Spring 2016 Preview: April Releases

It’s unusually warm in Witch City right now. On February 1st, it was 65F! Here’s hoping that this post of my most anticipated April releases in (mostly) YA fiction will ward off last year’s snowpocalypse! (Summaries are from Goodreads.)

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Tell the Wind and Fire, by Sarah Rees Brennan, is about a young girl called Lucie who lives in a New York very different from the New York we know: the city is torn between two very different kinds of magic, and Lucie’s own family was torn apart years ago by that conflict. Lucie wears magic rings and carries a burden of guilt she can’t share with anyone. The light in her life is her sweetheart boyfriend Ethan, but it turns out Ethan has a secret too: a soulless doppelganger created by dark magic, who has to conceal the face identical to Ethan’s with a hood fastened by a collar nobody but a Light magician with magical rings can take off… and who introduces himself to both of them by, for reasons nobody can understand, saving Ethan’s life…

25785728Daughters of Ruin, by K.D. Castner: Game of Thrones meets Graceling in a thrilling debut that follows the four fierce princesses of enemy kingdoms as their worlds collide in the throes of war. Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses…and they are enemies. Not long ago, a brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye. For ten years the girls have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace.

27272506The Glittering Court (The Glittering Court #1), by Richelle Mead: A dazzling new fantasy series set in a mix of Elizabethan and frontier worlds that’s dripping with romance. Big and sweeping, spanning the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court. Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies capable of arranging powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World.

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The Mirror King (The Orphan Queen #2), by Jodi Meadows: After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in the devastated city. When the Ospreys’ leader emerges at the worst possible moment, leaving Wil’s biggest ally on his deathbed, she must become Black Knife to set things right.

23253083Flamecaster (Shattered Realms #1), by Cinda Williams Chima: Set in the same world as her beloved Seven Realms series, a generation later. Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it? Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told that the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target….Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, [Ash and Jenna] will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.

24157347-1The Last Boy and Girl in the World, by Siobhan Vivian: What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together? While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together. And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

21525975Burning, by Danielle Rollins: After three years in juvie, Angela Davis is just a few months shy of release, and she’ll finally be free from the hole that is Brunesfield Correctional Facility. Then Jessica arrives. Only ten years old and under the highest security possible, this girl has to be dangerous, even if no one knows what she did to land in juvie. As strange things begin happening to Angela and her friends that can only be traced to the new girl’s arrival, it becomes clear that Brunesfield is no longer safe. They must find a way to get out, but how can they save themselves when the world has forgotten them?

19254725Gena/Finn, by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson: Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

24346235South of Sunshine, by Dana Elmendorf: In Sunshine, Tennessee, the main event in town is Friday night football, the biggest party of the year is held in a field filled with pickup trucks, and church attendance is mandatory. For Kaycee Jean McCoy, life in Sunshine means dating guys she has no interest in, saying only “yes, ma’am” when the local bigots gossip at her mom’s cosmetics salon, and avoiding certain girls at all costs. Girls like Bren Dawson. Unlike Kaycee, Bren doesn’t really conceal who she is. But as the cool, worldly new girl, nobody at school seems to give her any trouble. Maybe there’s no harm if Kaycee gets closer to her too, as long as she can keep that part of her life a secret, especially from her family and her best friend. But the more serious things get with Bren, the harder it is to hide from everyone else. Kaycee knows Sunshine has a darker side for people like her, and she’s risking everything for the chance to truly be herself.

25613771Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here, by Anna Breslaw: Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor. When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them…until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett’s stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.

24921960Saving Montgomery Sole, by Mariko Tamaki: Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks and girls who don’t even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren’t for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects. Then there’s the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having two moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym.

26030682Girl in the Blue Coat, by Monica Hesse: Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion. On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room.

25777460Once Was a Time, by Leila Sales: In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place?

25695607My Kind of Crazy, by Robin Reul: Despite the best of intentions, seventeen-year old, wisecracking Hank Kirby can’t quite seem to catch a break. It’s not that he means to screw things up all the time, it just happens. A lot. Case in point: his attempt to ask out the girl he likes literally goes up in flames when he spells “Prom” in sparklers on her lawn…and nearly burns down her house. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing. Much to Hank’s dismay, Peyton takes an interest in him—and his “work.” The two are thrust into an unusual friendship, but their boundaries are tested when Hank learns that Peyton is hiding some dark secrets, secrets that may change everything he thought he knew about Peyton.

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The Scarlet Letter meets Divergent in Flawed (Flawed #1), by Cecilia Ahern. Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan. But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

27882492Emerge, by Tobie Easton: Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she’s never lived in the ocean. War has ravaged the seven seas ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality. Lia has grown up in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he’s gorgeous in that cocky, leather jacket sort of way and makes her feel like there’s a school of fish swimming in her stomach, but getting involved with a human could put Lia’s entire community at risk. So it’s for the best that he’s dating that new girl, right? That is, until Lia finds out she isn’t the only one at school keeping a potentially deadly secret. And this new girl? Her eyes are dead set on Clay, who doesn’t realize the danger he’s in.

25320766Love, Lies and Spies, by Cindy Anstey: Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research. Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

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The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry: I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it. Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all. Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

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For fans of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places and Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, The Darkest Corners, by Kara Thomas, is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become. There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them. Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good. Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night.

23536973Future Shock, by Elizabeth Briggs: Elena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life–or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporation selects her for a top-secret project, she can’t say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future to bring back data, and she’ll be set for life. Elena joins a team of four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy with his own reason for being there. But when the time travelers arrive in the future, something goes wrong and they break the only rule they were given: do not look into their own fates. Now they have twenty-four hours to get back to the present and find a way to stop a seemingly inevitable future from unfolding.

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Heir to the Sky, by Amanda Sun: As heir to a kingdom of floating continents, Kali has spent her life bound by limits—by her duties as a member of the royal family; by a forced betrothal to the son of a nobleman; and by the edge of the only world she’s ever known—a small island hovering above a monster-ridden earth, long since uninhabited by humans. She is the Eternal Flame of Hope for what’s left of mankind, the wick and the wax burning in service for her people, and for their revered Phoenix, whose magic keeps them aloft. When Kali falls off the edge of her kingdom and miraculously survives, she is shocked to discover there are still humans on the earth.

25659436Nightstruck, by Jenna Black: The night is the enemy, and the city of Philadelphia is its deadliest weapon. Becket is an ordinary teenage girl, wrestling with the upheaval of her parents’ divorce….That all changes the night she tries to save an innocent life and everything goes horribly wrong. Becket has been tricked into opening a door between worlds. As dark magic trickles into Philadelphia, strange creatures roam the streets and inanimate objects come to life, all of them bloodthirsty and terrifying. The city returns to normal when the sun rises each morning. The moment the sun sets, most citizens shut themselves in their houses and stay there no matter what they hear.

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The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4), by Maggie Stiefvater: All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in (mostly) young adult fiction at Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books.

 


YA Recommendations Roundup: Winter/Spring 2015

2015 has been an amazing year for YA! Since we’re halfway through the year, I thought it would be a great time to post a roundup of what I’ve recommended so far at Coven Book Club (plus a few extras):

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18081228-1Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen: Seventeen-year-old Mare is a “Red” living in Norta: a kingdom divided by red blood and silver blood. The Silvers (and the royal family in particular), with their supernatural powers and wealth, rule over the Reds. (Recommended with The Sin Eater’s Daughter here.)

Melinda Salisbury’s The Sin Eater’s Daughter: Seventeen-year-old Twylla’s life seems ideal and reads like a myth or fairy tale. As a goddess embodied, she has superhuman powers, lives in a castle and is engaged to a handsome prince. But she is at the mercy of a tyrannical queen who has made her the royal executioner.

Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses: Inspired by Beauty and the Beast mixed with faery lore, this series features another strong heroine: nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre. After she kills a wolf in the woods, a beastly creature demands retribution by taking her to a faraway magical land inhabited by the Fae. (Read my discussion with Allison and Nicola here.)

Jodi Meadow’s The Orphan Queen: In this engrossing YA fantasy, a tough princess, Wil, wants desperately to take back her conquered kingdom. Nearly ten years ago, the Indigo army attacked her homeland Aecor and killed every noble adult, putting their children in an orphanage (from which Wil and her orphan “family,” called Ospreys, escaped). The Ospreys are stealthy thieves who have been plotting for years to infiltrate the Indigo Kingdom. To spy on the Indigo Court, Wil and her best friend, Melanie, impersonate refugee nobles who have fled a fallen kingdom for the safety of Skyvale Palace. Not only must Wil hide her true identity from Crown Prince Tobiah (whom she fears might recognize her from ten years ago), but she must keep her magical abilities secret. Magic is banned from the Indigo Kingdom to prevent the toxic by-product of magic (called wraith) from spreading. Wil must also avoid another confrontation with Black Knife, a vigilante who is really good at catching magic-users (besides herself). Full of risky adventure, magic, and romance, The Orphan Queen is a great choice for fans of Graceling and Throne of Glass.

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Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn: This is the first book in a trilogy that reimagines A Thousand and One Nights, with a “Beauty and the Beast” twist. Every evening Khalid, the ruler of Khorasan, takes a new bride whom he executes at dawn. After Shahrzad’s best friend becomes one of his victims, she volunteers to marry Khalid. She intends to stay alive long enough to kill him (by cleverly telling him stories), but then…she falls for him. (Read my recommendations here and here.)

Melissa Grey’s The Girl at Midnight: I immediately loved this book’s protagonist, seventeen-year-old Echo, a runaway pickpocket whose home is a hidden room in the New York Public Library. Like me, she’s a hoarder of books who’s guilty of Tsundoku–letting books pile up without reading them; she also steals treasures and uses magic to travel through the in-between from place to place. Echo has been adopted by the Avicen–an ancient race of feathered people with magical abilities who live beneath the city–and she is the only human who can see them. Her relationship with the Avicen puts her in danger of being caught by the dragon-like Drakharin. For centuries, the Avicen and the Drakharin have been enemies. According to legend, the only way to truly end their conflict is to find the very powerful Firebird. The Girl at Midnight switches between the perspectives of Echo and Dragon Prince Caius as they both seek the Firebird.

Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes:This book explores familiar themes of tyranny, slavery, rebellion, magic, family loyalty, and forbidden love in a complex and unique way. Set in a brutal Rome-like world, the novel alternates between the perspectives of Elias, an elite soldier, and his mother’s slave, Laia. Elias unwillingly attends Blackcliff, where the Commander (his mother) trains him to be a Mask–an enforcer of the Martial empire’s laws. As he plans to desert the military, he’s chosen to compete for the Emperor’s throne, an opportunity that hasn’t come along in centuries. Laia is one of the conquered Scholar people. After her brother was arrested for helping the Scholar Resistance, she agreed to spy for the rebels as the Commander’s slave as long as they help save her brother. As Elias and Laia struggle to hide their true feelings toward the empire in order to survive, their lives intersect, further testing their beliefs and loyalties. I can’t wait to find out what happens next to Elias and Laia! (Allison loves this book too! Check out her recommendation here.)

Virginia Boecker’s The Witch Hunter: This book brilliantly reimagines an alternate 16th century England (Anglia) where magic is real and forbidden. (Read my recommendation here.)

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Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap: Two months ago, Finn was the only witness to the disappearance of Roza, his brother’s girlfriend. While the people of Bone Gap stop looking for her because they think she fled, Finn believes she was kidnapped and he must find her, but he can’t recall what her abductor looks like. (Recommended with The Walls Around Us and Bones & All here.)

Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us: Told through alternate voices, this creepy supernatural tale combines prison drama and dance rivalry — “Orange is the New Black meets Black Swan” as some reviewers have called it. There’s Amber, imprisoned in a girls’ juvenile detention center, and Violet, a dancer haunted by her best friend Orianna’s imprisonment and death in that detention center.

Camille DeAngelis’s Bones & All: Sixteen-year-old Maren wants to belong and feel normal, be loved and love herself; but a dark secret keeps her ashamed and alienated.

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MarcyKate Connolly’s Monstrous: Fairy tale fantasy combines with a Frankenstein motif, as twelve-year-old Kymera is brought back to life by her father, but without her original human body and memories of her previous life. (Recommended with Nightbird and Echo here.)

Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird: Twig is not just a lonely and awkward 12-year-old who has difficulty making friends and feeling normal. A family secret—more specifically, a witch’s ancient curse—keeps her and her mother in self-imposed isolation.

Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo: In these interconnected stories, a magical harmonica unites two boys and a girl growing up before and during World War II.

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22489107Sarah McGuire’s Valiant: In this retelling of “The Brave Little Tailor,” a clever and courageous tailor’s daughter, masquerading as a boy, defends a kingdom from an immortal duke and his army of giants. (Recommended with The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly here.) 

Stephanie Oakes’s The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly: This debut about real-world violence against women in a religious commune is very cleverly based on the fairy tale “The Handless Maiden.” Minnow Bly lost her hands after she rebelled against the Kevinians, and now she is in a juvenile detention center as the main suspect in the Prophet’s murder investigation. Fortunately, this novel is hopeful as well as harrowing.

Marissa Meyer’s Fairest is the latest book (following Cress) in The Lunar Chronicles: a science-fiction retelling of Cinderella (Cinder, 2011), Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet, 2012), Rapunzel (Cress, 2012), and Snow White (Winter, Nov 2015). The series’ overarching plot involves the main characters trying to stop the Lunar queen (who can control minds with her powerful glamour) from threatening the humans, androids, cyborgs, and Lunar refugees that live on Earth. If Prince Kai won’t marry Levana, she’ll attack Earth! Fairest (2015) tells Levana’s story of how she became the villain we love to hate. While the other books depict her as rather one-dimensionally evil, Fairest reveals the underlying reasons for her villainy. It does not justify her evil behavior but portrays her as a surprisingly complex and sympathetic character.

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21853636Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places: “Freak” Theodore Finch and “popular” Violet Markey don’t kill themselves by jumping off their high school’s bell tower. They don’t suffer through their darkest days alone. Rather, their meeting on the ledge of the bell tower saves their lives. (Read my recommendation here.)

Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Only one person knows that sixteen-year-old Simon is gay: the anonymous “Blue.” But when Simon forgets to log out of his email account at school, Martin reads his secret email correspondence with Blue and threatens to out him. Unless Simon can convince his new friend Abby to fall for Martin. As Simon’s relationships with his friends, family, and Blue become compromised and more complicated, he has to make tough decisions about what to disclose and what to keep secret. (Recommended with Because You’ll Never Meet Me here.)

Leah Thomas’s Because You’ll Never Meet Me: Ollie and Moritz are not automatic friends and their personalities are very different. While Ollie is willing from the start to befriend and open up to Moritz (his “Dear Fellow Hermit”), Moritz is rude and reluctant to talk about his life and become friends. But Ollie doesn’t give up on Moritz, and eventually their letter writing evolves into an intense and unusual friendship.

Courtney Summers’s All the Rage: No one believes Romy Grey was raped—certainly not by the sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner. Romy was once popular, but after she speaks up about being sexually assaulted her former friends won’t stop bullying her. Branded a liar and an outcast, she’s forced to suffer in silence and shame. (Read my recommendation here.)

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22465597Trisha Leaver’s The Secrets We Keep:  After a heated argument, twin sisters Ella and Maddy are in a car crash and Maddy is killed. When Ella wakes up in the hospital, everyone thinks she’s Maddy. Consumed with survivor’s guilt and convinced that her parents love Maddy more, Ella decides to become her twin. (Recommended with In a World Just Right here; read my author interview here.)

Jen Brooks’s In a World Just Right: Ever since a plane crash left Jonathan’s parents and sister dead and him with disfiguring scars, he has coped with the real world by escaping to other worlds where he can be better versions of himself. (Read my author interview here.)

Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girls: If you have read Lauren Oliver’s previous books (Delirium, Panic, etc), then you know she’s an excellent writer who realistically portrays what it’s like to be a teen. With its surprising plot twists and turns, this book is an emotionally turbulent account of how sisters Dara and Nick went from being inseparable to estranged after a terrible car accident pushed them apart.

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22501055-1Lori Goldstein’s Becoming Jinn: Sixteen-year-old Azra tries desperately to cut through a silver bangle, but nothing she conjures–a chisel, a hammer, a wrench–can free her from becoming a Jinn like her ancestors. (Recommended with Written in the Stars and Half Wild here.)

Aisha Saeed’s Written in the StarsSeventeen-year-old Naila has no clue that she will soon travel to Pakistan on a vacation that will become an arranged marriage.

Sally Green’s Half Wild: In modern-day Europe, witches secretly coexist with humans and are divided into two warring factions: White (“good”) versus Black (“bad”) witches. Nathan, as a half code, is at the heart of this conflict.

Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky: Although it takes place in 1849 during the California Gold Rush, this book is not a typical American frontier myth featuring stereotypical cowboys and cowgirls. The “cowgirl” narrator, fifteen-year-old Sammy, is Chinese, and what she struggles to overcome on the American frontier is racism. When her father’s death and another horrible incident force Sammy to flee Missouri, she and a runaway slave, disguised as male, join a group of guys heading for California on the Oregon Trail. Click here to read what Stacey Lee had to say about creating Under a Painted Sky.

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1740889718713071-1Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger: This is the ideal book–and the perfect game–for book-lovers of all ages. You will have so much fun searching for hidden books, solving puzzles, creating secret codes, and dodging danger with Emily and James.

Kathleen Baldwin’s A School for Unusual Girls: This fun historical fantasy book (the first in a series) reimagines an alternate Regency England soon after Napoleon’s exile, where misbehaving girls at a “reform school” play an important role in saving England from its many enemies.

Cheri Priest’s I am Princess X: When her best friend Libby died, so did the heroine they created: Princess X. At least that’s what May thought. Then why, years later, is the Princess showing up everywhere? Could Libby still be alive? The clues are in the webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com.

Jennifer Latham’s Scarlett Undercover: Sixteen-year-old Scarlett is a smart and sarcastic Muslim American PI who will remind you a lot of Veronica Mars. What starts off as a case to solve a suicide enmeshes Scarlett in a supernatural world where magic, jinn and an ancient curse are tied to her own heritage.

Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction at Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books.


Fall 2015 YA Preview: September Books

I’m so excited about the fall books I’ll be reading (and recommending) this summer! Here are my most anticipated September releases, and I’ll be back tomorrow to share with you my most anticipated October releases. Then for the next five months, I’ll recommend my favorite summer and fall books. (Summaries are from Goodreads.)

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Vengeance Road, by Erin Bowman: When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice.

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon: This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4), by Sarah J. Maas: Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past. She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Drift & Dagger (Salt & Storm prequel), by Kendall Kulper: As a boy in the late nineteenth century, Mal’s only friend was Essie, daughter of the Roe witch, and it was she who discovered that he is a “blank,” not affected by magic, setting him on a career as a con artist, traveling the globe in search of a legendary magical dagger that can steal a witch’s power.

Serpentine, by Cindy Pon: Serpentine is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology. Lush with details from Chinese folklore, Serpentine tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

25163300183693722331076122095547The One Thing, by Marci Lyn Curtis: Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

The Hired Girl, by Laura Amy Schlitz: Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her delicious wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a moving yet comedic tour de force. Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends?

Tonight the Streets Are Ours, by Leila Sales: From the author of This Song Will Save Your Life comes a funny and relatable book about the hazards of falling for a person you haven’t met yet. Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she’s tired of being loyal to people who don’t appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom.

The Weight of Feathers, by Anna-Marie McLemore: For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life.

2320374423848212-12073400222616123Dream Things True, by Marie Marquardt: A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

I Crawl Through It, by A.S. King: Four talented teenagers are traumatized-coping with grief, surviving date rape, facing the anxiety of standardized tests and the neglect of self-absorbed adults–and they’ll do anything to escape the pressure.

Untwine, by Edwidge Danticat: Giselle Boyer and her identical twin, Isabelle, are as close as sisters can be, even as their family seems to be unraveling. Then the Boyers are caught in a car crash that will shatter everyone’s world forever.

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24885790243970412384599724885636  This Monstrous Thing, by Mackenzi Lee: In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits….Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead. But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces.

Lock & Mori, by Heather W. Petty: In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James “Mori” Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart. Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more. 

Blood and Salt, by Kim Liggett: Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror. “When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.” These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey: Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

Zeroes, by Deborah Biancotti, Margo Lanagan, and Scott Westerfield: Ethan, aka “Scam,” has a way with words. When he opens his mouth, whatever he wants you to hear comes out. But Ethan isn’t just a smooth talker. He has a unique ability to say things he doesn’t consciously even know. Sometimes the voice helps, but sometimes it hurts – like now, when the voice has lied and has landed Ethan in a massive mess. So now Ethan needs help. And he needs to go to the last people who would ever want to help him – his former group of friends, the self-named “zeros” who also all possess similarly double-edged abilities, and who are all angry at Ethan for their own respective reasons.

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Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), by Leigh Bardugo: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone….Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.

Walk on Earth a Stranger, by Rae Carson: The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America.

The Suffering (The Girl from the Well #2), by Rin Chupeco: It’s been two years since Tark Halloway’s nightmare ended. Free from the evil spirit that haunted him all his life, he now aids the ghostly Okiku and avenges the souls of innocent children by hunting down their murderers. But when Okiku becomes responsible for a death at his high school, Tark begins to wonder if they’re no better than the killers they seek out.

Updraft, by Fran Wilde: Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review. In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves. Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

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183043222330986224202895The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen, by Katherine Howe: A haunting, contemporary love story fromthe New York Timesbestselling author of Conversion. It’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy: Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Madly, by Amy Alway: When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Sound (Salvage #2), by Alexandra Duncan: As a child, Ava’s adopted sister Miyole watched her mother take to the stars, piloting her own ship from Earth to space making deliveries. Now a teen herself, Miyole is finally living her dream as a research assistant on her very first space voyage. If she plays her cards right, she could even be given permission to conduct her own research and experiments in her own habitat lab on the flight home. But when her ship saves a rover that has been viciously attacked by looters and kidnappers, Miyole—along with a rescued rover girl named Cassia—embarks on a mission to rescue Cassia’s abducted brother, and that changes the course of Miyole’s life forever.

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23340891Ash & Bramble, by Sarah Prineas: When the glass slipper just doesn’t fit…The tale of Cinderella has been retold countless times. But what you know is not the true story. Pin has no recollection of who she is or how she got to the Godmother’s fortress. She only knows that she is a Seamstress, working day in and out to make ball gowns fit for fairy tales. But she longs to forsake her backbreaking servitude and dares to escape with the brave young Shoemaker.

The Shadow Behind the Stars, by Rebecca Hahn: A girl’s dark destiny could cause the unraveling of the world in this spellbinding novel from the author of A Creature of Moonlight, which Kirkus Reviews called “cumulatively stunning” in a starred review. Heed this warning, mortal: stay far away from the three sister Fates. For if they come to love you, they might bring about the end of the world…

Fans of the Impossible Life, by Katie Scelsa: This is the story of a girl, her gay best friend, and the boy in love with both of them.

Sweet Madness, by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie: Sweet Madness is a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.

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The Unquiet, by Mikaela Everett: For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she’s beginning to suspect she is not a good person. The two Earths are identical in almost every way. Two copies of every city, every building, even every person. But the people from the second Earth know something their duplicates do not—two versions of the same thing cannot exist.

The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow: A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures.

Daughters unto Devils, by Amy Lukavics: When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner’s family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly Ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

The Dead House, by Dawn Kurtagich: Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

MIDDLE GRADE

23310699204999232367658124396876Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate: In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience. Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

A Curious Tale of the In-Between, by Lauren DeStefano: Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help.

Dead Boy, by Laurel Gale: A darkly funny and literary debut novel about a dead boy named Crow who has a chance at friendship – and a chance at getting his life back. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a life. Crow Darlingson died in the 4th grade. But he’s still alive. And growing, actually. He can’t eat or taste anything, his body parts sometimes fall off (mom always sews them back on, though), and he’s only allowed to leave his house once per year, on Halloween.

The Thing About Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin: 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. 

2488573423277166A Pocket Full of Murder, by R. J. Anderson: In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.

The Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, by Lauren Oliver: Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events.

ICYMI: Here are my most anticipated May/JuneJuly/August and October releases.

Alyssa Raymond recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction at Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books. She also writes staff recommendations for the Boulder Book Store, where she worked for many years as a bookseller. She thanks Edelweiss, Netgalley, Boulder Book Store, and publishers for providing her with ARCs and DRCs for review purposes. Please chat with her on Twitter about books! What are your most anticipated summer and fall releases?


INTRODUCING COVEN BOOK CLUB’S SISTER: SPELLBINDING BOOKS

EPSON MFP imageHi everyone!

I’m so excited to introduce Coven Book Club‘s sister site celebrating spellbinding books and magical beings in literature. Spellbinding Books primarily recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction, with occasional recommendations for adult and middle grade books. Here’s more information about me and the site.

Over the past few days, I have recommended Jodi Meadows’ The Orphan Queen, Virginia Boecker’s The Witch Hunter, Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girls, and Alison Goodman’s Eon and Eona (among others). Soon I will post recommendations for these upcoming releases: Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes, Melissa Grey’s The Girl at Midnight, Sarah J Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Rosesand Courtney Summer’s All the Rage (among many more).

We hope you enjoy celebrating the magic of books with CBC’s “teen witch” sister site, and happy reading!

– Alyssa Raymond (please follow me on Twitter.


New Fairy Tale Retellings: Echo, Nightbird, Monstrous

Last week I recommended my favorite YA epic fantasy books published this month. Now I will share with you a few of my favorite new releases in another subgenre of fantasy/science fiction: fairy tale retellings.

You would think by now that reading classic fairy tales and their many adaptations and retellings would get old. But, amazingly enough, many writers have used familiar fairy tale elements to create surprisingly inventive and complex narratives. Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo, Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird, and MarcyKate Connolly’s Monstrous employ fairy tales in their narratives in very diverse ways.

Echo, a breathtaking novel of interconnected stories, begins with an original fairy tale involving a magical harmonica that unites two boys and a girl growing up before and during World War II. They live in different worlds, strangers to one another, but they all experience prejudice and share a love of music.

The first story features Friedrich, an aspiring conductor who is called “Monster Boy” because of his birthmark and labeled an undesirable in Nazi Germany. In the second story, set in Pennsylvania, Mike and his brother desperately try to escape from an orphanage and their musical talent may be their best hope. In the final story, which takes place in California, Ivy struggles with her school system’s segregation of Mexicans (including those American-born like her) and discrimination against Japanese Americans following the Pearl Harbor bombing. By uniting these individual stories, Echo not only emphasizes their common experiences of injustice but their love of music—an enduring source of hope and resilience during dark times.

Nightbird, which will be released in March, also employs magical realism and is a fairy tale set in contemporary times. In 12-year-old Twig’s small town of Sidwell, Massachusetts, a winged monster is rumored to come out at night and is believed to be responsible for strange incidents of theft and graffiti. Twig is a keen observer of what goes on in the town, but she also stays separate, and Nightbird fuses fairy tale elements with everyday life to bring more meaning to her isolation. She is not just a lonely and awkward 12-year-old who has difficulty making friends and feeling normal. A family secret—more specifically, a witch’s ancient curse—keeps her and her mother in self-imposed isolation. That is until Twig befriends their new neighbors who have ties to her family secret, and she starts to believe that breaking the curse is possible.

Monstrous also features a magical creature that humans fear and a curse the characters struggle to overcome. Fairy tale fantasy combines with a Frankenstein motif, as Kymera is brought back to life by her father, but without her original human body and memories of her previous life. A year ago she was killed, along with her mother, by the evil wizard who abducts and murders girls, using their young blood as a powerful ingredient in his magic spells. After many experiments joining his daughter’s human parts with multiple animal parts, her father has finally succeeded in recreating her as a hybrid with patchwork skin, cat eyes, claws, wings, and a barbed tail.

Monstrous’ fantasy world mirrors Kymera’s beloved volume of fairy tales, which she and her father read together during their seclusion in a hidden cottage outside of the city of Bryre. Her father wants to keep them safe from the evil wizard’s magic and from humans who would feel threatened by her appearance. Humans would see her as a monster, he explains, and not as his perfect creation and their salvation.

The wizard has cursed Bryre with a spreading deadly briar and a disease that sickens girls who he imprisons before using them for his dark magic spells. Bryre’s salvation depends on Kymera: her hybrid form is ideal for rescuing the girls from the wizard’s prison and bringing them to her father who cures and protects them. Her rescue missions become more complicated, however, as memories of her former life slowly resurface and her friendships with a mysterious boy and a rare dragon cause her to question what she believes to be true.

Although written for middle grade and young adult readers, I recommend these books for all ages—especially if you like fairy tale retellings. I love how they apply fairy tale magic to universal experiences of loneliness, prejudice, and finding hope and love in a damaged world. Older readers may find plot twists predictable, but I hope that doesn’t prevent anyone from picking up these enchanting reads. I also recommend Bird and Beastkeeper if you are looking for comparable books.

Perhaps what I love most about these novels and about many fairy tale retellings is that so-called monsters (who are alienated, judged, feared, and threatened because they are different in appearance or status from people considered normal and acceptable) demonstrate extraordinary humanity and don’t stop fighting for justice.

If you want a sense of just how many YA fairy tale retellings there are, check out this wonderful infographic.

Alyssa Raymond loves to read, review and collect books–thanks to her many years as a bookseller. She can’t wait to share with you her favorite new releases and thanks Edelweiss, NetGalley, the Boulder Book Store, and the publishers for providing her with advanced readers copies in exchange for her honest reviews.