unRequired Reading Blog

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

In the year 2194, there are three Zimbabwes. There is the Zimbabwe of the rich such as the luxurious compound of General Amadeus Matsika, the country's Chief of Security. His children, Tendai, Rita, and Kuda want for nothing. The robots take care of all their needs, and the Mellower, the house poet, makes everyone feel so much better when he sings their Praises in The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer.

In another part of the city dwells the woman who is called the She-Elephant. She has her own compound, her own kingdom, in the abandoned waste dump. She has her servants, too. Fist and Knife are good for running errands-- a little thieving here, a little kidnapping there... When they find Matsika's children by themselves in downtown Harare, the opportunity for profit is just too good to let go.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue, daughter of the town psychic, has grown up hearing that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. So she has resolved to stay away from boys and, especially, to stay away from Raven boys – students at the exclusive Aglionby Academy. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater, is the story of how Blue comes to break her own resolution and is drawn into the lives and adventures of some of those Raven boys she swore to avoid.

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr cover

Welcome to The City in the realm of the daimons. At the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls where both murder and pleasure are for sale. The Carnival is also the site of a deadly competition where, once each generation, daimons can fight to the death for a chance to join the ruling class. Melissa Marr’s new book, Carnival of Souls, will draw you into a dark, violent world where daimons and witches are mortal enemies and the main characters are swept up in a deadly struggle for power.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, starts off with a young girl trying to keep life interesting at her a dead-end job at the hat shop.  So Sophie talked to the hats. No, they didn't answer her, but she talked to them just the same. "You have a heart of gold and someone in a high position will see it and fall in love you," she told one. Soon enough a plain-looking lass bought the plain bonnet and sailed off with the heart of the Count of Catterack.

Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day

In Every Day, David Levithan creatively reinvents the familiar saga of star-crossed romance. The relationship at the novel's core is predictably fraught with tension and angst, but a significant twist transforms the entire scenario: one of the participants isn't actually a physical person, but exists as an intangible entity that inhabits a different body each day. 

The entity known as A has no gender or corporeal presence, nor can it control which body it will occupy next. There are several restrictions that govern A's movements, however. A is never in the same body twice, inhabits hosts that match A's own age, and lingers in a geographical area as long as there are eligible bodies for it to occupy.  

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Despite being thought of primarily as an author of adult-oriented literature, Neil Gaiman has published several young adult titles over his career, including MirrorMask, M Is for Magic, and The Books of Magic.  One of his best loved YA titles was Coraline, published in 2002.  Coraline’s imaginative plot, memorable characters and evocative illustrations by Dave McKean made it a modern classic of YA literature, and an excellent film adaptation was released in 2009. Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book follows in the footsteps of Coraline and presents another vivid journey into a richly imaginative fantasy world. 

Now Is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

Now Is the Time for Running

Deo and his brother Innocent live in a village in Zimbabwe.  One day when they are outside in their village playing soccer, trucks with soldiers aboard arrive armed with guns. In the book Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, an ordinary day that started with soccer games with friends ends with tragedy and carnage. Deo and Innocent are the only surviving members of their village. Everyone else has been murdered by the soldiers. The brothers must secretly leave the village and try to find safety elsewhere. The brothers manage to escape only after Innocent convinces Deo to go back and retrieve his "Bix box" that contains all his prized possessions. Deo has his soccer ball which is stuffed with money.

Deo and Innocent must make their way to South Africa where they can work, go back to school, and find their father. The only clue they have to his whereabouts is a crumpled picture of him standing in front of a truck with a phone number on it.

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Michael Vey has a secret.  He and his mother moved away from their home in California so that his secret would not be discovered.  Michael has Tourette's Syndrome, but that is not his secret, though the facial tics that are associated with his condition often make him the subject of bullying and teasing.  On the way home from school one day, Michael encounters some bullies who attempt to beat him up. At that moment, Michael's secret is revealed.  He can harness electricity and send it out of his hands.  This event is witnessed by Taylor, a popular cheerleader.  Taylor confronts Michael at school the next day and questions him about what she saw.  Taylor, it turns out, also has a secret.  In the book, Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, Richard Paul Evans, introduces us to a different breed of superheroes...teens with superpowers.

An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

In the closing months of World War II, the Allies are bombing German cities. As Dresden prepares for the inevitable, Lizzie’s family gains an unlikely extra member. Lizzie’s mother works at the Dresden zoo. When the zoo director orders that in the event of a bombing raid, the animals must be shot to prevent them escaping and causing havoc in the city, Lizzie’s mother convinces him to let her take the young orphaned elephant, Marlene, home. And so Marlene moves into the shed in the garden behind Lizzie’s house.

When the bombing of Dresden finally happens, the destruction is worse than anyone imagined. With the Soviet Army approaching from the East, Lizzie’s family flees to the West through bitter winter weather with Marlene in tow. An Elephant in the Garden is not only a story of the horrors of World War II from the perspective of German civilians, it is a tale of an unlikely group of people drawn together by circumstances and an elephant, struggling to survive war, hunger, and winter hardship and to escape to safety behind Allied lines.

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The young king Tamar was awakened in darkness by the sound of elephants in his courtyard. Their jeweled tusks and golden banners proclaimed them the property of a great maharajah. In short order, a dark figure strode into the palace and demanded an immediate audience.

Tamar sighed heavily.
As his tutor reminded him, the principles of Dharma--the code of honor, conscience, and the obligation to do what is royally virtuous, meant that he could not refuse an audience to another king, no matter the lateness of the hour. Indeed, in the long-ago world of ancient India recreated in Lloyd Alexander's The Iron Ring, a king's honor is his most important possession.

The mysterious visitor, King Jaya, ruled the distant land of Mahapura where, he grandly informed his host, all was much better than in Tamar's own kingdom of Sundari. Musicians, dancers, food, all were better in Mahapura, King Jaya purred. The only distraction he sought from Tamar was a simple game of aksha. Pure luck would determine the rolls of the dice.

In all hospitality, Tamar could not refuse, although the stakes Jaya proposed would have fed the court for a month. Die-roll after die-roll, Tamar won. Then the king of Mahapura yawned and made a final wager: "Life against life."
This time the dice seemed to jump from Tamar's fingers of their own accord.
"King of Sundari," Jaya said, "you have lost."