Beautiful and a bit Cursed – Dispossessed Book 1


Morgan, Page. The Beautiful and the Cursed. New York: Delacorte, 2013. 978-0-385-74311-2. 341 p. $18.99. Gr. 7-12.
Seventeen-year-old Ingrid and her younger sister Gabby arrive with their mother in turn-of-the-century France to discover that Grayson, Ingrid’s twin brother is missing. The girls are determined to find him, even after discovering that he was abducted by a hellhound and taken to the underworld. Fortunately, their new home is protected by Luc, a gargoyle who can also take human form. Gargoyles are powerful fighters, responsible for the safety of all the humans living on their property.  The sisters also have assistance from the Alliance, a group that has protected people from demons for generations. Danger, adventure, and romance ensue as the girls try to unravel the mystery surrounding Grayson’s disappearance. Transformed into a hellhound, Grayson comes to steal his sisters back to the underworld for his demon master. Both gargoyles and Alliance fight for their rescue. In the end, Grayson is slowly becoming human again, Gabby is left with horrible scars but a budding romance, and Ingrid finally understands her strange powers while doubting that she will ever find love.

The author has created a complex world with well developed characters that will leave readers wanting more. This is the first book in the Dispossessed series. The second book, The Lovely and the Lost was published in 2014.

Fantasy, Adventure                Michelle Hankin, Sandy Run Middle School

Series Nonfiction for Middle School and High School


Inventions That Shaped the Modern World. New York: Crabtree, 2014.  $94.16 (set).

Bryant, Jill.  Medical Inventions: The Best of Health. 978-0-7787-0212-2 (Library Bound). 978-1-4271-9423-7 (Ebook). $26.95. (610 Medical Inventions)

Mason, Helen. Agricultural Inventions: At the Top of the Field. 978-0-7787-0213-9 (Library Bound). 978-1-4271-9424-4        (Ebook). $26.95. (635 Agricultural Inventions).

Offord, Alexander. Communication Inventions: The Talk of the Town. 978-0-7787-0222-1 (Library Bound).  978-1-4271-9425-1 (E-book). $26.95 (302.2  Communication Inventions).

Walker, Robert. Transportation Inventions: Moving Our World Forward. 978-0-7787-0223-8 (Library Bound). 978-1-4271-9426-8 (E-book). $26.95. (388 Transportation Inventions)

Inventions That Shaped the Modern World by Crabtree Publishing is a fantastic set of books that offers STEM content, human interest, primary source visuals, and detailed capsules about noteworthy inventions.  Each volume highlights several well-known inventions including the purpose of that invention and its usefulness today. Both the individual behind the creation of an invention and the scientific principles that drove the process are presented. Images include the original plans or documents whenever possible.  This set of books will capture the attention of students who are curious about the individual and the story behind the inventions. Agriculture Inventions by Helen Mason will appeal to rural students and future engineers, curious about agriculture and the machinery supporting it. Transportation Inventions by Robert Walker is a mini-course about the history and importance of transportation. Medical Inventions goes in-depth into the science behind the creation of many technologies for medicine and maintains interest by describing why each invention was vital. The volume Communication Inventions by Alexander Offord provides the most mainstream topics for all readers with a focus on current and future vehicles of communication more than the historic view. All titles in the set Inventions That Shaped the Modern World by Crabtree Publishing offer content that supports the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the National Science Education Standards.

Nonfiction – Innovations     Susan L. Ennis, Seneca Valley Middle School


Living History. San Diego: Reference Point, 2014.

Allman, Toney Life During Medieval Times. 978-1-60152-568-0. $38.60. ( 940.1  Medieval Life)

Currie, Stephen. Life in Charles Dickens’s England. 978-1-60152-574-1. $38.60 (942.081 Great Britain, 19th Century)

Kallen, Stuart A. Life During the Roman Empire. 978-1-60152-570-3. $38.60. (937 Roman Empire)

Nardo, Don. Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. 978-1-60152-572-7. $38.60. (935 Mesopotamia)

Living History is a new non-fiction series by Reference Point Press that is easily paired with fiction for students in grades 7-12. Each title uses a chronology, primary source documents, and social history highlights from the era presented.  Tinted content boxes throughout each chapter enhance the understanding of life at that time and encompass unique aspects of daily life.  Any of these titles would be an outstanding, scholarly resource for research due to the well-documented information and comprehensive bibliography about the time period.  Although images and illustrations are sparse, each aids in accurate visualization of that moment in history.  Examples of social history in the context of time are another great feature of the Living History set. Life During Medieval Times by Toney Allman highlights life in castles, villages, and cities while focusing on learning, religion, and trades. In Life During the Roman Empire, Stuart A. Kallen focuses upon home life, occupations, government, leisure, and leaders. Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Don Nardo includes writing and the arts, science and technology, families, city-states, and the impact of geography on this civilization.  Life in Charles Dickens’s England by Stephen Currie describes how the childhood of Dickens influenced his literature.  Subjects included within the volume are the upper and middle classes of society, the impoverished, education, and entertainment; these each spotlight a common literary theme from Dickens’s works. The Living History set also includes Life in a Nazi Concentration Camp, Life in the North During the Civil War, and Life in the South During the Civil War. Purchasing the entire set brings a generous discount compared to buying individual titles. With the amount of detail crammed into each volume, the entire set is a sound investment.  Middle school students can extract more general information from the Living History set, while high school students can easily use any volume as the anchor of their research. 

Nonfiction – History      Susan L. Ennis, Seneca Valley Middle School


Love and Global Warming – Who knew?


Block, Francesca Lia. Love in the Time of Global Warming. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2013. 978-0-8050-9627-9. 230 p. $16.99. Gr 9-12.

After an Earth Shaker, or earthquake destroys Los Angeles and possibly more, 17-year-old Pen embarks on an epic quest to find her missing parents and younger brother, Venice. Pen navigates a dark world with a copy of The Odyssey as her guide, finding that evil creatures and humans now lurk around every corner. With beautifully lyrical prose and a touch of magical realism interspersed throughout the story, Pen makes friends and discovers her own identity, which she had questioned in the time before the Earth Shaker. Teens will identify with Pen’s realistic emotions and reactions throughout the story; she is scared and determined, but grounded in the reality of a devastatingly beautiful world after disaster.

Dystopia, Fantastical Realism          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Born of Illusion


Brown, Teri. Born of Illusion. New York: Balzer+Bray, 2013. 978-0062187543. 384 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

A new entry into the crossover genres of historical fiction and fantasy, Born of Illusion seems to attempt to be the sister of Libba Bray’s The Diviners but really can only be considered a distant cousin.  Sixteen-year-old Anna Van Housen is newly arrived in 1920s New York City, and prepares to open a new illusionist show with her mother. Prior to moving to New York, the pair lived a transient life, traveling with various circuses and escaping from arrest for performing séances, which were outlawed at that time. The secret of their illusionist show lies in the fact that it is Anna who is the true illusionist (and possibly the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini, who makes a few appearances throughout the story): she can feel the emotions of those around her. Through illicit séances held in their apartment, Anna meets rich and bored Cynthia Gaylord, who introduces her to the Society for Psychical Research, through which Anna begins to learn more about her own abilities.  Anna believes her mother to be jealous of her talents, and notices her numerous attempts to sabotage shows. Soon, though, Anna’s talent comes to light, and it is only fitting that there are those after her who want to use her talents for evil purposes. Romantic relationships also begin to develop for Anna; one with the handsome but mysterious Cole who lives in the flat below hers, and another with man-about-town Owen, the nephew of her stage manager (who, consequently, develops feelings for Anna’s mother). The glamorous setting of 1920s New York is appealing to young teens currently enamored with the 1920s after seeing the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and does offer some glimpse into life during this time. Give this book to readers too daunted by the length of The Diviners and those who love their history mixed with a little bit of fantasy.

Historical Fiction; Fantasy             Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

As noted in the review above, this book immediately reminded me of The Diviners, even though it is not nearly as well developed or as in-depth a portrayal of the occult or general life in the 1920s. There seems to be a booming popularity and interest in the 1920s by teenagers right now; they want to read about the extravagant, fantastical life that was led by many in the face of the strict Prohibition laws imposed by the government. I attribute this to, as noted, the popularity of The Great Gatsby as well as the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. And, of course, the occult and magic has always been of interest to teens.

Moreover, this blends together the genres of historical fiction and fantasy novels, a phenomenon which is occurring more regularly in the current Young Adult market. Recently, I presented on this topic at the College English Association Conference with a graduate student from West Virginia University. As part of the research process, we surveyed young adults in high school as well as college, and asked them about their current reading preferences. Numerous students spoke to enjoying fantasy novels because they offer an escape from their current reality. Since many read historical fiction for the same purpose, it is fitting that authors would begin to blend these two genres together. As a library media specialist, I am excited at this blurring that is occurring between two of my favorite genres. It opens up more avenues for exploring different eras while still offering that “escape” and magic that some teens crave. This is also a positive outcome for students who enjoy fantasy but have not been so engaged by historical fiction. For example, in my high school, all Honors English students in grade 10 are required to select and read a historical fiction book as part of an independent reading project. While many have read quite a few fantasy books, historical fiction usually has not been on the top of their favored genres list. So, while Born of Illusion was not my absolute favorite entry into this new category, I will recommend it to students who note that they do enjoy fantasy and might need a little nudge into the world of historical fiction. I look forward to seeing many more titles like Born of Illusion being published, as they do encourage teens to explore new territories during independent and classroom reading opportunities.