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  • Featured Teen Books

Staff Review: Books 1 & 2 of The Lovegrove Legacy

If you’re like me, maybe you don’t find Regency romances interesting and you avoid fantasy. If you love both of those things – and even if you don’t, keep reading. Why? Because it turns out that sometimes, when you put two things together that you don’t like – they produce something you might love.

Of course, this isn’t always true (and the opposite isn’t true – after all, I love mint and I love chocolate, but I certainly don’t like them together). But if you give me a Regency (or Edwardian/Victorian) setting and sprinkle it liberally with magic? I love it (unlike that mint chocolate chip cookie you’re thinking about right now) and maybe you will, too. If you already like those genres, together or separate, you’ll certainly find something to like in this series.

Alyxandra Harvey’s new series, The Lovegrove Legacy, is set in 1814 London (in the middle of the Regency period). It’s the story of three cousins; Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope. Unbeknownst to the three girls, they are descents of a very strong magical family, but as the three cousins soon find out – there’s a reason their abilities have been hidden.

The first book, A Breath of Frost follows the three cousins, but primarily focuses on Emma as she tries to figure out why their magic has been hidden from them. The second book, Whisper of the Dead, picks up where the first left off, but instead of focusing on Emma, we change to Gretchen. Although the primacy focus of each of the these first two books is on a particular cousin, Harvey provides us with plenty to read about the other two – along with the love interests that flit throughout their lives.

In many ways, The Lovegrove Legacy is a Regency romance -- there’s a season, there’s swooning and handsome men and beautiful dresses. But there’s also magic, lots of magic, and danger. Harvey’s world is similar to our own, but with a twist of magic that will leave you excited for the third book. .

Check out both of these books from the library! If you like them, you might also enjoy the Ceclia & Kate trilogy by Patricia C. Wrede (previously reviewed on ROPL).

Staff Review: Cecelia & Kate (trilogy)

Sometimes what you’re missing is a little magic. If you’ve ever felt that way and enjoy a good mystery (or three) plus a whole lot of fun – keep reading! Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer trilogy, Cecelia and Kate, is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Beginning in 1817, Sorcery and Cecelia follows the story of two cousins: Kate and Cecelia and their adventures in magic, growing up and falling in love.

The first of the three books, Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, is told in letters between the two cousins. We follow Kate as she spends the season in London, while Cecelia is stuck back at home. Enduring their aunts, irritating boys, Kate’s cousin Georgy and promise of magic, the two girls write back and forth, giving us a fun and entertaining look at their daily life and adventures. The novel comes to a satisfying and fun end, good enough to stand on its own, but definitely leaving you wanting to spend more time with the two cousins.

The second novel, The Grand Tour, picks up not long after the first. Though this novel, too, is told through the written word, unlike the first, the two girls are traveling together so there’s no need for letters. Instead, we’re treated to Cecelia’s deposition and Kate’s journaling. While the format is slightly different, The Grand Tour measures up very well against Sorcery & Cecelia. Newly married, Kate and Cecelia are off on a honeymoon – across Europe! But being that they’re both intimately involved in magic (one way or another), nothing’s ever simple! But, of course, it is quite a lot of fun.

The third, and sadly final, novel of the trilogy is The Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years After. Here, as with Sorcery and Cecelia we return to the letter writing format. But unlike the previous two, we’re treated to the letters of Cecelia and Kate’s husbands, which prove to be equally entertaining as the two girls’ letters. Set back in England and ten years after the events in The Grand Tour, the third book follows up on Cecelia and her husband’s attempt to find a missing magician and a startling discovery – related both to magic and the newest mode of transportation in England – the steam engine! Kate and her husband take charge of Cecelia’s children and have their own, related, adventures. This time, though, Kate’s sister Gerogy has her own entertaining storyline.

At the heart of each of these three novels is a combination of magic and mystery. Wrede and Stevermer manage to weave these two concepts together with ease and humor. If you’re looking for a fun romp through the early 1800s, look no further.

If you like the Cecelia and Kate series, you might also like these books:

Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette & Espionage
  2. Curtsies & Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats & Weaponry
  4. Manners & Mutiny (coming soon)

Kady Cross’ Steampunk Chronicles:

  1. The Girl in the Steel Corset
  2. The Girl in the Clockwork Collar
  3. The Girl with the Iron Touch
  4. The Girl with the Windup Heart

Ysabeau S. Wilce’s Flora Segunda series:

  1. Flora Segunda
  2. Flora’s Dare
  3. Flora's Fury

Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Castle series:

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle
  2. Castle in the Air
  3. House of Many Ways

Cat Valente's The Girl Who ... series: 

  1. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
  2. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
  3. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
  4. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (coming soon)

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and books by Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce.

Staff Review: Dorothy Must Die

By Danielle Paige
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

Everyone knows the story of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. She was the girl swept away in a tornado and eventually found her way home. But did you know she went back? And things in the Land of Oz are not as nice as they seem in the stories. Dorothy Must Die is the story of what happens when you get too much of a good thing.

Amy’s life is miserable. She lives in Kansas and she hates it. She and her mom have a pretty terrible relationship and everyone at school makes fun of her for living in a trailer. Then, one afternoon, there’s a tornado. Her mother leaves her and Amy’s left in the trailer and suddenly, and for no reason she can figure out (at least at first) she ends up in Oz. Only this isn’t the Oz from the books. Instead, this Oz is a mess.

Danielle Paige’s book, the first in a series, follows a similar pattern to the original Wizard of Oz. Amy, like Dorothy, has a mission. But instead of following the yellow brick road to find her way home, Amy must find Dorothy. And then she must do the unthinkable – she must kill her. But along the way, just like Dorothy, Amy picks up some friends. Paige does a fantastic job turning what we know about Oz on its head.

Party gothic fairy tale, part adventure story, Dorothy Must Die is a fun ride. You’ll meet some familiar characters and some new ones – and none of them are what you’d expect, and that’s just fine. There have been a lot of Wizard of Oz reworkings, but none of them are quite as fun as Paige’s.

What are you waiting for? Reserve a copy and join Amy on her adventures!

Staff Review: Coldest Girl in Coldtown

By Holly Black
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

Do you like vampire books? Or maybe you hate them. Maybe you’re looking for something different. Something darker with a hero you can really identify with. Holly Black has exactly the sort of vampire book you’re looking for. It’s darker than you’d expect, but it’s also got a tenderness that’s almost as surprising to the reader as it is to the characters.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is not just about vampires (but then, what vampire novel truly is). Instead, it’s love story to all those vampire books of yesteryear. We’re talking the Anne Rice vampires mixed with the Draculas. The dark, creepy vampires you don’t find in teen dramas or on TV. These vampires are mean and they’re cold and they’re literally out for blood. If that sounds like a lot, it is.

The novel follows our hero, Tana. She wakes up in the middle of a massacre and the last thing she remembers is that she was at a party, with a lot of the living and none of the dead. She finds the only people alive are herself and her ex-boyfriend, tied to a bed because he’s been bitten. Only he’s not a vampire – yet. But she also finds another vampire and she does the only logical thing, she frees him. Because the three of them are going to Coldtown – the quarantine area for vampires, the recently bitten and those who (for whatever reason) want to be with those vampires.

Black’s novel explores what it means to be human, to have a family and if it’s really a good idea to hide from what scares us the most. Tana has to fight all of her demons, real and imagined, to survive. Black gives Tana choices that no one should have to make and Tana, much to her credit as a character, is as real as they come in a world that’s not real at all.

If you only read one teen vampire book, make it The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Don’t worry, there’s romance, but it’s not what you’d expect. And while the novel stands strong enough by itself, and Black does a good job of tying up loose ends (in a non-predictable sort of way), I wouldn’t complain if she decides to write more in this world. It’s worth exploring.

Staff Review: Panic

By Lauren Oliver
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

Lauren Oliver’s newest novel is a return, in a way, to her realistic fiction beginnings. Instead of the dystopian world of Delirium, her most recent book is about a world not to different from our own. Panic is the story of Heather. But it’s really the story of a game, which shares the same title as the novel. Panic the game is all about dares. It’s a contest and the winner gets money. Except, in Heather’s case, everyone has different motives.

Heather’s friend Nat plays the game for the money, so she can finally escape town. Heather’s best friend, Bishop, doesn’t play the game at all. Their newest friend, Dodge, plays the game for revenge. And Heather? She doesn’t know why she’s agreed to play Panic. But the story isn’t really about the game, although it’s the basis for everything that happens in the story.

Instead, the story is about living in a small town. It’s about relationships, friendships and trust. Trust of your friends, your family and the people around you. Panic, the game, isn’t about trust – or it’s not supposed to be. Heather thinks she knows what’s going on, but it turns out she doesn’t know herself anymore than she knows her friends.

Panic is not a great novel, I’m not even sure I liked it. But it was compelling. I had to finish, because I had to know what happens. I found myself liking and disliking characters throughout the whole novel. Oliver knows how to play with your feelings (as in the Delirium series and Before I Fall) and a good turn of phrase. My one complaint, though, is that actions don’t always have the consequences I would agree on. But in a world where Panic exists, that makes more sense.

Recommended if you’re looking for something thrilling, but slightly disturbing.

Staff Review: The Clockwork Scarab

By Colleen Gleason
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

Are you a fan of the BBC Sherlock? Do you like books with clever, snarky and brilliant main characters? Look no further than Colleen Gleason’s new series: Stoker & Holmes. Meet our two heroines: Evaline Stoker (sister to the famous Bram Stoker of Dracula fame) and Mina Holmes (niece of famed consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes and daughter of the illusive Mycroft Holmes). The two teenagers team up to solve crimes in the name of queen and country. Or least that’s what Gleanson promises us.

Book 1 of Gleanson’s series, titled The Clockwork Scarab, introduces us to Evaline and Mina, along with a cast of characters including a time traveling American, a detective named Grayling and a thief named Pix who is not who he seems to be (plus a few other surprises for the Sherlock Holmes and Dracula fans).

The Clockwork Scarab is set in London, though not the one found in much historical fiction. Instead, her world is a steampunk world that doesn’t use electricity (there was some drama on the continent involving Edison). But it’s not pure steampunk, either. Gleason pulls from a variety of genres including (but hopefully not limited to) vampires, time travel and the resurrection of Egyptian gods.

While not my favorite re-imaging of the world of Sherlock Holmes, The Clockwork Scarab makes up for it’s shortcomings by having fantastic characters and an engaging plot. If you enjoy a good romp through steampunk London and a mystery, you’ll enjoy Gleanson’s story. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for book two. 

Staff Review: The Theory of Everything

By Kari Luna
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

Kari Luna's young adult novel, The Theory of Everything is full of just that -- everything. And I loved every second of it. The story revolves around Sophie Sophia and her search for her missing father, a physicist. Sophie's father disappears on occasion and when we enter the story, he's been gone for some time. But that's not all of Sophie's problems. Kari Luna's novel, which starts simply enough, mixes reality and fantasy in a subtle and fantastically fun way.You see, Sophie's problem isn't just that she's obsessed with music from the eighties (especially mixtapes) and has a missing father -- Sophie sees things that aren't there.

What does she see? A talking panda. His name is Walt and he's her shaman and guide. But these things she sees (not just Walt, but others things too, which Luna artfully describes throughout the novel) are things no one else can see. They've caused her problems as she grows and now, at 14, her mother had hoped she'd grow out of them. But she hasn't and that's when she meets Walk and Finny. Unlike Walt, Finny's a human boy, the same age as Sophie (14). And, unlike most of the people in her life Finny likes her (and believes her). And it's Finny who goes with her on their spontaneous 20 hour train ride to New York City, in search of Sophie's missing father.

The Theory of Everything may sound cheesy and ridiculous, but it's none of those things. It's thoughtful and moving. It's full of parents and people who care (there are consequences to Finny and Sophie's road trip, they are just 14 after all). But it's also full of love and hope. Luna's writing is fun, light hearted, but serious when it matters. I loved The Theory of Everything because it was a perfect little book of joy -- in spite of the heartbreak that is occasionally sprinkled through out it.

It doesn't matter if you're 14, 34 or 54 -- there's something for everyone to love in Luna's novel.

 

Staff Review: Shadows

By Robin McKinley
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

Robin McKinley's newest young adult title is a more urban fantasy than much of her other YA novels. Maggie, the teenage heroine of the novel lives in a world that's similar to our own, but just different enough to remind us that it's not exactly our world. For Maggie, everything in the world she knows revolves around science -- except that magic does exist. But in Maggie's world, science and magic cannot coexist and this is at the heart of Shadows.

Maggie and her little brother live with their mother. When her mother decides to remarry, Maggie immediately notices that something's wrong with her stepfather, Val. He has shadows, but unlike everyone else in her world, he has multiple shadows and for whatever reason, they scare Maggie so much she doesn't want to be around Val. Her relationship with her family begins to suffer and soon she begins to wonder if everything she knows is wrong.

McKinley's at her best here, once you dig through the anti-science the crowds the beginning of the story. McKinley's characters grow throughout the novel -- they are real, even though their world is not our world. McKinley can turn a character you thought you hated into someone you love easily -- but without you even noticing it happened. She takes a simple math textbook and brings it alive in ways you never thought possible. And, much to my surprise, McKinley manages to avoid the most common of YA tropes -- the love triangle.

Shadows is a fun book that is, in the end, a book about how science and magic can (and should) coexist in Maggie's world. It's about love and the importance of telling the truth. But it's also a story about the value of family and friends. And the shadows of the title? Well, I won't spoil you, but they turn out to be far more important than you'd think.

If you like McKinley's other books, you'll most likely enjoy Shadows. But if you're a fan of fantasy, especially YA urban fantasy, then you'll love Shadows. As someone who isn't a big fan of fantasy, it's almost as if Shadows was written for me. Aside from the very beginning of the novel (I promise it's worth the slog), Shadows is basically perfect.

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