unRequired Reading Blog

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."

The Fated Sky by Henrietta Branford

The Fated Sky by Henrietta Branford

There was a dragon in the sky the night the stranger came to Smolsund farm. A girl named Ran saw it and feared it. She clutched the tiny silver hammer, a talisman for Thor's protection. Amma, her father's mother, had placed it around her neck. She knew that her grandmother was worried for her, too. The Fated Sky, by Henrietta Branford, tells of how Ran's fears for her destiny came to be realized.

A child still in some ways, Ran shared her name with a sea goddess, and she also loved the sea. Her father was away now across the ocean with her brothers, and they might bring back riches when they returned, for that was the way of the Vikings. Ran dreamed of the day her father would return. She was so much like him: his dark hair and his proud features. Ran prayed for his safe homecoming. She prayed he did not feast with that other Ran at the bottom of the ocean.

When the storm blew in at dawn, Ran climbed the slope to the house. She saw her mother, still a beautiful woman, kissing a handsome man who was not her father!

True Blue by Deborah Ellis

True Blue by Deborah Ellis

You know how the female praying mantis bites the head off of the male? That was one of Casey's favorite things. As a future entomologist, she adored insects. She even copied the head chomp with a little hand signal. The signal meant that someone was really getting on your nerves, and you'd really love to just stop them in their tracks. That was before the murder trial.

True Blue, by Deborah Ellis, follows the arrest of high school senior Casey White from the point of view of her best friend Jess. The two girls have been inseparable for most of their lives, and Casey was planning on spending the next year studying insects in Australia.

Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter

Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter

H.G. Wells’ classic, The Time Machine, tells the story of a man who travels through time into the far distant future to find that humanity has evolved into two distinct species: the complacent, placid Eloi and the predatory, cunning Morlocks.  Falling in love with one of the Eloi, the protagonist is successful in recovering his Time Machine and using it to escape back to Victorian England.  But he feels lovesick and depressed without her, and finally uses the Time Machine to travel back to the future to rejoin her and help the Eloi create a new golden age free of the Morlocks’ terror…or so H.G. Wells assumed.

With its intentional emulation of a Victorian writing-style and elaborate machines recalling the dawn of science fiction, Morlock Night, K.W. Jeter’s sequel to The Time Machine, was the novel for which the phrase “steampunk” was invented. Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction rooted in the speculative fiction of the nineteenth century and is distinguished by its use of Victorian-era settings, steam-powered technology, and stylistic elements influenced by nineteenth century writing. Morlock Night’s combination of science fiction and alternate history proved to be a major stylistic influence that codified many aspects of the steampunk genre. Shorter and more action oriented than Wells’ novel, it is dominated by an atmosphere of darkness and suspense and an ironic, knowing wit. 

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

While I was complaining to my parents about having to leave Los Angeles, a chemist in China was narrowly escaping arrest, and a Hungarian physicist was perfecting the ability to freeze time. I was drawn, through Benjamin and his father, into the web of what they have created.

What author Maile Meloy has created in The Apothecary is the incredibly enchanting adventure of Janie Scott. It is 1952, and Cold War paranoia has infiltrated Hollywood where Janie's folks have been accused of having Communist ties. Once Janie notices the men in dark suits following her home from school, it is not long before she and her parents have fled America for London.

Friday Book Flick: True (... sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

True (... sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Cafe Book teen Annie reviews True (... sort of) by Katherine Hannigan during Get Together Day at Porter Library.  Meet Delly:  For most of her eleven years, Delly has been in trouble without knowing why, until her little brother, R.B., and a strange, silent new friend, Ferris, help her find a way to be good--and happy--again.

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Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Many early science fiction “space operas” were simple narratives of good vs. evil, with clean-cut heroes, dastardly villains, and no more ambition than seeing the hero fly off to another adventure at the end. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, with its sprawling narrative, morally ambiguous characters, and realistic interpretation of both social and mathematical science, changed the course of science fiction forever. Asimov’s masterpiece presents an intriguing story of the fall of civilization, and the many people from varying walks of life who attempt to restore it.  With Asimov’s meticulous attention to detail and a vibrant, chaotic universe, this novel will satisfy any fan of thoughtful, socially-aware science fiction.

Foundation is the story of the planet Terminus, a resource-poor planet at the edge of the galaxy that becomes the seed of a movement to save civilization after the fall of the Galactic Empire.  The novel begins as the renowned “psychohistorian” Hari Seldon, having developed a mathematical model for the behavior of human beings on a mass scale, has foreseen the doom of the Empire and gathers up a group of scholars to create an encyclopedia of knowledge to aid humanity in the coming Dark Age.  

Starters by Lissa Price

Starters by Lissa Price

Imagine a future where teens rent their bodies to senior citizens who want to relive the moments of their youth. In Starters by Lissa Price, this is exactly what happens. A genocide spore killed everyone who wasn't vaccinated in time. Left behind are the very young and the very old. Many children are left without parents or caretakers. They must survive in an unfriendly world where they are viewed as unattended minors and are forced to resort to any means possible in order to survive.  If a teen agrees to rent out their body to a senior, they are paid a substantial sum of money. It is very enticing to a starving and homeless teenager.

Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman

Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman

C.S. Friedman has long been one of my favorite fantasy writers or, really, writers in general. Having written two trilogies and four stand-alone novels in the past two decades, she's not the most prolific writer in the fantasy world, but when she chooses to publish, her work is always brilliant. I was first introduced to her stories in high school by a friend who was in the middle of reading her Coldfire Trilogy. I've always been loathe to accept recommendations from friends who say, "You've gotta read this book!" but I'm glad I did. And now with her second series, the Magister Trilogy, I've just finished and thoroughly enjoyed Feast of Souls.  

This first book takes place in a world that is practically medieval, with tales of small, squalid villages, deeply-forested trails, and grand, opulent capital cities and castles. Friedman takes great care to emphasize the disparity between the peasants--dirty, uneducated, and willing to sell themselves and their families to stay afloat--while the rich go about their lives oblivious to those "below" them. There are three main categories of persons in this book: the morati, regular mortal people, no matter their walk of life; the witches, natural magicians who must draw upon their own life-force to perform their work and who, consequently, are rather short-lived; and the magisters, mysterious sorcerers who act as political counselors and power brokers who do not die. The secret to magisters' immortality is known only to them.  

Outlaw by Stephen Davies

Outlaw by Stephen Davies

Jake Knight seems to have it all. He's a fifteen-year-old technology whiz who can jump a ten-foot wall with his parkour skills. He's enrolled in a nice British school, and his dad is an ambassador to the small West African country of Burkina Faso. To Jake, Africa is a land of excitement and adventure...and he will soon learn that it is also the land of the Outlaw.

Jake thinks his boarding school life is pretty lame and spends his time playing Geothimble, a scavenger hunt that uses GPS technology.  When Jake's extracurricular activity gets him suspended, he is sent to his father's embassy. Jake could not be happier, but little does he know that he's about to get enough excitement to last a lifetime.