Fall 2016 YA Preview: September Books

Hi everyone! I’m really excited about these September releases in young adult fiction. (Summaries are from Goodreads.)

 

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5), by Sarah J. Maas: The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t. As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Like a River Glorious (The Gold Seer Trilogy #2), by Rae Carson: After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2), by Leigh Bardugo: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. 

Frost Like Night, by Sara Raasch (Snow Like Ashes #3): Meira will do anything to save her world. With Angra trying to break through her mental defenses, she desperately needs to learn to control her own magic—so when the leader of a mysterious Order from Paisly offers to teach her, she jumps at the chance. But the true solution to stopping the Decay lies in a labyrinth deep beneath the Season Kingdoms. To defeat Angra, Meira will have to enter the labyrinth, destroy the very magic she’s learning to control—and make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor: Strange the Dreamer is the story of: the aftermath of a war between gods and men, a mysterious city stripped of its name, a mythic hero with blood on his hands, a young librarian with a singular dream, a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled, alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage. Welcome to Weep.

Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake: Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, by Rosamund Hodge: When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched. The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1), by Jessica Cluess: Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers. Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.

The Forgetting, by Sharon Cameron: Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person’s memories – of parents, children, love, life, and self – are lost. Unless they have been written. In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn’t written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.

Metaltown, by Kristen Simmons: The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Stealing Snow, by Danielle Paige: Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she’s not crazy and doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Vassa in the Night, by Sarah Porter: In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood. In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue.

Of Fire and Stars, by Audrey Coulthurst: Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden. Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

As I Descended, by Robin Talley: Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them. Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

Stalking Jack the Ripper, by Kerry Maniscalco: Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life. Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

Here’s my reposted recommendation for The Reader , by Traci Chee: If I lived in a world where reading was rare and books were literally magic–and, like Sefia and Archer, my life was in danger because of the one book I possessed–I’d better be holding The Reader. Chee’s debut, celebrating literacy and storytelling, unlikely friendship and slow-burn romance, is a breathtaking adventure you’ll treasure. (Especially if you have to fight off pirates and assassins!)

Replica (Replica #1), by Lauren Oliver: Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it. Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing, they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

And the Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich: When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the “blood manor” is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too–the questions that Silla can’t ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that’s appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?

The Women in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics: Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.  When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

What’s on your list?

Alyssa thanks the Boulder Book Store, the publishers, Edelweiss, and NetGalley, for review copies.


Outrun the Moon, by Stacey Lee

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Last July, in my post “Cross-Dressing Heroines in New YA Westerns,” I called Stacey Lee’s debut, Under a Painted Sky, “a nontraditional, diverse, feminist western that celebrates female heroism, adventure, and resilience.”  Her latest novel, Outrun the Moon, is not a western; but it is a nontraditional, diverse, and feminist exploration of a significant historical event: the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which destroyed the city and killed roughly 3,000 people.

Like Sammy in Under a Painted SkyOutrun the Moon‘s Chinese-American heroine, Mercy Wong, is headstrong, ambitious, and clever. According to her Ma, her high cheekbones, called “bossy cheeks,” are a sign of authority, meaning she’s assertive and independent. So true.  We can tell from the first few sentences alone that she’s bold and adventurous:

In my fifteen years, I have stuck my arm in a vat of slithering eels, climbed all the major hills of San Francisco, and tiptoed over the graves of a hundred souls. Today, I will walk on air.

Tom’s hot air balloon, the Floating Island, hovers above us, a cloud of tofu-colored silk trapped in netting.

Mercy almost floats away in Tom’s hot air balloon. But this is not how she wants to escape Chinatown! She has a plan. She will become a successful business woman like Mrs. Lowry, the author of her much-loved Book for Business-Minded Women. First, she must get a prestigious education; but how will she do that when the best schools exclude non-whites? (Mercy has graduated from the Oriental Public School.)

Mercy’s clever plan for admittance to St Clare’s School for Girls is just the beginning of this powerful novel that celebrates triumph over racism, sexism, and classism. When the disastrous earthquake strikes, her assertiveness and resilience become even more important as she must rally other survivors to overcome their sorrows and prejudices and work together to build a community amidst the ruins.

Alyssa just realized she published this post without including her bio! Here it is. She thanks the author for an ARC of Outrun the Moon, for review purposes only, and Alyssa’s opinions are her own.


Summer 2016 YA Preview: July/August

Here are my most anticipated July and August releases. (Summaries are from Goodreads.)

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This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1), by Victoria Schwab: The city of Verity has been overrun with monsters, born from the worst of human evil. In North Verity, the Corsai and the Malchai run free. Under the rule of Callum Harker, the monsters kill any human who has not paid for protection. In the South, Henry Flynn hunts the monsters who cross the border into his territory, aided by the most dangerous and darkest monsters of them all—the Sunai, dark creatures who use music to steal their victim’s souls. As one of only three Sunai in existence, August Flynn has always wanted to play a bigger role in the war between the north and the south. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate Harker, daughter of the leader of North Verity, August jumps on it. When Kate discovers August’s secret, the pair find themselves running for their lives and battling monsters from both sides of the wall. As the city dissolves into chaos, it’s up to them to foster a peace between monsters and humans.

Math_9780553539479_jkt_all_r1.inddHow to Hang a Witch (How to Hang a Witch #1), by Adriana Mather: Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were? If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history is about to repeat itself.

27245910The Shadow Hour (The Girl at Midnight #2), by Melissa Grey: Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace. The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart. Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome. She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight. Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature–or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground? Welcome to the shadow hour.

23454794Wax, by Gina Damico: Paraffin, Vermont, is known the world over as home to the Grosholtz Candle Factory. But behind the sunny retail space bursting with overwhelming scents and homemade fudge, seventeen-year-old Poppy Palladino discovers something dark and unsettling: a back room filled with dozens of startlingly life-like wax sculptures, crafted by one very strange old lady. Poppy hightails it home, only to be shocked when one of the figures—a teenage boy who doesn’t seem to know what he is—jumps naked and screaming out of the trunk of her car. She tries to return him to the candle factory, but before she can, a fire destroys the mysterious workshop—and the old woman is nowhere to be seen. With the help of the wax boy, who answers to the name Dud, Poppy resolves to find out who was behind the fire. But in the course of her investigation, she discovers that things in Paraffin aren’t always as they seem, that the Grosholtz Candle Factory isn’t as pure as its reputation—and that some of the townspeople she’s known her entire life may not be as human as they once were. In fact, they’re starting to look a little . . . waxy. Can Poppy and Dud extinguish the evil that’s taking hold of their town before it’s too late?

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The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3), by Mary E. Pearson: Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous – what will happen now?

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2), by Sabaa Tahir: A Torch Against the Night takes readers into the heart of the Empire as Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison. Hunted by Empire soldiers, manipulated by the Commandant, and haunted by their pasts, Laia and Elias must outfox their enemies and confront the treacherousness of their own hearts. In the city of Serra, Helene Aquilla finds herself bound to the will of the Empire’s twisted new leader, Marcus. When her loyalty is questioned, Helene finds herself taking on a mission to prove herself—a mission that might destroy her, instead.

28205310Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives #2), by Kate Elliot: Now a Challenger, Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives–the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons alike. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes’s only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on her traveling party puts Jes at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos–the prince she still loves–is fighting against their country’s enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal’s life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion…. She must become a warrior.

MIDDLE GRADE

25689012The Voyage to Magical North, by Claire Fayers: Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter. When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship theOnion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.

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Sticks & Stones, by Abby Cooper: Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

The Rat Prince, by Bridget Hodder: The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is turned into her coachman by the Fairy Godmother on the night of the big ball. And he’s about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on his way to a most unexpected happy ending!

Alyssa is happy spring is almost here. She can’t wait to read these books outside!


Winter 2016 YA: Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen was one of my favorite books of 2015, so while I was very excited to finally get my hands on its sequel, Glass Sword, I was afraid that it would not live up to the awesomeness of its predecessor. Fortunately, what I love most about Red Queen–its rich world-building, dynamic characters, high-stakes adventure and romance, and plot twists and turns that never lose their punch (even after multiple reads)–continues in Glass Sword, but with an even more elaborate and expansive setting, cast of characters, and storyline.

23174274I don’t want to risk spoiling the plot of Red Queen and Glass Sword in case you haven’t read them yet; rather, I want to focus on the number one lesson that the protagonist, Mare Barrow, learned in Red Queen–anyone can betray anyone–and the effect this devastating truth has on her character and purpose.

After discovering she’s not the only gifted Red (newblood), Mare enters a deadly race against her enemies to find and recruit an army of newbloods who will join the Red rebels (the Scarlet Guard) in their fight against their evil Silver oppressors. This means Mare’s a hero, right?

Yes, and no. Motivated by revenge, and consumed with heartbreak, alienation and a deep-rooted hatred for Silvers in general, how will Mare not become as cruel and dangerous as her enemies? How will betrayal and treachery not turn her into the kind of monster she is fighting against?

What I love most about Aveyard’s series is that it explores the liminal space between heroism and villainy in a way that reminds me of another favorite series of mine: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites. A few months ago I wrote about Adelina Amouteru, the gifted hero turned villain, who becomes increasingly treacherous in The Rose Society. In that post, I commended Adelina’s successful evolution into a villain. Rather than trying to overcome her negative traits (fear, anger, stubbornness, manipulation, hatred, vengeance, and narcissism), Adelina recognizes that they make her a more formidable opponent. Motivated by revenge and destruction, not compassion, love and heroism, Adelina would rather be everyone’s adversary than risk being anyone’s victim.

Similarly, Mare must demonstrate her negative traits in order to become a more powerful opponent. She cannot lead a revolt and defeat her enemies with kindness and mercy. She will not be a victim. Not again. While Mare isn’t as villainous as Adelina in her quest for revenge–she still feels love, compassion, loyalty, and guilt–Mare is determined to kill her enemies. But at what cost?

Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult). Please follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.


The Fox and the Star

61bbttaeMNL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_I think most of you who frequent our pages regularly know that I love books with illustrations, so my recommendation today should be no surprise. The Fox and the Star, by Coralie Bickford-Smith is one of those gorgeous books that I hope everyone with a child will buy. Don’t get me wrong, adults will love this book too (I’m having a little trouble letting go of my copy!), but this is the kind of book that children will remember having when they’re adults.

First of all, it has the most beautiful cloth cover. I vividly recall every book I had as a child with a cloth cover. Little fingers love to stroke the slightly rough canvas and it creates a tactile memory that can’t be easily erased. It’s a cool size too. It’s big, but it’s tall (vertically speaking) and has a bit of a “grown up” feel to it, even though it’s perfectly whimsical. Needless to say, the inside is gorgeous as well. I’ve included some of the illustrations in this post, so you get a taste of how lovely the illustrations are. It’s no surprise that this book is outstandingly well made, Bickford-Smith works as an in-house designer at Penguin and designed the “Clothbound Classics” series, among others.

Once there was a Fox who lived in a deep, dense forest. For as long as Fox could remember, his only friend had been Star, who lit the forest paths each night. But then one night Star was not there, and Fox had to face the forest all alone and learns to embrace life and the world around us.

But a beautiful book, with lovely illustrations won’t cover up a lackluster story, we all know that. Luckily, this is one of the most moving children’s books I’ve ever read. The story is about a little fox who has a star for a friend. As long as Fox can see Star, he’s reassured that someone cares for him. Then one night Star doesn’t appear and Fox must go looking for his companion. Some people have called this journey a metaphor for depression/anxiety/mental illness and I can definitely see that line of thinking. It’s also a touching reminder of how friendship changes us and reassures us, even when times are difficult.

The illustrations are simply put, lush. Bickford-Smith is a master of the repeating pattern and the amount of detail in each image is stunning. But it’s more than just good design. The repeating images reinforce the notion that though the Fox feels alone, he is actually surround by so much more than the star. When he goes out into the world, the repeating patters of flora and fauna surround him, reminding Fox that even when he feels alone, he isn’t. I especially love the message that Fox gets at the end to “Look up beyond your ears.”  This book is a beautiful reminder that we’re a part of things, even when we feel lonely.

I think that children will like this book no matter what they’ve got going on (it’s that pretty!), but I do believe that for a kiddo going through a tough time, The Fox and the Star would be especially comforting. I had a book like this when I was a kid, Diane Stanley’s illustrated version of Fiddle-I-Fee (which is out of print, I’m sorry to say!)From its cloth bound cover, to its reassuring storyline, it made a very tough time for me as a little kid a lot better. To this day, I can take it off my shelf and just the feel of the cover makes me feel loved. I think The Fox and the Star could be that kind of book for some children.

If you’ve got little ones, The Fox and the Star is a must-have. But even if you don’t have a wee one, I think lovers of illustration, design and a comforting story will be fans of this book. Now let’s look at some pictures! 71NaPFa4iKL (1)71BcVDE8mWL81+KKs4087L

Allison Carr Waechter promises that she’s still reading books with words, despite her last few recommendations.