Jane Whitefield: Runner (Book 6) by Thomas Perry

The most disappointing thing this year was when the Jane Whitefield TV series was not picked up. So when I came across it during the Borders going out of business sale, I couldn’t wait to read it. There was a ten year gap between the last Jane Whitefield book and this one, and I never thought I would have another chance to revisit the characters.

Runner turns out to be just as exciting as I remember the series being. Jane Whitefield has spent much of her life helping people in danger vanish but she has given up that life in favor of living like a regular person. And for years, she has managed to live a quiet, uninterrupted life. But when a pregnant teen shows up at her work, begging for help, Jane can’t turn her away. And in a world where helping someone disappear is more difficult than ever, Jane has to keep from being recognized by those still hunting for her old clients, compensate for the new technology and loss of old business associates, and make sure not to get caught.

Runner is an impressive because it manages to have a female lead in an action story with a solid balance: the woman is not unrealistically strong (talks specifically about how to compensate for lack of size) but does not need to rely on being overly seductive like most action movies have.

My biggest complaint is that Perry built up the idea that the young girl had secrets she was keeping but they never really materialized. As such a young character it was also frustrating to watch her be stupid–as someone so young, she should have a better idea of how technology works but teens are stupid even when they know better, so it was still believable.

It was nice to see how Jane has grown and what her struggles in life are. I look forward to seeing another book soon.

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Pretty Little Liars Book 1 by Sara Shepard

As someone who watches the TV series Pretty Little Liars, I was somewhat hopeful for this book. Sure, the actresses are not very good and everything is over-dramatic, but there is something about this show that pulls you in and makes you want to keep watching. The number of people I know who have said this is their guilty pleasure show is ridiculous. But the book itself does not come off nearly as suspenseful as its small screen counterpart.

The show follows Aria, Spencer, Hannah, and Emily, four girls who would be losers at school if not for the fact that Allison, the most popular girl in school, has decided to be friends with them. Allison is the girl that everyone wants to be friends with but she is also the girl who knows all of their secrets. But when Allison disappears, the girls grow apart, only to be brought back together by mysterious text messages by someone named “A.” Because “A” knows all their secrets, just like Allison did and will stop at nothing to torment them with it.

Whereas a single episode of Pretty Little Liars feels jam-packed with excitement, the book felt like it didn’t cover enough ground. Maybe it is just that watching the show I know everyone’s secrets and so nothing is a surprise, but it felt like I was learning very little about each girl. And where the show makes the girls likable despite their secrets, the book makes them feel mostly shallow and dull. Aria is a teen looking for her identity and having an affair with her teacher, Hannah is thin and popular but at the expense of shoplifting and her health, Emily has a boyfriend and a crush on the new girl, and Spencer, ever-competing with her sister, starts sleeping with her older sister’s boyfriend.

I don’t often recommend this, but I would say skip the book version in favor of the TV show. It’s not that is it so terrible, it is just that with so many great young adult books out there, there are others worth reading first.

Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony (Book 5) by Eoin Colfer

Fourteen-year-old Artemis discovers an unraveling time tunnel connecting demons with the earth. These imps have sworn revenge on humans generations ago, and their unpredictable appearances threaten to expose the entire fairy world (not to mention put the human world at risk as well). Artemis is called into service to help the fairies figure out when and where the demons will be and outsmart his latest nemesis. Worse, there is an evil demon overlord looking to take over the human and fairy worlds.

Book five in this series is such an excellent book, which is a major accomplishment for any author. By book five many authors are running out of new and exciting ideas but Colfer finds a way to keep things fresh and exciting. Best of all, he adds two new, promising characters–one of them a love interest for young Artemis. (We have seen Artemis mature, but for the first time we are seeing him grow up as well.)

The book ends with the best feel-good moment of the series yet, developing Artemis and Holly’s relationship further than ever before. Their story has come so far and continues to be as exciting as when we first started it.