79. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. This is the sequel to "The Hunger Games," and wow, what a follow-up! I got the impression at the end of Hunger Games that Katniss' troubles were just beginning at the end of the forced competition pitting children and teens from the various districts against each other. The sequel pretty much starts out with the president himself giving Katniss orders to help the Capital quell the resentments and uprising she has unwittingly ignited by her performance in the Games. Unfortunately, this is far easier said than done. Indeed, the growing anger at the Capital seems out of her hands. And in the end, Katniss isn't even sure she wants to stop the uprisings. The heroine really grows and matures in this book, going from a self-reliant teen who does what she needs to do to get by, to assuming more of a leadership position, realizing that things can change and maybe, just maybe, you can fight city hall --although at a cost. Katniss isn't perfect. The story is told solely from her perspective, and I found myself picking up on things well before Katniss does, which makes her more human. She is so suspicious (understandably so) and sometimes a bit dense, and has trouble picking up on the signs, and realizing who her allies are. I hope the third book comes out soon (yes, it looks very much like there will be a third installment!)
80. Rashi's Daughters, Book III: Rachel, by Maggie Anton. This book wraps up the trilogy on the three daughters of Salomon ben Issac, a revered Jewish scholar. The series is part story, part history lesson on what it was like in the early Medeival societies, particularly in France. In this one, Rachel, the youngest of Salomon's daughters, is looking to start a cloth-making business, where she would control the process from start to finish. She is an excellent businesswoman but there is another consideration as well: she wants to keep her husband Elizier at home in Troyes. Elizier, who travels across Europe as a tradesman and scholar, is finding the roads more perilous due to the increase of bandits and, among other things, the start of the Crusades. The first half of the book pretty much follows the patterns and day-to-day lives of Salomon's family -- births, deaths, making wine, prayer and more. But about halfway through, a lot begins to change. Whole Jewish towns in Germany are practically obliterated. Salomon ben Issac suffers a stroke. Rachel herself finds herself at odds with her husband, who wants to move to the comparative safety of Spain. The second part, while action-packed and tightly written, was at times hard to read as characters from previous novels suffer from the clashes between religions. The conclusion of the book and series does end on a hopeful note.
81. Kiss of Life, by Daniel Waters. This is the follow-up to "Generation Dead." I enjoyed this second installment (and it looks like there will be a third), although perhaps not quite as much as the first. One, I'm not the greatest proof-reader or speller in the world, but there were some editing mistakes that caught my attention. Also, personally I thought the "mystery" behind one of the crucial plot points was revealed far too soon. Another point is that two of the newer undead mentioned -- the ages weren't given but I got the impression they were preteens. Why this happened wasn't addressed. That said, I do like how much more layered this is becoming. Some characters that came across as villians may not be so, and others that were allies -- may not be so. Phoebe, the heroine of the story, is now conflicted between two guys -- Adam and Tommy. Who are both dead. Phoebe is flummoxed when Adam doesn't seem to "come back" as quickly as most of the other "differently biotic" teens. I really liked the chapters told from Adam's point of view -- it was neat seeing the progression in his speech, movement and thought patterns. Reminded me of "Flowers for Algernon." I do wonder how many books are planned -- there's a lot of unanwsered issues and mysteries, like how and why teens are coming back from the dead in the first place.