Category Archives: Fiction

Hell & High Water by Tanya Landman

Hell & High Water by Tanya Landman. June 13, 2017. Candlewick Press, 320 p. ISBN: 9780763688752.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 830.

“Any money for Mr. Punch?”

For fifteen years, Caleb and his father have roamed southern England with little to their names but the signet ring his father inherited and the theater and puppets with which they stage popular, raunchy Punch and Judy shows.

“She will help you. Tell her she must.”

One summer day in 1752, Pa is convicted of a theft he didn’t commit and sentenced to transportation to the colonies in America. From gaol, Caleb’s father sends him to the family he never knew he had: an aunt on the coast.

“Filthy thing! How can you bear to have him in the house?”

His welcome at her house is strange, and her neighbors and stepdaughter seem to see only Caleb’s dark skin.

“I found him. On the beach. He’s dead.”

When Caleb finds a body washed up on shore, he stumbles into something much bigger than a man’s death in the high water.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 6-9. Landman’s Dickensian novel takes readers to eighteenth-century England, where a mixed-race teen and his father, Joseph, who is white, travel the countryside putting on Punch and Judy shows. Their itinerant life crashes around them when a thief drops a purloined silk purse at Joseph’s feet, framing the puppeteer for the crime. To Caleb’s horror, his father is dragged to prison and sentenced to be transported to America. Following Joseph’s whispered instructions, Caleb makes his way to his heretofore unknown aunt’s house, where he is welcomed by his aunt, though her stepdaughter, Lettie, is standoffish, and the town is downright hostile to a “darkie” like Caleb. Not long after his arrival, he discovers a disfigured body on the beach wearing Joseph’s beloved ring, but while Caleb runs for help, the identifying ring is stolen. Though no one believes Caleb’s claim that this man is his father, he knows something is deeply wrong. As he seeks the truth, he and Lettie grow closer, and they uncover rampant corruption and family secrets. This story is both a taut mystery and an excellent piece of historical fiction that brings issues of class, race, and justice into sharp focus. The compelling, complex characters come to life through Landman’s sophisticated writing, and the plot’s many twists strike like expertly timed smacks from Punch’s slapstick.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
Murder and mystery abound in this engrossing and atmospheric tale set in 18th-century England.Fifteen-year-old Caleb Chappell is a mixed-race boy whose life is shrouded in mystery. He knows nothing about his black mother, and his white father—a talented puppeteer—is the son of a disgraced earl but never discusses his past. When his father is falsely convicted of theft, Caleb is forced to seek protection from a hitherto-unknown paternal aunt who married a sailor and resides with her stepdaughter in a small port town. After settling into his new life, Caleb receives a shock when a body bearing his father’s signet ring washes up on the shore. Though he knows the corpse is his father, everyone in the town, from the parson to the local lord of the manor, is determined to convince Caleb otherwise. In her latest novel, Carnegie Medalist Landman (Buffalo Soldier, 2014) crafts a scintillating story of corruption headed by a winsome and tenacious protagonist. The author’s concise descriptions of the sea’s frightening vastness, the confining and insulated spirit of the small English town, and the provincial xenophobic attitudes of its denizens are almost cinematic in scope. Often mistaken for a slave, Caleb must endure whispers and pointed racism that are as historically accurate as they are disheartening. So riveting that the pages seem to turn of their own accord. (Fiction. 13-adult)

About the Author

Tanya Landman is the Carnegie Medal–winning author of a number of historical novels for young adults, including The Goldsmith’s Daughter and I Am Apache, in which she explores the lives of history’s dispossessed and disenfranchised. Tanya Landman lives in Devon, England.

Her website is www.tanyalandman.com

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And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin. June 6, 2017. Dial Books, 416 p. ISBN: 9780803740723.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

Let’s not die today. Not even to make things easier for our parents.

When a building collapses around five teenagers—and they just barely escape—they know something strange is going on. Little by little, the group pieces together a theory: Their parents are working together to kill them all. Is it true? And if so, how did their parents come together—and why? And, most importantly, how can the five of them work together to save themselves? With an unlikely group of heroes, sky-high stakes, and two budding romances, this gripping murder mystery will keep readers guessing until the last page.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 8-12. Five teens at a private school are invited to a Leader’s Club orientation at a dilapidated campus building, and then the roof falls in—literally. Someone, maybe plural, is trying to kill them, but what does this unlikely group have in common? Except for Antoine and Evangeline, they barely know each other—although Saralinda does have a crush on Caleb. Those two are the alternating narrators, and from them we learn that diabetic, physically challenged Saralinda lives with a smothering mother who would like her daughter to be dependent on her. Caleb’s father is a celebrity psychiatrist who has convinced his son that the boy is a bad seed, a danger to everyone around him. Although the psychology of the kids—and their parents—is a huge part of the story, it’s the nonstop action that sweeps readers along. People are on the run, bodies are piling up, and murder is in the air. Up until the last moment, it’s not clear who is going to make it out alive. Over the top, definitely, but also a compulsive read.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
After a three-book detour through the fantasy genre (Impossible, rev. 9/08, and sequels), Werlin (The Rules of Survival, rev. 9/06) returns to her mystery/thriller roots for another psychological page-turner. Five students at a private boarding school are called together under mysterious circumstances to a remote, dilapidated building on campus. The building collapses, and they all survive, but one of them dies shortly afterward in an automobile accident. The remaining students band together, pool their information, and come to a horrific conclusion: each of their parents is involved in a conspiracy to murder them. Werlin simultaneously deepens characterization and unfolds the plot in alternating narrative voices from two of the teens, Saralinda and Caleb; they are attracted to each other but slow to act on it. Saralinda has diabetes–and a cane–but she is a hopeless romantic and a keen observer of her classmates. She loves her overbearing single mother but wishes for a greater measure of freedom. Caleb is aloof and harbors a dark side, but is fiercely loyal to his friends; his second-person narration is unsettling and underscores the notion that he might have sociopathic tendencies. His famous psychiatrist father has cowed both Caleb and his mother, and harbors a mean streak of his own. The other three teens, Antoine, Evangeline, and Kenyon–along with their parents–are similarly complex. Indeed, the entire cast is also notable for its diversity (in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, ability) in ways both organic and incidental to the plot. And if that plot occasionally strains credulity, it taps into a deep-seated teen paranoia that adults are out to get them. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Nancy Werlin has written 10 young adult novels, including New York Times–bestselling fantasy (Impossible), Edgar-award winning suspense (The Killer’s Cousin), and National Book Award-honored realistic fiction (The Rules of Survival). Her newest book is And Then There Were Four, a suspense thriller that marks her return to suspense after writing the fantasy trilogy Impossible, Extraordinary, and Unthinkable. Nancy grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Yale, and now lives with her husband near Boston.

Her website is nancywerlin.com

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In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien

In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien. June 27, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9780545905749.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 700.

North Korea is known as the most repressive country on Earth, with a dictatorial leader, a starving population, and harsh punishment for rebellion.

Not the best place for a family vacation.

Yet that’s exactly where Mia Andrews finds herself, on a tour with her aid-worker father and fractious older brother, Simon. Mia was adopted from South Korea as a baby, and the trip raises tough questions about where she really belongs. Then her dad is arrested for spying, just as forbidden photographs of North Korean slave-labor camps fall into Mia’s hands. The only way to save Dad: get the pictures out of the country. Thus Mia and Simon set off on a harrowing journey to the border, without food, money, or shelter, in a land where anyone who sees them might turn them in, and getting caught could mean prison — or worse.

An exciting adventure that offers a rare glimpse into a compelling, complicated nation, In the Shadow of the Sun is an unforgettable novel of courage and survival.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Harsh realities of life under the North Korean regime

 

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 5-8. Mia and her brother, Simon, are on the run in North Korea. That’s dangerous enough on its own, but they’re also in possession of a cell phone containing pictures of atrocities in a North Korean labor camp. They’re not sure where it came from, or why their father was taken by North Korean police, but they know they must get out of the country, fast. Relying on their own quick thinking, Mia’s knowledge of Korean language and culture, and a handful of kind strangers, they embark on a harrowing journey from Pyongyang through the mountainous forests to the China border. O’Brien weaves plenty of information about the country through the story, and interspersed sections describing the experiences of some of the North Koreans they meet on their trip add depth. Mia, who was adopted from South Korea by a white American family, offers some thought-provoking insight into the experience of interracial adoption. This fast-paced and tense survivalist thriller, made all the more compelling for its fascinating setting, should find broad appeal.

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2017)
A family holiday goes badly awry, leaving two siblings racing for freedom in a totalitarian nation armed with little more than an outdated guidebook and a few packets of airline peanuts. Adopted from South Korea as an infant by a white Connecticut family, 12-year-old Mia has grown up feeling conspicuously different from her family and peers. To help heal the rift from a serious fight with her older brother, Simon, and to encourage Mia to connect with her cultural roots, the teens travel with their father to North Korea, a country he knows well as a foreign aid worker. Mundane sightseeing gives way to danger following Mia’s discovery of a cellphone containing shocking photos from a prison camp and her father’s abduction by authorities. Simon and Mia embark on a daring cross-country journey in an effort to reach safety and alert authorities to their father’s plight. The action is punctuated by short profiles of individual (fictional) North Koreans, tantalizingly pulling back the veil of secrecy, but readers are soon plunged back into a thrilling and immersive experience reminiscent of the best spy and wilderness adventure stories. Character development is not sacrificed to action, as the siblings mature in their relationship, gaining insight into family and racial dynamics, culture, and identity. Opening information from the fictional tour agency gives readers enough background about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully understand the peril the family is in. An author’s note illuminates O’Brien’s strong personal ties to Korea and gives suggestions for further reading. A riveting work that will appeal to a wide range of readers. (Thriller. 9-13)

About the Author

Anne Sibley O’Brien grew up in South Korea as the bilingual and bicultural daughter of medical missionaries. She has written or illustrated thirty-five picture books, and frequently speaks in classrooms across the country and in international schools around the world. In the Shadow of the Sun is her first novel. Anne lives on Peaks Island in Maine.

Her website is www.annesibleyobrien.com

Teacher Resources

 

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York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby. May 16, 2017. Walden Pond Press, 496 p. ISBN: 9780062306937.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 780.

It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

From National Book Award Finalist Laura Ruby comes a visionary epic set in a New York City at once familiar and wholly unexpected.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Twins Tess and Theo live in one of the only remaining buildings designed by the Morningstarrs, visionary twins who built glittering structures in nineteenth-century New York, as well as the Cipher, a notorious, citywide puzzle leading to fantastic treasure. Now, in the twenty-first century, Tess and Theo’s building has been purchased by a mercenary developer, but Tess grasps at a shred of hope: if they solve the Cipher, they might be able to keep their home. With robust, architectural world building, Ruby reveals an alternate New York teeming with mechanical marvels and compelling secrets. This New York still has some familiar features, however: a rich culture of diversity alongside insidious greed and wealth inequality. Tess and Theo, and their friend and neighbor Jaime, have distinct voices and idiosyncrasies that, though some might consider them odd, become marvelous strengths. As the trio traverse the city, they’re often baffled by how easily clues fall into their hands, but Ruby slyly sidesteps those coincidences by giving the Cipher itself a mysterious, subtle sort of agency. In this smart, immersive series starter, Ruby expertly juggles stunning plot choreography, realistic stakes in a captivating fantasy setting, well-wrought characters, and flashes of sharp cultural commentary. It’s a brainy romp with a worrying heart, and while many plot threads are resolved, Theo, Tess, and Jaime will surely, thankfully, be back for more.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
When their (alternate reality) New York City apartment building is bought by a scheming real-estate developer, seventh-grade twins Tess and Theo Biedermann and their neighbor Jaime Cruz devise a plan to solve the Old York Cipher and thus save their home. The Cipher had been created in the nineteenth century by the brilliant Morningstarr twins (after whom Tess and Theo were named), inventors of the city’s “mechanical wizardry”–streets paved with solar panels, metal caterpillars that clean the Underway trains, and elevators that go in every direction–who then disappeared without a trace. As Tess, Theo, and Jaime take a fresh look at the Cipher, a new path of enticing and dangerous clues leads them deeper into the Morningstarrs’ mystery and closer to treacherous villains. Ruby’s nuanced trio of protagonists strikes a balance of emotional vulnerability (the twins coping with their grandfather’s onset of dementia, Jaime with his father’s increasing absence, and all three with the impending loss of their home) and resilience. The equally thoughtful vision of an alternative New York, both historical and present-day, pulsates right off the page, with geography, history, and steampunk-esque machines thoroughly integrated into the thrum of a strange but recognizable city. Weaving one web of secrets even as it works to unravel another, Ruby’s story will have both mystery and sci-fi fans reading and rereading in anticipation of the next installment. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Laura Ruby is the author of books for adults, teens and children. Her titles include the Edgar-nominated tween mystery Lily’s Ghosts, the children’s fantasy The Wall and the Wing (3/06) and a sequel, The Chaos King (5/07) all published by HarperCollins. She writes for older teens as well, and her debut young adult novel, Good Girls (9/06), also from HarperCollins, was a Book Sense Pick for fall 2006 and an ALA Quick Pick for 2007. She followed this with the teen novels Play Me (2008) and Bad Apple (2009).

Her short fiction for adults has appeared in various literary magazines, including Other Voices and The Florida Review. A collection of these stories, I’m Not Julia Roberts, was published by Warner Books in January 2007. Called “hilarious and heart-wrenching” by People and “a knowing look at the costs and rewards of remaking a family,” by the Miami Herald, the book was also featured in Redbook, Working Mother, and USA Today, among others.

Raised in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, Laura Ruby now lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two cats that serve as creative advisors.

Her website is www.lauraruby.com.

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A Million Junes by Emily Henry

A Million Junes by Emily Henry. May 16, 2017. Razorbill, 350 p. ISBN: 9780448493961.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

Romeo and Juliet meets One Hundred Years of Solitude in Emily Henry’s brilliant follow-up to The Love That Split the World, about the daughter and son of two long-feuding families who fall in love while trying to uncover the truth about the strange magic and harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. 

In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Jack (aka June) O’Donnell IV lives in a place where the divide between the real world and that of ghosts and spirits is thin. These ethereal forces sustain a generations-old feud between the O’Donnells and the Angerts, but when June meets Saul Angert, she only knows he’s beautiful and a kindred soul. The two embark on an odyssey to recover memories of those they loved, learn the truth of their shared history, and maybe put the long feud to rest. With a firm nod to Romeo and Juliet, this supernatural mystery is a gift to readers’ imagination. There are coywolves (a mix of coyote and wolf) who steal shoes so that people can reach the spirit world; “Whites,” puffballs that embody memories that act as clues; and relatable characters tethered and anchored by love. The first-person narrative supports a textured story that is an exploration of duty, family, and faith and yet doesn’t forget the humor of everyday life. Try it with fans of John Green or Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (2015).

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
In a town where magic is alive and cherries taste like the sun, the children of two rival families must break a curse that’s haunted them for generations and learn what it means to live with loss.Jack O’Donnell IV—called Jack, Jackie, Junior, or June—knows two things for sure. First, she will always be her father’s daughter, even though he passed when she was 8. Second, she must never, ever interact with the Angerts, or terrible things will happen to both families. But when Saul Angert returns to town and the two literally bump into each other, their chemistry is undeniable—as is the fact that they’re suddenly able to enter their deceased loved ones’ memories. As the recollections lead them closer to the truth about the O’Donnell-Angert vitriol, they also reveal that the father June grew up worshipping was more complicated than he seemed. Early on, readers will fall for the teens’ witty repartee and June’s father’s tall tales, but Henry’s (The Love That Split the World, 2016) beautifully crafted if largely white world, which is rich with a strong best friendship, a complicated writing teacher, and a dreamlike touch—becomes unwieldy as fantasy takes over. A potential treat for readers who enjoy magical realism, but there are stronger examples of the genre, such as Laura Ruby’s Printz-winning Bone Gap. (Magical realism. 12-16)

About the Author

Emily Henry is the author of The Love That Split the World. She is a full-time writer, proofreader, and donut connoisseur. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the New York Center for Art & Media Studies, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it.

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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan. August 15, 2017. Big Mouth House, 432 p. ISBN: 9781618731203.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border ― unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and ― best of all as far as Elliot is concerned ― mermaids.

“What’s your name?”
Serene.”
Serena?” Elliot asked.
Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.”
Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.”

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.
It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.

In Other Lands is the exhilarating new book from beloved and bestselling author Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s a novel about surviving four years in the most unusual of schools, about friendship, falling in love, diplomacy, and finding your own place in the world ― even if it means giving up your phone.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Four years in the life of an unloved English schoolboy who’s invited to a secret magical school and learns that even in fantasyland, real life is messier than books.If Elliot’s story seems familiar, the impression fades quickly. Ginger-haired, white Elliot, an undersized nonpracticing Jew, is a total brat. When the 13-year-old crosses into the Borderlands and sees he’s more intelligent than most of the other kids—and adults—he’s quick to say so. He doesn’t form a circle of friends so much as an alliance of distrustful mutual advantage. With Luke Sunborn, a flaxen-haired, blue-eyed, white golden boy, Elliot tutors Serene, an ethereally beautiful elf with “pearl-pale” skin, who’s determined to excel twice as much as any other student. Elliot’s initial interest in Serene is despicable; he aims to fake friendship until she grows to love him. But over the course of four years training among child soldiers, Elliot, unsurprisingly, grows up. His slow development into a genuinely kind person is entirely satisfying, as is his awakening to his own bisexuality and to the colonialism, sexism, and racism of Borderlands society. Only one human character, the beautifully and sparingly drawn Capt. Woodsinger, appears to be a person of color. A stellar, if dense and lengthy, coming-of-age novel; those with the patience to sit through our hero’s entire adolescence will find it a wholly rewarding journey. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Publishers Weekly Annex (August 7, 2017)
Elliot Schafer is a small-for-his-age 13-year-old who is prone to being bullied-largely due to his personality, which slots somewhere between insufferable know-it-all and sarcastic jackass. When Elliot’s class travels to a “random field in Devon, England” for a supposed scholarship test, he instead winds up in a strange world known as the Borderlands, which are filled with elves, mermaids, and other creatures. So begins Brennan’s hilarious, irreverent, and multilayered coming-of-age fantasy, set over several years. Elliot quickly befriends (and falls for) Serene, a fierce elven warrior, and arranges a reluctant truce with Luke Sunborn, the son of one of the Borderland’s founding families. All three-along with every young person there-are training in war or as councilors, charged with protecting the fragile barrier with the human world. Amid shifting relationships, the threat of war, and substantial growth among the characters, Elliot’s razor-edged wit and general inability to keep his mouth shut make for blissfully entertaining reading. Smart explorations of gender stereotypes, fluid sexuality, and awkward romance only add to the depth and delight of this glittering contemporary fantasy. Ages 13-up. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary.

About the Author

Sarah Rees Brennan is Irish and currently lives in Dublin. For a short stint, she lived in New York and became involved with a wide circle of writers who encouraged and supported her, including Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. She has developed a wide audience through her popular blog, mistful.livejournal.com, where she writes movie parodies, book reviews and some stories.

Her website is sarahreesbrennan.com

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The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. May  2, 2017. HarperCollins, 400 p. ISBN: 9780062074676.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.6; Lexile: 670.

In this compelling and thought-provoking fantasy set in the world of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Newbery Honor-winning author Gail Carson Levine introduces a spirited heroine who must overcome deeply rooted prejudice—including her own—to heal her broken country.

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Latki—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Latki-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

Prequel to: The Two Princesses of Bamarre

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 5-7. The Lakti are a warrior people, a kingdom of conquerors. To them, their Bamarre neighbors are cowards, fit only to be servants. Peregrine is the Lakti daughter of a favored couple, warm Lord Tove, who nurtures deep prejudices against the Bamarre, and cool, watchful Lady Klausine. Perry doesn’t question things; she trains in the battle arts and pays little attention to the Bamarre servants. But when she is visited by a fairy, Perry learns that she’s not a Lakti but a Bamarre, stolen at birth by her childless mother. Perry can choose to forget what she knows and live her life as a Lakti or embrace her heritage and help her true people escape tyranny. Levine slips seamlessly back into the world of The Two Princesses of Bamarre (2001), and readers will recognize more than a few magical objects. This balances elements of Rapunzel and a smart, timely exploration of the prejudices that exist between people, and fans of Levine will rejoice to watch the journey of another strong, flawed heroine.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
The rise and re-education of an unlikely champion by the author of Ella Enchanted.Blunt and competitive, unpopular Peregrine seeks the approval of her adoptive parents, Lady Klausine and Lord Tove. Raised to believe in Lakti superiority and that the conquered Bamarre are “lucky to be ruled by us,” Peregrine discovers she was born a Bamarre. Reluctant to don the symbolic green tassel of servitude—the only visible difference between the otherwise racially indistinguishable two groups, members of which may be either “pale or dark”—15-year-old Peregrine proves her valor in battle but must flee Tove’s wrath. Relying on her surly maid (and birth sister), Annet, Peregrine seeks refuge with her peasant birth family yet finds she is equally ill-suited to being a cooperative, courteous Bamarre—except for her love of poetry. When the Lakti deem the Bamarre servants/serfs “beings” but not “people” and impose outrageous restrictions, Peregrine seeks freedom for the Bamarre, even if it means fighting monsters both magical…and human. Peregrine’s significant social shortcomings set her apart from the current plethora of martial heroines, and the requisite romance—with a love interest beset by various temporary physical impediments (deafness, blindness)—is wistful but not melodramatic. Levine riffs gently on “Rapunzel” and delivers an arch appraisal of discrimination and bigotry, cloaked in a magical, medieval, vaguely European fairy-tale setting. A captivating and charming adventure sure to please young readers and longtime fans. (Fantasy. 8-14)

About the Author

Gail Carson Levine’s first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a Newbery Honor Book. Levine’s other books include Ever, a New York Times bestseller; Fairest, a Best Book of the Year for Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and a New York Times bestseller; Dave at Night, an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults; The WishThe Two Princesses of BamarreA Tale of Two Castles; and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction books Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink, as well as the picture books Betsy Who Cried Wolf and Betsy Red Hoodie. Gail Carson Levine and her husband, David, live in a two-centuries-old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley of New York State.

Her website is gailcarsonlevine.com

Around the Web

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre on Amazon

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre on Goodreads

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre on JLG

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre Publisher Page

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk. May 2, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9781101994856.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 770.

From the author of the critically acclaimed Wolf Hollow comes a moving story of identity and belonging.

Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.

Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.

Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Seais a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Violence, Kidnapping

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 4-7. Crow was a mere baby when she drifted to the shore of one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts in the first quarter of the twentieth century. She has since grown up with the painter Osh as her stand-in father; their only other friend is Maggie, who teaches Crow. Nearby Penikese Island was home to a leper colony at the time of Crow’s birth, and most of the island folk assume her birth parents were lepers and shun her. Now a 12-year-old and uncertain of her parentage, Crow becomes increasingly curious following a fire on the now supposedly vacant Penikese. Where did she really come from? What happened to her parents, and is there a chance she has any surviving blood relatives? Crow’s quest for answers as she grapples with her uncertain identity shapes the 2017 Newbery Honor Book author’s sophomore novel. While this quiet, affecting story lacks the palpable sense of dread and superb pacing that made Wolf Hollow (2016) so impossible to put down, there’s still plenty to admire in this more classic-feeling historical novel, which calls to mind Natalie Babbitt’s The Eyes of the Amaryllis (1977). Wolk has a keen sense for the seaside landscape, skillfully mining the terror the ocean can unleash as a furious nor’easter heightens tension in the novel’s climax. Historical fiction fans awaiting her follow-up will be pleased.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 15, 2017)
This book will make people want to run away to the Elizabeth Islands.It’s the 1920s. Crow and her adoptive father, Osh, live in a tiny house on a tiny island off Cape Cod, but her descriptions make it seem strange and mysterious. The cottage is “built from bits of lost ships,” and it’s full of found treasures: “a pair of sun-white whale ribs arched over our doorway, a tarnished ship’s bell hanging from their pinnacle.” Every chapter in the book has a new mystery to be solved: why was Crow sent away in an old boat when she was a baby? Why is a fire burning on an abandoned island? Did Capt. Kidd really hide treasure nearby? But some readers will love Wolk’s use of language even more than the puzzles. Crow says her skin is “the same color Osh [makes] by mixing purple and yellow, blue and orange, red and green.” (The race of the characters isn’t always identified, but Osh says, “I came a long, long way to be here,” and his native language and accent make him sound “different from everyone else.”) The pacing of the book isn’t always as suspenseful as it should be. There are a few lulls, which the author tries to fill with heavy foreshadowing. But the mysteries—and the words that describe them—are compelling enough to send readers to the islands for years to come. A beautiful, evocative sophomore effort from Newbery honoree Wolk (Wolf Hollow, 2016). (Historical fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as “full of grace and stark, brutal beauty.” She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.
Her website is www.laurenwolk.com

Around the Web

Beyond the Bright Sea on Amazon

Beyond the Bright Sea on Goodreads

Beyond the Bright Sea on JLG

Beyond the Bright Sea Publisher Page

The Road to Epoli by Ben Costa & James Parks

The Road to Epoli: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo Book 1 by Ben Costa & James Parks. June 6, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9780399556135.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Nimona meets Adventure Time as a singing skeleton searches for his origins in this full-color graphic novel series kickoff!
 
Meet Rickety Stitch . . . a walking, talking, singing skeleton minstrel. He’s the one skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul, and he has no idea why.

His only clue to his former identity is a song he hears snippets of in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale about the Road to Epoli and the land of Eem.

His sidekick and sole friend is the gelatinous Goo, who Rickety alone can understand. Together they set out in search of Rickety’s past, with abundant humor and danger galore.

Part of Series: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Irreverent humor, Bawdy humor

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 5-8. Rickety Stitch is not like the other skeletons. Instead of being a mindless drone, Rickety is a skeleton with a soul, a wisecracking minstrel on a mission to discover his past, how he managed to escape the fate of the other skeletons, and what is so special about the mythical road to Epoli, a place he keeps dreaming about. Coming along on his journey are Gelatinous Goo, a sentient, wobbly blob that only Rickety can understand; a two-headed troll that blackmails Rickety into kidnapping a kindly gnome; an insecure imp; and a host of other fantasy creatures, some of which speak in ill-considered dialects. The world that’s been created is a gorgeously realized homage to fantasy-quest conventions, complete with knights in armor, unicorns, suspicious villagers, and ghostly evil presences, and the artwork reflects that in its bold colors and lively character designs. The jokes, on the other hand, are modern, funny, and sometimes bawdy. The first of a planned trilogy will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment of Rickety’s adventure.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
A minstrel skeleton and his wobbly companion embark upon an epic quest to learn their origins in this gloriously ribald graphic tale. Unlike the other, dronelike skeletons, who never tire and soundlessly work, Rickety Stitch has both a soul and a song in his heart. Cast out from his dungeon into a dark and mysterious wood for his ineffectiveness and nonconformity, he and his faithful companion—a silent, shopping-bag–shaped creature named Gelatinous Goo—soon find themselves tricked by a snarky little imp. Goo is imprisoned by a two-headed giant who demands that the imp and Rickety bring him a pure-hearted gnome to eat. The plan goes awry, and hilarity ensues (along with the more-than-occasional cheerfully caustic joke). Rickety has no memories of his human life, and in addition to rescuing his friend is determined to track down something from his past. Costa and Parks’ script is imaginative and laugh-out-loud funny, unafraid to crack a well-timed, verging-on-naughty joke. Costa’s art is unfalteringly, vibrantly buoyant, with many sight gags that effortlessly turn the profane into something adorably laughable. A cliffhanger ending leaves readers poised for the sequel—they will be clamoring. For those who loved Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona (2015) and have struggled to find something similar, this may scratch that itch. Don’t be fooled by the cheery illustrations; this is irreverent, bawdy, and lots of fun. (Graphic fantasy. 13-adult)

About the Author

Ben Costa is a writer and artist living in the Bay Area. He has self-published two volumes of his award-winning, martial arts historical fiction comic Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk. He has also done work for IDW, Viz Media, and SF Weekly. Throughout his life, he has maintained a steady diet of samurai comics, kung fu movies, spacefaring farmboys, and tabletop RPGs.

James Parks is a speculative fiction writer and graphic novelist living in the Bay Area. James was weaned on monster flicks, ghostbusting, lightsaber duels, samurai cinema, and comics—with a sober dose of Victorian literature and ’80s cartoons. James is also the author of the Southern Gothic horror collection The Gospel of Bucky Dennis, was a staff writer for Campfire Graphic Novels, and is a current member of the Horror Writers Association.

Around the Web

The Road to Epoli on Amazon

The Road to Epoli on Goodreads

The Road to Epoli on JLG

The Road to Epoli Publisher Page

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh. July 25, 2017. HarperCollins, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062430083.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 680.

We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh returns with Spirit Hunters, a high-stakes middle grade mystery series about Harper Raine, the new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. A riveting ghost story and captivating adventure, this tale will have you guessing at every turn!

Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Dark subject matter including allusions to self-harm, Grotesque imagery

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 4-7. Harper feels it from the second her family moves into the creaky, old house: there is something deeply evil lurking there. She’s always been attune to the spirit world, a fact that has frightened her parents into denial. She even had an encounter with a ghost so terrifying and damaging that she was sent to a mental institution for a while. This relocation to D.C. was supposed to be a fresh start for their family, but Harper soon realizes with horror that her sweet little brother Michael is being possessed by the malevolent ghost of an evil boy who died in the house years before. As Michael grows more and more violent under the spirit’s control, Harper realizes that her family is in grave danger. Can she learn to master her powers and conquer her fears to defeat the spirit before it overtakes her brother completely? Oh’s book is truly and deeply creepy, with increasingly haunting and disturbing imagery culminating in a wonderful and terrifying battle of spirits. Even more impressive than the shiver factor is the way the author skillfully uses the compelling premise to present a strong, consistent message of not rejecting what you don’t understand—a most welcome message.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
A neophyte Korean shaman, or “mudang,” takes center stage in this chilling thriller by Oh, of We Need Diverse Books.The story starts when mixed-race 12-year-old Harper Raine, who is half white and half Korean, moves into a new home in Washington, D.C., that her new Jamaican friend, Dayo, tells her is haunted. Before the Raines left New York City, Harper survived both a fire and a traumatizing illness, but she has blocked all memories of these events. The creepiness ramps up in mind, gut, and heart as readers see Harper’s little brother making a new “friend” in their home. As she witnesses an evil spirit slowly overtaking her brother, Harper’s memories begin to resurface. While Harper selflessly tries to save her brother’s life from multiple evils, she juggles the psychological conflict of her mother’s broken relationship with Harper’s beloved Korean grandmother, who lives nearby. The tension of the life-ending danger stretches across sometimes confusingly paced chapters, as help arrives slowly. While the writing level skews young, the graphic content is gruesome. Readers will not want harm to come to the likable Raine family. The well-rounded and diverse cast provides interesting cultural touchstones of Korean and Jamaican heritage throughout the novel. Korean shamanism, specifically, is explored with respect and curiosity. Combining Korean-American experience with ancient cultural traditions for a new twist on exorcism, this tale’s for beginning horror fans and readers looking for a decent scare. (Horror. 10-14)

About the Author

Originally from New York City, Ellen Oh is the founder of We Need Diverse Books and the author of the Prophecy trilogy (ProphecyWarrior, and King) for young adults. Spirit Hunters is her fourth book and her first for middle grade readers. A former adjunct college instructor and lawyer with an insatiable curiosity for ancient Asian history, Ellen lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and three daughters and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.

Her website is www.ellenoh.com

Around the Web

Spirit Hunters on Amazon

Spirit Hunters on Goodreads

Spirit Hunters on JLG

Spirit Hunters Publisher Page