Are you looking for something new to listen to (or read?) Here are three excellent suggestions of good books–one fantasy/science fiction, one fantasy/horror, one fantastic crime caper. In fact, I’ve been driving longer lately, just so I can finish a chapter or a disc! What are these great titles? SO glad you asked…
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Finn lives in a prison. It’s all he can remember. Incarceron is a sentient prison; it is aware of all the prisoners within it, and it arranges their lives; it has been doing it for generations. No prisoners have entered or left Incarceron in all that time. But Finn wasn’t born in the prison–he doesn’t think so, anyway–but when he woke up there, about four years earlier, he was just a terrified boy with no memory of his past. In order to survive, Finn has learned to function with the holes in his knowledge; he’s even joined a gang and sworn allegiance to his oath-brother, Keiro. Together, Finn and Keiro have managed to rise to positions of power with one of the warlords of Incarceron.
Claudia is the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter. She lives in a beautiful castle, with servants at her beck and call. She is engaged to Caspar, Earl of Steen, Heir of the Realm. Claudia doesn’t like Caspar much. She actually liked his brother, Prince Giles, who she had been set to marry before he was killed years earlier. Now, Claudia spends much of her time maintaining her father’s household, or with her tutor, the Sapienti Jared, trying to figure out what plots her father and the Queen are involved in.
Both Finn and Claudia long to escape their worlds, Finn to get Outside of the prison, Claudia, to throw off the rules and protocols that limit her existence. Neither of them is aware of the other. But then Finn retrieves a stolen artifact from a prisoner, and Claudia finds a hidden treasure while searching her father’s office…and they find each other through the devices. Now Finn and Claudia are communicating, and they may be able to help each other achieve their individual goals.
But Incarceron is awake and aware, and it has been keeping prisoners captive for hundreds of years. No one has ever escaped, and Incarceron is not going to let Finn be the first. And Outside, the Warden and the Queen are not without their own resources. How far will Finn and Claudia manage to go before someone stops them?
I loved Incarceron the book, and I loved Incarceron the spoken recording. Kim Mai Guest has a very unique way of separating the narration from the characters. When she’s reading the descriptive passages, she uses an American accent. All of the character’s voices, however, have distinct English accents. It’s a wonderful way to clarify the story in an obvious way. All of the character voices are distinctive; it sounds as if the listener is hearing the action unfold as it’s happening.
There is a sequel to Incarceron, called Sapphique. I believe it is only a two-book set, since Ms. Fisher has just written the first book of a new projected trilogy (The Obsidian Mirror) that comes out in April.
Incarceron is in our Teen Section. I would recommend it to dystopian fans, readers of steampunk, and science fiction/fantasy fans. It’s probably best for 8th – 10th grades, but a good 5th grade reader who enjoys those genres would probably be able to read the book with no problems. I know quite a few adults who have enjoyed it too!
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Blue Sargent spends the night of April 24th, St. Mark’s Day at the local cemetery. Every year on that day, she helps her clairvoyant mother speak with the spirits so she can discover who will die over the course of the year. Blue’s mother is a psychic, and every member of Blue’s family has a psychic power…everyone but Blue herself. Blue does have a talent though–she amplifies the psychic ability of the people around her. So on St. Mark’s Day, the year she is sixteen, Blue is surprised to see a spirit herself for the very first time.
She’s even more surprised when she sees the “spirit” in person a few days later. He’s a boy named Gansey. Blue investigates and discovers that he’s one of the rich students at Aglionby, the local private school. The boys are mostly from wealthy backgrounds, and used to getting their way. The locals call them The Raven Boys, after the school mascot. Blue meets Gansey and his friends, Adam, Ronan and Noah at her waitressing job. She and Gansey immediately rub each other the wrong way.
Gansey might not be a spirit…yet…but the fact that Blue saw him in the churchyard on Saint Mark’s Day means that he will die before the year is out. Blue doesn’t want to get involved with any of the Raven Boys, but suddenly they seem to be everywhere she turns. Gansey, who makes her angry every time he acts; Adam, the local poor boy at the school on a scholarship; Ronan, who can’t control himself or his life; and Noah, the quiet one who seems to notice everything. Blue doesn’t know that the boys are working on their own project–Gansey has been working for years, trying to find a ley line. If he can find the one that seems to run through the Virginia landscape, he might be able to waken the sleeping Welsh king, Glendower, who he believes is hidden in the nearby hills.
Try as she might, Blue cannot seem to stay away from Gansey and Adam and the other boys. Eventually, she begins to help them, starting a friendship that might turn into something more. But Blue and the boys are not the only ones searching for Gwendower, someone else is too. And he has a much more sinister reason, and will stop at nothing to satisfy his needs.
I really loved The Raven Boys. The story is excellent. I had a bit of a problem with the narrator; his voice grated on me so much that at first I didn’t think I’d even make it through the first CD. He has a soft-spoken southern accent, and he speaks in almost a whisper throughout the first chapter, trying, I suppose, to sound feminine. It gets a little better when he starts the second chapter which is louder and less accented, from Gansey’s point of view. By the third chapter I didn’t even notice, I was so absorbed in the story. I do wish that the narrator was more personable in his voices, but the story is compelling enough that it overwhelms the dislike I felt.
The Raven Boys is also in our Teen section of the library. It’s sort of a modern fantasy, with elements of both horror and history. The story is probably best for readers in 8th grade and up. I do know a lot of adults who have read and enjoyed the book…I think it’s one of those crossover novels that can be enjoyed by readers well beyond their teen years. (Shannon, Karen, Casey and I all read and enjoyed it, and my sister, who has nothing to do with teens or books, loved it!) The Raven Boys is the first title of a projected four book quartet, so there’s plenty more to come!
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By Ally Carter, Performed by Angela Dawe
5 CDs, 6 hours, 10 minutes
Kat Bishop has never had an ordinary life. Boarding school is about the most normal it’s ever been. But her new life at the Colgan School is cut short when Kat gets blamed for putting the Headmaster’s car on top of a fountain. It’s not that she couldn’t do it, but this time, she’s actually not guilty! It doesn’t matter though; Kat can’t convince the school council and she leaves the school.
Her friend billionaire W. W. Hale the Fifth is on hand to pick her up in his limo. It turns out that Hale, her friend and sometime partner-in-crime, is the real culprit behind the car incident. The plan had been to cut off all contact with her former life at boarding school, but Hale is sure that Kat needs to be back with her friends and family. Hale tells her that Kat’s father is the main suspect in the theft of five paintings from a powerful mobster named Arturo Taccone. Not suspected by the police or Interpol, but Taccone is certain that he’s the only one with the knowledge and skills to pull off the theft.
Kat’s childhood included casing the Louvre and stealing the crown jewels of Austria. her family is well-known in the world of art thieves, con artists and high society crime. It’s not impossible to believe that her father took the paintings. But when she flies to Paris to meet with him, he tells her that he is innocent–he was pulling another job that night; stealing a statue from an art gallery. Kat believes him. So when Arturo Taccone has her picked up by his goons, and tells her that she has two weeks to return his paintings or there will be consequences, she’s aware that she’s in serious trouble. Taccone is a scary man, and Kat is knows that her father’s life is on the line. The only solution? Find the art and steal it back!
With Hale’s help, she gets in contact with her cousins and friends and starts assembling a crew of teenage thieves, hackers and con men. Is two weeks enough time for Kat to organize her crew into a cohesive unit? Can they pull off a job that seems impossible to even Uncle Eddie, the most experienced master thief in the family? And why does the name Visily Romani, an alias from one of the worlds greatest heist families, keep coming up? If they can pull it off, Kat and her crew will save her father’s life and prove themselves the best thieves in the world.
Heist Society was a fun read. It’s a teen version of Ocean’s Eleven, with a touch of the TV shows White Collar, Nikita and Leverage thrown in for good measure. The narrator of the audio recording was good–her voices for the various characters were on the mark. She did a range of different accents for characters who came from all around the world, and it was very convincing and fun to listen to. My only problem was that I had to keep adjusting the volume. When characters whispered, the sound became almost inaudible. Just turn up the volume, and you should be good to go!
Our copy of Heist Society is in the teen collection. All the characters are between fifteen and seventeen, but the book itself would be accessible to both middle and high school readers. It’s a fun “caper” book. There are two sequels, Uncommon Criminals and Perfect Scoundrels, and I just saw a short story online that crosses over with Ally Carter’s other series, The Gallagher Girls. (In the stort story millionaire Hale meets spy Macey during a society party that turns into a hostage situation. And if that doesn’t sound like a great crossover, what would?) Heist Society has been optioned for a film by Drew Barrymore. It sounds like she’s planning on aging the characters up by a few years, but I still think it would be fun to watch!
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So if you’re looking for a good book to listen to during your next car trip or vacation, these three books from our YA collection would be great choices to listen to, and also good series to read. So pick them up in either format and see what you think!