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By Robert Beatty

51VCI4uG2zL._SX331_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains major spoilers.)

In the dark of night, she creeps through the basement. She protects her territory, silently hiding in corners until her prey appears. When a rat is finally foolish enough to show itself, she pounces.

Serafina, the 12-year-old C.R.C. (Chief Rat Catcher) of the Biltmore Estate, secretly lives in the dark of the basement with her father, a workman at the house. But the sly and mysterious girl is not, despite her creeping, the most threatening creature in the manor. As Serafina begins to discover the dark and mystical nature of her birth, she witnesses the evil lurking in her territory: a man in a black cloak who is curiously linked with the disappearances of visiting children.

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By William Shakespeare

9781586174392“Romeo and Juliet,” perhaps the best-loved and most-performed of Shakespeare’s oeuvre—and certainly one of the most frequently taught in schools—has over the years exerted an enormous influence on literature, art, and music. Just this season, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced the launch of a project to translate 39 of William Shakespeare’s plays into modern English with the goal of making the plays more accessible to today’s audiences.

This creates a perfect opportunity for us to reconsider a work such as "Romeo and Juliet" and the value of Shakespeare in 21st-century America.
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By Neil Gaiman

61UppNNmK4L._SX345_BO1204203200_(This review contains major spoilers.)

Neil Gaiman is one of the most beloved and acclaimed fantasy writers working today, and the winner of several awards, including the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He has a gift for taking classic archetypes and tropes and putting a fresh spin on them, in beautifully written prose. "His style," as another BreakPoint writer has written, "is simple, straightforward, and enchanting."

So I had high hopes for Gaiman's most recent book "The Sleeper and the Spindle," a short fairytale retelling for grade 7 and up, illustrated by his frequent collaborator Chris Riddell. Unfortunately, my hopes were not destined to be fulfilled.
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By Richelle Mead

SoundlessWhat would it be like to suddenly be able to hear when you have been deaf from birth? To complicate matters further, what if you have grown up in a land of the deaf and among a people where the ability to hear has been lost for centuries? With no one to guide you, would sound even make sense to you? In Richelle Mead’s “Soundless,” this unexpected gift of hearing is just the first in a series of events that will challenge everything that Fei and her community believe about the world, but it also may be part of the key that will unlock their future.

Fei and her older sister Zhang Jing, like everyone they have ever known, are deaf. They are also part of an elite caste of artists who chronicle the life of their mountaintop village through calligraphy and the painting of daily scenes that are then hung in the center of town for all to see every morning.

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By Tony DiTerlizzi

Wondla(Note: This review contains spoilers.)

Imagine spending most of your childhood alone in an underground sanctuary with only a robot called “Muthr” as your teacher and companion. You have never seen another human, yet you have prepared to one day emerge, face the dangers of an outside world, and join with others of your kind.

But then imagine the unthinkable occurring: Your sanctuary is suddenly violated by an alien intruder; you barely escape to the outside world, and then you make the shocking discovery that nothing is like what the holographic programs have taught you. In fact, you may be the only person of your species alive on the planet, which may or may not be Earth.

This is how Tony DiTerlizzi’s highly engaging WondLa trilogy begins. But while this futuristic fairy tale may be vastly entertaining on the surface, its underlying worldview leaves much to be desired.
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By Leila Rose Foreman

51WbiImoc-L._SX322_BO1204203200_(Note: This review contains spoilers.)

The Starflower left Earth seven years ago, carrying Christians who had been persecuted for their Christian faith and threatened by possible nuclear attack from the east. With only a few memories of Earth, Rejoice Holly has lived on the spaceship for most of her life. When she finally arrives on New Earth, she struggles to find her place. She is expected to be a farmer’s wife, but her most passionate desire is to be an astronomer, though this is deemed a useless profession by the colony. Allowed to use a telescope, Rejoice discovers an asteroid—which is, of course, set to destroy her new home.

And this will not be just disastrous for the humans. The native species of New Earth, the hexacrabs, cannot survive another asteroid.
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By K. B. Hoyle

61JRbHXmEqL._SX331_BO1204203200_What is truth and how do we know? Who is valuable and why? Narrated by a young woman who is both privileged and exploited, “Breeder” by K. B. Hoyle (author of The Gateway Chronicles) investigates these questions and others. "Breeder" is the first entry in Hoyle's new Breeder Cycle series.

As an approved breeder in the Controlled Repopulation Program, the girl known as Seventeen carries “genes that will make humanity better, stronger, smarter, and more versatile.” Overpopulation and divisive societal structures have caused three Great Devastations to drive the humanity to the brink of extinction. The Unified World Order (UWO) arose from the chaos, created orderly peace, and now strives to ensure controlled repopulation of Gaia Earth under optimal conditions.
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By J. B. Cheaney

bus(Disclosure: The reviewer has a professional relationship with the author of this book.)

It should be said up front that the cheery front cover illustration of J. B. Cheaney's "Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous" is a little misleading. For the middle-schoolers riding Mrs. B's school bus, life isn't exactly cheery. Most of these kids are dealing with some pretty heavy issues: absentee dads, moms with serious mental issues, ailing relatives, bullying, academic pressure, racial tensions, disappointed hopes, friends who take advantage of them, and more. In other words, all the problems that many normal 21st-century American kids are dealing with.
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By Melissa Grey

51u181hVmcL._SX329_BO1204203200_Ever since she was a little girl, Echo has lived among the Avicen, a magical, birdlike race who live underneath New York City. As a human, Echo doesn't quite fit in with the others, as some of them delight in reminding her. But she makes herself useful running errands -- which sometimes include theft -- for the Ala, the wise, kind, powerful Avicen who took her in after she ran away from an abusive family. With the help of a magic powder called "shadow dust," Echo is able to travel enormous distances in a matter of seconds to carry out her shady missions.

When the Ala tasks Echo with finding a mysterious creature called the firebird, Echo quickly finds out that she isn't the only one who's after it. The firebird is supposed to have the power to end the brutal, ongoing war between the Avicen and another race known as the Drakharin. But, the Ala tells Echo, "The nature of that end is up to whoever controls [the firebird]." So Caius, the Dragon Prince of the Drakharin, also wants desperately to get his hands on the firebird -- especially as his bloodthirsty sister, Tanith, is committed to continuing the war instead of trying to end it.
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By Mark Twain

9780142437179Mark Twain, born Samuel Longhorne Clemens in 1835, was unquestionably one of the finest satirists and authors that America has produced. In 1876 his wit and skill shone in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” a story that became so popular that he quickly began work on a sequel, though it was not completed and published until 1884.

Like “Tom Sawyer,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” tells a young boy’s story in inimitable Mark Twain style. However, it has a more serious edge, with its critical look at the South and especially the institution of slavery.
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By C. S. Lewis

9780743234900C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, like most of his fiction, communicates profound theological truths through a compelling story. “Out of the Silent Planet,” “Perelandra,” and “That Hideous Strength” present wise and cutting insights that have established them as valuable resources for Christian adults. But thoughtful teenagers with good reading skills can also understand and benefit from them.

I should know; I read the space trilogy as a high-school student and loved it. “Perelandra” is still my favorite of Lewis’ novels. I enjoyed discovering Lewis’ colorful imagined worlds and seeing the theological ideas I had read about in his nonfiction play out in fiction. I didn’t fully grasp everything in the books, but I understood enough to appreciate them.
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By Tamara Ireland Stone

Every_Last_WordWhen was the last time you read a book that you simply could not put down? When you’re reading and you have to eat lunch or go to the bathroom, but you just cannot stop? Meeting Samantha McAllister and experiencing her inner struggles in “Every Last Word” is likely to offer just such an experience. It’s a journey unlike any other.

Samantha McAllister is a 16-year-old girl who, according to high school standards, has everything. A member of the “Crazy Eights,” a group of “mean girls” at her school, she has access to the best parties and tickets to the best concerts. She also has Pure-O.

Purely-Obsessional or “Pure-O” OCD is a form of OCD that affects internal thoughts. Since childhood, Samantha has suffered from negative thought spirals, obsessions, dark thoughts, and “minor” compulsions. When driving her car, she cannot park unless the odometer is on three. When a negative thought, such as wanting to cut off a friend’s ponytail, enters her mind, she has to leave the room.
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