Friday, November 10, 2017

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

It's 1956 and Hitler is still alive. The Axis Powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) won World War II. The current resistance could start a true uprising and bring the Third Reich to an end if Hitler could be killed. Unfortunately, he rarely appears in public.

There is one hope: Yael could be the one to kill Hitler. She is the only one who can get close enough to do it. Every year, an intercontinental motorcycle race is run pitting the best riders from each country. The winner is celebrated at the Victor's Ball attended by Hitler himself. Last year's winner (and only female racer) Adele Wolfe danced with him.

Due to vicious experiments in a concentration camp, Yael can change her appearance at will. She will become Adele and take her place in this year's race. She must win against the best, so she can get close enough to Hitler to shoot him.

The race is grueling: fighting with other riders, battling the elements, facing mechanical breakdowns, thwarting sabotage. And then there is Luka, another rider who was a love interest of Adele's. Can Yael trust him? Is he flirting or just waiting for a chance to take her out of the race.

Add to all of this Adele's brother, Felix, who joins the race to keep an eye on his sister. Can Yael fool  him and the other's who know Adele so well? Yael has endured much already in her life, so she is ready for this challenge.

It is a drama filled, action packed alternate history. I am ready to jump into the sequel for the rest of the story. 

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin

Two best friends separated for the first time. Ava stays in California to go to film school. Gen goes to Boston to study journalism. Some would say they are opposites and wonder why they are friends at all. Ava is uptight, anxious and struggles with issues that have caused her to take medication and see therapists. Gen is a free spirit, open to new experiences and doesn't shy away from meeting new people.

They promise to communicate everyday. So through e-mails and texts, we see their friendship strain against the separation as they each have new experiences that do not include each other. They tease, criticize, question, encourage and support each other. There is no question that these to young women have a strong friendship, but that doesn't stop them from fighting. As time goes on, the strain starts to show.

Neither Ava nor Gen is perfect. They make mistakes. They do things the other one questions: Ava joins a sorority (Gen: really?). Gen explores her sexuality (Ava: are you gay now?). There are guys and girls, kissing and sex, possible love and definite heartbreak. Truly, this first semester is a test for them. But it's amusing and worth the time.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the authors' site.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Yes, I am a huge John Green fan. And yes, I liked this book very much. I was delighted that the last sentence of so many paragraphs were profound and spoke a basic truth. It's like he peppered small philosophical statements throughout the whole story.

We have Aza who is struggling with a mental disorder that causes a voice in her head to tell her she will contract some horrible illness from microbes. She knows that microbes are in all of us. Maybe she is just the host. Maybe the microbes actually control her. Maybe she doesn't even control her own thoughts. Even with therapy and medicine (which she doesn't always take), the nagging thoughts are still there. It is excruciating at times to feel Aza go through it.

Aza's best friend Daisy is much more extroverted. They have been friends since grade school and often hang out at Applebee's using a bunch of coupons (much to the disdain of their usual waitress). Neither have a lot of money and both go to public school.

Daisy is particularly interested when one of the city's wealthiest businessmen disappears on the eve of his arrest. Aza went to a camp with the man's son (named Davis), so Daisy is sure they can use that connection to help solve the mystery (and get the reward). Aza is not so sure. Will Davis even remember her? And even if he does, he lives in a mansion and goes to private school.

This story is not about the solving the mystery; it is about Aza coming to grips with her life. John Green does an extraordinary job of putting us right in her head. Dealing with anxiety myself, I know what it is like to have those irrational thoughts that seem beyond my control. I like to say my brain is working against me as if it is completely separate from me. It is a rare and amazing thing to hear your own voice in a story. This book is one of those times. I felt Aza's pain all the more because I have personally felt some of her struggle.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Warcross by Marie Lu

Emika needs money to pay three months back rent or she and her roommate will get kicked out on the the street. Since the death of her father, the fastest way for her to make a lot of money is bounty hunting. Using her hacking skills she can hunt down a person who is not dangerous enough for the over worked police to find themselves. It's a tough job, but it pays well.

She hunts her latest shortly before the start of the International Warcross Tournament. Warcross is a interactive three dimensional virtual reality game that has swept the globe. Everyone can play, but only a few are professionals who play in the annual tournament.

Emika could never dream of being in the tournament due to her criminal record. Also, her ranking in Warcross is never high because she plays often under a different name. As the tournament begins, she decides to hack in to get a valuable power-up in the game and sell it. It is a decision that thrusts her into the international spotlight and gets the attention of Hideo, the game's creator. Emika has idolized Hideo for years. Now, she may get to meet him in person.

Emika's hunting and hacking skills may be just what Hideo needs to find someone else hacking the virtual world he created. The best way to do that...put Emika in the tournament.

This incredible story exists in a bleak world where most of the planet is caught up in Warcross. The technology is believable enough that it seems possible and may not be that far into the future. I recommend going along with Emika as she becomes immersed in the dangers of the game and the real world.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.



Monday, October 2, 2017

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

Eddie has a chance to escape his life. He is one of several candidates chosen to be tested for one of two positions in NASA's secretive Interworlds Agency. The testing is anything but normal, but then so is the job.

Eddie feels pressure to separate himself from his criminal father. Eddie's  beloved grandmother raised him and taught him to all that she knew about science and the world. He still mourns her recent passing.Rosa is one of the other candidates. Her parents are highly successful scientists. She feels the pressure to do well.

During the testing, Eddie provides interesting, unconventional responses. His troubled past bothers the higher ups who do not quite trust him. Eddie struggles to not end up proving them right.

Then a life changing event happens. Visitors from beyond our planet arrive. From another world, another dimension? It is a historical event and Eddie and Rosa are right there when it happens. With their instructor Reg as a guide, the teens may be the only ones who can deal with the visiting beings to our planet.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.



Friday, September 22, 2017

Literally by Lucy Keating

How much control do you really have over your life? Annabelle likes to be in control and organized. Just look at her color coded schedule. Lately, she feels less in control. Like how her parents are going to sell their comfortable house in Venice Beach because they separating. Selling Annabelle's house? Her parents splitting up?

And then there's Elliott, her brother's best friend who has been hanging around annoying Annabelle since they were kids. Why is she getting this vibe that there is now something between them?

Just to stir things up a little more: enter Will, the new guy in school, who takes an immediate liking to Annabelle. He is gorgeous and is just perfect for her. Maybe too perfect.

Changes are frustrating, but they are just part of life, right? Maybe for most people, but Annabelle is told that someone is controlling her life...

Author Lucy Keating visits Annabelle's fiction writing class and describes her new book. The plot is Annabelle's life - house selling, parents separating; the whole thing. After class, Keating tells Annabelle that she is just a character in one of her books. It has to be a joke. At least, Annabelle thinks so until other things start happening. The author wants to give Annabelle a happy ending, but it may not be the life Annabelle wants for herself.

An author putting herself in her book to interact with the characters is a bit meta and tricky. It could have easily warped into a confusing plot, but Keating treads carefully. It makes me wonder if the author sometimes feels like she is not totally in control of her characters and that her stories ultimately go in directions she was not planning.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

Petula fears the world - at least the things that could harm her. She is very careful, like how she will not walk next to a construction site. It's too risky. She keeps a scrapbook of unusual ways people have died. You can never be too careful. Petula knows this because her baby sister Maxine died, and she feels responsible.

To deal with the loss, Petula is forced to be in an art therapy group at school, and it is horrible. First, the therapist treats them like preschoolers. Second, she does not belong in a group with Ivan who is prone to outbursts, Koula who is a druggie and an alcoholic, Alonzo who tried to commit suicide and Jacob who is missing an arm and obsessed with movies .

OK, so Petula stopped crafting which she loved and did all the time. And she stopped talking to her best friend and crafting buddy, Miranda. It's not like she is the only one not dealing well with Maxine's death. Her mom keeps adopting kittens (much to her dad's dismay).

When Jacob (who isn't so bad after all) suggests the group make videos, Petula is reluctant. How could a video possible help her when she doesn't have a problem? Petula just needs to open herself up to the others and Jacob in particular.

Petula's journey of loss, discovery, self-examination and perhaps love are worth the reader's time.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Waste of Space by Gina Damico

Just when you thought you'd see it all from reality TV, DV8 brings you the most extreme show yet. Eight teens will be launched into space and must survive the dangers of space flight as well as being confined with each other for weeks.

OR maybe the teens don't go into space at all, but they and the rest of the world do not know that. It is all the brainchild of DV8's CEO (and obnoxiously overconfident) Chazz Young. He's the genius(?) who brought the world a string of reality show hits, and this is the biggest one yet.

Selecting (and perhaps kidnapping) the perfect mix of teen stereotypes from across the country and contracting NASAW scientists to build the 'spaceship', Chazz is set to grab the viewing public's attention. And, boy, does it work. Waste of Space becomes the show everyone is talking about (and texting and blogging, etc.).

This story is presented as an informal report by an anonymous intern who wants the world to know what really happened behind the scenes. We see the show transcripts as well as what was edited out. We have Chazz's phone calls (that he records, ironically, to protect himself).

We get to know the teens at their best and their worst and not just the edited versions DV8 wants the world to see: Barcardi, the party girl; Snout, the hick (and his pet pig); Kaoru, the foreigner who only speaks Japanese; Jarmakus, the black gay astronaut wannabe; Louise, the nerd; Nico, the orphan; Hibiscus, the musician; Matt, the disabled hero; Titania, the tomboy; and Clayton the rich kid who happens to be related to Chazz. Like I said, stereotypes  but ultimately each had more going on in their lives before this show.

This story is a funny, over-the-top adventure.

For more info, check out the author's site.


Monday, August 14, 2017

A Lie for a Lie by Robin Merrow MacCready

As a child, Kendra had a traumatic experience on a boat with her mom, dad and family friends. She likes going to the beach, but to this day she has anxiety when the high tide approaches. Her dad has always been the one to calmer her when the anxiety arises. Attending a music festival with her friend Jenn, Kendra sees her father with a woman who is not her mother. The shock is almost too much.

Kendra and Jenn have decided this is going to be a breakout summer. Jenn is going after the guy she liked, and Kendra will try to break from her routine whenever she feels anxious. Kendra's summer becomes two pursuits: Will, the guy she turned down causing him to turn to his current girlfriend Nicole, and her father to find out who the other women might be.

Kendra stakes out her the apartment of the other woman and sees a young child. Does her father have another family? Jenn worries Kendra is becoming obsessed and reckless in pursuing her father. Kendra's friend, Bo, is the only one who is supportive.

As her interactions with Will become more serious, it's not clear if Kendra is more like her father than she is willing to admit. Whatever happens, it is not the summer Kendra had planned.

For more info, check out the author's site.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

Once again, A.S. King gives us a realistic story with twist of fantasy thrown in. Or does it even happen? Maybe it doesn't even matter because it works.

Sarah likes art, but one day she just can't do it anymore. She can't draw the pear her teacher tells the class to draw. She can't draw her own hands for another assignment. She can no longer do any of her art projects. Sarah also decides she can't go to school anymore, so she stops going. Her parents (who have always supported her artistic talent) are not happy, but no matter what they do Sarah will not go.

What does Sarah do instead? She wanders around the city, follows a homeless artist and eventually runs into a younger version of herself. And then an older version of herself. The younger Sarah wants to talk about the family trip to Mexico and Sarah's brother who went away. But current Sarah doesn't want to talk about her brother and how he never calls. At home, it's like her brother doesn't exist.

Older Sarah tries to reassure current Sarah, but it's not the past or future that is the problem. Sarah doesn't want to deal with all the stuff in her life happening now. Over the course of this unconventional story, we learn the truth about her missing brother, her angry father and the reason she walked out of school.

The story is off beat enough that I had second thoughts for the first few chapters. It is odd even for A.S. King (whose books I generally love). But I am glad I continued because it is a remarkable story.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.