The Shadowy Horses

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Title: The Shadowy Horses

Author: Susanna Kearsley

The mystery of the Ninth Legion of the Roman army has inspired several novels and a couple of films, too (Centurion, The Eagle). Stationed in Britain in the second century AD, the legion – more than 3,000 strong – marched north into Scotland and completely vanished, presumably wiped out by the Picts whom they were sent to defeat.  Some scholars believe that really was their fate; others believe the legion left Britain for other parts of the Roman Empire.  Regardless, it’s fun to speculate about what happened.

In The Shadowy Horses, archeologist Verity Grey has been hired onto a dig in Scotland. Her boss has spent his life chasing after the Ninth, and the academic community regards him as anything from an eccentric to a complete laughingstock. This time, though, he’s sure he’s found their remains. Why? Because a young local boy has “seen” a Roman soldier walking in the fields.

When I was a teen, I absolutely adored romantic suspense novels by Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, and Barbara Michaels. I’m happy to report that The Shadowy Horses provided the same wonderful reading experience.  Verity is a witty, capable heroine, and there’s no wishy-washy hand-wringing or angsting going on here. The setting is vividly rendered, and of course, there’s the delicious romantic tension.

The Shadowy Horses was written 15 years ago (how did I miss it back then?), but it is being rereleased along with several other romantic suspense novels by Susanna Kearsley. I’ll definitely be looking for the others.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

A Confusion of Princes

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Title: A Confusion of Princes

Author: Garth Nix

Khemri is a prince of the realm, and he’s destined to be the next emperor – or so he thinks. Being a prince turns out to be not quite as exciting as it sounds, because there are millions of princes out there. All of them are enhanced with Bitek, Mektek, and Psitek, and all of them are vying to become the next emperor. As soon as Khemri comes of age, he is tossed out of the little oasis of calm where he’s been coddled and looked after all his life.  Now it’s on to the real world, where it’s kill or be killed – again and again.

A Confusion of Princes is pretty hardcore science fiction. We jump in to the story midstream, never really learning how this world came to be and how all the technologies work. Having said that, if you’re willing to go with the flow, it’s an excellent ride. There’s lots of action, a bit of a coming-of-age story as Khemri sheds his views of privilege and entitlement (sometimes quite painfully), and the world Garth Nix has created is pretty darn amazing.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

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Title: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Author: Tom Angleberger

This book is set up as a “case file” assembled by Tommy and including comments and drawings from his friends. Tommy is trying to get to the bottom of a strange problem: Is Origami Yoda real? “Does he really know things? Can he see the future? Does he use the Force? Or is he just a hoax that fooled a whole bunch of us?”

Origami Yoda was created by Dwight, and from his perch on Dwight’s finger, he speaks through Dwight in a surprisingly wise way. The reason this is so strange is that Dwight is so strange. Dwight is the weird kid who pulls his socks up over his knees when he wears shorts. The one who spewed apple juice all over the class cupcakes. The one who wanted everyone to call him Captain Dwight. So, he’s weird. Benign, but weird.

Origami Yoda, on the other hand, is a virtual fountain of wisdom and sage advice. You leaned against the wet bathroom sink and it looks like you peed your pants? Splash your whole body – it’s a water accident, not a potty accident. Problem solved! The thing is, if Dwight is such a weirdo, how does Yoda give such good advice? And if Yoda gives such good advice, why doesn’t Dwight listen to it? This is the conundrum Tommy is trying to solve, and it makes for a very entertaining book.

I started reading this on my lunch break and finished it at dinner. It’s a super-fast read (maybe 150 pages long), but there’s substance, too. The design of the book is fun. The pages are faux-crinkled, the fonts change depending on who’s telling the story, and there are lots of little doodle drawings and commentaries in the margins. The story continues in Darth Paper Strikes Back and The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee.

Keeping the Castle

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Title: Keeping the Castle

Author: Patrice Kindl

Ten years is waaaay too long to wait for a new book from Patrice Kindl. I can’t believe it’s really been that long. Anyhow, Keeping the Castle was well worth the wait. In a nutshell, it’s a cross between Pride and Prejudice and I Capture the Castle.

Althea is 17 years old, and the financial future of her family rests on her slim, elegant shoulders. In order to provide for her sweetly ineffective mother and maintain the crumbling family home for her four-year-old brother, not to mention her selfish and miserly stepsisters, Althea must marry – and marry quite well. Fortunately, she is considered to be an exceptional beauty; unfortunately, marital prospects are slim in their remote corner of England. The future brightens quickly when Lord Boring and his entourage arrive in the neighborhood, but Althea’s campaign does not go exactly as planned.

If you’ve read as many Regency romances as I have, you won’t find the plot to be terribly innovative. However, Althea is a charming and witty protagonist. Her observations on the pragmatic business of marriage and her increasingly desperate efforts to bring Lord Boring up to scratch are thoroughly entertaining. Despite the fact that Althea’s original plans do not succeed, the story ends happily for everyone – well, almost everyone – and it kept me smiling the whole way through.

-Lisa, Teen Librarian

Mysteries for Teens

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Every summer an honors English class at one of our high schools has to read a novel of psychological suspense by an American author. Every fall, seventh graders have to choose a mystery for outside reading. It took me long enough, but I finally managed to compile a list of mysteries in our YA collection that helps the kids and my fellow librarians. It’s not a complete list, but it’s a good start.

Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams
The only thing Wyatt knew about his biological father was that he was serving a life sentence, but circumstances and a new girlfriend bring them together and soon Wyatt is working to prove his father’s innocence.

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
A knee injury destroyed Cody’s college hopes, so he dropped out and got a job in his tiny Montana town, but when his ex-girlfriend disappears from her Vermont school, he travels cross-country to join the search.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Hannah committed suicide, and there are 13 reasons why. Clay Jensen can’t believe he’s one of them, but he’ll find out by listening to the tapes she left behind.

Split by Swati Avasthi
Thrown out by his abusive father, Jace travels from Chicago to Albuquerque to live with his older brother, who ran away from home five years ago to escape the abuse – and left Jace behind.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
A sophisticated thriller set just after World War II. Fifteen-year-old Evie grows up quickly when she realizes her beloved parents are not all they seem to be.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown
When 17-year-old Alex starts dating Cole, a new boy at her school, her two best friends become increasingly suspicious of him as their relationship gets serious.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Valerie must come to terms with the fact that her boyfriend Nick went to school and killed seven people before killing himself. Shades of Columbine.

The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Dark secrets linking two Alabama families and their Welsh ancestors slowly come to light when 17-year-old Sylvie spends a month with a cousin she barely knows in her father’s ancestral home.

Shelter by Harlan Coben
Mickey Bolitar witnessed his father’s death and had to send his mom to rehab. Starting over with his uncle seems okay – until his new girlfriend disappears.

Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook
Isobel’s life is falling apart fast. Either she’s losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or else she’s seeing ghosts.

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
After her older sister runs away, 16-year-old Caitlin decides to make a major change in her own life and begins dating a boy who is brilliant, mysterious, and dangerous.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
After a major terrorist attack in San Francisco, Marcus is rounded up without cause and interrogated for days. Released into what is now a police state, he decides to use his expertise in computer hacking to set things right.

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
After high school graduation, four teens are involved in a hit-and-run accident – and then they cover up their crime. But someone knows what really happened that night….

The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson
Cameryn works as an assistant to her coroner father. When her friend is killed, she’s able to use her knowledge of forensics to search for the killer – but that puts her in danger. The series continues with The Angel of Death and The Circle of Blood.

The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks
When a teenaged girl with a bad reputation is murdered in New York’s Central Park after a party, her childhood friend is determined to solve the mystery of who killed her.

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee
Sixteen-year-old Rinn is confronted with surreal events that force her to fear that her past mental illness is resurfacing.

Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters by  Gail Giles
Sunny is stunned when a total stranger shows up at her house posing as her older sister Jazz, whio supposedly died in a fire out of town months earlier.

What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles
What happened? Well, she’s been buried alive by Kyle Kirby, who holds her responsible for his brother’s suicide. Extremely intense!

Paper Towns by John Green
Quentin has been secretly in love with his popular, unstable neighbor for most of his life. When she disappears (again), he’s determined to figure out where she went and why.

Amandine by Adele Griffin
A powerful novel about a magnetic, mentally unstable freshman and her hold over the new girl in town.

Tighter by Adele Griffin
This update of Henry James’s classic The Turn of the Screw retains the chills and horror of the original while adding new psychological dimensions.

The Girl Is Murder by Kathryn Haines
It’s 1942 in New York City, and Iris is grieving her mother’s recent death while secretly helping her dad with his detective business – help he needs after losing a leg at Pearl Harbor.

Girl, Stolen by April Henry
Cheyenne is sick and sleeping in the back of her mom’s car when it is stolen. Theft turns into kidnapping, and Cheyenne has to escape before the crime turns into murder.

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry
Gabie was supposed to do the pizza delivery, but Kayla went instead. Now Kayla is gone, and someone may still be after Gabie.

Shock Point by April Henry
Before Cassie can expose her stepfather’s dangerous drug experiments on his teen patients, he sends her to a brutal boot camp for troubled teens.

Dark Angel by David Klass
When his older brother is released from prison after six years because of a technicality, Jeff’s family secret is revealed, causing upheaval in his home, school, and love life.

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman
High school is rough, so Abby withdraws from friends and family, spending all her time online with her new Internet friend, Luke, who is not who he pretends to be.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
What if the world’s worst serial killer was  your dad? He’s in prison, but bodies are piling up again. In an effort to clear his own name from the copycat crimes, Jazz joins the hunt for a new serial killer.

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Willa seems to have the perfect life until the father she barely remembers murders his new wife and children, then heads toward Willa and her mother.

The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
High school junior Torey Adams struggles with doubts and questions surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the class outcast.

Following Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
Legally blind college reporter Mike Mavic hopes to get a story about a body believed to be that of long-missing Christopher Creed, but finds something odd about the town, including Justin Creed’s obsessive drive to learn what really happened to his older brother.

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
Sixteen-year-old Violet is spending the summer in Japan while her artist father works on a big commission. When his clients are the victims of a theft, Violet is determined to track down the missing artwork.

Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
Becca has big plans for the future, but the discovery of a dead girl sends her whole town into a tailspin. Soon, Becca finds herself unable to move forward for the first time in her life.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
Strange things start to happen when 16-year-old twins Tennyson and Bronte befriend a troubled and misunderstood outcast nicknamed Bruiser.

Blood on My Hands by Todd Strasser
When Callie discovers her friend’s dead body, she becomes suspect number one. Who killed Katherine, and why did they blame it on Callie?

Kill You Last by Todd Strasser
Girls start to go missing, and the only thing they have in common is having professional photographs taken by Shelby’s father. Can she help clear his name? Is he really innocent?

Black Mirror by Nancy Werlin
Frances is sure her brother’s death was murder, not suicide, so she begins her own investigation into the suspicious activities at their elite boarding school.

The Killer’s Cousin by Nancy Werlin
Acquitted of murder, 17-year-old David moves in with relatives to escape the media glare and soon realizes that something is very wrong with Cousin Lily.

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
A dark but hopeful tale about trying to survive and escape an abusive mother, as narrated by 17-year-old Matt.

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
An entertaining thriller about the hunt for a missing person that also takes a thought-provoking look at consumer culture.

The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
When the body of a classmate is discovered in the woods, Evie’s lies wind up involving her with the girl’s best friend, trying to track down the killer.

Stupid Fast

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Title: Stupid Fast

Author: Geoff Herbach

Felton Reinstein, aka Rhinestone, aka Squirrel Nut, has always been a nobody. He’s got one good friend, and he gets picked on a lot because he’s small for his age – or at least, he used to be small for his age. In the couple of months leading up to his 16th birthday, Felton has had a massive growth spurt, adding 6 or 8 inches and almost 50 pounds to his frame. 

On the outside, Felton’s now a powerful athlete who’s got football and track coaches begging him to join their teams. On the inside he’s still the same kid with a piano-prodigy little brother who’s obsessed with their father’s suicide and a mother who is slowly losing her grip on reality.

Stupid Fast manages to be funny while tackling some fairly serious issues. Felton is confused by a lot of what’s going on around him, and in true teenage fashion he does his best to ignore everything until it blows up in his face. The book ends on a positive note, and Felton’s story continues in Nothing Special.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

The Night She Disappeared

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Title: The Night She Disappeared

Author: April Henry

Gabie is a good girl. She’s quiet, gets excellent grades, drives a cute little Mini Cooper, and works at a pizza place mostly to get out of her big, empty house. When bright, bubbly Kayla asks to switch shifts one night, Gabie agrees. Then Kayla disappears, and Gabie finds out that the guy who called in the pizza delivery asked for the girl in the Mini Cooper. Was Gabie actually the intended victim? Is Kayla already dead?

Gabie becomes obsessed with Kayla’s disappearance and enlists the help of Drew, the co-worker who took the phone order that sent Kayla out that night. Gabie’s convinced that Kayla is still alive, but that time is running out.

Different characters take turns narrating the story, so we get to know what’s going on with Gabie, Drew, Kayla, and even the kidnapper. The chapters are also connected by newspaper clippings, phone transcripts, and other ephemera, which is a neat touch. The one thing that threw me off a bit was the little hints of psychic connection between Gabie and Kayla.  It’s a bit too woo-woo for a straight mystery, but not enough to qualify as a seriously paranormal story. That’s a minor quibble, though, and by and large I really enjoyed this short, intense book.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian