasts, the first title in his spin-off series, The Brotherband Chronicles. This time, readers find themselves in the northern kingdom of Skandia, in a time after Erak has been Oberjaarl for nearly twenty years.

One of Erak’s sailors, a fighter named Mikkel, was killed in a freak accident, and left behind a son, Hal. Now, Hal is nearly sixteen years old, and will soon begin his own Brotherband training to join the crews of the vast sailing and raiding ships. The trouble is, Hal, being fatherless and of mixed lineage, is taunted and even bullied by the other boys in town.  Sometimes it seems that his only friend is a decrepit old man named Thorne – the town drunk. How will Thorne be able to help Hal begin his Brotherband training? Could it be that there is more to Thorne than Hal – or anyone else – has realized?
The Outcasts is followed by further adventures of Hal and the boys of Skandia:  The Hunters and The Invaders.
Even though these books are written for a 6th to 8th grade audience, they offer great stories and fun adventures; I enjoyed them all, particularly The Outcasts. I hope you've found something here for yourself, or a boy reader in your life.  Next time, we'll look at some titles with more appeal for a female audience.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Early Literacy Resources

Note from Darcy:  Many of the CCPL staff members will be traveling to Cheyenne, WY, this week, to attend the annual Wyoming Library Association conference there.  As part of this conference, I will be presenting a session on a Teen Parent Early Literacy outreach program; the public library has partnered with our school district to provide this outreach and education for teen parents at our alternative high school.  The following post is not really a post; instead, it is a listing of online resources to help develop early literacy skills.  It may be of interest to some of you blog readers, but it is also a nice place for conference attendees to find all these resources in one place.

Every Child Ready to Read, 2nd Edition:

Ohio Ready to Read: 

Ohio Early Literacy Crosswalk:

Day by Day VA Family Literacy Calendar:

Zero To Three:

One Tough Job:

Brain Building In Progress:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

YA Fiction by Debut Authors

Both Johanna and Rachael did such a great job of highlighting the new series releases that are coming out this fall that I don’t have too many more to write about.  So, since I have an affinity for debut authors this fall, I thought I would point out a few YA releases that are by unknown names.  There will always be a following for the Roths and Riordans of YA lit; but these titles, and their authors, have caught my attention, and I’m hoping to get a chance to read them.

Since I haven’t read them yet, however, a disclaimer: all the review material I am posting is borrowed from either our WyldCat state library database, or from the Novelist book review database.

45 Pounds (More or Less), by K. A. Batson. Sixteen-year-old Ann has a big problem. She has just two months to get into a bridesmaid dress for her Aunt Jackie's wedding. She needs to lose 45 pounds, which would be hard enough without the complications of a new job, a cute boy, a mean group of girls, and blended families that leave her caught in the middle-and left out. Her mother is obsessive about her own weight and as the summer wears on, Ann begins to see just how troubled her families are. Telling the story in Ann's wry, realistic voice, this debut author effectively captures society's preoccupation with size and the resulting alienation of an overweight teen. With a chain-smoking grandmother whose language is peppered with "fat-ass," relatives and friends who are slyly disparaging about her weight, and a mother who constantly prods her about dieting, the message could be heavy-handed. But Barson lightens the tone with almost cinematic humor, ensuring that even the most painful scenes have a slapstick edge. (from School Library Journal; review by Martha Baden)

Mila 2.0, by Debra Driza. Everything seems normal as 16-year-old Mila attends a new school in Minnesota, hangs out with her new friends, and starts to get to know another new student Hunter, a handsome, quiet surfer from California. Suddenly, though, Mila starts to get flashes of visions that send shudders down her spine: she pictures men in lab coats conducting cruel experiments in a cold room. Who are they? Why does she keep picturing these scenes? According to her mother, Mila is suffering from trauma due to her father's fiery death. But when Mila discovers that her mother may not be telling the truth, core identity issues heat up the plot. Driza's fast-paced, action-packed science fiction/thriller debut about identity, will, artificial intelligence, nature versus nurture, and man versus machine will satisfy fans of the Jason Bourne series, the Hunger Games trilogy, and Jennifer Rush's Altered. (from BookList; review by Candice Mack)

Ostrich, by Matt Greene.  After brain surgery to stop his seizures, a brilliant twelve-year-old boy, enlisting the help of a female classmate, investigates why everyone around him, including his parents and hamster, are acting oddly. (from WyldCat library database)

OCD Love Story, by Corey Ann Haydu. Haydu's debut novel for teens is not for the emotionally faint of heart, but those who can withstand it won't ever regret accompanying Bea, a high school senior recently diagnosed with OCD, on a profoundly uncomfortable and frenetic journey dominated by her increasingly manic compulsions. When Bea kisses a strange boy during a blackout at a school dance, it's clear she's a little eccentric, but it isn't until her therapist slips several pamphlets about OCD into Bea's hands that readers will recognize her more extreme tendencies for what they truly are. Haydu is a masterful wordsmith, and readers will likely find themselves ready to crawl out of their skin as Bea's need to perform certain rituals, even at the risk of alienating those she loves, becomes all-consuming. The one bright spot in Bea's life is a budding romance with Beck, the boy from the school dance, who resurfaces in Bea's group-therapy sessions. He's plagued by issues of his own, and Bea finds comfort in a new relationship with someone who also has "one foot outside the border and into crazytown." They are about as dysfunctional a pair as two people could be, but they're also heartbreakingly sweet and well-suited for one another. A raw and well-crafted alternative to run-of-the-mill teen romances that also addresses tough mental health issues head-on. (from Kirkus Reviews)

Brianna on the Brink, by Nicole Mcinnes. Despite coming from a dysfunctional family and not having much money for the type of clothes her friends wear, Brianna is a popular cheerleader. A night out clubbing with her best friend-and a fake ID-ends with a one-night stand with a man who dies of a heart attack. Adding to this tragedy, Brianna soon finds out that she is pregnant and that the man was her English teacher's husband. Her sister, with whom she is living, kicks her out of the house, and Brianna finds herself onthe streets. In a strange turn of events, Jane, her English teacher, offers her a home in return for assistance with an aging father and helps Brianna decide what to do about the baby. While the story line itself is rather predictable, it does have some interesting twists and turns-and it isn't preachy or didactic. In this debut novel, McInnes has managed to make Brianna a realistic 16-year-old without resorting to stereotypes. Jane, although almost a caricature of an English teacher, is a sympathetic character who, despite dealing with her own grief and negative feelings toward Brianna, follows her conscience and does what she feels she needs to do. The crux of the book is the concept of family and what it really means. (from School Library Journal; review by Janet Hilbun)

Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal. (Darcy’s note:  McNeal is not a debut author, but this is his first YA novel, and it sounds intriguing.)  "Listen, if you will," whispers the ghost of Jacob Grimm to Jeremy Johnson Johnson and to the readers of this delightful, modern-day fairy tale. Jeremy has the rare ability to sense the spectral presence of those caught in the Zwischenraum between mortal life and the hereafter. Jacob Grimm has been a constant presence since Jeremy was 6, a stand-in for Jeremy's absent mother and his absent-minded father. Jacob takes his role as mentor and protector seriously, although his attempts to help Jeremy are not always successful. Jeremy's social standing is a little dubious--what teenager stands a chance with pretty girls when he spouts curses in German? But Ginger Boultinghouse falls for Jeremy after eating the village baker's enchanted Prince Cakes. The two get up to some pranks that lead them to one adventure after another. Things aren't what they seem in the village of Never Better, where kids have gone missing and evil is afoot. The tone of Jacob's narration captures the flavor of the Grimms' tales while blending humorously with Jeremy's ordinary, befuddled, teenage life. The boy and his spectral companion are a charming pair of storytellers with great mutual affection. Readers who love spotting allusions will appreciate this intelligent book's robust vocabulary, its inclusion of French, German and Swedish words, and the real scholarship behind it. (from Kirkus Reviews)

All Our Yesterdays, by Cristin Terrill. Time travel done right. Narrator Em and her boyfriend, Finn, escape from their totalitarian future, time traveling back four years to commit a heart-wrenching assassination of a loved one in order to prevent time travel from being invented and the future from turning so wrong. The future's hinted-at horrors are threatening but expertly backgrounded, avoiding dystopia-fatigue. The clever, accessible time-space treatment isn't weighed down by jargon. Em and Finn's proactive mission means the characters are the hunters instead of the frequently seen on-the-run teen protagonists. The other side of the storyline, taking place in the past that Em and Finn travel to and starring their past selves, is narrated by Marina (Em, in this timeline) and involves her brilliant yet interpersonally challenged best friend (and crush) James and his friend Finn, who annoys Marina, as they deal with a tragedy in James's family. The believable, complex relationships among the three characters of each respective time and in the blended area of shared time add a surprise: A plot ostensibly about assassination is rooted firmly in different shades of love. Perhaps richest is the affection Em feels for Marina--a standout compared to the truckloads of books about girls who only learn to appreciate themselves through their love interests' eyes. Powerful emotional relationships and tight plotting in this debut mark Terrill as an author to watch. (from Kirkus Reviews)


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fall YA Fiction Releases -- part II

Darcy's note:  Another colleague, another round of eagerly-anticipated YA fiction books.  This time, Rachael writes of several releases that should keep teens (and adults!) reading through fall and even into this winter:

The coming months are going to be an exciting time for YA readers. If you follow a popular series in the YA genre, or you would like to but don’t know where to start, here are some well-known YA series that are ongoing. For those of you that don’t like to wait, some of the titles listed below are the concluding books in the series.  

Boston Jacky: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Taking Care of Business by L.A. Meyer is scheduled for release on September 10, 2013. Book eleven of this exciting series features the return of Jacky Faber, former orphan of the streets of London who escaped a life of poverty by dressing as a boy and getting a job as a sailor. Jacky’s nautical adventures have brought her nearly around the world and finally back home to her business office in Boston. She has remained faithful (well, mostly faithful) to Jamie throughout all of her adventures, but her return home has not been as triumphant as she had anticipated and troubles loom. Will Jacky finally go too far and lose Jamie?

House of Hades by Rick Riordan will hit shelves on October 8, 2013. This highly anticipated book is number four in the Heroes of Olympus. Percy and Annabeth stumbled into the underworld at the conclusion of The Mark of Athena and the adventure continues as the other five demigods attempt to seal the doors to the underworld from the outside as Percy and Annabeth seal them from within. However, the question of how Percy and Annabeth will return to the mortal world if they seal the doors remains unanswered. Will Percy and Annabeth be trapped in the underworld forever?

Revealed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast will be out October 15, 2013. Book eleven in this series sees Zoey and her friends facing off against the evil Neferet who has now been shown to the rest of the vampire world as the evil being she truly is. Zoey must continue to fight to save her beloved school for vampires, the House of Night.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth is book three in the Divergent trilogy. Appearing in stores on October 22, 2013, the concluding volume in this dystopian series continues to follow the war between factions. Tris, the main character, is part of a dangerous minority in her society. Labeled as “divergent”, she has the ability to resist the mind control tools that have been implemented by her society and must fight to defend the other divergent in her world.

Cress by Marissa Meyer, book three in the Lunar Chronicles, is set for release February 4, 2013. This series is a modernized, “steampunked” rendition of old fairytales. The series began with Cinder, a new twist on Cinderella, followed by Scarlet, based on Little Red Riding Hood. Cress continues the adventures with the introduction of new characters and is based on another classic fairytale, Rapunzel.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fall YA Fiction Releases - part 1

Darcy's note:  It was so nice earlier this summer to give my co-workers an opportunity to post here that I'm asking them to do it again!  Each of us is responsible for keeping track of new releases by certain authors. Since fall is a favorite time for publishers to release new works, we each have several YA fiction novels that we're anticipating. Johanna wrote the following entry about the authors and series she's following:

Is August really almost over? As summer wanes the publishing world explodes with new releases, adding some excitement to the dreaded fall reversion to school and cooler weather. Here are a few new releases which will soon be gracing our Hot New Series Shelves. I’ve also included some new releases by favorite authors whose other work can be found on our Hot New Series shelves or our All Time Favorites shelves.

New books in Hot New Series:

Risked (Missing Series #6) by Margaret Peterson Haddix continues the tale of time-traveling Katherine and Jonah. Margaret Peterson Haddix progresses in this action- packed suspenseful series with a tale of Russia in 1918. Katherine and Jonah arrive just as Alexi, Anastasia, and the rest of Tsar Nicholas II’s family are about to be executed. The Missing series hooks younger readers into action-packed historical fiction and include an author’s note summarizing the historical facts incorporated into the novel.

Smoke (Burned #2) by Ellen Hopkins, one of our most popular authors, is written in verse that sometimes wiggles and sometimes skips across the page. Burned is a story about Pattyn Von Stratten, a Mormon girl with doubts about her place in the world and the authority figures in her life. Pattyn’s story ends as she plots her revenge on everyone who betrayed her, leaving the reader questioning what happens after the last page has been read. Smoke includes the voice of Pattyn and her sister, Jackie, and answers the questions left at the end of Burned. Both girls tell their stories of loss, keeping secrets, and discovering their own hidden strength. Ellen Hopkins weaves a gritty tale incorporating hard topics which appeal to YA readers.

The Fall of Five (Lorien Legacies #4) by Pittacus Lore continues the saga of the Garde and their battle against the Mogadorians. Six of the Guarde have been reunited and Four wants to take a stand. However, they won’t have a chance unless they can band together and form a cohesive team using their legacies. Five sends them a sign and the team rushes to gain another member, but will they be in time? Readers will enjoy the story of the struggle between two alien races here on Earth as well as the Lorien Garde teenagers learning of and developing their legacies.

Fire and Ash (Benny Imura Series #4) by Jonathan Maberry is the concluding book of the series. Readers follow Benny Imura to Sanctuary, which is not what he and his friends hoped it would be. Will Benny, Nix, Lilah, and Chong find the answers to their questions and perhaps even a cure? This final book will not disappoint readers. This series is a great read, especially for anyone infected with an interest in zombies.

New Books by Favorite Authors:

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia is due to be released October 1st. This very popular author co-wrote the Caster Chronicles series including Beautiful Creatures. Unbreakable is the first in the Legion series. This contemporary paranormal romance thriller stars Kennedy Water, whose mom has recently died. Reeling from grief and two days away from moving, Kennedy’s attacked by a murderous ghost. Twins guys burst into her house and save her from certain death only to tell Kennedy about a secret society. The Legion is made up of five members with special abilities and the membership and abilities are hereditary. Kennedy’s mom was a member and now Kennedy has to take her place. Now Kennedy and the other new members of the Legion need to survive and stop the powers of an ancient evil.

BZRK Reloaded (BZRK #2) by Michael Grant is due to be released October 8th. This sequel to BZRK continues the sci-fi tale of two groups with non-government sanctioned nano-technology trying to influence the world. Nanobots are used by both groups, but biots are better. Biots are nanomachines combined with the genetic material of special people to create an avatar which can be controlled by the person whose DNA was used. Biots are capable of penetrating and rewiring brains, fighting one another, and spying. Unfortunately, if you’ve created a biot and it is killed you go insane. A highly powerful group led by conjoined twins wants to rule the world using biots to control the leaders of every major country and it’s up to the members of BZRK to stop them.

 Iron Traitor (Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #2) by Julie Kagawa is the second book in a companion series to her Iron Fey series. Iron Traitor continues the tale of Ethan Chase, the brother of Meghan Chase who became very powerful in the world of fairies during the Iron Fey series. For those who enjoy the mythology of fairies and romance, the Iron Fey books present a wondrous treasure trove of both.

 SYLO is the first book in a series by the popular author D. J. MacHale. This book is currently on order and should be in soon! This new trilogy about the end of the world stars Tucker Pierce, an easygoing boy who puts off confrontations and decisions because he figures there’s always tomorrow. Unfortunately he learns that may not be true when a US military branch called SYLO quarantines his island. Does Tucker Pierce have what it takes to be a hero when there’s no tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Journey Beneath the Surface: Hobbit Week

Wow! Where has the time gone? It's hard to believe that we are entering our final week of teen summer reading activities here at CCPL; we will have our drop-in activities out Monday and Tuesday afternoons, and then complete our program with a party and prize drawing on Wednesday. 

This week's theme, appropriate for "Beneath the Surface," is Hobbit Week. The teens are testing their knowledge of hobbit trivia, finding hidden hobbits around the room, crafting hobbit feet and eye of Sauron necklaces, and even learning to write their names in Elven.

In case you don't know, The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again is a classic work of high fantasy by author J. R. R. Tolkien.  It serves as a prequel of sorts to Tolkien's more famous Lord of the Rings trilogy.  All the stories take place in Middle-Earth, a fantastical setting of Tolkien's creation that is somewhere "beneath the surface" of the world as we know it. Tolkien's work remains popular with fans of fantasy writing, and is seeing renewed interest now that movie versions have been/are being produced. (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was produced in 2012; according to the Internet Movie Database,, two more movies based on the book will be released, in 2013 and 2104.)

According to EBSCO's Novelist database, there are some characteristics that must be met when defining a work as "high" fantasy -- as opposed to low fantasy, urban fantasy, dystopian fantasy, etc.  High fantasy works take place in a secondary world, rather than the primary world that we know; fantasy world-building is a writing skill mastered by Tolkien.  His stories of Middle Earth, or Christopher Paolini's stories of Alaegesia, differ from J. K. Rowling's portal fantasy tales wherein the characters enter Hogwarts via Platform 9 1/2 in the primary world of London. In high fantasy, characters are engaged in a monumental struggle against some form of evil; because of the epic natures of these struggles, most high fantasy works are several volumes in length.

In tribute to Tolkien, then, the following are some of the best YA fantasy series recently published.  (Note:  Other than Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, which was reviewed in this blog on July 11, 2013, there are few Young Adult high fantasy works being written by male authors.  I have searched thoroughly our shelves, our catalog, and two literature databases, and have had little luck.  Male YA authors seem to be turning their attention more to dystopia, horror, and adventure genres, rather than fantasy.)

Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore.  In an unusual style of world-buildling, Cashore begins this trilogy with Graceling, a novel set in the world of the Dells that tells the story of Katsa, a young woman who is "graced" -- given a special talent.  Cashore then goes back in time with her second installment, Fire, portraying the world of the Dells at a time far before Katsa, when the world was populated by monsters rather than gracelings. In the final part of the trilogy, Bitterblue, Cashore returns to Katsa's story, and ties together the threads of the history of the Dells and the evil that has lurked there for generations. Filled with strong characters, imaginary creatures, and compelling moral issues, this trilogy does contain some content appropriate for older teens. (Both Graceling and Fire have been nominated for the Wyoming Library Association's Soaring Eagle award, and thus have been reviewed in earlier installments of this blog:  see February 26, 2011 and December 29, 2011.)

The Seven Realms, Cinda Williams Chima. I will admit that I have not yet picked up this four-book series, but I know quite a few of my fantasy readers have enjoyed it. I read an earlier series of Chima's -- The Warrior Heir trilogy -- and was impressed with her characterization.  The Warrior series, however, was actually low fantasy -- taking place in our primary world with a transition to a fantasy setting. The Seven Realms series is high fantasy, taking place in the kingdom of Fellsmarch. This is an excerpt of the School Library Journal review for The Demon King, the first book of the series:

"Princess Raisa comes from royalty and Han lives in poverty, but both are linked by the wizardry of The Demon King - Cinda Williams Chima's first book in the Seven Realms series. They meet when Han is avoiding the sometimes brutal authorities who wrongly accuse him of violent crimes and Raisa has donned peasant garb to learn about discontent in her kingdom. Multiple story threads reveal a conniving high wizard influencing the queen, an impetuous, but honorable princess, and a young man unaware of his magical past and unexplored powers. Both Han and Raisa have supportive friends and potential love interests, but the princess and the poor man draw on their own inner strength as they face the tension of unraveling lives and losses."

The series continues with The Exiled Queen, The Gray Wolf Throne, and The Crimson Crown.

The Lumatere Chronicles, Melina Marchetta.   This is my current favorite of not only fantasy, but Young Adult literature in general. I was impressed with Marchetta's complex, intelligent writing even before she ventured into fantasy literature. I reviewed the first book of this trilogy, Finnikin of the Rock, on June 21, 2012, and recently finished the second installment, Froi of the Exiles.  The final title, Quintana of Charyn, is on my to-read list - hopefully soon!  Marchetta spins a tale of a land torn apart by war, betrayal, and slavery, and of characters who are attempting to heal and restore their peoples. One common element of high fantasy missing from Marchetta's work is the presence of monstrous creatures; instead, the evil forces in this work have human faces. In that way, even though the setting and some of the characters' abilities are fantastic, the themes are powerfully real, and pertinent to both historic and current events. Be aware that, because so many of the story events are based on real-world happenings, all types of human brutality occur in this trilogy; it is one for more mature readers.

Tortall Universe and Circle Universe, Tamora Pierce. To give credit where it is due: while Tolkien is widely recognized as the master of high fantasy, no summary of Young Adult fantasy literature, and particularly fantasy by women authors, would be complete without mention of Tamora Pierce.  Pierce began writing YA fantasy in 1983, with the publication of Alanna: The First Adventure, the first installment of her Song of the Lioness quartet.  Since then, Pierce has crafted 27 YA novels, with her 28th, Battle Magic, due for publication this fall.  Alanna was the first story set in the Tortall Universe; five of her series are set in this world, along with a collection of short stories. Pierce's other two series, as well as three stand-alone novels, happen in the Circle universe.  Pierce was recently honored by the American Library Association with its 2013 Margaret A. Edwards award for lifetime contribution to the body of young adult literature.  Before Cashore, Chima, and Marchetta were writing fantasy stories with strong female leads wielding powerful weapons and even more powerful magic, Pierce was crafting these stories for an entire generation of teen readers. 

There are, of course, many more stories in our library's collection that will satisfy readers of this classic fantasy genre.  (See the July 11, 2013 post for reviews of Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, Fforde's Kazam Chronicles, and Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles -- all examples of high fantasy.)  And, of course, when it comes to fantasy, one can't go wrong reading the master; be sure to sample the rich stories of Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Discover Beneath the Surface: Underground Science Week

Note from Darcy:  Again, it is Johanna's turn to plan our summer reading activities and to write this week's post.  The idea of underground science shows up in many YA fiction titles, as Johanna points out. Remember that libraries house collections of intriguing nonfiction books as well. 
This week’s teen summer reading theme is Underground Sciences. Archaeology, paleontology, geology, and volcanology are just some of the sciences that explore and discover beneath the surface. The fiction books mentioned here take teens on journeys discovering ancient relics of human civilization, imagining the awesome power of the forces beneath the earth, and mixing magic with science in ways that captivate the mind. The following non-fiction books on this list represent only a portion of the library’s collection of fantastic young adult books discussing geology, archaeology, anthropology, and more.

TIM, Defender of the Earth by Sam Enthoven tells the tale of science gone awry. Two top secret government projects in London create havoc as they are released into the world. TIM (Tyrannosaur: Improved Model) is charged with saving Earth from a nanobot swarm, but he can’t do it alone. Chris, a boy struggling to win popularity, or at least not become an outcast, is the one chosen to channel the power of all living things and transfer the energy to TIM. Will Chris risk being “uncool” to help save the world? This short scifi novel contains great battle scenes including the destruction of several major London landmarks in a tale of magic versus science.

Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher tells a story of the power and rage that stems from sibling jealousy. Strange things keep happening to Rob, and he begins to feel that he’s losing touch with reality three months after his sister, Chloe, falls into a coma. Trying to escape the feeling that everyone around him is on hold just waiting for her to wake up, Rob takes a job drawing for an archaeological dig site. An upside down tree is unearthed, leading Rob to another world where Chloe waits. Chloe’s rage and jealousy of Rob’s artistic talent, which supersedes her writing talent, takes her on a strange journey through this alternate world where she has power. Aided by a mysterious poet/druid, Rob tries to convince Chloe to come home.

The Lost Stories by John Flanagan is a companion book to the Ranger’s Apprentice series. The book opens with archaeologists discovering old papers in what they believe to be Halt and Will’s old cabin! The scientists are very excited at finding something to prove the stories of the Rangers of old, which have become legend.  This book is not essential to the story of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, but contains ancillary tales which fill in some blanks from the saga as well as give you another look into the lives of the characters.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan is the first book of the Kane Chronicles. Carter Kane has grown up traveling the world with his Egyptologist father, never staying in the same place for very long. His younger sister, Sadie Kane, stays with their grandparents and they rarely see one another. When in London visiting for Sadie’s birthday celebration, their father unleashes Egyptian god, Set. Now Sadie and Carter must find a way to free their father and contain Set. Riordan’s story brings Egyptian mythology to life in a powerfully entertaining way.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin explores the beginning of the end. One Friday night when Alex is home alone for the weekend, Yellowstone erupts. The book details how society falls apart as the ash rains down in a town 900 miles away. Alex leaves to find his family and meets with terrible misfortunes, almost dying several times. Just when it seems Alex has met his final end, he meets the mechanically gifted Darla and they travel together through the remains of Iowa to Illinois. The Ashfall trilogy continues with Ashen Winter, already out, and Sunrise, due in 2014. The unique idea of a volcanic end of the world creates an interesting, very realistic dystopian story.

The Early Human World by Peter Robertshaw and Jill Rubalcaba is a non-fiction book detailing the fossil record of early hominids and the records scientists have found of our ancestors, as well as hominids on different branches of the evolutionary tree. This book includes photographs, maps, and theories on hominid movement, lifestyle changes for early humans, and the development of early human technology. Stories of the archaeologists who found the fossils are interspersed with the factual text, giving readers an idea of what it’s like to be an archaeologist in the field. This book offers a great overview of anthropological archaeology and some of the science involved in discovering what we know of our ancient past.

Rocks and Fossils by Chris and Helen Pellant is a Visual Factfinder book containing information about rocks, gems, crystals, fossils, formation and mineral resources. This very informative book is similar to an illustrated encyclopedia. The beautiful illustrations on every page sit alongside facts about various rocks and gems including the chemical composition, where they can be found, how they were formed, and what makes them important. The book is fascinating for those who are interested in basics of rock finding, gemology, or beginning paleontology. The illustrations alone make this book worth reading.

Grave Secrets of Dinosaurs by Phillip Manning illuminates paleontology: the processes, the current knowledge, and the science behind re-creating dinosaurs. Full of technical descriptions and informative text, this book tells the story of a young man, Tyler Lyson of North Dakota, finding the hardrosaur mummy dinosaur and the process that allows scientists to discover new things about Earth’s old inhabitants. This book gives a fantastic look into the life of a modern-day paleontologist including the newest technologies used in this scientific field.

Volcano and Earthquake is an Eyewitness Book which gives a brief, colorful overview of the cause, effects, and famous historical occurrences of volcanoes and earthquakes. Eyewitness Books are full of pictures with small snippets of information which appeal to younger readers. The section on volcanology shows some of the tools and clothing that come with the job, including asbestos gloves and a thermocouple to record the temperature of molten lava.
Super Volcano by Greg Breining discusses the super volcano beneath Yellowstone National Park. This gritty non-fiction book begins when the author takes a three day class at Yellowstone and learns from his teacher the immense size and scope of the volcano which lies beneath. Research, history, and interviews create the body of this text while graphs, charts, pictures, and maps help illustrate the immensity of the caldera and what an eventual eruption could mean. The reassuring last chapter shows what measures scientists are taking to ensure we won’t be caught unaware if Yellowstone erupts. This book will help young readers better understand the history of the park as well as appreciate the geological aspects of Yellowstone.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Play Beneath the Surface: Dungeons and Dragons Week

This week during our Teen Room summer reading activities, we are exploring aspects of the role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons.  We have two active teen groups that meet weekly at the library to immerse themselves in a fantasy world of dragons, magicians, and intricate plots.  During our afternoon summer reading activities, some of the members of these teen groups have been helping other patrons learn how to create a character in order to play the game.  In addition, we have been playing with the “dragons” part of the game’s title with activities that focus on dragon food, dragon personality tests, and dragons in Young Adult literature.  The following are some of those books:

Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini:  By far our most popular dragon series here at CCPL, this quartet follows the epic story of Eragon, who finds out that he is the last of the Dragon Riders when an egg he finds hatches for  him, and he is faced with Saphira, a magnificent sapphire-blue dragon who becomes his friend and comrade in the fight against evil in the kingdom of Alagaesia.  Author Paolini does an excellent job of world-building, even going as far as creating an original language within the story. When I read the first book in this series, Eragon, I was fascinated to realize that Paolini published it when he was 16 years old!  After Eragon, the quartet continues with Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance.

Eon duology, by Allison Goodman:  The first of these two books, Eon: The Last Dragoneye, was a nominee for the Wyoming Soaring Eagle award last year, so it’s been reviewed already in this blog; see the October 24, 2012 entry.  The story tells of a thirteen-year-old girl who lives disguised as a crippled boy, in the hopes of being selected as the next Dragoneye, keeper of the magical forces that control weather, luck, and destiny.  There are traditionally twelve celestial dragons who each select their next Dragoneye; when Eon is selected by a mysterious thirteenth dragon, she is left without a mentor to help her learn to harness her dragon’s power. This story of ancient Asian culture and mysticism continues in Eona: Dragoneye Reborn.

Last Dragon Chronicles, by Chris D’Lacey: This seven-book series is popular with both middle-grade and high school readers, perhaps because it is different from typical dragon literature. It begins when a college student, David, takes rooms with Liz Pennykettle and her daughter, Lucy. Liz creates and sells clay dragon sculptures, and offers one to David. David is reluctant to accept at first; he senses mystery in the family he is living with. His dragon, however, presents only limited magic, and the story is much more about the relationships between David, Liz and Lucy than it is about epic fantasy battles. David is a writer, so there develops an intriguing story-within-a-story subplot. The seven-book series begins with The Fire Within; subsequent books are Icefire; Fire Star; The Fire Eternal; Dark Fire; Fire World; and The Fire Ascending.

Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia Wrede:  This series is one of the most entertaining of our selection of dragon literature.  It follows the story of young princess Cimorene, who would rather eat snails than endure the princess training her parents foist on her.  She is the youngest of seven daughters, and rather trying for her tired parents. When they attempt to wed Cimorene to a boring prince, she runs away to live with dragons, offering herself as a servant to the dragon Kazul. As she lives with Kazul, she attempts to intervene between humans and dragons to avoid unnecessary bloodshed; however, when the King of Dragons is killed, Cimorene finds herself involved in solving a mystery.  The first of this classic Young Adult series is Dealing with Dragons; the chronicles continue with Searching for Dragon; Calling on Dragons; and Talking to Dragons.

Kazam Chronicles, by Jasper Fforde: This new YA series is the first foray into Young Adult literature by popular adult fiction author Fforde.  The following review is taken from School Library Journal: 

Orphaned Jennifer Strange, 15, is the manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management, an organization that promotes the use of magic by its resident sorcerers, a quirky bunch at best. Within the course of one week, Jennifer becomes famous when she is named the Last Dragonslayer, and her already unusual life becomes one of danger, deceit, and dragons. She is called upon to kill the last dragon in the land and war threatens to break out as countries surrounding the Dragonlands vie for control of its vast and rich lands. Jennifer doesn't want to kill the dragon, but her duty and destiny are clear. Or are they?

The Kazam Chronicles begins with The Last Dragonslayer; the second book in the series, The Song of the Quarkbeast, came out in June.

We have lots more dragon literature in our Young Adult fiction collection!  Try a title from one of the above series, or come in and let us help you find another selection.  If there is one creature abundant in both the literature teens read and the games they play, it is a dragon!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Survive Beneath the Surface: Halo Week

Note from Darcy:  It's Rachael's turn to design our summer reading activities this week, and also her turn to write about the corresponding books.  Enjoy the following post about our selection of gaming-related material. 

This week’s summer reading theme focuses on survival beneath the surface. This theme lends itself well to another aspect of our teen room—video gaming! In addition to a Halo tournament this Wednesday, there are several video game-themed books that can be found in the CCPL Young Adult collection.

Halo: The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund. This book tells the background story of the fall of humanity characterized in the popular video game, Halo. While the brutal Covenant juggernaut sweeps inexorably through space, intent on wiping out humankind, only one stronghold remains--the planet Reach. Practically on Earth's doorstep, it is the last military fortress to defy the onslaught. But the personnel here have another, higher priority: to prevent the Covenant from discovering the location of Earth. The Halo series continues with Halo: The Flood by William Dietz; Halo: First Strike by Eric Nylund; Halo: Ghosts of Onyx by Eric Nylund;  Halo: Contact Harvest by Joseph Staten; and Halo: the Cole Protocol by Tobias Buckell.

100 Computer Games to Play Before You Die [Overdrive e-book] by Steve Bowden. From unforgettable classics such as “Donkey Kong” and “Space Invaders” to such modern phenomena as “Grand Theft Auto” and “Wii Sports,” computer games have been drawing people in for decades. But which of the vast array are true classics worth becoming addicted to? From the halcyon days of pixilated, one-dimensional blobs charging around a maze to escape from ghosts, to contemporary fully-interactive adventures, computer games expert Steve Bowden analyzes the 100 games that comprise his shortlist. (Note:  So far this title is only available as an e-book.)

The Halo Graphic Novel by Lee Hammock, Jay Faerber, Tsutomu Nihei and Brett Lewis. Marvel and Bungie team up to create The Halo Graphic Novel based on the best-selling video game. The graphic novel brings the Halo universe to life for the first time in a sequential art medium.

The Warcraft Archive by Richard A. Knaak, et al. In the mist-shrouded haze of past, the world of Azeroth teemed with wonders of every kind. Magical races and ancient beasts strode alongside the tribes of man -- until the arrival of the demonic Burning Legion and its baneful lord, Sargeras. Now dragons, elves, orcs, and dwarves all vie for supremacy across their scarred, war-torn kingdoms -- all part of a grand, malevolent scheme to determine the fate of the world. This 613-page tome actually includes four stories of the world of Warcraft:  Day of the Dragon by Richard A. Knaak; Lord of the Clans by Christie Golden; The Last Guardian by Jeff Grubb; and Of Blood and Honor by Chris Metzen.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dive Beneath the Surface: Undersea Week

Note from Darcy:  Last week's steampunk entry has been quite popular!  This week, we are going "beneath the surface" of the ocean with our Undersea Week activities and decor!  Our newest staff member, Johanna, demonstrates why she is an excellent addition to our team with the following blog about "marine" lit:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne tells the tale of a fantastic adventure deep beneath the waves in the Nautilus submarine. Captain Nemo, the owner, designer, and constructor of this electric powered submarine takes French scientist Professor Annorax on a journey through the Indian, Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean, and Antarctic waters. This classic science fiction tale written in 1870 is full of descriptive narratives of underwater life, shipwrecks, and history.

            Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli blends Greek mythology into a tale of mermaids winning their immortality by obtaining the love of a human male. This beautiful story explores the beginning of the Trojan War from the point of view of a mermaid who abandons her sisters as they sing sailors to their deaths. Sirena swims to the deserted island of Lemnos to live the rest of her life alone away from her murderous kin. She is surprised at the arrival of Philoctetes, friend of Hercules, who had been bitten by a snake sacred to Hera. She saves his life and wins his love and her immortality. This beautiful story captures in so few pages the wonders of integrity, love, and loss.
            Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan is a continuation of the Percy Jackson saga. The second book of the Lost Heroes series, Son of Neptune follows an older Percy who has lost his memory. Percy’s adventures begin as he fights gorgons who will not stay dead. He finds sanctuary in a Roman camp for demigods and is introduced to the Roman form of the gods who are different in temperament than their Grecian aspects. New friends and enemies are found in the Roman camp as well as a dire new prophecy. Will Percy and his new friends be able to release Thanatos and save the world from Gaea’s awakening? Riordan spins an epic tale and introduces new heroes to the list of favorites from the Percy Jackson saga.
Forgive my Fins by Tara Lee Childs is a tale of a mermaid princess, Lily, living on land to experience the life of a normal teenage girl and learn about her mother’s human culture. Unfortunately, mergirls are bound by different rules than humans and when Lily tries to bond with her crush, Brody, she ends up bonding with Quince, her annoying next door neighbor instead. There’s nothing to do but to swim back to her kingdom of Thalassinia to undo the mystical bond that she now shares with the wrong boy. This light hearted, funny novel full of sea puns is followed by Fins are Forever.

            The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova tells the story of a merdude. Swimmer and lifeguard Tristan Hart has realized he has feelings for his best friend, Layla. Unfortunately, he has a reputation as a player. One day on the beach, Tristan’s sucked deep into the ocean by a tidal wave. He wakes three days later with only vague memories of the incident and the sudden itch to get into the water. This itch turns into Tristan’s legs becoming a tail. Totally freaked out by this turn of events, Tristan listens as his mother finally tells him that she was the princess of the Sea Kingdom. This makes Tristan a Sea Prince. Tristan goes on a journey to see his aging grandfather. There, Tristan discovers he has to compete as one of the heirs for pieces of a trident to become the Sea King. This fast-paced story full of mythos and teenage drama is an interesting story with a male point of view meant for older teens.
The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham’s Treasure by Herge is a classic graphic novel from the seventies. Tintin and the rum-drinking Captain Haddock look for Red Rackham’s treasure on land and under the sea. This grapic novel is full of slap-stick type comedy that may appeal to young adult readers.

Scuba Diving by Monty Halls and Miranda Krestovnikoff is a spectacular non-fiction book for anyone who would like to learn more about scuba diving. Somewhere between a how-to book and an encyclopedia entry, this Eyewitness Companions book describes diving techniques, equipment, marine life, where to dive, and so much more! Beautiful underwater photographs illustrate the breathtaking beauty that exists beneath the surface. Especially enjoyable are the easy-to-understand scientific explanations of basic concepts which affect divers such as pressure, buoyancy, tides, currents, and gas exchange. Scuba Diving also presents a list of possible scuba careers, basic equipment care, hand signals for communication, and safety tips.

Ocean by Miranda MacQuitty is an eyewitness book full of great photos and interesting descriptions of a variety of sea life, currents, a geologic look at the ocean floor, technology, and resources that the ocean gives us. Eyewitness books have brief snippets of powerful information that range from very specific to general. These books are great to begin an exploration of a subject without being buried in technical jargon or too much specificity.
Ocean Animals published by NorthWord Press is a non-fiction description of dolphins, manatees, sharks, and whales. Interspersed with beautiful underwater photographs, this book gives a basic overview of scientific information about these amazing creatures including development, examples of different species within the class, habitats, and some fun facts. This is a fairly quick read full of interesting, informative material that will not overwhelm younger readers.

            Close To Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Cappuzo tells the non-fiction tale of a rogue great white shark. The book contains many wonderful articles and dynamically switches back and forth between narrating the shark’s experience including more biological information about great whites and the newsworthy attacks including excerpts from interviews. The photographs of newspaper articles and places give great visual impact while reading. This was an interesting read which gives not only a great factual description of the multiple attacks along the Jersey and New York shore, but gives readers a real sense of the vast difference in clothing, culture, and technology between 1916 and today.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cogitate Beneath the Surface: Steampunk Week

Note from Darcy:  In our department, each of the four of us take turns planning our weekly summer reading themes and activities. Since my colleagues have expertise in the books related to each week's theme, they have graciously agreed to write the corresponding weekly blog posts for our summer reading program. This week, my friend Rachael wrote the following entry.

“Steampunk” has been a rising trend among teens for several years now. It began in books and spread to other art forms such as music, art and crafting. The steampunk genre is often focused on the Victorian era or a post-apocalyptic society where modern technology is not as available. Steampunk is the concept of a steam powered mechanism made of gears, cogs, metal and, occasionally, clockwork, that can function on a sophisticated level. There are many recent books that focus on this trend, but the idea is much older than many people realize.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells—Published in 1895, a man known only as the “Time Traveller” tells stories of strange travels he has undertaken in a mechanism that took him to the future. The story focuses on his time among people called Eloi who seem to live in a perfect society. However, as night descends, he learns that there are many dark secrets and life is dangerous among the people he has befriended. The Time Traveller loses his machine and must face the dark secrets of the future in order to return to his time.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a steampunk take on the old fairytale Cinderella. Set in a futuristic society, Cinder is a mechanic in new Beijing.  She is composed of both human and mechanical body parts and is labeled a cyborg, a lesser member of society. She has no memory of her life before the age of eleven. Cinder is a talented mechanic who supports her stepmother and two stepsisters with her trade. When her stepsister contracts a deadly plague, Cinder is submitted for testing and finds that her lost past could save the political unrest in her country and a possible chance to save her stepsister. If you enjoy this book, the next book in this series, the Lunar Chronicles, is Scarlet, a steampunk take on Little Red Riding Hood, also by Marissa Meyer.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare is the first book in the Infernal Devices trilogy. Set in the Victorian era, it details the adventures of Tessa Gray who travels to London to live with her brother. Upon her arrival, she is tricked by the Dark Sisters who hold her hostage and train her to take on the appearance of others by holding something that belongs to them. Her brother eventually rescues her, but not before Tessa is plunged into a dark world of vampires, clockwork armies and the war between good and evil in the London shadows. The trilogy continues with Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess, also by Cassandra Clare.

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, follows the story of Finley Jane. Finley Jane is a servant who must flee after she knocks out a young lord who tries to take advantage of her. She is taken in by an orphaned lord, Griffin King, and joins his band of misfits. She fits in well until the Machinist, a dangerous criminal, threatens to tear the group apart. The Girl in the Clockwork Collar and The Girl with the Iron Touch are the next novels in the Steampunk Series by Kady Cross.

As well as being a fictional genre, steampunk is also expressed through creative crafts. In the teen room this week, teens created steampunk top hats with duct tape and charms as one of the summer reading crafts. There are also non-fiction books available at the library that describe the steampunk style and give examples of simple crafts. The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer, call number YA 809.3, provides many photos with instructions of steampunk crafts. Steampunk Accessories: 20 projects to help you nail the style by Nicola Tedman, call number YA 745.5, also provides many creative suggestion for “steampunking” modern accessories.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beneath the Surface: UnderCover Week

Summer is in full swing here at the library:  we're seeing an influx of kids, teens and adults coming in for books, computers, and summer reading programs.

In the Teen Room, our summer reading theme is "Beneath the Surface."  We are using our weekly drop-in activities to explore this theme in a variety of ways.  Teens can join us Monday through Thursday afternoons from 1-4 for crafts, quizzes, and fun snacks. 

Our weekly theme for June 10-14 is "Go Beneath the Surface - UnderCover week."  Our activities include spy diguises, trivia quizzes, observation hunts, and survival crafts.

Along with completing our fun activities, why not pick up one of the following titles from our Young Adult fiction and nonfiction collection?  All of them feature undercover characters, thrilling action, and exciting gadgets.

Liar's Moon, Elizabeth Bunce:   In this mystery/fantasy hybrid, Bunce follows the story of Digger, a female pickpocket who finds herself in prison for the night. While there, she discovers that a good friend is imprisoned for the alleged murder of his wife, and is due to be executed. Digger knows that the man is innocent, so when she is released from her cell, she vows to use her skills as a spy - and a thief - to uncover the truth. What she finds is a complicated political plot and a mystery that even she cannot solve.  This book is a sequel to Bunce's Star-Crossed, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. Bunce is a gifted writer whose rich characters and complex plots completely absorb her readers.

Etiquette and Espionage, Gail Carriger:  Genre-blending is one of the hottest new trends of YA literature, and this tale is one example.  The main character, Sophronia, is what we would call a "tomboy." She would rather climb trees, take apart machinery, and make messes than sit for tea and crumpets, causing embarrassment to her family.  She is enrolled in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to learn how to behave like a lady. But she soon discovers that the school is really a floating airship charged with teaching the skills of espionage.  "Proper" ladies and gentlemen are combined with dirigibles, robots, werewolves, and vampires, making this story a steampunk mystery and adventure. A good prequel for next week's steampunk summer reading activities!

I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You, Ally Carter:  Set in a spy school for girls, this novel centers on 15-year-old Cammie, the headmistress's daughter, who must decide if she is cut out for a life of secrets. Cammie and her friends take classes in 14 different language, covert operations, and self-defense. But when Cammie, known as the Chameleon for her ability to disappear in public places, is spotted by a cute boy named Josh in the middle of the town fair, she begins a new mission: learning to be an ordinary girlfriend. Cammie soon leads a double life, and must decide which one is right for her.  This is the first in the Gallagher Girls series; the author has written five books in this series, as well as Heist Society, her second YA series.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:   No list of mystery and detective stories would be complete without a nod to this classic character.  Sherlock Holmes has been the character inspiration for many detectives of fiction and movies, and yet his cool intelligence in solving mysteries has never quite been duplicated. Doyle wrote the adventures as short stories, making this a good choice for a reader who does not want to commit to a longer novel. 

 Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz: Alex Rider's world is turned upside down when he discovers that his uncle and guardian has been murdered. The 14-year-old makes one discovery after another until he is sucked into his uncle's undercover world. The Special Operations Division of M16, his uncle's real employer, blackmails the teen into serving England. After two short weeks of training, Alex is equipped with several special toys like a Game Boy with unique cartridges that allow it to scan, fax, and emit smoke bombs. Alex's mission is to complete his uncle's last assignment, to discover the secret that Herod Sayle is hiding behind his generous donation of one of his supercomputers to every school in the country. This is the first title in Horowitz's perenially-popular series; eight other titles continue to follow Alex's adventures.

Evil Genius, Catherine Jinks:  Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot? This older YA novel is the first in a trilogy:  the other titles are Genius Squad and Genius Wars.

Death Cloud, Andrew Lane: Before he was the detective whose calm intelligence made him the curse of criminals, Sherlock Holmes was a teenager, brushing up on his powers of deduction and becoming the curse of one very nasty criminal indeed. This series introduces a 14-year-old Sherlock who's been left at his uncle's estate during the holidays. A new friend, a clever tutor, and the tutor's pretty daughter aren't enough to keep Sherlock out of trouble (well, actually, they're part of the trouble) when a mysterious cloud and several unfortunate deaths draw him into a malevolent plotter's web.  The first of a series, this is the only Sherlock Holmes spin-off to be officially endorsed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate.

Sovay, Celia Rees: Rees brings us another example of her excellent historical fiction, this time following the story of Sovay, a British socialite caught up in international intrigue. Raised in the English countryside during the French Revolution, 17-year-old Sovay embarks on a mission to find her missing father and brother, who've been condemned for supporting the Revolution. Her search takes her to dangerous corners of London and Paris, where she plays the roles of highway robber, spy and socialite to gather clues and outwit a treacherous villain who desires to overthrow Britain's throne.

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein: Another historical novel, Code Name Verity was named a Michael Printz honor book for excellence in YA fiction. Julia is an unnamed prisoner, formerly a wireless operator for the British, held captive in France by a seemingly sadistic Nazi interrogator. She has supposedly "sold her soul" in exchange for small bits of freedom, giving pieces of code in exchange for her life. Interspersed with the story of her fierce fight for survival is a different tale: that of how she came to be in France and of her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, a British civilian pilot.  As Julia tells their story, she also reveals small bits of her attempts at survival and escape. In the second half of the book, Maddie narrates, telling of her desperate attempts to rescue her friend and revealing both the truth of what happened to each of them, and the truth of Julia's bravery.

101 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius, by Brad Graham:  This nonfiction guide is packed with a wide variety of sleuthing contraptions you can build yourself, with some knowledge of electronics and access to electrical parts.  Find out how to disable several spy devices by hacking easily available appliances into cool tools of your own, and even turn the tables on the snoopers by using gadgetry to collect information on them. This is an excellent nonfiction title for readers who would rather make things than read stories; there is some expertise involved in creating the gadgets.

Stop by the library to pick up one of these titles, or ask us to help you find other choices.  Then go "Beneath the Surface" of a great book this summer!