Saturday, June 23, 2012

April Books

AGENT 6/Tom Rob Smith/B-
When Leo Demidov's wife and daughters are sent to New York in the 1960s on a Peace Mission, he is helpless to stop the tragedy that unfolds halfway across the world. More than a decade later, with the Soviet army in Afghanistan, Leo discovers that helping a local woman may be the key to finding out the truth of what happened years before. My least favorite of Smith's series about Leo Demidov; I was not enamored of the large jumps in time and the emotional wrench of skipping so many intervening years.

More spooky, gothic tales of haunted houses and haunted people. In SPIDER LIGHT, a psychiatrist comes to Amberwood seeking peace after personal tragedy. She is drawn into the stories of Latchkill Asylum as well as an old mill that has seen its share of death. Now someone from her past wants to add the psychiatrist to the macabre history. THE DEATH CHAMBER follows a woman trying to track down her family history when she receives an unexpected inheritance. As she learns about her grandfather and his work in a remote prison caring for death row prisoners, she helps a film team making a documentary about the abandoned prison. But someone doesn't like the history she's stirring up. DEATH CHAMBER in particular was highly atmospheric and I did not like reading it in the dark of night. In a good way :)

ELEMENTAL and STORM/Brigid Kemmerer/A-
A new YA series about the Merrick brothers, four orphaned guys who can each control an element of nature. In the first book, STORM, when Becca helps Chris Merrick from being beaten senseless, she doesn't know she's getting more than she bargained for. It's bad enough that she's carrying a secret that has her ex-boyfriend trashing her reputation around school, but now she's learning things that could get her killed. Not everyone thinks the  Merrick brothers are safe, including a mysterious new guy at school who is more than a little jealous of Chris. I tore through STORM in two days and can't wait for the second book this fall, SPARK. ELEMENTAL is a short story downloadable to e-readers that is a prequel set five years before STORM, setting up the background of the Merrick family and where they started from.

FORBIDDEN/Syrie and Ryan James/B
Another solid YA read, though this one got a bit muddled in the second half. Claire Brennan is delighted to have been in the same school for two years, the longest she and her mother have ever stayed in one place. No way is she going to spark her mom's paranoia by mentioning that she's having psychic visions. Especially not once she meets Alec, a Scottish exchange student. But Alec is beginning to suspect there's more to Claire than the surface, and his own secret past means she's the last person he should fall in love with. A decent beginning to a series I'm sure I'll continue with.

A memoir of growing up Jewish in Lancashire, on a street with Jews living on one side and Christians on the other. Harry Bernstein was a child there in the years before and during WWI and in his nineties he wrote this story of being poor together while religiously divided. It's an evocative look at tradition and prejudice and human kindness and the equalizer of grief. When Harry's sister commits the unspeakable crime of falling in love with a Christian, everyone involved will have to decide whether to hold to the ideal or embrace the imperfect present.

Absolutely, mind-blowingly the best book I've read in several years. Hazel Grace is sixteen and terminally ill. Diagnosed with cancer at age thirteen, she goes through life with tumor-filled lungs, an oxygen tank, and a clear-sighted and devastatingly honest view of the world. Augustus Waters is eighteen, in remission from the cancer that cost him half of one leg, when he meets Hazel Grace at cancer support group. What happens when two souls meant to be together collide in a world where every day is a reminder of life's impermanence? Throw in a self-pitying novelist, a trip to Amsterdam, laugh-out-loud funny dialogue and the pathos of a world that is not, apparently, a wish granting factory and you will have the one book I will recommend for years to come when people want to know what it's like to have lived in the world of kids and cancer. 

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