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1. Book Review: Chorus by Emma Trevayne


Chorus
(Sequel to Coda)
by Emma Trevayne
Note: Chorus is the sequel to Coda, and this review will contain spoilers for Coda. If you haven't read Coda and want to avoid spoilers, you might not want to read this review. If you're looking for an awesome YA dystopian novel with a unique premise (controlling the population with addictive music) and a diverse cast, go forth and read Coda! You won't be sorry.
Eight years have passed since Anthem led the movement to defeat the Corp and stop their use of mind-controlling music tracks on the population of the Web. During the battle, the Corp used Anthem's own younger sister and brother, Alpha and Omega, as pawns to try to stop him, and exposed them to the addictive music while they were too young for their minds to be able to handle it.

As a result, Alpha, known to her friends as Al, still has flashbacks of that day, flashbacks which incapacitate her in a seizure-like state. Determined to find a cure, Al is in Los Angeles studying neuroscience. She loves her life in L.A., and other than the flashbacks, life is good, until a message comes in from the Web that Anthem is dying. Those who lived under the Corp's mind control tend to have short lives anyway, and Anthem's years as an energy source for the Corp have shortened his life even more. Al has to leave L.A. behind to rush home to be with him. And something else is not right; Al is getting anonymous messages, and someone is stalking her. Someone who knows too much about her.

Coda was an excellent, unique, and suspenseful dystopian story. Chorus is no less gripping, but for different reasons. Chorus is much more a personal journey of addiction and love and loss. Oh, don't worry: Chorus does have its share of danger and suspense, but Al is not Anthem. She doesn't want to lead a fight; she just wants to go back to L.A. and work on her cure.

It's Al's poignant personal journey that really makes this a book you can't put down. She struggles with addiction, and every day, every minute, she resists using the tracks, for fear that if she tracks she'll damage her brain beyond her ability to find a cure. Being back in the Web exacerbates the addictive urges, and also stirs up old feelings that increase the flashbacks. Al's boyfriend from Los Angeles, Jonas, accompanies her to the Web, along with two other friends. Al's relationship with Jonas is sweet, but there's a tension there, too, from the secrets that Al's been keeping from him, including her flashbacks.

The second half of the book becomes much more externally suspenseful, as both L.A. and the Web are in danger from an unexpected threat. And when bad things do start happening, when it becomes clear that something is seriously wrong, Al must find within herself the strength to fight to save the people she loves.

Diversity?

Coda did a good job with diversity. Anthem, the main protagonist, was bisexual, and there were other diverse characters, including some people of color, although both of the ones I noticed were minor, if important, characters. Overall, Coda gave a sense of a diverse society where things like sexuality and race weren't issues.

Chorus seems to have fewer characters who are from groups under-represented in YA fiction. There is one same-sex couple who are minor but important characters, and a couple of characters from Coda that I'm pretty sure I remember are dark skinned — Mage and Iris — although I didn't see any physical descriptions of them in this book. If you come to Chorus after reading Coda, as I did, you'll probably read into it the same sense of a diverse society, but if you read Chorus without having read Coda, I suspect you won't come away with quite the same impression.

Who would like this book:

Dystopian book readers, fans of Coda, and anyone who likes a good character-driven story. 

Buy Chorus from Powell's Books

Note: I decided to give the Powell's affiliate program a try. I've been an Amazon affiliate since the 90s, but I've become increasingly concerned about their market share and dominance in the industry. I don't think that Amazon is a demon, but I also don't think it's good for one company to have so much power and influence. I've heard good things about Powell's (even long before it got the Colbert Bump) so it seemed like a good way to go.

FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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2. Book Review: Raging Star (Dust Lands Book 3) by Moira Young


Raging Star 
(Dust Lands Book 3) 
by Moira Young

New Eden is a paradise: a fertile land surrounded by post-apocalyptic wastelands. New Eden holds promise and hope for the future, and one man, DeMalo, who calls himself The Pathfinder, has a vision of leading humanity into that future. DeMalo feels that the future belongs to the strong, that only the strong and healthy can bring about a utopian future. In DeMalo's New Eden, those not strong and healthy enough to be among the chosen are either exiled, enslaved, or put to death.

Saba and her friends, including her twin brother Lugh and younger sister Emmi, have gone underground, and this small band of guerrillas fight back against DeMalo in any way they can. Saba secretly meets with Jack, her love and heart's desire, who gives her strategic information uncovered by his group of rebels. The only problem is, Saba can't let anyone in her group know that Jack is still alive, because some of them hate him and would kill him on sight, including her brother Lugh.

Saba loves Jack, but then why is she so drawn to DeMalo? Why does the heartstone warm when she's near him, as well as when she's near Jack? DeMalo is smart, charismatic, and seductive, and he runs New Eden with a tight control. Saba's Free Hawks will have to be smart, too, and find a new way to fight back if they hope to defeat DeMalo.

Raging Star is the conclusion of the trilogy that began with Blood Red Road, and it may be the best of the three. Raging Star has the same driving plot, awesome characters, and distinctive voice as the other books, but it goes deeper in exploring the themes. The huge gray area between right and wrong is explored in a thoughtful way. DeMalo truly believes that what he's doing is good and right. He's trying to rebuild and repopulate the Earth, turn the deserts into paradise. Is it so wrong to eliminate the weak in service of that goal? Yes, he kills people, but Saba and her group have killed also in fighting back against DeMalo. DeMalo is charismatic and convincing, and it's hard for Saba to know what's right. And so the girl known as the Angel of Death is left trying to find a better way.

We did wrong today at the bridge. An' he's wrong. He is wrong. What's right must lie somewhere else. Between us maybe. Or beyond us.
Saba also keeps secrets: from Jack, from Lugh, from everyone. She does it with the best of intentions, but she discovers, as many have, that the more you lie, the more you have to lie to cover your lies. Other characters also have secrets, and the weight of secrets threatens to destroy the group.

Saba has always been a great character. She's a survivor and a fighter, who'll do whatever it takes to save the ones she loves. But what if fighting isn't enough? What if you're in a fight you can't win? Saba experiences some real character growth as she tries to resolve her dilemmas. It's also great to see Emmi come into her own in this book, and become more than just the little sister.

As with the other books, it's hard at first to adjust to the dialect and the unusual punctuation. The entire book is written without quotation marks. Dialog just flows in with text. However, it doesn't take long to get used to it, and before too long it seems so natural you don't even notice it. I could hear Saba's distinctive voice in my head as I read.

Altogether, Raging Star is a moving, gripping, and sometimes heartbreaking book. Both the plot and the character arc will keep you turning pages.

I do have one complaint, and that's the cover. The picture of two random people against a green background just doesn't do anything for me. I assume they're supposed to be Saba and Jack, but they don't look anything like I imagined these two, and in fact they really just look like someone snapped a photo of two random people walking down the street in any modern city, and Photoshopped over a vaguely post-apocalyptic background. I didn't care for the cover of Rebel Heart, either.

Diversity?

I didn't notice a lot of diversity in this book. Saba is described as dark, but that's in comparison to her golden brother Lugh, so it's not clear whether she is actually dark skinned or just a dark haired caucasian. Other characters are described in ways that don't make clear their ethnic origins, at least not that I could tell.

One of the characters is an older man who wears dresses. He's a likable character who plays an important role in the rebellion.

Who would like this book:

Teens and adults who enjoy dystopian and post-apocalyptic books with strong female protagonists. Recommend this series to fans of The Hunger Games.

Get it from:
Audiobook
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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3. The Stark Law (Game of Thrones)

The Stark Law: No two living Starks can ever occupy the same place at the same time.

Corollary: If any Stark is approaching a location where another Stark currently resides, the resident Stark will either leave or be killed.

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4. Lassie, Devil Horns, Hot Men, and Worldbuilding: Day 2 at BEA

Anyone training for a marathon should consider three days at BookExpo America for building endurance. By the end of day 2, every muscle and joint in my body aches. But it's so worth it to spend three days surrounded by books and book people.

I spent the first part of the day in meetings with publishers to talk about the Cybils. I had some great conversations with some really interesting people. One of the best things about BEA is having the chance to talk to people who are passionate about books, children's and YA literature.

After that, I had some time to walk the floor. Here are some of the things I saw:

The tenth generation Lassie made an appearance in support of the book, Man’s Best Hero: True Stories of Great American Dogs by Ace Collins.

Lassie poses for his photo shoot
It was impossible to walk by the Ellora's Cave booth and not notice these guys:

Hot Men of BEA

Author Michelle Knudsen was signing her new YA book, Evil Librarian. Here we are sporting cool devil horns:

I wear devil horns now. Devil horns are cool.
Books I got today that I'm excited to read: Love is a Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, Sky Raiders (Five Kingdoms book 1) by Brandon Mull, House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle, The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale, Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George, Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen. Thanks to my husband Nick for getting some of these for me!


I also attended two panel sessions. "The Craft Of Writing And World Building" was an interesting session on worldbuilding in fiction, featuring:

I tried to take notes, but there was so much good stuff that I had trouble capturing it all. Here are some highlights of what I did manage to get:
  • Michael Grant is an improviser, not a planner. He prefers to start with sketching the barest minimum and building from there, so as not to box himself in.
  • Scott Westerfeld said that you don't have to write paranormal or fantasy to do worldbuilding. Afterworlds is about the book world we know and love, including BEA. He said that worldbuilding is about the slow accretion of little details.
  • Brandon Mull said that a big part of how to make a fantasy novel make sense is to have rules. If anyone can do anything it doesn't make sense. There have to be limits on magic.
  • Heather Demetrios said that you have to follow rules in fantasy. Have to have structure. If anything goes, it's hard for the reader to care.
  • Scott Westerfeld starts with what he wants to happen, and then builds a world around that. With Afterworlds he wanted a fantasy world that parallels the world of writing, so the novel within a novel is about ghosts that only stay in the world as long as someone remembers them and tells their story.
  • Kiera Cass starts with characters and then builds the world around them.
I also attended "A Conversation on Digital Strategies for Tapping the YA Market," which was about marketing books online for authors and publishers. The panel was moderated by Manuela Soares, Pace University, and included:
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson, Author, The Summer Prince and Love is a Drug
  • Arthur A. Levine, Publisher Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
  • Carolyn Mackler, Author
  • Cheryl B. Klein, Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
  • Jeffrey Yamaguchi, Director of Digital Marketing, Abrams Books
  • Jennifer Hubert Swan, Reading Rants
This was a wide-ranging session that covered a lot of ground, but here are a few points:
  • All the speakers indicated that in many cases, they are not reaching teens directly, and instead most of their audience is adults. For some, this is a change; Jennifer used to have a lot of teens commenting on her blog, but now most of her audience is adults. But they are reaching passionate people who will help spread the word, so in many cases they're reaching teens more indirectly.
  • When you do connect with teens, authentic connections are very important; teens are looking for people to be real.
  • Two major themes: community and word of mouth. That hasn't changed, but the way those happen has changed.

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5. BookExpo America 2014 Day 1

My day started bright and early at 8am, as I attended the Harlequin Teen Blogger Breakfast. I sat next to the friendly bloggers from Bookcrastinators in wonderland, who have the fun tagline, "Why put off until tomorrow what you can read today?" This was their first BEA, and I enjoyed chatting with them. The event was organized like speed dating, as the featured authors and their editors rotated around to each table and talked with us. Authors we met included:

  • Alexandra Adornetto, author of Ghost House, who asked us if we believe in ghosts. (For the record, the people at my table do. Alexandra said that the previous table most definitely did not)
  • Jennifer L. Armentrout with Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements). I haven't read any of her books, sadly, but everyone else there loved her books.
  • Julie Kagawa talked about her new book, Talon, which is about dragons who can appear as human. She said she figured that, "If dragons existed today, they wouldn't be sitting in caves guarding treasures, they'd be CEOs of multinational corporations."
  • Adi Alsaid with his book, Let's Get Lost, a road trip book told in five parts from different points of view. Adi likes to travel and has been on his own road trips, but he likes to write about places he hasn't been to so that he can use his imagination.
  • Robin Talley talked about her book, Lies We Tell Ourselves, which is about school integration in 1959, and the attraction between two girls, one black and one white. Robin was inspired to write it after hearing about her own parents' experiences during that period.
One thing I realized during the brunch is that Harlequin has changed a lot, and that they publish a lot of different books, not just the romances that I think of when I hear the name. These books sounded interesting, and I clearly need to start reading more of their books.

After the brunch, I attended the YA Editors Buzz Panel. I always try to attend these at BEA, because it's fascinating to hear the editors talk about the selected buzz books, how they acquired them and what they love about the books. The five buzz books are:
  • Daniel Ehrenhaft from Soho Teen talked about Cynthia Weil’s I'm Glad I Did. Cynthia is a songwriter who has written songs such as "On Broadway" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," and I'm Glad I Did is about a songwriter.
  • Krista Marino from Delacorte Press talked about Frank Portman’s King Dork Approximately and read a hilarious excerpt where the main character, Tom Henderson, muses on Pride and Prejudice. I never read King Dork, but now I want to read both books.
  • TS Ferguson from Harlequin TEEN talked about  Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves (see above)
  • Karen Chaplin, HarperTeen talked about Amy Ewing’s The Jewel, which is about a city of extremes, where the protagonist is enslaved as a surrogate, as in The Handmaid's Tale.  
  • Alvina Ling of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers talked about Ryan Graudin’s The Walled City, which sounds really interesting. It's like a dystopian book, but based on a real place, the Walled City of Kowloon, near Hong Kong, which was apparently a lawless place ruled by organized crime. Alvina said that the book is not historical fiction, as it's fictionalized, but not completely fantasy either, since it's based on a real place. She humorously called it "histopian."
Most of the rest of the day I spent in meetings with publishers about the Cybils Awards, with some time spent walking the floor with my husband and son. 

Here I am with some awesome Star Wars Lego sculptures at the DK booth, that they have in honor of the revised version of Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary:

Boba Fett, where?

Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?
Little, Brown engaged in some clever marketing for their new YA post-apocalyptic, The Young World. These signs were on the stalls in the bathrooms:


I ended the day by attending the panel, "The Best in Fall 2014 Graphic Novels," with Michael Cho (Shoplifter), Farel Dalrymple (The Wrenchies), Jules Feiffer (Kill My Mother), and Raina Telgemeier (Sisters)  with moderator Calvin Reid from Publishers Weekly. Here are the panelists geeking out about brushes:


One of the most interesting discussions in the panel was in response to the question about whether the images or the text came first (since all the panelists are artist, writer, and creator for their graphic novels). Each one had a different answer. Dalrymple said that his inspiration generally comes from visual images, and he starts by sketching. Telgemeier works in thumbnails, where she works on layout and text together, using stick figures. Feiffer said that the writer and the artist in his brain are two different people who don't even know each other. He starts by writing the script, and then gives it to the artist in his brain, who wonders who the writer is that wrote such crappy stuff. (He was very funny, in case you couldn't tell). Cho also starts with the text, but he finds that he has to actually hand letter the text in the layouts to be able to determine the pacing.


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6. Book Review: The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst




The Lost
by Sarah Beth Durst

Lauren doesn't want to face the diagnosis; she fears the news that her mother's cancer has returned. Without planning or even conscious intent, she sets off driving, trying to escape her troubles. Three hundred miles later, Lauren is lost in the desert, surrounded by a dust storm. Finally, she escapes the storm and finds a town where she hopes to get gas, a phone to call her mother, and a hotel room for the night. What she finds instead is a town strangely cluttered with trash, and populated by residents who seem troubled. This is the town of Lost, where everything that is lost - including people - ends up. There's no escape from Lost unless you find what you've lost. With the help of a precocious child named Claire and a mysterious, charismatic man named Peter who calls himself the Finder, Lauren tries to find a way to get out of Lost and back to her mother.

The Lost is Durst's first foray into adult fiction, and what an adult debut it is! As with her YA's, she doesn't disappoint. An intriguing and twilight-zoneish premise, fascinating characters, and a highly readable story make this a book you won't want to miss.

I don't think that Durst gets the recognition she deserves for being one of the best writers of literary fantasy today. I've followed her books since her first one, Into the Wild, which I loved, but over the years since then she's honed her craft to a exceptional level. Her literary technique is masterful, yet doesn't get in the way of telling a good story.

The Lost is a very character-driven story. Although there are a few edge-of-your-seat moments, the plot is primarily driven by Lauren's character arc. It's a mesmerizing book that's hard to put down, and one that proves a book doesn't have to be driven by a frenetic plot to be a page-turner. As you can imagine from the title, everyone in the town of Lost is, well, lost in some way, and the book revolves around a theme of finding your way. Even the Finder, who is supposedly there to help people, seems, in some ways, more lost than anyone. Lauren's journey of self-discovery unspools gradually, as her relationships with Claire and Peter develop and the details of her past life are teased out.

The town itself is fascinating and well developed, almost a character in itself. The streets are cluttered with piles of things that were lost: keys, socks, luggage, and even things like foreclosed houses scattered all over, creating an odd juxtaposition of different architecture. It's all a little bit creepy, as well, in a Stephen King kind of way. The idea sounds like a cliche, but it's so much more than that and the reality and details of life in Lost are fully fleshed out. Survival is a big part of life in Lost; residents have to scavenge among the piles to find the necessities of life. And not everyone in Lost is friendly, in fact, some are decidedly unfriendly. So Lauren has to learn how to survive in Lost as well as trying to figure out how to get home.

I hope I won't be spoiling too much if I say that there's a powerful chemistry between Lauren and Peter right from the start, but I won't say much more than that. It's handled well, and while it's an important element, it doesn't take over the story.

Diversity?

None of the three main characters appear to be people of color in this book. One of the important secondary characters, Victoria, who runs the diner, is described as having rich brown skin. In conversation with Durst, she confirmed that Victoria is African-American. She also told me that Peter is half Native American, but the reader doesn't learn this explicitly until book 3.

Any relationships in the book were heterosexual, and all characters appear to be cisgender. Since Lost draws in all sorts of lost people, one could reasonably expect to see a diversity in Lost reflective of society in general, however, I didn't see that. There's quite a variety of people in Lost, but other than the one character, none were described in a way (that I noticed) that would lead me to believe they were from an underrepresented group.

Who would like this book

Adult and teens who like a well-written, slightly dark, character-driven fantasy with an intriguing premise and a bit of a romantic interest. Although The Lost was published for the adult market and has an adult protagonist, I think it has a strong teen crossover appeal.

Other Reviews

For another view of The Lost, check out Reading in Tandem: "The Lost," by Sarah Beth Durst at Finding Wonderland.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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7. Book Review: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett


Dark Eden
by Chris Beckett

Imagine a world with no sun. A world where the only heat and light comes from geothermal energy and bioluminescent plants and animals, and everything else is dark. Imagine a community of 532 people living on this planet, all descended from two astronauts who were stranded on the planet. (And yes, there was some incest in order for 532 people to be descended from only two.)

One hundred and sixty-three years after Tommy and Angela were stranded on Eden, their descendants still live in Circle Valley, where the landing vehicle originally came down, because Angela told the family to stay close, so that they could be found when rescue arrived from Earth. Food in Circle Valley is running out, but outside of Circle Valley is the Snowy Dark, and no one has ever crossed the Snowy Dark to find out what (if anything) lies beyond. Everyone in Family fears to leave the valley, lest they be stranded when the rescue comes from Earth.

Everyone except teen ("newhair") John Redlantern. John feels suffocated in the closeness and stagnation of family, and he asks the questions that everyone else is afraid to ask. No one will listen, so John does the unthinkable, with consequences that will affect everyone in Family and cause lasting change.

Dark Eden is a compelling story and a fascinating study of a society with characteristics derived from its unique environment, as well as from its tragic origin story. As the book progresses, it starts to become clear that the origin story portrays a very dysfunctional family. How would it affect an entire society to be based on such dysfunctional origins?

The worldbuilding is amazing. Although I have trouble imagining how a planet like Eden could exist, every detail of the world is so well developed, the ecosystem consistent and logical, that it came across as fully realized and believable. All that detail is developed very naturally through the story and the characters; there are no infodumps. The society, culture, and language are all distinctive and consistent.

The characters are interesting, diverse, and well-developed. John Redlantern is a bit of an anti-hero. Although he is honestly trying to help Family, he acts also out of self-interest, restlessness, and a compulsion for change. John's sometimes-lover and co-conspirator, Tina Spiketree, is an equally interesting and complex character. In addition to John and Tina, there is a rich tapestry of well-developed characters, some of whom become point-of-view characters for a short time.

Story is an important theme running throughout Dark Eden. Obviously the origin story plays a significant role. As in many cultures, the stories from the past are retold and reenacted at important events. These stories are distorted by the lens of time, and by people who don't really understand, in some cases, what the stories mean, because they have no experience with things that could form a basis for understanding. John Redlantern is keenly aware of the power of story; he consciously makes choices that will make him a mythic character to other people, and he wonders how his descendants will tell his story in the future.

The title of the book fits on multiple levels. The planet is named Eden, and obviously Tommy and Angela are its Adam and Eve. But Earth is the Eden that they've been exiled from. The Family doesn't seem to have a religion or worship any gods, but waiting for the return to Earth has an almost religious fervor to it. Later in the book, there is also a kind of Cain and Abel vibe happening.

Dark Eden is an astonishing, compelling, and unique science-fiction story. If you like science fiction and this isn't on your TBR, it probably should be.

Note: Dark Eden is published for the adult market, but I think it has crossover appeal for teens. Besides the teen protagonists, it has a teen outlook and themes of social change that will appeal to teens. There is some fairly explicit sex, so it would be best for mature teens, but sex is not uncommon in YA today. And in spite of the explicit nature of the sex, it's some of the least sexy sex I've read in books — it's supposed to be, because it's another symptom of the stagnation of this society.

Diversity?

  • Mother Angela was black, according to the stories, and Tommy was white (Jewish, if I remember right). One minor character in the Family is described as being a "dark bloke with dark curly hair," but other than that, I didn't see any other mention of racial characteristics. Given the description of Angela and Tommy, I think it's safe to assume that everyone in Family would have multiracial characteristics.
  • Nations are mentioned in the stories from the past, but because the people in Family have no basis for understanding — their closest analogue is the smaller groups within Family —it doesn't really pay a role.
  • At one point, Tina is thinking about how all of the boys want to "slip" (have sex) with her, and then she adds, "except those who prefer boys." Although I didn't notice any same-sex couplings in the book, it seems that in this society they're accepted as routine.
  • Cleft lip and club foot are common congenital deformities in Family, probably due to the incest and inbreeding. These play a significant role in the story. The effect of the deformities on the individuals is shown, without it degenerating into stereotypes. And they are individuals, that have distinctive personalities of which the disability is only a facet. One adult character is angry and mean as a result of bullying in childhood, but others are caring, respected members of society. One boy with clubfoot who appears to be an object of pity in the beginning ends up becoming a leader.
Who would like this book:

Mature teens and adults who enjoy unique science fiction with richly developed worldbuilding and characters

Get it from:
Audiobook

FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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8. Book Review: In the Shadows


In the Shadows
Text Story by Kiersten White
Art and Art Story by Jim Di Bartolo

In the Shadows alternates between two related stories, one told in text and the other entirely in pictures. It's hard to talk about In the Shadows without risking revealing too much. The stories themselves unfold gradually, and at first it's hard to understand what's going on or how the stories fit together, but as the details unfold the pieces start to come together.

The text portion alternates between five young people: Cora and Minnie, whose mother runs a boarding house in a small town in Maine; Arthur, a mysterious young man who comes to the boarding house; and two brothers, Thom and Charles. Charles is dying from a terminal illness, and their father sends the two young men from New York City to Maine for Charles' health, although a conversation that Thom overhears between his father and a woman seems to indicate a more sinister reason. The five teens begin to suspect that there is evil lurking in the town, and all five of them are linked to it in some way.

The art story depicts a young man traveling around the world, apparently searching for something or someone. We don't know who he is, and at first it's hard to understand what's going on or what the connection is with the text story. By about halfway through, you begin to suspect, and then later details in the text story make clear what's happening in the art story.

In the Shadows is an intriguing, beautifully made book. I love this kind of story, where the connections aren't always clear and you have to puzzle it out as you go along. I actually found that after I finished the book, I wanted to go through the art story again from the beginning to pick up on all the details and fully appreciate it.

The text story is well-written and holds your interest, the art is beautiful, and the two fit well together stylistically. There is a dark, creepy, and mysterious feel to both stories. With evil lurking in a small town in Maine, it's hard not to compare this to Stephen King, but stylistically it's not really similar to King's writing. The compelling story and short chapters conspire to keep you reading; "Just one more chapter," I kept telling myself.

Diversity?

Other than a few incidental characters in the pictures, I didn't see any diversity.

Who would like this book:

With the short chapters, artwork, and fast-paced read, this may be a good book for reluctant readers. Graphic novel readers may also enjoy it, even though it isn't strictly a graphic novel. Any teen or adult who enjoys dark, creepy stories with mysterious conspiracies will enjoy In the Shadows.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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9. Book Review: Rose and the Lost Princess



Rose and the Lost Princess
by Holly Webb

In the first book, Rose was thrilled to be selected for a position as a housemaid for a prominent magician. As an orphan, her dream was to get out of the orphanage and earn her own living. But when she discovered that she has an inherent talent for magic, Rose had mixed feelings. Magic is exciting, but also so far outside her experience that it makes her uncomfortable. Although Rose is now an apprentice to the magician, Mr. Fountain, she wanted to keep her position as a housemaid in the house. Besides providing her income, she's not quite ready to let go of her ordinary, normal life.

But now that the other servants know that she is magic, they don't want to have anything to do with her. Most ignore her, and some are actively antagonistic. Only Bill the houseboy is still friendly. To make matters worse, there is a growing anti-magic movement in the aftermath of the events of the first book. It's not a good time to be a magician. People are blaming the early winter and heavy snowfall on magic, and when the beloved Princess disappears, and is found again, the whole country is in a frenzy, convinced that magic is involved. The King is worried that there will be another attempt on the Princess, so Rose is sent to the palace to stay with the Princess, because as another young girl she can provide some magical protection while seeming to be an ordinary housemaid and companion for the Princess.

Rose and the Lost Princess is a delightful book that I enjoyed even more than its predecessor. Rose is such a great character. She loves the magic, and yet she's a very no-nonsense, practical girl. She's what Mary Poppins might have been like as a girl. The book is extremely well-written and immersive. There's gentle humor, much of it provided by Gus, the magical cat. In many ways it's a perfect middle-grade novel. Even as an adult I quite enjoyed reading it, and I'm looking forward to future books in the series.

Diversity?

I didn't see any diversity of color or ethnicity, but then, Victorian-type settings tend to be pretty monochrome. Sexuality simply doesn't come into the book, other than Rose's hand on Bill's arm at one point, so there's not really any opportunity for sexual diversity.

There is diversity of class, and in fact class is one of the themes in this novel. As a servant who is also an apprentice to a powerful magician who is a councilor to the King, Rose is caught between classes in a most uncomfortable way. The lives of both the upper and lower classes are vividly portrayed, from the glittering palace to the lives of Mr. Fountain's servants downstairs. The effect of power on the powerless is shown in small ways, including the house manager's not-so-subtle threat to a servant who is threatening to leave, "How will you get a new position without references?"

Who would like this book:

Middle-grade readers who love an immersive, character-driven fantasy. There's enough excitement to keep anyone interested, but it's not overly violent or scary, so it should be fine for sensitive readers. Although the protagonist is a girl, I think that boys will enjoy it as well, if they can get past the girl on the cover and the feminine name, "Rose." (Edited to add: the first book has an evil magician kidnapping children and drinking their blood, so sensitive readers may want to skip that one and start with this one.)

My review of Rose, the first book in the series.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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10. Book Review: Rebel Heart


Rebel Heart
Dust Lands Book 2
by Moira Young

Warning: this review may contain spoilers for the first book, Blood Red Road. If you haven't read Blood Red Road, I highly recommend it! It's about an incredibly tough heroine on a quest to save her brother in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. 

In Blood Red Road, Saba had one goal: find and save her twin brother Lugh from the people who took him. Saba knew that once she found Lugh, everything would be all right. But everything is most definitely not all right. Lugh and Saba have both been changed by the traumatic things they experienced, and the bond that connected them their whole lives seems to be broken and unrepairable.

Saba and Lugh, along with younger sister Emmi and another young man, Tommo, are on their way west to start a new life. Jack, whom Saba recently discovered is her heart's desire, separated from them to take a hard journey to deliver bad news, but he promised to meet them in the west. Saba is desperate to go west and find Jack again, but the group is stuck in the Waste, waiting for an injured horse to heal.

Then word comes that the Tonton, so recently defeated by Saba and her friends, have a new leader, who is cleansing the land of everyone except his own followers, killing or driving out the weak and the old, and taking the young and healthy. What's worse, Jack has been seen with the Tonton and may be one of them. Saba can't believe that Jack would be a part of such horrors, and she's determined to go back and find the truth, and help if she can.

Like Blood Red Road, Rebel Heart is a roller coaster of a story that grabs you and won't let go. Saba is one of the best YA heroines I've ever read. She's tough, oh yes, she's tough, but she also has heart and depth and an unshakeable resolve. Saba is a flawed heroine. She makes mistakes, she's not always kind, and she sometimes lets her single mindedness blind her. But Saba is a person who cares deeply, and would do anything for her family and her friends.

As with the first book, Rebel Heart is told in first person in Saba's distinctive voice and dialect, which is a little difficult to read at first, but it doesn't take long to seem natural, and it's such an integral part of the book that it's hard to imagine this book without it. The entire book is also written without quotation marks. All dialog is simply written out as part of the text with nothing to set it off. This also seems odd at first, but you get used to it and don't notice it. The biggest effect, to me, is that with the breakneck pace of the novel, the lack of quotation marks to slow the eye down contributes to a feeling of going downhill without brakes.

Overall, Rebel Heart and its predecessor, Blood Red Road, are excellent books that will have strong appeal to anyone who enjoys dystopian YA literature. Although more post-apocalyptic than dystopian, there are some dystopian elements in the Tonton society ruled by their new charismatic leader, the Pathfinder, and the book has a dystopian feel to it.

Rebel Heart ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and the third book, Raging Star, is due out May 13. I can't wait to read it!

Who would like this book:

Anyone who enjoys young adult dystopian books and who doesn't mind the unusual punctuation and dialect.

Rebel Heart is a 2013 Cybils Awards Nominee. The first book, Blood Red Road, was the 2011 Cybils winner for YA Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Get it from:
Audiobook:

Rebel Heart is available as an audiobook from Audible.com. I haven't yet listened to the audiobook, but I did listen to the audiobook for Blood Red Road and thought it was very well done. Narrator Heather Lind did an excellent job. There appears to also be a version narrated by Moira Young, but Audible tells me it isn't available in my area, so I suspect it's the Canadian version. The links below are to the Heather Lind narrated version.
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from purchased copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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11. Thoughts on BookExpo America and BookCon

So, yesterday I read this article in PW about Reed Exhibitions' plans for the new BookCon on the last day of BookExpo America (BEA). I posted an off-hand comment on Twitter and Facebook that I was thought the new plan was great. Apparently, my comments weren't clear, and some people are confused and upset by the new plan. "Why is excluding the public a good thing?" I was asked, and that wasn't what I meant at all, and I don't think it's what BEA intended. In fact rather the opposite. BEA is working to include the public and craft a positive experience for them. Since it's difficult to clarify my thoughts in 140 characters, I thought I'd write a blog post.

First, some history: BookExpo America is the largest U.S. conference for the book industry. It started in 1901 as the American Booksellers Association convention, and eventually grew to encompass much more. But it has always been a conference exclusively for the book industry. To attend, you had to be a bookseller, librarian, publisher, publishing service provider, or someone else working in the industry. Attending wasn't cheap, either. Badges can run several hundred dollars, depending on your role. That wasn't not intended to be exclusionary. It was always a conference oriented around the business side of books.

However, since books and authors are a big part of the conference, I think increasingly so in recent years, BEA recognizes that it would also be of interest to passionate book lovers, and in turn, those are people whom publishers exhibiting at BEA would like to reach. So for the last year or two, they've been experimenting with opening the conference to the public.

Last year, that took the form of "Power Reader" day, which provided tickets giving power readers access to the show floor on the last day. I think that Power Reader Day both was and wasn't a success. I think the idea was great, and some publishers took advantage of the opportunity to interact with readers and have special events and giveaways just for the public. For the readers, it provided a chance to meet authors and get autographed books, as well as a peek behind the curtain to see books in advance of publication.

However, the problem was that the BEA show floor is very large, and many exhibitors are not of interest to the public, nor are they interested in interacting with the public. So I saw many power readers wandering around booths with remainders dealers, printers, distributors, app developers, book display manufacturers, and publishing service providers of various types. In addition, some publishers publish books not intended for a general audience, and even some of the ones that do publish general interest books didn't seem interested in interacting with the public. Many exhibitors break down early on the last day, and walking the floor and hearing the tape guns, some starting as early as 11-12:00, I couldn't help but think that if I were a Power Reader, I would have been disappointed to see what looked like a conference winding down, on the only day I could be there.

Thankfully, Reed Exhibitions also recognized this problem, and they made some changes to address it. This year, if I understand correctly, a part of the BEA show floor will be sectioned off as the area for BookCon (replacing Power Readers) attendees. Exhibitors are given a choice whether they want to be in the BookCon area or not. The ones that choose not to be in this area are ones that wouldn't be offering anything to the public anyway: the business to business service providers, the specialized publishers, and those general trade publishers who, for whatever reason, aren't interested in taking part.

So if you attended Power Reader day last year and are worried about the changes, you won't be losing anything! (Disclaimer: I'm not associated with BEA in any way, other than as an attendee for the last 10 years, so I'm just going by what I read in the press and on their website). You'll still have access to a feast of books and authors; it's just that it will all be consolidated into one area, so that you don't have to hunt through aisles and aisles of irrelevant (to you) booths to find the things that interest you.

I think that what's confusing people is on the ticket page it says, "BookCon Tickets do not provide access to BookExpo America (BEA). BEA is a trade only event (not open to the public) and BookCon Tickets do not provide entry into BEA." What I think this means - and again, this is just me interpreting - is that you don't have access to the first two days of BEA, which Power Readers didn't have last year, either, and you don't have access to the area of BEA which is primarily for business to business exhibitors (which most of the public wouldn't be interested in anyway).

This BookCon FAQ addresses a lot of the questions and concerns.

If you haven't attended before and you're within an easy drive of New York City, this is a great opportunity to find out about new books, meet authors, and maybe pick up some freebies. Tickets to the one day BookCon event are only $30 for adults (and teens, apparently) and $5 for children. Ticket information is here.




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12. Book Review: Underneath

Underneath

by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Sunny Pryce-Shah is devastated when her cousin Shiri commits suicide. How could Shiri do it? Shiri always seemed so confident, and Sunny looked up to her older cousin. Then Sunny starts to hear thoughts, and from cryptic comments in Shiri's journal, she suspects that Shiri may have had the same problem. Hearing thoughts is more of a curse than a power. It can be painful to know what people really think of you, for example, and Sunny can't control it or stop it from happening. Sunny is already dealing with so much, but she knows that she has to get the ability under some kind of control before it pulls her apart like it did her cousin.

Underneath is a contemporary YA novel with a speculative twist. The underhearing is just one of the conflicts Sunny has to deal with. In addition to grief over her cousin and dealing with her unusual problem, Sunny also has to navigate the treacherous waters of the high school social scene, and her family is dealing with the possible spousal abuse of her aunt. The relationships, including family, friend, and romantic interest, feel authentic, and I like that the book portrays how complex such relationships are. Fights happen, and sometimes no one is right or wrong and you just have to find a way to work things out. But sometimes one person's behavior is wrong, and it's not always easy to tell the difference.

The book also portrays grief in a way that seems authentic. Grief doesn't just go away because a certain amount of time has passed, and one of the difficult things for someone bereaved is when people start to feel that they should be over it. Grief also takes different forms, and different people grieve in different ways at different times.

I also like that romance isn't a major focus of the story. There are romantic interests, and even a couple of love triangles, but in the end it's not important who ends up paired with whom, and the story is really much more about friendship (and family) than romance.

From a diversity perspective, Sunny is half Pakistani. Although she is pretty much a regular American teenager, there are some bits of Pakistani culture that come from her grandparents, for example when they send over Pakistani food, or request an imam at the funeral. It's handled very naturally as a part of the normal American experience and not at all an issue.

In the end, it's character and voice that make this a compelling novel. Sunny is such an interesting character with a distinctive voice, and we feel her pain and her struggles.

The underhearing itself is never explained, and this may bother some readers. However, not understanding it is a part of the story conflict, and in real life there isn't always a neat explanation that ties things up with a bow.  I do love the word "underhearing" - it's a perfect word for what is, in essence, mental overhearing.

Who would like this book:

Teens who enjoy contemporary fiction with a paranormal twist.

Underneath is a 2013 Cybils Awards Nominee

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The author is an online friend that I've met several times at conferences. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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13. The Infinite Sea Cover Reveal


The cover for The Infinite Sea, sequel to Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave, has been revealed. You can see a larger image of it over at USA Today, along with an interesting interview with Rick Yancey. (Note: Although Yancey tries to be careful not to spoil anything, I think it does give some clues about the second book).

The 5th Wave was an excellent book about the aftermath of an alien invasion, although one of the themes of the book is that this alien invasion is not a anything like what you would expect from movies and TV. ("...not-your-grandma's alien invasion," as Yancey says in the interview). You can read my review of The 5th Wave here.

I'm really looking forward to reading The Infinite Sea, which will be published September 16. I'm particularly excited that Yancey mentions in the interview that there are still some plot twists, as one of the things I loved about the first book was the layers of surprising reveals.

Also, Yancey talks about the 5th Wave movie in the interview, and it sounds like that's making progress.

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14. Light of the White Bear Kickstarter Project


David Clement-Davies, author of The Sight, Fell, and Fire Bringer, is running a Kickstarter project to bring his newest book, Light of the White Bear, to the United States. I've read several of his books and really enjoyed them. If you like books about wild animals, with deep social and spiritual themes, you'll enjoy his books.

If you'd like to support an author fighting for autonomy over his books, or if you just like his books (or think you might!) please consider backing this Kickstarter.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1159695087/light-of-the-white-bear

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15. Petition to Stop Gender-labeling Books


The UK based organization Let Toys Be Toys has started a petition on Change.org to ask publishers to stop gender-labeling books. The image above shows how such labeling can send a powerful message to kids about what's important: beauty for girls and intelligence for boys in this case. Granted, this image is an extreme example, probably selected for its provocative nature. But any gender labeling, even less provocative examples, limits children's choices and perpetuates gender stereotypes. Please take a few minutes and sign this petition.

Here's a great article about gender labeling on the Let Toys Be Toys website.

As a child, I always preferred books with robots, aliens, and adventure over cupcakes, flowers, and handbags. Books should expand children's horizons, not limit them.

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16. Book Review: The Summer Prince

The Summer Prince
by Alaya Dawn Johnson

June and her best friend Gil are thrilled to wrangle an invite to the official celebration of the newly elected Summer King, Enki. But they never anticipate that Gil and Enki will fall in love, or how much Enki will affect both of their lives. Although the Summer King has no real power, Enki, who comes from the lowest level of society, is determined to use what influence he has to help his people. June and Enki begin to collaborate on a big art installation, one that they hope will both send a message to the city, and win June the Queen's Award. But none of the three can forget that at the end of the summer, Enki will die. Because the real purpose of the Summer King is sacrifice in service of the city.

The Summer Prince is a brilliant book on so many levels. To start, it's an achingly immersive story set in a future Brazil. Added to that are elements from the Sumerian myth The Epic of Gilgamesh. Going deeper, there are the themes: power and sacrifice, choices and consequences, privilege and class, order and change. Finally, there is the writing: Alaya Dawn Johnson has created a beautiful tapestry so intricately woven that the patterns aren't always obvious on the first read-through. Even on my second read I'm not sure if I saw everything.

Palmares Tres is a gem of a city where past culture and future culture merge. It's a city where people still Samba and eat Vatapá stew, where grafeteiros create masterpieces and street gangs fight with capoeira. And yet it's a city with deep class divisions, where class hierarchy is literally expressed in the city tiers: the higher classes live on the upper levels and the lowest class lives on the bottom tier, where the the stink of the algae vats is ever present. This physical expression of class hierarchy is not a new idea in science fiction, but it's well done here. That stink, known as the Catinga, becomes a powerful symbol in the story, and in fact the higher tiers call the lowest tier "The Catinga."

Palmeres Tres is a city ruled by a matriarchy: a Queen and a council of women called Aunties. Many of them have forgotten the purpose of power, and while they, in their own way, seem to love the city, often their machinations seem designed to protect their own power rather than benefit the city. Most residents of the city live 200 years or more, setting up a situation where anyone under 30 is considered a juvenile, and not to be trusted to make good decisions. So we have class conflict, gender conflict, and age conflict, and with his election as Summer King, Enki becomes the touchstone at the center of all these conflicts.

I've seen this book described as dystopian, but I don't think that it quite falls into that classification. The traditional definition of a dystopia is one that seems utopian on the surface, but is later revealed to be oppressive and deeply flawed. I think that in some ways The Summer Prince turns that around: the flaws are fairly obvious early on, but as you continue to read it becomes clear how much the citizens of Palmeros Tres love their city with a genuine love, even in spite of the flaws. However, The Summer Prince is similar enough to dystopian literature that I think it will appeal to teens who enjoy dystopian books.

It's not necessary to be familiar with The Epic of Gilgamesh or to even recognize those elements are there to enjoy the story, but if you are familiar with the Epic it's a sheer joy to discover the iconic story of Enkidu and Gilgamesh wrestling in the streets transformed into a heart-stopping Samba when Gil and Enki first meet. The Summer Prince is not really a retelling of the myth, but there are some interesting parallels.

June is an imperfect character who struggles throughout the book to make the right choices. Her dream is to be recognized as a great artist, and when that dream comes into conflict with her awakening social awareness, she doesn't always choose the right thing. She blames her mother for her father's death, and because of that she's mean to her mother. All these things make her a believable, realistic character whom the reader can identify with as she grows through her association with Enki.

The Summer Prince does a great job of representing people who are underrepresented in YA lit. All the residents of Palmeros Tres have skin of varying shades of color, and Enki himself is described as being exceptionally charismatic and with very dark skin. Sexual relationships, both same-sex and opposite-sex, are depicted in a natural, unfettered way that's totally a non-issue. In Palmeros Tres it doesn't seem to matter whom you love.

The Brazilian setting is a refreshing change from books set in European-based settings. I personally loved that the book represented a culture and people that you don't often see in American YA Fiction, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out this review of The Summer Prince by a native Brazilian, Ana of The Book Smugglers. I'd encourage you to read the review, but in short, Ana is concerned that the Brazilian cultural elements are not always used accurately, and don't go any deeper than those elements that outsiders identify with Brazil, such as samba, Carnival, and capoeira. To Ana, it feels like a stereotype.

I've been thinking a lot about Ana's review over the last few days. Does the book stereotype Brazilians? Maybe - it's hard for me to know since I'm not Brazilian. Should a writer be able to write about a culture as an outsider to that culture? This, I think, is the crux of the controversy, and I've seen good arguments on both sides. I personally think writers stretching to write about things outside their personal experience is a good thing, because it helps to bring those ideas and cultures to other people who are not familiar with them, but the outsider has to work harder to get it right. I found an interview with Johnson where she says about her research, "I read a lot of books, particularly about the history of the African diaspora in Brazil. Also got advice from my sister, who studied in Brazil and knew many sources. And sent it to Brazilian writers for help."

I totally understand Ana's frustration and annoyance with the book. It's not quite the same thing, but I studied a martial art for 18 years, and I get really annoyed when I read a fiction book that gets the martial arts details wrong. So I get how frustrating it would be to have your culture portrayed inaccurately. But it does sound like Johnson did try get the details right, and I hope that maybe it will at least it will inspire young people to want to learn more about Brazil and read up on it, as I did after finishing the book. In balance, I think that a book like this that encourages young people to think outside their comfort zone and learn about new ideas and new cultures is a good thing. There are no easy answers, but I think it's important that we keep having these conversations as we try to get it right.

The Summer Prince is the 2013 Cybils Awards winner for the YA Speculative Fiction category.

Who would like this book:

Science fiction and dystopian readers, as well as teens who like reading about other cultures.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher for the purpose of Cybils Awards judging. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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17. Book Review: The Archived

The Archived
by Victoria Schwab

It hasn't even been a year since Ben died, and Mackenzie Bishop is already forgetting what her brother looked like. Her mother copes with the grief by throwing herself with artificial cheerfulness into projects, while her father copes by retreating into himself.

Mac knows something her parents don't: that all the memories of the dead are archived as Histories, which look and act like the living person in every way. Histories usually sleep, but sometimes one awakens and tries to get out; occasionally they're even violent. Mac is a Keeper, tasked with guarding the Narrows that border the Archive and returning any of the Histories who escape. It's a role that she inherited from her grandfather, and one that she must keep absolutely secret, even from her parents. Knowing that Ben's History is in the Archive should be a comfort to Mac, but even a Keeper can't see the Histories, and Mac fears that she is losing her memories of Ben.

When Mac's family moves into the Coronado, an old hotel converted to an apartment building, Mackenzie gets a new territory in the Narrows to patrol. But something is not right — the Histories here are restless, and Mac is busier than ever trying to return them all. What's more, it appears that a murder was committed decades ago at the Coronado, a murder that someone went to a great deal of trouble to cover up. Mac is determined to find out the truth, even if it means putting her life at risk.

The Archived is a moving exploration of life, death, and grief wrapped up in an intriguing, character-driven mystery. Mac is tough — she has to be, to deal with the sometimes violent Histories — and she has the scars to prove it. But even her toughness doesn't make her immune to grief, and like everyone else she'll need to find a way to deal with it and move towards acceptance.

The story has a strong sense of place, and the various locations are lovingly described: the elegant, library-like atmosphere of the Archives, the creepy hallways of the Narrows, and the faded glory of the Coronado, which really becomes a character in its own right. The characters are likewise vividly brought to life. Besides Mac, there is a teen boy, Wes, that she meets in the Coronado. Wes hides a surprising depth and empathy behind a façade of good-natured humor. Mac's relationship with her grandfather is developed through flashbacks. Other minor characters, such as the Librarians in the Archives, are less fully-fleshed-out, but still distinctively characterized.

The setup with the Archives is intriguing and pleasingly unique. The internal logic is pretty consistent and well-developed, with one exception that bothered me. What is the purpose of keeping the Archives in the first place? There doesn't seem to be any reason for it. Loved ones can't visit the Histories, and no one seems to read the Histories except for the occasional Librarian seeking relief from boredom, and even that seems to be discouraged. It seems like an elaborate setup requiring considerable secrecy and no small amount of risk, for no purpose. If you can suspend that disbelief, then The Archived is a pretty enjoyable book.

The Archived is a 2013 Cybils Awards Nominee

Who would like this book:

Although the setup is not strictly supernatural — Histories aren't really ghosts — it should appeal strongly to fans of supernatural fiction. Teens who enjoy mysteries or character-driven fiction may also enjoy this.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.


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18. Book Review: Shadows



 Shadows

by Robin McKinley

It's not just that Maggie misses her father, or understandably resents her new stepfather, Val. No, it goes beyond that: Val has too many shadows. Whenever Maggie looks at him, she sees him surrounded by wiggly shadow shapes with too many appendages. It can't be magic, because there is no magic in Newworld. Anyone with the potential for magic must have a procedure to snip the gene before they reach puberty, and even though Val is an immigrant, he wouldn't have been allowed in if he had any magic.

Maggie tries not to think about it, and avoids Val as much as possible by throwing herself into her work at the local shelter, which isn't hard, since Maggie loves animals anyway. Then a cobey — a "coherence break" in the universe — opens nearby, and with one revelation after another, Maggie begins to discover that the world — and Newworld specifically — is full of surprises, among them that Val is not such a bad guy. When the situation goes from bad to worse, Maggie and her friends set out to set things right, accompanied by five very large dogs, a cantankerous Maine Coone cat, a friendly shadow named Hix, and one stubborn algebra book.

Shadows is a fun book with loads of teen appeal. Maggie's voice as the narrator is authentic and entertaining, if a bit rambly in parts, and there's gentle humor woven throughout the book. The pacing is excellent, perfectly balancing character development, excitement, humor, and reveals. All of the characters are interesting and well-developed, including animals, shadows, and semi-animate objects. Even the dogs each have distinctive personalities. Although Maggie finds she has some unusual abilities, she can't do it alone - it takes the combined efforts and abilities of everyone to succeed. There is romance, but it's not overdone and I like the direction that McKinley went with the it.

There are dystopian elements, such as soldiers in the streets with scanners, roadblocks, and forced genetic manipulation, but I wouldn't call this a dystopian book. The focus is not on fighting against a dystopian government, although there is certainly some of that. Instead, it's more about finding yourself and discovering that the world is a different place than you thought.

Shadows is a 2013 Cybils Awards Finalist in the YA Speculative Fiction category.

Who would like this book:

Readers of both traditional fantasy and dystopian stories will enjoy this, as it has elements of both. Dog lovers, cat lovers, and origami artists will also find a lot to appreciate.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.


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19. Book Review: Rose

Rose

by Holly Webb

Synopsis: Rose is a practical girl. When the other orphans daydream about finding their parents, Rose dreams of getting a position in domestic service, of being independent, working hard, and earning a living. So when the housekeeper for a leading magician comes to the orphanage looking for a young housemaid, Rose is thrilled to be selected.

Rose doesn't hold with magic, so when she begins to suspect that she may have some magic abilities, she is determined to get rid of them if possible. She just wants to be an ordinary person, and to fit in with the other servants, especially her new friend, the houseboy, Bill. But when someone starts stealing children off the streets, and Rose's best friend from the orphanage disappears, Rose teams up with the magician's apprentice, Freddie, his spoiled daughter, Isabella, and the magician's cat Gustavus to get to the bottom of it.

Review: Rose is a fun middle-grade fantasy with a delightful, no nonsense heroine. Practicality and imagination are usually portrayed as being mutually exclusive, so it's terrific to see a protagonist who has both in abundance. Young readers will identify with Rose's struggles to both find herself and fit in, two things which sometimes seem to be in conflict. I fell in love with Rose from the first page.

The story is set in an alternate Victorian England where magic is real, although rare and expensive. There's a variety of interesting characters, and most are pretty well developed. The one exception is the villain, who's a pretty clichéd evil villain, and is really more of a story device than an actual character. It doesn't really matter, though, since the battle with the villain doesn't come in until later in the book. Rose is the real centerpiece of this story, and most of the book revolves around her learning to adjust to life outside the orphanage, developing relationships with the other members of the household, and coming to terms with her magic.

This is an engaging book with a lot of kid appeal, and I would recommend it to young readers who enjoy a fun story with great characters and a little bit of magic, as well as those who enjoy historical and pseudo-historical settings.


Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy given by the publisher at BEA to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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20. 2013 Cybils Awards: Suggested Nominations

There are only about five more days to nominate for the Cybils Awards, and while there are some great books nominated, I'm surprised at some of the books released in the last year that haven't been nominated yet. If you haven't nominated yet, here are some suggestions for books that you might want to nominated in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category. I don't have the patience to compile a comprehensive list like Charlotte's Library's amazing lists for Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction, (here and here) so these are just some books that I'd like to see nominated. Some of them I've read, but most I haven't read yet, but would like to. Don't forget that the deadline to nominate is October 15 at 11:59pm (Pacific). More information on how to nominate is on the Cybils blog, and please do read the eligibility rules and category descriptions!

Suggested Nominations

Sylo
MacHale, D J 
Rebel Heart ( Dust Lands Trilogy #2 ) 
Young, Moira

Raven Flight ( Shadowfell #2 )
Marillier, Juliet
Obsidian Mirror ( Obsidian Mirror - Trilogy )
Fisher, Catherine
Fire & Ash ( Rot & Ruin #4 )
Maberry, Jonathan
The Shade of the Moon ( Life as We Knew It )
Pfeffer, Susan Beth
Icons
Stohl, Margaret
Shadow on the Sun 
Gill, David Macinnis
The Madman's Daughter
Shepherd, Megan
The Final Descent ( Monstrumologist #4 )
Yancey, Rick
The Watcher in the Shadows 
Ruiz Zafon, Carlos

For more YA Speculative Fiction suggestions, see Finding Wonderland and Miss Print

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21. Attention Kidlitcon attendees! (And if you aren't registered for Kidlitcon yet, why not?)

So it's just a little over a week until Kidlitcon and I'm psyched! I'm looking forward to hanging out with the tribe and talking some good kidlit. Oh, and I'm leading a session! I'm going to be teaching some cool tricks for using HTML and CSS to enhance your blog posts! Don't worry - you don't need to be a techie to attend my session; in fact, I'm specifically planning this with the assumption that no one attending my session has ever used HTML (although if you have, you might still learn something!) I hope that everyone attending my session will leave with a sense of just how FUN this stuff can be!

BUT - if you're thinking about attending my session, I have HOMEWORK for you! "Whaaaaa?... I didn't know there was going to be homework," I hear you say. But this is going to be fun, help the cause of kidlit, and hopefully leave you with a great, shiny blog post you can show off.

Because this session is hands-on, you need to have a blog post to work on. Rather than just having you make up a nonsense post just for the class, I want you to have a real post to play with. The interview format will be perfect for what I have in mind, so I ask everyone who is thinking of attending my session to find an author (or another blogger) at Kidlitcon and do a short interview sometime before Breakout Session #4. It doesn't have to be a long interview; two or three questions will be sufficient. If you're going to the precon, that will probably be a perfect opportunity, but just try to do it (and type it up in draft) sometime before the session. If you know someone who will be attending, you could even do it remotely before the conference, but I want your subject to be another Kidlitcon attendee.

Also, if you will have one with you, please bring a tablet or laptop to the session! If you don't have one, you can still attend, but you won't be able to do the hands-on part. A phone might work, but I suspect it will be too difficult to do it on a phone, and I'm not sure the blog editors will let you work in source code on a phone.

If you're still on the fence about attending Kidlitcon, get yourself over to the site and register! The deadline to register is this Friday! You won't be sorry, I promise you. If you need more convincing, check out these posts from MotherReader, Jen Robinson, Kelly Jensen, and Leila Roy. Also see the schedule and partial list of attendees.

See you in Austin!  

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22. Interview with P.J.Hoover, author of Solstice

Last Friday, at the pre-con leading up to Kidlitcon, I met author P.J. Hoover, and I took the chance to interview her about her new book, Solstice, and her writing life. This post was also used as an example of the techniques I taught in my Kidlitcon session, "Don’t fear the code: spice up your blog with HTML and CSS."

Q.
Your new book is called Solstice. Can you tell me a little more about it?

A.
It is set here in Austin, in the future when global warming is killing the earth. There's a girl named Piper and she turns 18. She gets a present delivered to her house, and when she opens it, this whole world of mythology starts to explode around her. Her best friend almost dies, so Piper has to travel to the underworld to save her, and there are lots of Greek gods.

Q.
That sounds great! Tell me a little bit about your path to publication.

A.
Solstice is my fourth book published. I actually have a trilogy out from a small press. My path to publication has been really working on my writing, and also networking. I met my first editor at a conference, and I met my agent at a workshop out in California, and I met my new editor at a conference also. So for me a lot of it has been really focusing on the writing, and also getting out and meeting people.

Q.
So is that what you would advise for new writers? To get out and go to conferences?

A.
I think it's really an important part of it. It's one thing to write a book, but it's easy to get trapped in a bubble and forget there's a whole world out there. It's important to know the business. I think if it as a lifetime thing, not just about one book.

"...it's easy to get trapped in a bubble and forget there's a whole world out there."
Q.
That's good advice. Tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you write every day, or just when it inspires you?

A.
I try to write every day. There are days when I'm just not able to write. Sometimes I take weekends off, now that I'm writing full-time, but I think having some sort of regular routine is really what matters. Even if some days you might write eight pages, and some days you might write a paragraph. Sticking with it even when it gets hard, and not quitting a project even when it stops being so interesting.

Q.
That's hard in any project. Do you have a particular place you write, particular music you listen to?

A.
I have an office in my house, so if I have really intense work, like hard line edits or something, I work at home. But otherwise, I like going out to coffee shops, as long as the coffee is good, and sometimes I meet friends there. Music that I write to at home, sometimes I'll listen to the soundtrack from The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. There's no words, and it's soothing. It puts me in a good writing place.
Buy Solstice from: Amazon Independent Bookstores

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23. Diversity, Authenticity, and Kindred Spirits: Thoughts from Kidlitcon 2013

I had the most inspiring, enlightening, empowering, and yes, fun, weekend. That's right — I was at Kidlitcon 2013 Austin, or as Sherry Early called it, the "Austin Kindred Spirits KidLit conference."

Kidlitcon has always been a small conference, and that's part of its appeal. This year was even smaller in terms of attendance numbers than the last few, but what it lacked in size it made up for in heart, spirit,  and community. I felt that the smaller size was an advantage; I think I talked to everyone there at some point, and all of us there formed such a strong connection.

It would be impossible to try to recap everything about the conference, so I'm just going to hit some of the highlights. For more recaps of Kidlitcon, see the round-up post on the Kidlitosphere.org website.

Themes

Several themes recurred throughout the conference:

Kindred Spirits

I'm not sure if the actual words "Kindred Spirits" came up until the final session, when Sarah Stevenson asked everyone for one or two words that summarized what the Kidlitosphere meant, but the feeling was definitely there throughout the conference. We all felt an instant connection created by a shared passion. I think it was Jen Robinson who said that what makes us different as a community is that we all care deeply about children and reading, and so we connect on a deeper level than other blogger groups, whose primary connection is about the blogging and financial aspects.

Authenticity

From the keynote speech by Cynthia Leitich Smith to the last words in the "Past, Present, and Future of Blogging" session, authenticity was an idea that came up over and over again. Our authenticity as bloggers and/or as writers, authenticity of characters in books, and our authenticity as a community.

Diversity

Diversity was another topic that resounded throughout the conference, not only in the sessions but in many conversations over meals, at the hotel bar, and anywhere else we happened to be. Lee Wind challenged us to be upstanders, not bystanders, and Cynthia Leitich Smith said that it's essential to let the powers-that-be know that there are loud booklovers. Lee had some eye-opening statistics, such as that 24% of the U.S. population are Latino, but only 1.1% of books have Latino characters. I think that everyone at the conference cares deeply about making sure that as many kids as possible find books that are "mirrors" and "windows," but it's clear we have a long way to go to get there, and that we bloggers, as a public voice for children's lit, have a responsibility to call out both good and not-so-good examples of diversity.

One thing that really struck me is how diversity, true diversity, is not about representing "groups," but about representing authentic (there's that word again) individuals. Lee talked about how we are all made up of hundreds or thousands of characteristics, and none of us are any one thing, yet too many books have "the" gay, "the" black, "the" Asian character. Charlotte Taylor said in her session that "Every child is a different target audience," and I think that's an important thing to keep in mind. Every child is different, so the more different, authentic, diverse individuals there are in literature, the better chance a child will find books that they can relate to.

People

The people were the best thing about the conference. It was great seeing old friends, and I met such wonderful and interesting new people. I wanted to try to mention everyone, but I'm afraid I'll miss someone, and I don't want to make this too long. So I just want to post a few special shoutouts:
  • To MotherReader Pam Coughlan, for being such a terrific host. As an extrovert in a group of mostly introverts, she was the glue that held us together.
  • To Jackie Parker-Robinson and Tanita Davis, and anyone else who helped with the planning but couldn't attend. I can't imagine anything worse! Thank you, thank you, to everyone who worked to make this conference a success.
  • To Charlotte Taylor, a special friend who is incredibly funny and intelligent. I enjoyed hanging out with you and comparing books on the flight back. I hope I didn't talk your ear off.
  • To my roommate Maureen Kearney, who was as great a roomie as you could ask for. We both gave each other space when we needed down time after the excitement of the day. Even if she was playing Candy Crush when I thought she was reading.
  • To Jen Robinson and Sarah Stevenson, who have been Kindred Spirits for a long time.
  • To Lee Wind, for being funny and fun and for your special talent for making people feel at ease. And for reminding us how important it is to be upstanders, not bystanders.
  • To Sherry Early and Camille Powell, both longtime friends online whom I finally met in person.
  • To Molly Blaisdell, who was a fascinating person. I learned a lot from listening to her.
  • To Allie Jones, for sparkling dinnertime conversation
  • To everyone else! This list is already longer than I meant it to be, and I feel bad about the people I didn't mention.

Thoughts and Quotes from the Sessions

I wanted to end with some of the thoughts and quotes that came out of the sessions. I culled these from Twitter, so some may not be exact quotes. I apologize in advance if I made any mistakes. Thanks especially to Melissa Fox, Maureen Kearney, and Jen Robinson for live-tweeting so much of the conference. 

What happens at kidlitcon13 stays at kidlitcon13.
—Pam Coughlan
We're passionate and with passion comes peril.
—Cynthia Leitich Smith
Blogs are a battlefield, but pick your battles and pick them wisely.
—Cynthia Leitich Smith
Diversity: "Finding yourself on a library shelf."
—Cynthia Leitich Smith
Diversity: Letting the "powers that be" know that there are loud booklovers is essential.
—Cynthia Leitich Smith
Authors don't want to do it wrong, so they avoid diversity. "You might make a mistake, but not trying is so much worse."
—Cynthia Leitich Smith
You may write for adults, but if you're writing about Percy Jackson, fourth graders will find you.
—Cynthia Leitich Smith
In many ways we just have to take it on faith that we are doing SOME good getting books into the hands of readers.
—Unknown, Blogger Burnout Session
Give yourself permission to NOT do things!
—Sarah Stevenson
No one is just ONE thing.
—Lee Wind
The way you empower a child is to let them know that variety exists. (How better than through books?)
—Lee Wind
Stories/words are powerful, they can challenge stereotypes that people hold dear.
—Lee Wind
what does it mean when you don't see yourself? You feel written out of history.
—Lee Wind
Characteristics of sticky ideas: simple yet profound, surprising, credible, concrete, emotional, relatable.
—Molly Blaisdell
Every kid is a different target audience.
—Charlotte Taylor
Books are not "good and "bad", it's just a matter of finding the right reader for each book.
—Sheila Ruth (me)
You have to trust that, as a reader/blogger, that you DO know what you're talking about.
—Unknown, Critical Reviews Session
Words of kidlitosphere: Community. Literacy. Connection. Opportunity. Kindred spirits.
—All of us

And finally, I wanted to leave you with a thought from Lee Wind that I can't stop thinking about. I feel like this one idea profoundly affected my thinking:

Diversity is not "the other" it's the diversity within ourself, and we are all the other to someone.
—Lee Wind

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24. Give a Book and Help Raise a Reader

When I was growing up, our tradition was that we always got at least one book for Christmas, and those were some of my most treasured gifts. I still remember the Christmas that I got an anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories, and I sat next to the Christmas tree and spent a pleasant couple of hours reading. Giving children books as gifts helps to reinforce that books are something special and to encourage a love of reading. Here are some sources that can help you find the perfect book as a gift for the child in your life:

  • 150 Ways to Give a Book: Every year my friend MotherReader posts this list of gifts which pair a book with something fun related to the book. Check out the updated 2013 list here.
  • I've been involved with the Cybils Awards since the award was founded in 2006. Our goal is to honor those children's books which have both literary merit and child appeal. The Cybils lists are great sources of ideas for book gifts. Go to www.cybils.com and check out the 2013 nominations lists by category in the middle sidebar. The nomination lists include links to judges' reviews for many of the books. You can also check out previous years' finalists and winners in the right hand sidebar.
  • I've also been doing some web development work recently for the Mom's Choice Awards, making enhancements to their web store. Here you can shop for books, toys, and other gifts that meet the Mom's Choice standards of excellence. (My husband's book, The Dark Dreamweaver, is a Mom’s Choice Awards® Gold Recipient)
  • Don't forget your local independent bookstore! Independent booksellers are knowledgeable resources who can help you find the perfect gift. You can find a local bookstore or search for books through the IndieBound website.

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25. Cybils 2013 Finalists

For the last three months, my life has been consumed by the Cybils Awards, an award for the best children's and young adult books of the year, as selected by the children's book blogging community.  I've been involved with the Cybils since they were founded in 2006, and I wear a number of different hats. But my favorite part of the Cybils is being a judge, reading and discussing the books with a fabulous panel of judges and selecting the best books of the year. This year I was a judge (and category chair) for the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category, (formerly called Fantasy & Science Fiction) as I have been every year except one since the beginning.

I'm so excited to share with you the seven fantastic books that my fellow judges and I selected as the finalists! A hat tip to my smart, fun, and wonderful fellow judges: Leila Roy, Tanita Davis, Patrice Caldwell, Sarah Mulhern Gross, Hallie Tibbets, and Karen Jensen. Also be sure to check out the Cybils finalists in all the other categories! 

Here are the 2013 Finalists for Speculative Fiction: Young Adult!


Sarah Beth Durst
Walker Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Leila Roy
Conjured is a multiverse fantasy about a magician, a dark carnival of horrors and delights, a group of snarky, teenaged magic users, and a protagonist who is hugely powerful but also hugely vulnerable. It's a cop story about a girl in witness protection. It's a story about friendship and first love, about discovering one's self, about finding a safe haven in a library, and about what it means to be human.
Our narrator is Eve, a girl who doesn't entirely know who she is; who isn't sure who or what, exactly, she's being protected from; whose memory is so fragmented that she sometimes loses entire weeks of her life. By turns, it is frightening, funny, romantic, and heartwarming, and it is, from beginning to end, completely mesmerizing. As Eve unravels the mysteries that surround her, it becomes more and more clear just how layered, complex, beautifully realized, and wholly original her voice--and Durst's vision--is. Upon finishing the book, readers will want to immediately turn back to the beginning to read it again with a completely new perspective.
— Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom 

Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Laurie Ann Thompson
In late fifteenth-century Brittany, Sybella is sent from the convent of Saint Mortain to her ancestral home, where her faith will guide her in the assassination of her father, the horrible Count d’Albret. She is ready withcrossbow, garrote, even poison—but she cannot see the marque of death that allows her murder to be sanctioned by her god, and cannot decide whether or how to act. Throughout Dark Triumph, the sequel to Grave Mercy that can be read as a standalone, Sybella struggles with dissonance: mercy and justice, fate and free will, betrayal and loyalty, vengeance and forgiveness, family and freedom, faith and skepticism. And there’s no time to delay, no time to consider, because France could invade at any moment. Dark Triumph is a grim but hopeful fantasy that blends intrigue, danger, and a little romance into a real historical setting.
— Hallie Tibbets, Undusty New Books 

Laura Lam
Strange Chemistry
Nominated by: Liviania
When sixteen-year-old Micah Grey is caught eavesdropping on the grounds of the R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, a potentially terrifying incident evolves into an impromptu audition. Micah is hired as an aerialist and begins training to replace a soon-to-retire flyer. But the circus is full of secrets, including Micah's, and nothing is as it seems.
Magical, atmospheric and spellbinding, Pantomime is more than just a story about a circus. With complex worldbuilding, full of culture, mythology, and magic, Lam manages to weave a story full of intrigue and emotion. Lam's characters are fully realized and three-dimensional and the way Lam presents Micah's struggle with gender identity and sexuality is handled deftly and without being didactic. Pantomime is a touching, complex, and fantastic story of a teen struggling to find a place in the world; a timeless theme. 
— Sarah Mulhern Gross, TheReadingZone 

Robin McKinley
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Stephanie Burgis
Maggie's mother marrying a backwards, Oldworld geek with a thick accent and a lamentable fashion sense isn't the worst of it. It's abruptly seeing what no one else seems to see - shadows. Newworld belongs to science - bright lights, reason, and technology is what keeps its denizens safe. But with every tremor shaking up her safe, familiar life, Maggie realizes that Newworld - and everything else - isn't what she's been told, and sometimes looking into the shadows lets a person see.
Panelists were nearly unanimous in their love for this fast-paced novel with obedient dogs, less obedient algebra books, quirky humor and loveable characters who are clearly a tribute to the imagination of Diana Wynne Jones. Robin McKinley's Shadows is a classic fantasy novel which reveals a new world to a reluctant heroine, and sends her on a fantastic journey. McKinley touches on themes of civil liberty, freedom, and knowledge in this book and reminds us that we can take what we fear, and use it to arm ourselves to take on the universe.
Fantastic.
— Tanita Davis,  Finding Wonderland 

Alaya Dawn Johnson
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: thereadingzone
In the lush city of Palmares Tres, June Costa creates art that's sure to make her legendary. In Enki, the bold new Summer King, she sees more than his amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist. Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die. Set in a world rich with organic diversity, The Summer Prince is sure to take readers on a journey through the beautiful Palmares Tres and the lives of its inhabitants. Teens, especially, will relate with the pain the book’s protagonist, June, feels, wanting to be recognized for her art in a society where being under 30 means you are no one. In addition, the complex relationship between June, her best friend, Gil, and the one they both love, Enki is sure to pull at heartstrings, making readers fall uncontrollably in love. The Summer Prince is a fantasy like no other, and from its very first sentence, it promises to amaze.
— Patrice Caldwell, Whimsically Yours 

Robin Wasserman
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Liz B
When the killing day comes, violence erupts in the town of Oleander. Many are dead at the hands of the people they love, but this is only the beginning. A year passes and the dark is once again slowly waking; a sinister something seems to seep into the heart of Oleander, turning loved one against loved one. And when the dark wakes, can anyone be safe? The Waking Dark is a slow-boil horror tale where a sleepy, small town becomes a character in its own right. A group of teens are left behind to navigate a path to safety only in the midst of the incredible violence that has overtaken their town. They struggle with the very real emotions of self discovery and alienation, the trials of faith and doubt, and the very real question of who you can trust when this sickness seems to turn the hearts of all the towns inhabitants. Wasserman takes the epidemic tale to interesting new depths by placing very real teens in the midst of a Stephen King-esque novel and amping up the volume. Teen life was never quite so terrifying.
— Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian's Toolbox 

Ian Doescher
Quirk Books
Nominated by: Pink Me
Star Wars and Shakespeare go together like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. If the Bard were alive today, he would surely have written the epic story of a young man’s search for identity amidst a galactic battle for freedom -- and the larger tragedy of his father's descent into darkness, redemption, and death. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars turned out to be so much more than the gimmicky book we initially assumed it would be. Ian Doescher has imbued every line of this book with his passion for, and understanding of, both the Shakespeare and Star Wars canon. It goes far beyond just mimicking Shakespeare’s language: from Darth Vader’s introspective monologues to R2-D2’s Puckish asides, this is truly Star Wars the way that Shakespeare would have written it.
Although this book tells the story of Episode IV: A New Hope, (the original Star Wars movie) it draws on the other films and the larger Star Wars universe for some of the material, and even includes nods to Star Wars fandom. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is rich with literary merit - one judge is already using it in a classroom Shakespeare unit - and oozing gooey teen appeal, especially for Star Wars fans. All of the judges would love to see this performed live, or even participate in the staging of it!
— Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

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