The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

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In a time when young women are expected to act like proper ladies and aspire only to an advantageous marriage, Faith wants to be a scientist. Fascinated by the natural world, Faith takes pleasure in accompanying her father to fossil digs, even though she is not taken seriously because of her gender. When a scandal breaks in the scientific world involving Faith’s father, her family flees to a remote island. There, secrets about her father’s past begin to come to light, and Faith discovers that he may have brought an even bigger, more dangerous secret with him to the island. Using her deductive reasoning skills, Faith must uncover the truth of what’s happening on the island — before she gets sucked into its mysteries.

I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this book. It’s historical fiction, but it’s completely accessible and a super fast paced read. I especially love how this book tackles women’s rights, women in STEM, and fake news — all wrapped up in a murder mystery! You will definitely be eager to find out how the story ends. Characters are entertaining and well-rounded, and I liked that the author gave particular depth to the character of Faith’s mother. If you like historical fiction, mysteries, STEM, or are just looking for a good read, give this one a try. Worth it!

*Costa Book of the Year, 2015

Rating: 4.5/5

 

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The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

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Will’s family rockets from poverty to first class when his father is promoted in the rail business. But Will’s new wealth isn’t all he dreamed it would be. He misses the adventure of his old life, and feels trapped in his family’s new expectations. When will reunites with a circus performer, Maren, he becomes wrapped up in a mystery related to a valuable key. The key unlocks a car on the new Goliath train, The Boundless, and may lead to untold riches. Will and Maren must solve the mystery, or they may lose their lives on the train.

This one is definitely a great read! The plot is a little predictable, but it’s packed with action, adventure, and intrigue, so it moves very quickly. I also like that this is technically a historical fiction piece, but it is NOT boring at all. All the characters are very well done, and I especially enjoyed reading about the circus performers. If you are looking for your next mystery/thriller with a touch of history, Boundless is it!

*Texas Lonestar List, 2016

Rating: 4/5

 

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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In the woods surrounding Fairfold, a horned boy sleeps encased in a glass coffin. The townspeople believe he is a fake — a statue; certainly not a sleeping boy. But Hazel and Ben, siblings who have experience in the world of Fae, know differently. So they aren’t surprised when, one day, the horned boy wakes. His disappearance occurs at almost exactly the same time as when a violent, evil force descends on the town, sending its citizens into a panic. Hazel and Ben must find the horned boy, figure out what he wants, and stop the evil before it’s too late.

Amazing. This is the best book I’ve read in a while. I liked the unique incorporation of fairy tales (Snow White’s coffin housing a sleeping boy) mixed in with the Fae. The plot moves fast enough to keep things interesting, and the author does an excellent job of world-building. There’s also plenty of surprises and twists — just when you think you have things figured out, something new is revealed. The inclusion of LGBT relationships was also a huge plus. If you’re looking for a new fantasy read, this is it!

*YALSA, Teen’s Top Ten, 2016

Rating: 5/5

 

The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull

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By returning to Ireland after years spent living in America, Clare knows that her life will become vastly different. Though Clare believed in “the Strange” and fairies as a young girl, her time away from her home taught her that these things are just stories. However, once back in Ireland, the Strange doesn’t feel like just a bedtime story. Memories and feelings rush back to Clare, reminding her of her past life and her duty. When things go horribly awry, Clare must find a way to repair the damage her absence has caused, or risk losing her home forever.

I have to say, this book is not for everyone. Though it is beautifully, wonderfully written, it is also incredibly slow. The plot was interesting enough, but the pace made it quite difficult for me to progress through it. If you’re a patient reader who loves fairy stories, you might love this book. It was a bit too slow for me, though.

Rating: 2.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

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Nothing happens in Bone Gap. That is, until Roza, a mysterious girl with a Polish accent, stumbles into town and brings it to life. Especially touched are the O’Sullivan boys, Finn and Sean, near orphans who adopt Roza as much as she adopts them. But, when Roza goes missing, no one searches for her. Sean believes she has just drifted away, as all people do who come into his life. Finn, though, knows she is gone — kidnapped. He just can’t describe the man who took her. Somehow, Finn must find a way to convince the town she was really taken and to rescue her. But such a quest will push Finn to limits he never imagined, jeopardizing all his relationships and even his sanity along the way.

This book is just wow. It’s kind of weird, and there’s definitely a lot going on, but I haven’t read a book this good in a while. I really appreciated how unique it was, and the mystery/magical elements kept my attention through the whole book. I was dying to know what happened with Roza and whether Finn was going to find her. There’s great character development in this book (Ruby is excellent at creating interesting backstories), and the dialog is extremely fun to read. It’s hard for me to say much without giving away major spoilers. Just know that if you’re into slightly magical, kind of weird books with excellent twists, this one is for you! I loved it! Read the spoilers if you want to know more — but don’t actually. Just read the book.

Rating: 5/5 

*YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, Nominee, 2015 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.