The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Bad luck seems to be dogging Mara Dyer wherever she goes. First, she loses her best friend, boyfriend and his sister in a freak building collapse that she alone survives. Then, after her family moves to Miami to help Mara’s post-traumatic stress over the accident, she attracts the unwanted attention of her new school’s alpha bee-yatch, Anna, who is furious that gorgeous alterna-boy candy Noah has focused his laser lover eyes on Mara instead of her. In addition, Mara is seeing lots of scary things that aren’t really there, like the gray face of her dead boyfriend, who actually wasn’t all that nice. Oh, and did I mention that people she doesn’t like are also starting to drop dead around her? What’s happening to Mara? Is she really going crazy, like her psychologist mom believes? Or is there something, shall we say, more supernatural at work? It’s only when Mara and Noah begin to dig deep into the horror movie that has become her life that Mara discovers that the personal destruction that surrounds her is springing from a place that is disturbingly close to home. Unfortunately, just as all is revealed, the book ends on an abrupt cliffhanger. There had better be a sequel, or heads are going to roll! Though this thriller was a little too long for me, newbie author Michelle Hodkin’s prose is ridiculously addictive and I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. Plus, I have to say, Noah is biggest dreamboat since Romeo. I was seriously swooning on every page –*fans self*  And if you want to swoon too, order up this hot chiller at your local library, bookstore or e-reader pronto!

Orcs: Forged for War by Stan Nicholls and Joe Flood

Oh, poor orcs. That Tolkien sure sealed their reputation as some of the biggest baddies of all time. But what if orcs aren’t actually that awful? What if they’ve just been…misunderstood all these years? Stan Nicholls has created a world called Maras-Dantia where warlike orcs may crack a few skulls and slice off a few appendages, but they do so only when they’ve been hired for a job. This time the big green guys, led by Captain Stryke, have been ordered to accompany a caravan of goblins who are on a secret mission concerning a mysterious new weapon for the bloodthirsty half-human, half-nyadd Queen Jennesta. However, they don’t get far before the orcs begin to smell something rotten in the state of Maras-Dantia. The goblins refuse to tell the orcs where they’re headed, they force them to do hard manual labor that is beneath them, and they put the orc troop in danger more than once buy ignoring blatant signs of trouble. Soon Stryke begins to suspect a double cross, but he’s bound to follow Jennesta’s command or suffer terrible consequences. The only thing left to do is fight like orcs, and keep each other safe from the goblins’ horrific secret weapon. This incredibly gory GN is an adaptation of Stan Nicholl’s Orcsnovels, which are pretty big in the UK. Friends, I give you fair warning, these are not for the quesy-stomached among you. Debut artist Joe Flood shows the orc’s battle scenes, that include multiple impalings and beheadings, up close and in full color. In addition, Queen Jennesta is a nasty of the highest order whose favorite snack is a still-beating heart that she pulls out of the chests of her petrified victims. But if you’re looking for a tip-top violent adventure outside of “been there, done that” video games and tediously long summer action movies, then ORCS is probably right up your alley. Enjoy! (just not while eating).

Pearl by Jo Knowles

Pearl aka Bean, has never felt close to her mother Lexie, who had Bean when she was a teenager. Grandpa Gus has always been the one to take her fishing, teach her how to cook and tell her stories about her grandmother, who died before Bean was born. All her mother does is work, argue with Gus, and go to the bar with her best bud Claire, which doesn’t leave much time in her life to be a mom. So Bean depends on her soulmate Henry and his mom Sally for comfort when the fights between Lexie and Gus get to be too much. When Gus dies suddenly, Bean is completely bereft. Strangely, she seems to be the only one. She knows Lexie and Gus didn’t get along, but Lexie seems almost happy that Gus has passed away, drinking and giggling with Claire in the days after the funeral. What is going on? Bean becomes determined to find out the reasons behind Lexie and Gus’s troubled relationship, and her mother’s strange euphoria now that Gus is gone. But when the truth comes out, it’s even more shocking and painful than the most melodramatic storyline on the daytime soaps that Bean and Henry watch with Sally. Though it hurts to fully understand the reality of her family’s past, it also helps Bean finally become the Pearl she was always meant to be. Jo Knowles has deftly taken what could have been a soap opera scenario and instead written a poignant story about the definition of family, the importance of honesty and the power of change. Lovely and spare, it is the perfect antidote to all that dystopian fiction you’ve been reading…