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Howton's Hidden Corner Posts

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

The moment I heard about this book at the What’s New in Young Adult Literature conference we attend each year, I was enthralled with the concept and looked forward to the moment when we could purchase it and I could get a copy. It has taken me awhile to have the time to read this book but in having the flu last week, the opportunity presented itself and I was able to fall into a new world.  I loved this book not in spite of all of the cultural references that I was unfamiliar with but because of these things. I loved that I got a glimpse into Nigerian culture and that I had to look up words and research some of the setting elements that are presented in this book. It gave me a much better understanding of how whitewashed the book publishing industry is and how bias creeps into society in ways that we don’t even realize. This fantasy takes readers into a realm that is filled with magic, community, and danger and yet seems oddly realistic at the same time. I loved every moment I spent with Sunny and her friends.

Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

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Matched by Ally Condie

I know that we have all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and laughed because it is what we all do. We judge books for their worth or readability and are drawn to even pick them up based off of the cover art. This is one of those books that I wish I could cover in a brown paper bag. The cover art does not represent the themes or the content of this series.  I started listening to matched because it was one of the Book Olympiad choices.  I would have never picked up the book otherwise.  I thoroughly enjoyed walking through Cassia’s life and following her decisions down the paths she chose.  It was a journey I look forward to continuing in Crossed and Reached.

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

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The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

So, life has just gotten really busy and reading has not been a luxury I could spend time on. Therefore the only way I have been able to read books is by listening to audiobooks after I drop off my 2 year-old at daycare and drive to school.  It has taken me a long time but through audiobooks on our libraries Overdrive system, I was able to listen to all of the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer.  These books are ingenious. I love the way that the fairytales are woven into each new aspect of this universe! The world that Meyer creates was a fascinating place to spend any freetime I could find.  I am including the publisher blurbs for each of the books below. Do yourself a favor and read them!



Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


Cinder is back and trying to break out of prison―even though she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive if she does―in this second installment from Marissa Meyer.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother, or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana.


Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker; unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.


Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend―the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long. Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

History, intrigue, magic, war, spies, lessons, rain, and rooks: these are the things that abound in this amazing book by Janet Fox.  I am not sure what I was expecting from this book but it was not at all what I expected. It was exponentially better.  Listening to the audiobook on Overdrive made the experience so much creepier because there was no way to skip ahead and find out what was going to happen.  This audio book kept me guessing and it was a joy to listen to (just not in the dark before bed).


“Keep calm and carry on.”  That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do:  when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse.  What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night?  Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own?  And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.

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Audacity by Melanie Crowder

A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000.

Powerful, breathtaking, and inspiring, Audacity is the story of a remarkable young woman, whose passion and selfless devotion to her cause changed the world.

Loved every moment of this fast paced, novel in verse.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I think the theme I have found in many of the books I have been drawn to recently is, ‘What makes us who we are?” And while we wish it was completely left up to our dreams and goals for ourselves, most of what makes us who were are or will become is determined by our surroundings and the experiences that happen to us in those surroundings.  A look at the Queen of Hearts before she became queen, is a book that I thought would be pretty straight forward. She was evil to begin with and remained evil until the end. However, that is not the story that Marissa Meyer found when she began her journey into Wonderland. This look into the journey of becoming The Queen of Hearts is an adventure packed  story that we all thought we already knew.


Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

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A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby

Jack the Ripper, Phossy Jaw, and the Elephant Man may seem like sadistic carnival attractions from the past but they are not. However, they are bits and pieces of history that center around a singular time period. A time period that Matthew J. Kirby began to research and then decided that by a not so distant stretch of his imagination, these people and situations could have intertwined within each other’s lives.  Out of this brilliant feat of imagination comes a ghost story that is drenched in historical fact and dipped in narrative fiction. I hope you will check out and enjoy Kirby’s A Taste for Monsters.

London 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory with nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in London Hospital. Evelyn wanted to be locked away from the world, like he is, shut away from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred, who does not recoil from her, and who understands her pain.

When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper’s dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity’s worst nightmares, in which the real monsters are men.

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The Serpent King by Keff Zentner

What is it that really shapes who we are as a person. Is it where we grow up? Do our parents influence the person we are or who we will become?  Do we really have any control over our future?  These are the questions that are explored through the eyes of Dill in The Serpent King.

Dill isn’t the most popular kid at his rural Tennessee high school. After his father fell from grace in a public scandal that reverberated throughout their small town, Dill became a target. Fortunately, his two fellow misfits and best friends, Travis and Lydia, have his back.

But as they begin their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. His only escapes are music and his secret feelings for Lydia–neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending–one that will rock his life to the core.

I was engulfed in this authentic look at adolescence and the pull to find our own personality and future out of the life that everyone around us seems to think we should be living. This book slowly won it’s spot in my list of favorite books.

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Goodbye Stranger By Rebecca Stead

“Who’s the real you? The person who did something awful, or the one who’s horrified by the awful thing you did? Is one part of you allowed to forgive the other?”

Long ago, best friends Bridge, Emily, and Tab made a pact: no fighting. But it’s the start of seventh grade, and everything is changing. Emily’s new curves are attracting attention, and Tab is suddenly a member of the Human Rights Club. And then there’s Bridge. She’s started wearing cat ears and is the only one who’s still tempted to draw funny cartoons on her homework.

By the time Valentine’s Day approaches, the girls have begun to question the bonds—and the limits—of friendship. Can they grow up without growing apart?

7th grade is hard. Everyone is mean, even the people who you think are your friends.  It is a cutthroat world where you are trying to figure out who you want to be, who your current friends are, if you really still  fit within their group, and if not, then where do you belong.  This was a perfect look into what being a 7th grader looks like and I enjoyed every moment (unlike the year that I actually was a 7th grader)!

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Scythe Neil Shusterman

In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today’s cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world “gleaning” people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. —Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

I thoroughly enjoyed the world that Neil Shusterman created in this new series.  I found it to be a believable scenario and found  the different ideals that different Scythes made into their individual creeds to be authentic.  I look forward to delving into this world again with future books in the series.

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