Thursday, February 26, 2015

ICYMI: Scholastic's Releases from December 2014

I have full reviews for 21 Proms (because it's almost prom season) and The Killing Woods (because I loved Stolen) on the way, but I wanted to acknowledge two of Scholastic's December releases that I enjoyed as well, one for the boys and one for the girls. That's what I love about Scholastic books: they easily appeal to both genders, illustrating that everyone can be a hero/heroine no matter the situation. Scholastic is definitely a company that cares about showing readers diverse settings and dynamic characters.


Author: Trent Reedy
Release Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher & ARC: Scholastic
Ages: 14+

I reviewed another Reedy book recently (If You're Reading This), and I can honestly say that Trent Reedy is making a big splash in YA literature. While girls would definitely enjoy this book, it is geared more towards young men. Book one of an upcoming trilogy, Daniel Wright, 17, is doing his job at the Idaho National Guard when he is suddenly hit by a rock thrown from a protester. Accidentally engaging his gun, Daniel's actions cause widespread gunfire and deaths. Caught between the governor's protection and the President's orders, he must find a way to stay safe while the world around him begins its descent into chaos. Daniel's "good ole boy" charm and clever juxtaposition of turmoil and valor make for a fantastic trilogy opener.


Author: Sara B. Larson
Release Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher & ARC: Scholastic
Ages: 12+

Book two of Larson's "Defy" series, Alexa is a Katniss or Tris-type heroine who is severely scarred but has made a name for herself in King Damian's rule. A sword fighter in the battles of the first book, Alexa has a complicated relationship with Damian, and there's definitely some weird attraction there, so weird, in fact, that Alexa literally hurts when she is around him. A sort of "Beauty and the Beast" reversal, Alexa is blinded by love and fueled by vengeance when danger strikes the kingdom of Antion.  More riveting than the first book, I defy you to try to read this book in more than one sitting. 



Thursday, February 19, 2015

ICYMI: Trilogies that Came to an End in November 2014

Author: Robin LaFevers
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher & ARC: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Ages:  14+

LaFevers concludes the "His Fair Assassin" series (2012 Grave Mercy and 2013 Dark Triumph).  Set in 1400s Brittany, the book's protagonist, Annith, is struggling with her confinement in the St. Mortain convent. Eager for the same equality Sybella and Ismae have received, Annith must wait for her chance while a younger girl is chosen. Deciding to put her own fate in her own hands, Annith escapes the convent. On her own, Annith runs into a Hellequin, those whose sole responsibility is returning home with the dead. At first taken aback, Annith quickly realizes Balthazaar is not a danger to her but something else entirely. Followers of the series won't be disappointed as the conclusion is satisfactory, and Annith, though not quite as captivating as her friends, is a heroine all her own. 


Author: Michelle Hodkin
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher & ARC: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Ages: 13-18

My favorite of the three trilogy finales in November, Mara Dyer has become an experiment in the hands of Dr. Kells. Not able to control her actions or answers, Mara is left with answers. Is Noah really dead? What is really wrong with her? Following the advice of her hallucinatory (maybe?) subconscious, Mara is the sole protagonist of the third book. leaving the romance out until the end, which was a breath of fresh air. Not that I don't enjoy a steamy romance, but Mara needed her solidarity to discover her identity. While the finale felt more like a prequel at times, Mara's story is actually just beginning. Complete with a dual narrative to conclude the trilogy (I won't tell you who), Mara Dyer has become  a staple in young adult literature, and I hope this isn't the last we hear from her. 
  

Author: L.A. Weatherly
Release Date: (Paperback) November 14, 2014
Publisher & ARC: Candlewick
Ages: 12+

The "Angel Burn" trilogy that put a spin on how we typically think of angels ended with Angel Fever. In the series, angels are not the overseers of the innocent and protectors of the good. The finale picks up after the decimation (or what we thought was) of the angels. Heroine Willow and her boyfriend Alex are plotting how to finally take down the angels in a secret underground bunker. Complete with a love triangle, that while mostly overused in YA lit appears to work here, Weatherly has ended her series with everything that makes literature enjoyable. 


Reveal by Calvin Klein



I received a sample of Calvin Klein's of Reveal, Calvin Klein's new fragrance for me. Since my husband doesn't like cologne, I used it on myself, and it smells amazing. Definitely woodsy, the fragrance isn't overbearing, and it didn't bother my sinuses (I'm very sensitive to strong smells). There's some citrus undertones which are nice and fresh. If I were a guy, I would totally buy the full size.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ICYMI: October 2014 YA Releases

Author: C.J. Lyons
Release Date: (Paperback) 10/01/2014
Publisher & ARC: Sourcebooks Fire
Ages: 13-18

In the beautiful new paperback to novel originally released in 2013, Scarlet has just found out that she will die from a heart condition doctors tell her is untreatable. Like every teen, Scarlet just wants to live as normal of a life as possible, with however much time she has left. Things that make Scarlet's heart pound normally are the boy she has a crush on and the bullies that surround her. But unlike the typical teen drama of high school, something darker awaits Scarlet, and she must discover it before it kills her. Scarlet is a typical teen with a bit more curiosity than most, and Lyons' own experience with Long QT is well placed in her character.


Author: Jamie Kain
Release Date: 10/7/2014
Publisher & ARC: St. Martin's Griffin
Ages: 13-18

In probably one of the most original plots from last year, two sisters, Asha and Rachel, must figure out why their sister, Sarah, died from fall off of a cliff. After "the good sister" dies, she wakes up in the afterlife and must figure out how she got there and who is responsible. On Earth, Asha and Rachel must work together to solve the puzzle of their sister's death. Very reminiscent of The Lovely Bones (which is one of my favorite books and movies), Kain's storytelling from two perspectives is provoking, and watching the sisters as their relationship molds itself around grief is gripping. 


Author: Jen Nadol
Release Date: 10/7/2014
Publisher & ARC: Simon Pulse
Ages: 13-18

Seeing into the future has always been a temptation and a mystery. There are those who claim to do it and those who pay good money for a glimpse. For Riley and his friends, who find a pair of binoculars in a cave, seeing the future might be more than just a hook-up with his best friend's girlfriend...it might mean murder. While each friend sees something different through the lenses, they all see a vision of murder, and when it comes true, they must identify the killer. Like Pretty Little Liars for male readers (though girls will equally love it), this is one thriller that pays off in the end.


Author: Marie Lu
Release Date: 10/7/2014
Publisher & ARC: Putnam Juvenile
Ages: 13-17

My students and I loved the Legend series, and now Lu returns to YA with 16 year old Adelina who is a survivor of the blood fever. Labelled a malfetto, a survivor, Adelina's appearance has changed. She has a scar, her eyelashes have turned pale, and her hair has changed color. Not only must she survive her abusive, power-hungry father, but the Young Elites are looking for her.  Not sure whom to trust, Adelina must control her powers, which even to her a mystery. Taking a bold and successful step into fantasy, Lu once again proves why she's one of the top YA writers.


Author: Rick Riordan
Release Date: 10/7/2014
Publisher & ARC: Disney Press
Ages: 12-17

Jason, Piper, and Leo are all a part of a wilderness school for troubled teens, and they are all demigods. In a spin-off of the Percy Jackson series, Rick Riordan has a little bit more fun with this graphic novel version of the first in the Heroes of Olympus series. During a trip to the Grand Canyon, the group is attached by mysterious spirits, rescued by a satyr, an taken to Camp Half-Blood. There they learn one of their parents is Greek/Roman god or goddess. Once they have accepted their identities, they must now protect their legacies. Much like Star Wars Rebels is to Star Wars, so is The Lost Hero Graphic Novel to the Percy Jackson series. Not necessarily a bad thing and a necessary component to the world of Riordan's mythology.


Author: Suzy Zail
Release Date: 10/14/2014
Publisher & ARC: Candlewick
Ages: 12-17

There's always something about the Holocaust that calls to readers. Whether it be the tragic story of Anne Frank or this particular survival story, the slaughter of millions of people strikes the hearts of people of every walk of life. Hanna is a young Jewish girl who loves to play the piano; in fact, she's on way to a prestigious conservatory until the Nazis invade her home, force her onto a cattle car, and send her to Auschwitz. The only thing that saves Hanna's life is the desire from a commandant to have a piano player. Zail's protagonist is brave, and her story is necessary to the legacy of Holocaust survivors.


Author: Christina Lauren
Release Date: 10/14/2014
Publisher & ARC: Simon & Schuster
Ages: 13-18

Colin loves near-death experiences; in fact, he craves them. The adrenaline pumping through his veins while he's on his bike is only temporary, and Colin must search for the next big thrill. He finds it in Lucy, a dead girl who walks the grounds of their school. Ok, it's not unusual to read a book about two teens who are separated by the lack of mortality or pending death (i.e. Twilight and The Fault in Our Stars), but it's just old hat now. If you're looking for a book where you can find endless romantic nods, this is the one for you. Though you've probably read it before. 



Author: Ben Tripp
Release Date: 10/14/2014
Publisher & ARC: Tor Teen
Ages: 12 +

Probably one of my favorite books from last year, Tripp enters the YA world with a fantasy novel unlike any other. Protagonist Kit Bristol, sixteen, used to work in the circus as a trick rider but has seemingly moved up in the world. Accidentally mistaken for his master, who is a notorious highwayman, Kit must flee and save the elusive Princess Morgana. Taking cues from classic fairy tales and lore, Tripp weaves this tale with companionship, bravery, and fabled jocularity. Complete with illustrations, the book is simply charming.  


Author: Rick Riordan
Release Date: 10/21/2014
Publisher & ARC: Disney-Hyperion
Ages: 10-14

My high school students still ask if our library has these books; that's just how popular and beloved they are by young readers. Now, Disney-Hyperion has released a paperback three-book boxed set. Complete with The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, and The Mark of Athena, readers can now have a beautiful collector's set of their favorite novels in easier to handle paperback copies.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Bargaining by Carly Anne West


Release Date: February 17, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
ARC: Edelweiss
ISBN: 9781442441828
Ages: 13-18


About the Author:
Carly Anne West is a freelance writer with an MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. She lives with her husband and son in Seattle, Washington. 
In her debut novel The Murmurings, Carly Anne West stepped onto the YA fiction scene with a chilling paranormal thriller reminiscent of Stephen King's best work. Check out her website here





Review:

I love a good ghost story. With the success of The Conjuring and Insidious, not to mention Paranormal Activity, encountering the paranormal is both exciting and daunting. With fear and trepidation, we step slowly into the dark halls of the house we know we're not supposed to be in, or we follow the sound that cannot be deciphered as human or ghost. Fear is the adrenaline that West clings to in her novel, and she does so with imaginative settings, believable characters, and just enough spine-chilling descriptions to force readers to keep a light on at night.

Dreamfire by Kit Alloway


Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher & ARC: St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN: 9781250063663
Ages: 13-18

About the Author:
(from Macmillan's website)KIT ALLOWAY writes primarily for young adults, having always had an affection for teenagers.  In addition to writing, she plays various musical instruments, decorates cakes, mixes essential oils, and studies East European languages.  She lives in Louisville, KY with her family and four very tiny dogs. Dreamfire is her debut novel.




Review:

When I first read the premise of this book, I was a little worried. Since I'm a huge horror movie fan, I thought the plot sounded a lot like that of Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Knowing that this would probably not be the case, I let go of the connection (probably only visible in my mind anyway) and dived right in. Boy was I glad I did. Alloway's debut YA novel is nothing short of harrowing, romantic, and enthralling.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta


Writer: Robert Kirkman, Artist: Paul Azaceta
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Image Comics
ARC: Netgalley

Robert Kirkman shows he's not only a genius when it comes to zombies. Entering the paranormal world of demons and exorcisms, Kirkman explores faith in a way The Walking Dead only tiptoes around. Complete with characters who struggle with faith vs. reality, with finding one's place in the world, or remaining an outcast. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

ICYMI: Some of the Best from September 2014

Author: Isabel Gillies
Release Date: 9/2/2014
Publisher & ARC: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Ages: 12-16

We've all been there, turning fifteen and having our first crush. For Wren, a talented, young artist with hopes of going studying in France, her first love, Nolan, is going to knock her off her feet. Wren and Noah meet at the Metropolitan Museum of art where her father is the director. In much the same way as Endless Summer, Wren forgets about her aspirations to study aboard and falls hopelessly in love with Nolan. This tale of teen love is both realistic and fantastical , illustrating both the magical moments of appears to be true love and the heartbreaking moments where it turns out not to be.


Author: Adina Rishe Gewirtz
Release Date: 9/9/2014
Publisher & ARC: Candlewick
Ages: 9-13

Eleven year old Annie and her nine year old brother Rew have never known their father. Abandoned by their mother, Annie and Rew live with their ailing grandmother near the Zebra, a forest of tall trees. Hearing of the news that a man has escaped from a nearby prison, Annie and Rew have no reason to believe they would be in danger, nor any reason to believe their father would still be alive after believing he was dead for so many years. But when he shows up at the door and holds them hostage in their house, Annie and Rew must learn the truth about their father. Gewirtz's debut YA novel succeeds in its emotional realism and depiction of a hopeful, dysfunctional family. 


Author: Dawn O'Porter
Release Date: 9/9/2014
Publisher & ARC: Harry N. Abrams
Ages: 13-17

Like many young girls, Dawn O'Porter kept diaries through her teenage years, and her debut novel is a truthful example of teen angst. Fifteen year old Flo and Renee attend the Guernsey private school where gossip and teen drama about, albeit before Twitter and Facebook, text messaging, and Snapchats. It's the 90s, and like myself, girls were secretly passing notes written with pencil and paper. A dual narrative, O'Porter cleverly switches the perspectives of two British teens who struggle with everything from menstruation to treacherous best friends. Definitely not a "boy book," Flo and Renee's stories will ring true to most teen girls as it mixes humor with real life, showing that not everything needs to be taken so seriously all the time, but for those few genuinely serious moments, it's nice to have someone you can talk to.


Author: Gregory Maguire
Release Date: 9/9/2014
Publisher & ARC: Candlewick
Ages: 12+

Everyone loves a good fairy tale, and Maguire has certainly cemented himself into the halls of such a genre. A re-imagining of several classic tales, Russian child Elena suddenly finds herself switched with Ekaterina on a train to St. Petersburg. It wouldn't be such a big deal if Elena didn't come from poverty while Ekaterina is a daughter of privilege. Along the journey, both girls encounter the fantastical such as witch Baba Yaga and the traditional such as a set of matryoshka dolls. The time period is not surprisingly a juxtaposition of old and new, and the layered lessons of kindness and social class remain true. 


Authors: Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
Release Date: 9/9/2014
Publisher & ARC: Scholastic
Ages: 8-13

Book one of the "Magisterium" series, YA greats Black and Clare team up to bring young readers the story of Callum Hunt, a twelve-year-old, who is fearful of magic and the Magisterium, a school for young "mages." Hunt's father Alistair blames the mages for his wife's death and encourages Callum to fail his entrance exams. Even though Callum attempts to fail, the Magisterium accepts him anyway, and he begins his tutelage under Master Rufus. Befriending Aaron and Tamara, the trio begin their first year of training. In much the same way as Harry, Hermione, and Ron explored Hogwarts, Callum, Aaron, and Tamara explore the mysterious halls of the Magisterium. With twists and turns on every page, and in every hall, Black and Clare create a new world for the imagination, one that is so enticing, the sequel couldn't get here any quicker. 


Author: Katie Rain Hill 
Release Date: 9/30/2014
Publisher & ARC: Simon & Schuster
Ages: 14+

Katie Hill's brave story of being a transgender teen is recognizable not only because it was televised (Hill's former boyfriend is Arin Andrews, also a transgender teen and author of Some Assembly Required also released on September 30, 2014) but because there are so many young men and women struggling with their identities right now. Hill recounts many tales of being bullied and of feeling confused, of finding the right time to tell her mother, and of facing life-altering surgery. Andrews covers everything from their failed relationship to funnier, lighter moments of genuine friendship. In 2015, when the idea of being transgender doesn't seem to be (or really shouldn't be) as taboo, young readers will find comfort in their memoirs. 


Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: 9/30/2014
Publisher & ARC: Scholastic
Ages: 13-18

Stiefvater returns with the second volume of the Raven Cycle. Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Blue are beginning to pull away from each other as Ronan's dreams are becoming a part of his reality. Not only does he have to be afraid of his dreams, but the Gray Man has come into town in search of Ronan. While he deals with his own identity issues, Blue and Gansey grow dangerously closer. While in the first book, the narrative focused singularly on the Raven boys, here the Gray Man intermittently steps in while Ronan's isolation to learn more about himself and his family grows. After setting up the background in the first book, Stiefvater quickly lets the story progress to more violence and mystery. Will the Gray Man capture Ronan, and what will Ronan continue to bring from his dreams?


Author: Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
Release Date: 9/30/2014
Publisher & ARC: Cinco Puntos Press
Ages: 13-16

Cinco Puntos Press is a publishing company that needs a lot more recognition for its diverse settings and multicultural perspectives. In this novel, fifteen-year-old Masi is trying to reinvigorate her dying neighborhood of Pig Park (named so because of its industrial lard company) by agreeing to build a pyramid with her friends. Amidst the convergence of community pride, Masi's mother leaves Chicago for Texas where she is diagnosed with diabetes, and her father has to stay and keep the family bakery afloat. Masi is soon entangled with a young man named Felix who is interested in rebuilding the neighborhood, and her attention from the pyramid and her family is easily swayed. Martinez writes dynamic characterizations and a genuine feeling of community improvement for a community not unlike many we see every day.


Author: Gena Showalter
Release Date: 9/30/2014
Publisher & ARC: Harlequin Teen
Ages: 14+

Book three of Showalter's White Rabbit Chronicles finds Ali and Cole progressing towards a physical relationship while managing to kill zombies. Armed with a team of zombie fighters, Ali and Cole must put their intimacy on hold (constantly) in order to survive and keep the group safe. Research company, Anima, sets out to destroy Ali and Cole, and Ali must find a way to keep everyone safe and alive, especially Cole. . Just when you think Ali and Cole can finally be together, Showalter finds a way to lighten the moment and leave the reader frantically turning the page. The end to the trilogy is fast-paced and satisfying, juxtaposing Showalter's flair for the extraordinarily  ordinary life of a teen zombie hunter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cori McCarthy's Breaking Sky Book Trailer Release



View the Book Trailer!





Breaking Sky
Sourcebooks Fire
March 2015 ● ISBN: 9781492601418
Hardcover/$16.99 ● Ages 14+


Fly to the last drop of fuel. Fight to the last drop of blood.

Showoff. Reckless. Maverick. Chase Harcourt, call sign “Nyx”, isn’t one to play it safe. In the year 2048, America is locked in a cold war – and the country’s best hope is the elite teen fighter pilots of the United Star Academy. Chase is one of only two daredevil pilots chosen to fly an experimental “Streaker” jet. But few know the pain and loneliness of her past. All anyone cares about is that Chase aces the upcoming Streaker trials, proving the prototype jet can knock the enemy out of the sky.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How (Not) To Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts


Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher & ARC: Entangled Publishing
ISBN: 9871622665204

About the Author:
(From her website)Like many story spinners, I started writing at a very young age. I’ll always be grateful to my second-grade teacher, Ms. Kathy Scott, who kept a shoebox of writing ideas on a bookshelf in her classroom. Eventually I graduated from her idea shoebox to my own ideas, though my second-grade novella about a family of coffee cups living under the sea raises serious doubts about my plotting skills.
I still haven’t recovered from the teenage trauma of nearly tweezing off my eyebrows and having to pencil them in for an entire school year – just one of a million memories that inspires me to write and read YA books. Check out her website here.

Review:
There's always that girl that seems to have it all--beauty and money--and that girl is seventeen-year-old Darcy Covington. She goes to the best school, has the best clothes, and entertains the coolest friends. But not everyone can stay perfect forever. Once Darcy's car is repossessed and her father leaves, Darcy's life is turned upside down.

ICYMI: Some of the Best From August 2014

Author: Ann Aguirre
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Ages: 12-18

We've all thought about making the deal with the Devil to get something we want, being caught between two choices that could forever change our lives. Thought about it, however, is about as far as most of us consider; for Edie, she makes that choice and is soon caught up in a supernatural world she didn't expect. Caught between two worlds, one where is she is a 17 year old bully victim, and one where she is physically beautiful, Edie must decide what's truly important to her, all the while falling in love with Kian, the handsome, mysterious boy who offered her a deal she can't refuse. Dark, refreshing, and irresistibly smart.



Author: Sean Beaudoin
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick, Reprint
Ages: 15-17

With the popularity of everything "zombie" right now, seventeen-year-old Nick's story fits right in. Working at a chicken factory, Nick has a breakdown and is sentenced to three months in jail. When the dead start walking, Nick and his fellow inmates must learn how to survive. Beaudoin doesn't sugar-coat the zombie craze or hide behind a tawdry love story. Instead, his eccentric characters turn the zombie genre on its head, mixing bloody action with the somewhat disturbing, yet realistic, inner thoughts of the protagonist. Just when you thought the zombie craze couldn't be reinvented.


Author: Coe Booth
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
Ages: 8-12

Booth reminds me a lot of Walter Dean Myers. Dealing with similar inner city lives of young adults, Booth characterizes 11 year-old Jarrett as a young African-American boy struggling with school and getting enough attention from his mom who has decided to open their home to foster children. Worried about repeating the sixth grade, Jarrett now has to room with Kevon, a 12-year-old foster child. Soon, Jarrett realizes that Kevon's distance comes from a long history of sadness. Coping with Kevon's presence, Jarrett turns his attention to making horror movie trailers with his friend. A poignant look at inner city life.


Author: Tanuja Desai Hidier
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: PUSH/Scholastic
Ages: 15-18

Hidier's 2002 Born Confused brought the memorable and feisty character of Dimple Lala, and she returns in full form in Bombay Blues.  Bringing along Karsh and her love of photography, Dimple heads to India for her cousin's wedding. Upon arrival, Karsh's endeavors into the electronic world push Dimple away, and she finds solace in a fellow photographer. When reading Hidier's lyrical prose, I found myself drifting away to times when I was reading Life of Pi in college as Hidier shares Yann Martel's gift for lively descriptions of exotic settings. One to watch, Tanuja Desai Hidier is here to stay.



Author: Trent Reedy
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic/Levine
Ages: 10-16

As a high school teacher, I see so many young men drifting through the day with no guidance from a father figure. For 15-year-old Mike, who lost his father in Afghanistan, daily life is its own struggle. Bullies, a lack of self-confidence, no clear path in life has left Mike feeling confused until letters from his dead father arrive and show Mike that life isn't what he thought. With a set of missions (such as to ask a girl out), Mike now has a clear goal. Wanting to play football, Mike must move past his mother's disapproval and find his own identity. Inspiring and powerful, Reedy gives all young men hope.