Whats New Category: Staff Picks

Muchacho by Louanne Johnson

Muchacho by Louanne Johnson

Back in the day when I was in middle school a movie came out called Dangerous Minds; which was about a teacher with unconventional approaches to teaching and how she reached her students.  The movie  also had a killer soundtrack featuring Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio Dangerous Minds was based on a book by LouAnne Johnson called My Posse Don’t Do Homework.  Which brings me to Muchacho, LouAnne Johnson’s most recent realistic fiction book.

I picked Muchacho up to try something different and I was sort of reluctant to start it, but I did eventually. I’m really glad I did because it was a pretty good book.  Reading or listening to the book is like sitting down and having a conversation with the main character Eddie. Eddie is living in New Mexico and attends Bright Horizons alternative school.  Eddie’s future could go one of two ways; he finishes high school or he becomes a fully fledged juvenile delinquent, which some people have already pegged him as.  Luckily- Eddie has supportive parents, teachers who inspire him and he also meets Lupe who makes he want to do more with his life than just finish high school.  Eddie’s story bounces around a bit focusing on different events or memories- part it really feels like Eddies story complete with the language and situations (drugs, crime etc) he and other people in his life sometimes find themselves involved in- but the message in the book while it’s endearing seems more like it coming directly from the author.  Find out what that message is and how Eddie’s choices change his future in Muchacho.

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Humans who turn into invincible wolves, wizards protecting secret sites, conspiracies, forbidden love, and even a supernatural love triangle.  Nightshade has it all–including a strong and interesting female lead.  The story centers on Calla.  When we first meet her, she is in her wolf form.  She is the alpha of her pack, the Nightshades, who are destined to protect the next generation of keepers.  The Keepers are magicians who protect sacred spiritual sites and control the wolf packs.  Calla and her pack mate Bryn are patrolling the mountains they are sworn to protect, when the come upon Shay, a human guy about their age who is out hiking.  He is under attack from a big grizzly bear.  Calla can’t figure out what compels her to save Shay, but in doing so she exposes her secret–that she is a human who can transform into a wolf.  After Calla saves Shay’s life she realizes she has a strange attraction to him.  But she has to ignore her attraction because he is just a human and she is set to join with another pack’s alpha, Ren.  She knows that this is her destiny, and that she has no choice in who she can love.  Things get complicated, though, when Shay shows up at their elite school as a new student.  Shay is determined to learn more about Calla and unfortunately the more Shay finds out, the more danger he and Calla get into.

So, I was surprised to find that I loved this book!  I picked it up because there was a ton of hype surrounding it, and of course there were comparisons to Twilight–a love triangle, forbidden romance, and supernatural elements all guarantee that any book will be compared to Twilight.  I thought that Nightshade was an excellent read.  The mythology that Cremer creates regarding the wolves and magic is believable.  Also, the love story is not too dramatic either.  But what I liked best about Nightshade was that the main character Calla was a strong female!  Not only does Calla save Shay’s life twice, she also is fighting against the life that is imposed upon her.

Nightshade is the first book in a planned trilogy.  Click here to find Nightshade, the first book in the trilogy, in the Library.  Click here to find Wolfsbane the second book and here to find Bloodrose the third and final book that was just published last week!

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

Love AubreyLove, Aubrey by Suzanne La Fleur

Love, Aubrey focuses on  Aubrey, who lost her father and younger sister, Savannah, in a car accident earlier in the year. Aubrey’s mom unable to function or deal with her grief left Aubrey. Aubrey is left to fend for herself until her grandma shows up at the door one day.  Love, Aubrey is about getting unstuck from the terrible moments in your life and moving forward even if it’s really really hard and painful.  Even though Aubrey is resistant to leave her home in Virginia and move up to Vermont with her grandma, it’s that move that helps Aubrey begin her journey of getting unstuck and dealing with not just the loss of her father and sister, but with the absence of her mother.  There are of course happy moments of the book filled with the friends Aubrey meets, her new school and more.

Love, Aubrey is a good pick for readers who like books with the same sort of tone, but it’s also a great pick for people who are going through a hard time too. You may not be going through the same thing as Aubrey, but her feelings and experiences are something most people can relate to at one point or another in their life. So reading the book is kind of comforting, like you and Aubrey are working through getting unstuck together.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children book coverMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

At first look at the novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, you can’t help but being drawn in to reading the book.  I’ve seen the cover a ton of times, but it wasn’t until I picked it up to read it that I realized that the the creepy cover photo of the young girl actually shows her levitating!  When you flip through the book you see more creepy photos, like these:

 

All of which are real vintage photos that the author collected to tell his story.  The story of Miss Peregrine’s Home of Peculiar Children centers on sixteen year old Jacob.  At the beginning of the novel he finds his grandfather dead.  Jacob was close to his grandfather; he grew up with his grandfather’s fantastic stories of the orphanage where he grew up as an orphan of the war.  The orphanage was a place for children with special abilities like invisibility, super strength, and the ability to defy gravity.  The trauma of finding his grandfather dead causes Jacob to have vivid nightmares and for his parents to question his mental state.  Jacob desperately wants to know the truth about his grandfather, especially his childhood.  He suggests a trip to Wales with his father to the small island where Jacob’s grandfather grew up living at the orphanage.  It is on this island that Jacob discovers the truth about his grandfather and much more.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a good read, especially for someone who wants a to read a fantasy with a touch of horror.  Reading along with the creepy vintage photos makes every turn of the page a surprise.  This novel would be great for anyone who is a fan of X-Men, Harry Potter, The Magicians, and even Alice in Wonderland.

It is interesting to note that Tim Burton is in talks with 20th Century Fox to create the movie based on the book, for Miss Peregrine’s Home to Peculiar Children.  (Click here for the article on Deadline.)  Also, check out the really well-done book trailer below:

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Angelfire Angelfire book coverby Courtney Allison Moulton

Ellie believes that the nightmares she has are only nightmares, but the horrifying dark monsters that terrify her in the night seem so real.  When Ellie turns 17, her nightmares become reality and she meets Will.  Will is Ellie’s Guardian, because Ellie is a Preliator, an ancient warrior that is given the power to kill reapers (the dark monsters that she dreams of).  As Ellie begins to train and spend more time with Will, she learns that she has lived the life of the Preliator for hundreds of years and every time she is killed she comes back without the memories of her life and powers before.  Will has been her Guardian all this time and he has to find her every time she is reborn and helps her remember her true self.  This life for Ellie is different, however, because she is only remembering bits and pieces of her old lives which makes it harder for her to access her true power.  This life is also different for Ellie because the dark reapers are getting closer to waging war on humanity, but in order to do that they must destroy Ellie’s soul so that she cannot be reborn to protect the human race once more.

Angelfire is a great read for anyone who wants an action packed supernatural read.  The mythology in Angelfire is centered on angels; one that Moulton has carefully crafted and explained. The main character of Ellie is strong but flawed: since she cannot remember her true nature, Ellie does have a hard time becoming a true warrior.  However, the battles that she endures in the book and the way she handles not knowing her true self make her a very relate-able character.  Ellie is a character that is molded after the Buffy type: a strong, kick-butt female who struggles with what it takes to stay strong with also wanting to be a normal teenage girl.  She also has a funny, surly attitude that gives this novel a humorous undertone (much like Buffy).