An Ode to Lois Duncan
I think I was 14 before I discovered that I could buy books at school. I don’t remember what the program was called, but it was very similar to (if not the same as) the Scholastic program I run at my school now; flyers come out, you pick the books you want, mum provides a cheque and the books come to your classroom. One of the books that I ordered (and that arrived so promptly) was something called Summer of Fear, and it had quite a disturbing cover, as you can see. I was past my Nancy Drew phase and well into Agatha Christie by this time and looking for mysteries in any form. This sounded very mysterious; a visiting cousin, that even looks a little like our heroine, starts to gaslight her. Everyone loves said cousin, so no one believes our heroine. Great fun!!
Summer of Fear was my first; my first Lois Duncan. After reading it, I then, in true obsessive fashion had to find everything the woman had ever written. Killing Mr. Griffin followed Summer of Fear, then I Know What you Did Last Summer. Then everything else she had written. All psychological thrillers before “gripping psychological thrillers” were a thing, or even a genre. I had all of Lois Duncan’s books (and still have them) and even hooked my brother on them. He used to snatch them from me as soon as I finished them. Now, again, this was the 80’s so there was no Amazon to tell you when the next one was coming out, no author website to keep you up to date on the author’s life. All I knew was that around 1990, new Lois Duncan books stopped. I looked every time I went into a bookstore but by then I’d moved onto Stephen King, so I wasn’t too concerned. I never thought to look in the adult section though. Maybe I should have after finding Judy Blume there. But this wasn’t like Judy Blume.
It was ten years later that I found a new Lois Duncan on the adult shelves. It was called Who Killed My Daughter. I can still remember reaching up to take it down to read the back, not believing that it was a true story. Seems there was a very good reason Lois Duncan stopped writing. She became somewhat obsessed with finding her daughter’s killer yet years later the case remains unsolved. Of course before the internet there was no way of knowing what had happened. Now, I can go to her website and read all about her career and what it felt like to try and write about teen killers when her own daughter had been killed. Back in the late 80’s I just knew there were no new Lois Duncan books.
Lois Duncan died two years ago, the mystery of her daughter’s death unsolved. I can only imagine what impact it must have had on her writing. To this day I have a love of the “gripping psychological thriller” which I attribute to her. I can go back and read Killing Mr. Griffin and enjoy it as much today as I did as a teen. A good indication of the legacy left by this gifted writer. I only hope she has found the peace she wasn’t able to find after the death of her daughter.
By: Marie Lu
Synopsis (via Goodreads): When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When Emika hacks into the game illegally, she’s convinced she’ll be arrested, and is shocked when she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem … and he wants Emika for the job. In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.
How I got it: Whenever I go away on holiday I figure I need books to read while I’m away. Never mind that I have more books than I could ever hope to read over a lifetime of holidays, for some reason going on holiday means I can buy more. Addiction remember? And again, digital is waaaaayyyyy too easy.
When I got it: July 2018
Why I want to read it: There are a couple of reasons I’m eager to read this one. First is that it’s Marie Lu and I thoroughly enjoyed her Legends series, though her Young Elites series has remained untouched on my Kobo for a while. Second, well Silence of the Six has set me off on a hacking/cyberterrorist kick, and this book showed up on the “if you liked this, you might like this” screen on Amazon. So now it’s on my Kobo and next in line. Also sounds like there’s a little Ready Player One in there, which can never be a bad thing.
My Second Read from my Shelf Control pile!
It’s great knowing what’s next to be read. You know when you finish a book and you think “now what do I read”? And then you troll through all the books on your Kobo and Kindle trying to remember what each title is about, and more often than not having to look up the summaries again. Having a list makes things so much easier. Who knew?
See my Shelf Control post for the summary.
Why I recommend it:
This book is presented as a Middle Grades read (ie. 9-12). I’ve starting searching through this section of the bookstore more and more as I find the teen reads have been taken over by the must-have romance. Even with a good premise, there always got to be a romance. Granted, I loved romance in a book when I was a teen but now I find it more than annoying, especially if it takes over the plot or makes the main character act like an idiot. But I digress.
With York Laura Ruby creates wonderful characters in Tess, Theo and Jaime. I found them very relatable and was never jarred from the story with a stilted or out-of-character comment. I was surprised by how much I liked Tess. I don’t usually like female leads but she was age appropriate and sufficiently “feisty”. I’m wondering if the fact that she was part of a brother/sister team made her more likable. That sibling dynamic often keeps the characters real. I found Land of Stories to be similar in that respect.
The plot moved quickly and it was fascinating to see this new version of New York. I loved the idea of having to solve a puzzle. I’m a sucker for a good puzzle. I also liked the idea of the puzzle being passed down through the years, going unsolved, much like Ready Player One. Yes, definitely some parallels to other novels but effective and without being blatant.
York is the first in the The Shadow Cipher series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one!
Suitable for ages 8 and above. This is firmly a 9-12 novel, written to that level, but as I said, I’ve been finding recently that many great stories (without the annoying romance) can be found here. You may want to read it with your kids, but I guarantee you’ll be reading ahead when they’re not looking
Title: The Rule of Thre3
By: Eric Walters
Synopsis (via Goodreads): One shocking afternoon, computers around the globe shut down in a viral catastrophe. At sixteen-year-old Adam Daley’s high school, the problem first seems to be a typical electrical outage, until students discover that cell phones are down, municipal utilities are failing, and a few computer-free cars like Adam’s are the only vehicles that function. Driving home, Adam encounters a storm tide of anger and fear as the region becomes paralyzed. Soon—as resources dwindle, crises mount, and chaos descends—he will see his suburban neighbourhood band together for protection. And Adam will understand that having a police captain for a mother and a retired government spy living next door are not just the facts of his life but the keys to his survival, in The Rule of Three by Eric Walters.
How I got it: This one has been on my Kobo for quite some time, so honestly I’m not really sure how I got it. I think it was one of the ones I saw in a bookstore and took a picture of to remind myself to seek it out digitally.
When I got it: I want to say 2015?
Why I want to read it: I think this is another one that was a result of my Ready Player One obsession. I went looking for others in the same vein. I love the premise of all computers going down. I feel like that will be our next World War. We’re so reliant on the digital world that I’m not sure what anyone would do. Cyberterrorism has already become a problem because we are at the mercy of machines. Certainly, no one likes the idea of planes falling out of the sky! We are now also approaching a second generation that doesn’t know a world without computers and the internet. I’d love to know what today’s teenager would do if they suddenly didn’t have a smart-phone. An interesting social experiment at the very least. Anyway, the whole “what-if” scenario intrigues me so this is next on my list.
So it appears that this is about the time of year I return to my blog; after the school year finishes and the craziness dies down. I had the idea to write ahead so things could post even if I didn’t get around to writing something, but you know, best laid plans and all. So here I am looking back on my posts, and only just now realizing how long it’s been since I wrote. So a quick update to get us back into the swing of things.
My resolution to work my way through my enormous “to be read” pile has waned and I have fallen back into my bad habit of stockpiling books. Not as badly as before but I am still adding books at a greater rate than I am reading them.
Looking at my Shelf Control books, I’ve read every book in the Silence of the Six series including all the novellas. Thoroughly enjoyed every one and highly recommend. I didn’t get very far with In Other Lands but my devotion to Sarah Rees Brennan dictates that I will be giving that one another shot. And York? York was incredible and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series (review to come).
I have continued to read as much as possible but have been on a stint of “gripping psychological thrillers” since school ended (some not so thrilling or gripping).
I was also reading recently about the resurgence of the physical book; at least in the UK. Books stores closing everywhere with the coming of the internet and e-readers and people are starting to realize how much they enjoyed holding a book in their hands. And vinyl is coming back! What’s up with that! Indigo even has a section devoted to it, because you know, they’re not a bookstore anymore apparently. Strange world we live in.
Me, I have to admit I like my digital books, mainly because I can increase the font size and line-spacing and read much, much faster.
So, any preference? Digital or physical? Are there certain situations where you prefer one over the other, or is it a clear preference?
I must admit, when it comes to physical books, I miss the covers and how nice certain books look on my shelves :))
Summary (from Goodreads): Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Gansey is different. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been told by her psychic family that she will kill her true love. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
Why I recommend it:
This book was recommended by one of my students, and as I tend to enjoy the same things she does, I dove in. Well, I finished the first three books in a week and took my time with book four because I didn’t want the series to be over.
Why do I recommend it? Character, character, character! I rarely like female leads but I really liked Blue. And the boys were individual and well-drawn. I couldn’t decide from one page to the next who I liked more. It’s fast paced and beautifully written. The first book starts slowly but stick with it; its definitely worth it.
Suitable for ages 14 and above. Ask your parents if you’re younger.
By: Laura Ruby
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.
Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.
How I got it: This was another one of the purchases from my Chapters shopping spree in October.
When I got it: October 2017
Why I want to read it: Another one that sounds reminicent of Ready Player One. The combination of New York and a puzzle are very appealing. It also sounds like it has elements of steampunk which I also enjoy. I also like brother/sister teams; there’s often a familiar dynamic between them that I share with my own brother.
The Silence of Six by E.C. Myers
My First Read from my Shelf Control pile!
I can’t believe I’ve actually completed one of my TBR’s. Yes, I know my list has around 200 on it but every journey begins with that first step. So I choose to celebrate.
See my Shelf Control post for the summary.
Why I recommend it:
This book was so much fun. It’s my first read for 2018, and I have already completed Book 2 and the book of novellas set in the same universe. Max, our main protagonist is a strong narrator and the author has developed his voice so well I feel I know him. Penny and Risse, the sisters who aid Max in his quest to take down social media giant, Panea, are equally brilliant, and I loved how often it was their hacker skills that saved the day.
In addition to the characters, I also liked delving into the world of hackers. Whether the hacking was realistic or not, I’ve no idea and I don’t really care, but I found it equally fascinating and disturbing. The Silence of Six raises the question of privacy and the increasing resemblance of our world to 1984. Our reliance and obsession with technology is increasing exponentially, and I wonder if we may one day encounter a Terminator scenario. And our dependence on technology has also opened us up to cyberterrorism. Both popular trends right now for books and movies, but the question is “how close are these scenarios to our future reality?”
Suitable for ages 12 and above.
Title: In Other Lands
By: Sarah Rees Brennan
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids.
Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.
How I got it: As I started compiling my To Be Read list last month, I realized that I had several books by Sarah Rees Brennan still to read. I’ve been reading Brennan’s work since she was sixteen and am a huge fan but I’ve fallen behind and out of touch. So I went to find out what she’s been up to lately. I was shocked to learn of her recent health issues but relieved and delighted to find she still has her rapier wit and a new book out. I had to buy it immediately. Books by Sarah Rees Brennan are exempt from the Book Buying Moratorium.
When I got it: December 2017
Why I want to read it: Sarah Rees Brennan is the only writer who has ever made me spontaneously laugh out loud when I was reading her work. She creates original characters with personalities that just leap off the page. While I have yet to read her last series (maybe it’s the female lead that’s putting me off?), I am excited to start this one.
A fascinating question really. With the advancements in genetics it’s only a matter of time I imagine. Clone stories seem to be everywhere over the past couple of years (Orphan Black anyone?) but it’s a haunting story I read a few years ago that really made me think about the evolving definition of humanity.
Like some of my favourite stories recently (Curious Incident, Wonder, Out of Sight) House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer sets out to make you question perception and uses first person point of view to maximum impact. The novel is set in the dystopian world of Opium where we meet Matt, a young clone of the local drug lord who was bred for parts. Matt is treated like an animal with no more rights or feelings than a cow bred for meat. Farmer’s writing is so vivid and we are right there with Matt as he battles for identity and questions who he really is. An unusual take on the traditional Coming of Age story but very effective.
Several of my grade 10 students have read The House of the Scorpian since I added it to their Independent Study List, and it has prompted some great debate and deep thinking in their writing. A good story that gets kids talking is always a good thing in my book 🙂
I have yet to read the sequel, The Lord of Opium, but it’s definitely on the To Be Read list for this year.
Ages: 12 and up Rating: 4.5 stars