Wednesday, October 14, 2015

National Book Award Finalists!

As much as I'd like to announce myself as one of the 2015 National Book Award finalists in the Young People's Literature category, alas, I cannot. But I'm still excited about the fantastic books up for the prize this year! Here's a quick roundup. Click and add to your TBR list:

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 352 pp
middle grade contemporary
Goodreads summary:
After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Baltzer +  Bray; 268 pp
young adult contemporary
Goodreads summary:
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
HarperTeen; 320 pp
young adult contemporary
Goodreads summary:
Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press; 384 pp
young adult nonfiction/historical
Goodreads summary:
On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these documents had been comissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicans claiming to represent their interests. 

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
HarperTeen; 266 pp
young adult fantasy (graphic novel)
Goodreads summary:
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

For more information on the award, including the finalists and longlisted titles in other categories, visit the National  Book Awards website here

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Reading Right Now Wednesday: THE GLASS SENTENCE

Trying out this idea of reporting in on what I'm reading this week. Bit of a disclaimer: I usually post about children's books, but with this particular series, there will be some adult reads thrown in too.

This Week: 

The Glass Sentence

author: S.E. Grove
pub info: Viking Books for Young Readers, 2014; 493 pp
audience: young adult (ages 12+)
genre: fantasy
why I'm reading it: The premise sounded so fantastic, and everyone seems to love it
Goodreads link
Quick summary:
It's a topsy-turvy world when in 1799 the Great Disruption occurs--different parts of the world are suddenly thrust into different time periods. This new world needs someone to map it, and Sophia's uncle is the foremost cartologer in the world. But when he goes missing, it's up to Sophia to find him.

So Far:
I am so completely hooked just by the prologue of this book. This is one that I know will suck me in and let the dinner burn (er ... cook itself?). Great writing and a luscious storyline combine for a book that's impossible to put down. Also: I'm promised pirates! I'm so in!

Fun Fact:
S.E. Grove's sequel, The Golden Specific, was published in July. The series has one more book to go. You can learn more about the author at her website here and in this interview by The Washington Post.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Talk Like a Pirate Day!

OK, it's not like I've never celebrated this day before, but I can hardly ignore it this year, considering that THE WAND & THE SEA has been out in the world for only a few months. You already know that your local (participating!) Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop will give you free doughnuts for dressing and talking like an 18th-century seafaring criminal (and why not?), and I recently posted a brief history on where the pirate's jargon came from. For those of us who are totally into all things piratical, a day devoted to saying arrrrr and shiver me timbers makes perfect sense, but no doubt the rest of the world is thinking ...

Why pirates?

What makes them so attractive to us, when we know they were typically thieving, ruthless brigands? How did murderous sea captains become lovable rebels?

Pirates were admired in their time precisely because they didn't follow rules. Some of them adhered to the Pirate Code, and some were dashing privateers, but the freedom of the true pirate was what made him a romantic hero. In the restrictive Victorian age, when certainly women--but men, too--had so many rules to follow, the idea of sailing away on one's own ship and living exactly as one pleased had a great appeal. Never mind that most pirates lived free for a very short time--typically, less than 10 years. It was the idea of the thing. And so we've remade them into harmless or dashing heroes, which is not really what they were. We've fallen in love with characters, only. But that's what fiction is all about. Right?

You did know that my latest book features a band of somewhat atypical pirates, didn't you? In the second installment of THE KEY & THE FLAME series, Holly and the boys team up with a pirate captain to set sail and rescue the Adepts of Anglielle. Read more about the book here.


clip above taken from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Reading Right Now Wednesday

Trying out this idea of reporting in on what I'm reading this week. Bit of a disclaimer: I usually post about children's books, but with this particular series, there will be some adult reads thrown in too.

This Week: 

The Strangers

author: Jacqueline West
pub info: Dial Books, 2013; 320 pp
audience: middle grade (ages 9+)
genre: fantasy
why I'm reading it: I've read Books #1-#3 in the Books of Elsewhere series, and they're all marvelous; this is Book #4
Goodreads link

Quick summary:
Olive faces new dangers and mysteries as autumn approaches and strangers arrive to the house on Linden Street on Halloween night.

So Far:
Jacqueline West's detailed, delightful writing always keeps me turning pages, and this book is no exception. Although this series encompasses only months, not years, of Olive's life, it's interesting to see how she's changing as she tiptoes toward adolescence. The creeps in this book are pretty scary without causing nightmares. Unless this ends on some kind of weird, wrong note (not the author's style), I'm sure I'll end up loving the finished book as much as I do now, at the beginning.

Fun Fact:
Author Jacqueline West has completed the Books of Elsewhere series (a total of five) and has turned her talents to YA fiction. Her "eerie Shakespearan" novel will be released in April 2016. Entertainment Weekly gives you a peek at the first pages of Dreamers Often Lie here. For an introduction to the Books of Elsewhere, check out the book trailer below.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: GOODBYE STRANGER by Rebecca Stead

title & author: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
pub info: Wendy Lamb Books, August 2015; 304 pp
audience: middle grade (10+)
genre: MG contemporary
caveats: nothing much, but the themes are definitely middle school to early high school
review excerpt: "Sensitively explores togetherness, aloneness, betrayal and love." --The New York Times Book Review
Goodreads summary:
Bridge is an accident survivor who's wondering why she's still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody's games--or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl--as a friend?
On Valentine's Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?
my thoughts:
Rebecca Stead is one of the few authors whose books I buy on preorder--before they've been reviewed, before I know anything about them, before any hype has time to gather. I've read all four of her novels, and I've rejoiced at seeing her grow and deepen as a writer. Goodbye Stranger combines several standby Stead elements: multiple points of view; a bit of a mystery; the complexity of friendships as children approach all the changes that adolescence brings. One of the wonderful things about this book is that it introduces some mature themes (not sexual, just mature) that readers will discover in YA (ages 12+) fiction, but in a somewhat "safer" environment. Bridge's character, her struggles to keep her old friendships and make new ones, will resonate with middle schoolers, while the unnamed high school girl's issues speak of what may lie ahead in years to come. My favorite part of the book is the relationship between Bridge and Sherm--not really boyfriend/girlfriend, but leaning ever so slowly in that direction. And as always, Stead's writing is crisp, never wordy, and very, very real. A great addition to her canon.

find Rebecca:
Rebecca's website, here, showcases her upcoming events and her three other books--First Light; the Newbery Award winner When You Reach Me; and Liar & Spy. Her blog includes infrequent posts on news and events. She also hangs out on Twitter.

Be sure to visit Shannon Messenger's blog to see more fun links to great middle-grade reads and giveaways!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Reading Right Now Wednesday

Good idea? Bad idea? Post about books I'm reading and what I think of them? Well, I'll give it a try for a while. I'm not the fastest reader on the planet, but I try to spend at least an hour a day doing it, so I do get through a fair number of books in a year. And, as you may be aware, I often give away brand-new copies of my particular faves. Bit of a disclaimer: I usually post about children's books, but with this particular series, there will be some adult reads thrown in too.

This Week: 

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

author: Claire North
pub info: Redhook, 2014; 432 pp
audience: adult
genre: time travel / science fiction
why I'm reading it: It's this month's selection for one of my book clubs, though I already had it on my to-read list because it looked so good
Goodreads link

Quick summary:
Harry is cursed (if you like) with a repetitive life--that is, when he dies, he is immediately reborn into exactly the same body at the same time, and his life begins again. Forever. When Harry learns that others like him may be responsible for bringing about the world's end, he decides to act--and that changes everything.

So Far:
So yeah, I'm aware that the premise is very like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which is a stunningly great book--probably the best I read last year. The story, though, couldn't be more different. The style is less literary, which I don't mean as a bad thing; the author just takes a very different voice from the Atkinson book. In both novels, the main characters ponder what it means to have foreknowledge of the future, and whether that compels one to "fix" things. This book is a real page turner, with a strong main character and fascinating storyline. I'm loving it.

Fun Fact:
Author Claire North has also written under the name Catherine Webb, which she used when writing YA fiction, as well as Kate Griffin. She wrote her first novel when she was 14, for which I have forgiven her. Pretty much.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Great Upcoming MG Reads

This fall is shaping up to be a fantastic season for MG (middle-grade) novels. In the publishing biz, MG is typically geared to ages 8-12, the upper end leaning toward age 14. It's my favorite audience to write for, and MG books have the greatest heart and variety in all of publishing. These are the ones I'm most looking forward to this week. They're landing on your bookshop's shelves tomorrow! Review quotes come from Kirkus Reviews.

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
pub info: Aladdin, 384 pp
genre: MG historical thriller/mystery
In 1665 London, a 14-year-old apothecary's apprentice breaks codes and eludes the mysterious Cult of the Archangel to find his master's killer.
"A spectacular debut."

The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB by Adam Shaughnessy
pub info: Algonquin, 272 pp
genre: MG fantasy / real-world magic
11-year-old Pru joins the Fantasy Investigation Bureau to learn why Norse gods are suddenly appearing in her town.
"[The] puzzles and plot twists will absorb and intrigue younger readers as they consider the book’s central questions about truth, magic, and adventure."

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
pub info: Dial, 400 pp
genre: MG historical
Mimi, a biracial girl, struggles to fit in at her new school in 1969 Vermont.
"Readers will be moved by the empathetic lyricism of Mimi’s maturing voice."

A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder
pub info: Atheneum, 160 pp
genre: MG fantasy
Alternating chapters tell the stories of two girls, one human and one a water sprite, and their quest to save their sisters.
"Exquisitely written with words and images that demand savoring."

A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson
pub info: Atheneum, 352 pp
genre: MG fantasy mystery
Four sisters living in a Victorianesque fantasy world use magic and investigation to acquit their wrongfully accused father.
"Thoroughly entertaining."

Redeemed by Margaret Peterson Haddix
pub info: Simon & Schuster, 416 pp
genre: MG science fiction
In the eighth and final installment of the wildly popular Missing series, the Skidmore kids travel to the future to try to repair time and save the world.
"A satisfying end to a long-running series."

Seven Dead Pirates by Linda Bailey
pub info: Tundra, 320 pp
genre: MG humorous ghost story
A boy named Lewis discovers his bedroom is haunted by seven pirates who need to find their way home.
"Piratical fun well-stocked with colorful cast members living and arrghh."

Head over to Shannon Messenger's blog for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday fun!