Tag Archives: action

Battlesong by Lian Tanner

Battlesong by Lian Tanner. August 15, 2017. Fiewel & Friends, 393 p. ISBN: 9781250052186.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 720.

The thrilling conclusion to the Icebreaker trilogy, an acclaimed middle-grade fantasy-adventure from Lian Tanner.

Gwin is a Fetcher. With her papa and twin brother, Nat, she travels West Norn, bringing joy to its downtrodden people through song and story. But ever since Mama died, it’s been hard to keep the joy alive.

Proud and defiant, Fetchers have always been hunted by the Devouts for preserving the old ways. So when devious Brother Poosk captures Papa, Gwin must rescue him―whatever the cost.

Meanwhile, the Oyster’s crew and the Sunkers lay siege to the Citadel. But without their Sleeping Captain, can they ever win against the ruthless Devouts? Can Petrel, Fin, Sharkey, and Rain ever bring light back to such a dark world?

Sequel to: Sunker’s Deep

Part of series: Icebreaker (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 5-8-Tanner’s trilogy concludes with a meticulously plotted, rapidly paced adventure that both stands alone and richly satisfies fans of the first two novels. The narrative picks up where Sunker’s Deep left off, with the crews of both the Oyster and the Claw on dry land searching for the captain and the legendary Singer. Enter young Gwin and her family, traveling entertainers called “Fetchers,” whose performances bring moments of pleasure to the downtrodden population while preserving traditional lore and keeping ancient secrets from the Anti-Machinists. Tanner’s unparalleled world-building seamlessly weaves Gwin’s tale into a complex narrative told from multiple perspectives. The author provides just enough backstory to keep new readers engaged and the action moving toward a thrilling ending that unites characters from all three installments. Attentive readers will be intrigued by early plot details that later on return to add significance at pivotal moments. Masterly writing brings the stark landscape to life and reveals characters’ deepest emotions. -VERDICT A first purchase for collections that already have the other volumes in the series; expect interest in them if ordering this third entry on its own.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Lian Tanner has been dynamited while scuba diving and arrested while busking. She once spent a week in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, hunting for a Japanese soldier left over from the Second World War. She likes secrets, old bones, and animals that are not what they seem. Nowadays she lives by the beach in southern Tasmania with her cat, Harry-le-beau, who has his own blog at vampiremice.wordpress.com.

Her website is www.liantanner.com.au.

Around the Web

Battlesong on Amazon

Battlesong on Goodreads

Battlesong on JLG

Battlesong Publisher Page

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Children of Refuge by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Children of Refuge by Margaret Peterson Haddix. September 12, 2017. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781442450066.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

After Edwy is smuggled off to Refuge City to stay with his brother and sister, Rosi, Bobo, and Cana are stuck alone—and in danger—in Cursed Town in the thrilling follow-up to Children of Exile from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

It’s been barely a day since Edwy left Fredtown to be with his parents and, already, he is being sent away. He’s smuggled off to boarding school in Refuge City, where he will be with his brother and sister, who don’t even like him very much. The boarding school is nothing like the school that he knew, there’s no one around looking up to him now, and he’s still not allowed to ask questions!

Alone and confused, Edwy seeks out other children brought back from Fredtown and soon discovers that Rosi and the others—still stuck in the Cursed Town—might be in danger. Can Edwy find his way back to his friends before it’s too late?

Part of Series: Children of Exile

Sequel to: Children of Exile

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Violence, Drugs, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 4-8. Fans of Children of Exile (2016) won’t be disappointed in this sequel: it’s just as thoughtful, swift-paced, and cleverly plotted. Haddix further develops characters by changing the narrator to outspoken Edwy, a contrary rascal who has always teased Rosi for her prim and proper ways. The end of the first title had Rosi and two younger children trying to escape from a violent outbreak in Cursed Town; here we begin with Edwy being smuggled into Refuge City, where he lives with an older brother and sister he didn’t know existed. The plot twists are multiple, exciting, and completely logical, and seeing Rosi through Edwy’s eyes brings to light additional facets. Edwy finds he’s constantly worried about and desperately missing Rosi, so he uses his often negative character traits (lying, stubbornness, aggression) to find and win allies that will help him save Rosi and the children. An excellent dystopian adventure for tweens that avoids graphic violence while bringing up issues of social justice and prejudice. The cliff-hanger ending guarantees another title in the series.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
Teen Edwy is sent away by his newly found birth parents and smuggled into a futuristic city. This sequel picks up where Children of Exile (2016) left off in the devastated city of Cursed Town, to which the children of bucolic Fredtown were returned. Now, however, the narrative jounces tautly along through the voice of rebellious Edwy instead of naïve Rosi. Having been home for about 24 hours he’s not thrilled to be manhandled away to live with siblings he didn’t know existed in the thronged Refuge City. It takes Edwy some time to learn what Rosi did in the first book: that the Fred-parents are actually well-meaning aliens who took all the children of Earth away from the warring humans. The more Edwy understands about the deal brokered with the aliens, the more worried he becomes about Rosi back in Cursed Town. His sister, Kiandra, brilliant at hacking, shows Edwy footage of Rosi’s beating in the market and reports that she has escaped from jail. He becomes desperate to get to her before the aliens called Enforcers do. Racial lines are blurred in this future, though skin and eye color are oft mentioned, exploring both tribalism in its many forms and the no lesser crime of turning a blind eye. This is a topical thriller that brings heart and thought to the sci-fi genre. (Science fiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio, with their two children. Her website is www.haddixbooks.com

Around the Web

Children of Refuge on Amazon

Children of Refuge on Goodreads

Children of Refuge on JLG

Children of Refuge Publisher Page

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee. August 8, 2017. Amulet Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9781419725487.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

She annihilates standardized tests and the bad guys.

Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code.

But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tale and penchant for peaches.

Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Smoking, Body humor

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
A tough, self-disciplined Chinese-American teen deals with the supernatural derailing of her college-prep activities in this speculative fiction novel that draws on the folklore of the Chinese Monkey King. In a dry, wickedly funny, first-person voice, overachiever Genie Lo easily brings readers into her corner as she puzzles with irritation over the behavior of gorgeous, goofy Quentin, newly arrived from China, who presents himself as a new student at her school and seems to think he knows her. As his story—and subsequently hers—reveals itself, it will surprise no one that the two have an extensive history together, though her actual relationship to him is a clever and fascinating detail. Genie gradually warms to him in a true-to-type romantic comedy that is filled with witty banter and valiant attempts by Genie to resist their attraction. Genie’s poignantly rendered immediate family history and incisive observations about her mostly Asian classmates and community balance the plentiful action in the battles she and Quentin undertake against a plethora of ferocious, eerily described yaoguai. Readers unfamiliar with the story of the Monkey King are easily brought up to speed early on, and the contemporary setting provides plenty of comedic juxtaposition. An exciting, engaging, and humorous debut that will appeal widely, this wraps up neatly enough but leaves an opening for further installments—here’s hoping. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Publishers Weekly Annex (July 3, 2017)
When Eugenia “Genie” Lo, a 16-year-old Chinese-American overachiever, discovers that she’s the reincarnation of the Monkey King’s legendary weapon, the Ruyi Jingu Bang, it throws her carefully ordered life into upheaval. It turns out that there has been a massive jailbreak from Diyu, the Chinese hell, and only Genie has the power to defeat the escaped demons. Charged by the goddess Guanyin to work with Quentin Sun, the annoying (yet alluring) teenage manifestation of the Monkey King, Genie has to master her newfound powers and return dozens of demons to Diyu, while still making time for her best friend and staying on top of homework-too bad Harvard doesn’t offer scholarships for fighting evil. In this dazzlingly fun debut, Yee mixes humor, Chinese folklore, and action to deliver a rousing, irreverent adventure packed with sharp-edged banter. Genie is resourceful and ferocious as she juggles her tyrannically strict mother’s demands while holding the fate of the world in her hands, and her fiery love-hate relationship with Quentin steals the show. Ages 13-up.

About the Author

F. C. Yee grew up in New Jersey and studied economics at Brown University. For his debut novel, he drew inspiration from the best and wisest people in his life. Outside of writing, he practices capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts. He currently calls the San Francisco Bay Area home.

His website is www.fcyee.com

Around the Web

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo on Amazon

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo on Goodreads

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo on JLG

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo Publisher Page

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy. July 18, 2017. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 336 p. ISBN: 9781619639126.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 650.

Action-packed and wildly funny, this near-future sci-fi features three teens on an inter-dimensional mission to save the world.

Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA’s mysterious Multi-World Agency. After rounds of crazy-competitive testing they are appointed to Team 3, along with an alternate, just in case Eddie screws up (as everyone expects he will). What they don’t expect is that aliens will arrive from another dimension, and look just like us. And no one could even imagine that Team 3 would be the only hope of saving our world from their Earth-destroying plans. The teens steal the spacecraft (it would be great if they knew how to fly it) and head to Earth2, where the aliens’ world and people are just like ours. With a few notable exceptions.

There, the teens will find more than their alternate selves: they’ll face existential questions and high-stakes adventure, with comedy that’s out of this world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Body humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 8-11. Following a battery of bizarre tests to evaluate a broad range of abilities, Rosa Hayashi and Eddie Toivonen are picked to train in NASA’s top secret Interworlds Agency (IA) program, which grooms teens to become ambassadors to alien worlds. Rosa comes from an impressive scientific pedigree, while Eddie sees IA as a means of escape from his highly dysfunctional family. As Rosa and Eddie endure the rigorous program, they face competition and infighting with other trainees, and Eddie’s unconventional methods both wow and worry their instructors. But when IA gets visitors it hadn’t bargained for, Eddie’s unconventional methods, bolstered by his teammates’ belief in him, just might save the day. Kennedy has a confident hand in her sophomore novel, particularly when deploying the complicated quantum physics and rocket science that infuse her snappy plot. Along with light cliff-hangers, a geeky atmosphere, and quip-heavy dialogue, her well-defined characters and a sprinkle of romance keep the story’s feet on the ground. Fans of smart, funny sci-fi should get their hands on this one.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
Teens vie for two spots in NASA’s Interworlds Agency in this fast-paced, funny caper through the near future.NASA’s Interworlds Agency exists to explore, assess, engage, and protect Earth in the event that intelligent life forms are discovered on other planets—a real likelihood in the near-future setting of Kennedy’s previous novel, Learning to Swear in America (2016)—and they are looking for a new team to join their ranks. Rosa Hayashi and Eddie Toivonen are two teenagers from different sides of the tracks whose outside-the-box thinking lands them at the top of a pack of the best and brightest, along with another pair that serves as an understudy team due to Eddie’s “unusual test results.” The dynamic between the teens and their instructor, the long-suffering, unconventional Reg, is by turns competitive, sweet, and downright hilarious. By the time the ETs invade, the dynamic quartet makes the bold decision to bring the show to them on their own planet—a parallel version of Earth where they come face to face with slightly different versions of themselves. Mixed-race Rosa wearily rises above microaggressions by describing herself as “an American of French and Japanese descent,” Reg is black, and Eddie is a white boy from a lower socio-economic background, rounding out a diverse cast of characters whose relationships develop organically and realistically. Likable characters and laugh-out-loud dialogue will make this a winning choice for reluctant readers and science-fiction fans alike. (Science fiction. 13-16)

About the Author

Katie Kennedy is the author of Learning to Swear in America and a college history instructor. She has a son in high school, and a daughter in college. She lives in Iowa–where the Interworlds Agency might be–and has a cornfield in her backyard. She hopes Rosa and Eddie land in it someday.

Her website is www.katiekennedybooks.com

Around the Web

What Goes Up on Amazon

What Goes Up on Goodreads

What Goes Up on JLG

What Goes Up Publisher Page

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett. September 5, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 432 p. ISBN: 9780062463388.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means cimbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Discrimination, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Though she’s grown up hearing that magic is a tool like any other, Kamzin, second daughter of the village elder, has never had much of a talent for it, despite her inevitable future as village shaman. Kamzin dreams of becoming an explorer, traversing and documenting the cold, treacherous mountains of the Empire and the dangerous witches who live there. When River Shara, the infamous Royal Explorer, comes to Kamzin’s village seeking help from her older sister, Lusha, Kamzin hopes to impress him. River is on a mission to retrieve a talisman from Raksha, the tallest and most feared of the mountain peaks; when Lusha, an excellent astronomer but not much of an explorer, shocks the village by leaving with a rival explorer, Kamzin finds herself accompanying River on his perilous journey, torn between beating her sister to the top and keeping her from harm. But both natural and supernatural dangers wait in the mountains, and Kamzin might not have much choice about what happens. There are glimmerings of a love triangle here, but the focus remains squarely on Kamzin’s brutal trek through the icy mountains, a fascinating, fantastical twist on early expeditions to Mount Everest. Add in a detailed, well-realized setting, an unsettling villain that lingers just off the page, and buckets of danger to result in an utterly inventive and wholly original debut.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
Debut author Fawcett offers an Everest-inspired fantasy.Kamzin’s world boasts magic in the form of inhuman witches, defeated some 200 years ago, and small dragons domesticated for the illumination cast by their glowing bellies. Shamans routinely cast spells; some fortunate souls, like Kamzin and her perfect older sister, Lusha, have familiars. River Shara, the young Royal Explorer, has come looking for a guide to climb the never-before-scaled Raksha in search of a magical talisman, and he ignores Lusha’s charms for often overlooked Kamzin, whose climbing ability and endurance are almost magical. The novel follows the often harrowing journey to Raksha; Fawcett’s descriptive skills bring the icy terrain to life and make what could be an endless trek largely compelling reading. She also ably combines magic with details borrowed from Nepalese life and language; characters wear chubas (Nepalese coats) and fight fiangul (fictional monsters). While the characters clearly live in an Asian-inspired world and seem to be Asian (physical descriptions are limited), this is a thin layer over the more developed fantasy elements and strongly evoked landscape. With a dash of romantic entanglement, a rich original mythology, and a sizzler of a twist at the end, this duology opener will appeal to fans of femalecentric fantasy by such authors as Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Maas. (Fantasy. 12-16)

About the Author

Random trivia about me:

*I strongly believe ice cream is a food group.
*I read all sorts of things. Favourite writers include Maya Angelou, Diana Wynne Jones, and Charles Dickens (I love wordy, twisty Victorian novels with sentences so long you get lost in them).
*When I was a kid I wanted to be a 1) ballet dancer 2) astronaut 3) bus driver and 4) writer. One out of four isn’t bad?
*I love photography.
*I grew up in Vancouver and am often annoyingly outdoorsy. I’ve spent extended periods of time in Italy and Ireland.
*I like making lists. A lot.

Her website is www.heatherfawcettbooks.com

Around the Web

Even the Darkest Stars on Amazon

Even the Darkest Stars on Goodreads

Even the Darkest Stars on JLG

Even the Darkest Stars Publisher Page

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke. September 5, 2017. First Second, 208 p. ISBN: 9781626722675.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 2.87; Lexile: 460.

Like a bolt from the blue, Jack’s little sister Maddy is gone—carried into another realm by an ogre.

When Jack and Lilly follow Maddy’s captor through the portal, they are ready for anything . . . except what they find waiting for them in the floating crossroads between worlds. Even the power of their magic plants may not be enough to get them back to earth alive.

Alone and injured, Jack and Lilly must each face their own monsters—as well as giants who grind the bones of human children to feed their “beast” and a fearsome goblin king in the sewers down below.

But when Jack finds himself in a tough spot, help comes from the most unlikely person: the goblin king!

Ben Hatke, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Zita the Spacegirl, concludes his latest middle-grade fantasy-adventure graphic novel series, Mighty Jack, with the energetic finale to his retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk

Sequel to: Mighty Jack

Part of series: Mighty Jack (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 3-6. At the end of Hatke’s series starter, Mighty Jack (2016), Jack and Lily chased after the plant ogre that spirited Jack’s sister, Maddy, away through a portal. The story picks up immediately afterward as Jack and Lily clamber into an utterly unknown place, where strange floating islands are connected by thick vines. Driven by the urge to rescue his sister at all costs, Jack brashly presses on, and when he and Lily get separated, he continues up the vine, while Lily finds herself among a gang of friendly goblins, though they have some ulterior motives. As he did in the first book, Hatke fills his full-bleed pages with hordes of fantastic monsters rendered in wild, organic shapes, and he further enlivens the story with snappy, comical dialogue. Well-wrought action scenes clearly depict the many battles, and swooping perspectives make the kid heroes look even more gallant. Fans of Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl series will be especially delighted by the cliff-hanger ending, which ensures many more adventures for the plucky, clever kids.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2017)
Jack and Lilly return in a new adventure in which they must navigate a fantastic and foreign land to save Jack’s autistic sister, Maddy.The story dives in where Mighty Jack (2016) had left off on a breathless cliffhanger, which finds Jack and Lilly emerging through a strange, keyhole-shaped portal in order to save Maddy from a fierce monster. Rather like Alice down the rabbit hole, the kids find themselves in an unfamiliar world where they must climb a tenuous beanstalk and face vicious, biting rats, lovably bumbling goblins, and fearsome giants. Hatke’s reimagined fairy tale is a masterpiece that blends all the familiar elements of “Jack and the Beanstalk” with a decidedly fresh eye in a visually arresting graphic format. His art, brilliantly colored by Campbell and Sycamore, is vividly kinetic, taking over with many wordless action scenes that fire off with rocketlike propulsion. Though Hatke’s cast is predominantly white, he gives diversity a nod with an autistic main character and defies gender convention when another female character is crowned king. Though Jack is given sole titular credit, he and Lilly share the heroic spotlight in this installment, as she is every bit as mighty and important as he. Expect demand for the next installment to be through the roof; Hatke’s brilliant final scene should elicit audible exclamations from fans of his work. Another outstanding adventure from a master storyteller. (Graphic fantasy. 7-14)

About the Author

Ben Hatke is the author and illustrator of the New York Times–bestselling Zita the Spacegirl trilogy, the picture books Julia’s House for Lost Creatures and Nobody Likes a Goblin, and the graphic novels Little Robot and Mighty Jack. He lives and works in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and their boisterous pack of daughters.

His website is www.benhatke.com

Around the Web

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King on Amazon

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King on Goodreads

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King on JLG

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King Publisher Page

Edgeland by Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

Edgeland by Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski. May 9, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9780399175817.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 690.

An upper-middle grade thriller by the New York Timesbestselling Nightfall authors perfect for fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner books.

Thousands of miles south of the island of Bliss, day and night last for 72 hours. Here is one of the natural wonders of this world: a whirlpool thirty miles wide and a hundred miles around. This is the Drain. Anything sucked into its frothing, turbulent waters is never seen again.

Wren has spent most of her life on Edgeland, a nearby island where people bring their dead to be blessed and prepared for the afterlife. There the dead are loaded into boats with treasure and sent over the cliff, and into the Drain. Orphaned and alone, Wren dreams of escaping Edgeland, and her chance finally comes when furriers from the Polar north arrive with their dead, and treasure for their dead.

With the help of her friend Alec, Wren plans to loot one of the boats before it enters the Drain. But the boat–with Alec and Wren onboard–is sucked into the whirlpool. What they discover beyond the abyss is beyond what anyone could have imagined.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Disturbing imagery, Suicide, Cannibalism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 5-8. Life on Edgeland is devoted to funerary arts, due to its nearness to the Drain—the waterfall-like ocean drop-off believed to lead to purgatory. Dodging through the somber island’s streets, 12-year-old Wren snatches what valuables she can in order to buy passage off Edgeland and find her missing father. It’s a cutthroat existence that ultimately lands her at the scene of a murder, rendering Wren its prime suspect. Before making her escape, she agrees to help her friend Alec retrieve a considerable payment to his bone house (a cross between a funeral parlor and church) that was accidentally loaded onto a funeral raft. Their daring plan goes spectacularly wrong, sending Wren and Alec over the Drain’s edge along with the dead, who are reviving for their journey to the afterlife. Purgatory is a dangerous place for the living, and as Wren and Alec endeavor to escape, their core beliefs are challenged in unexpected ways. Halpern and Kujawinski have constructed a refreshing, original fantasy that thoughtfully probes the subjects of class, religion, and morality. Wren’s and Alec’s responses to the astonishing sights in the Drain are believable and reflective of their individual personalities, maintaining the importance of their inner lives. Compellingly written, this otherworldly adventure is a unique offering that deserves attention. Happily, an open ending suggests Wren and Alec’s adventures have only begun.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
After being banished from House Aron for stealing, orphan Wren must endure the bleak life of a grayling on the island of Edgeland, living underground and supporting herself through thievery. Her banishment has separated her from her best friend, Alec, who by the age of 12, has risen from an apprentice to a high-ranking position within House Aron, conducting complex funeral ceremonies. Dead bodies are kept in ice blocks, then sent sailing into the Drain, a large circular waterfall down which the frozen dead disappear into a seemingly bottomless mist that is the entryway to the afterlife, either the Sunlit Glade or the Moonlit Beach. The two friends are brought together when the chest with the payment for a funeral mistakenly tumbles, along with the dead, into the Drain. Desperate to recover it, Alec and Wren find themselves descending with it. Alec and Wren are now “breathers” in the world of the dead—where they learn the afterlife isn’t quite what the ancient songs profess it to be. Unfortunately, this compelling premise, bolstered by complex worldbuilding, loses its steam about halfway through, as the protagonists make their way from one realm of the dead to the next, with more running and hiding than actual story. The occasional mention of pale skin but no other racial markers implies a white default. As the living help to liberate the dead, intriguing characters roam the pages of a lifeless story. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Jake Halpern is an acclaimed journalist, author, and radio producer who has written for several publications including The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine.  As a contributor at NPR, Jake produced one of the most listened-to episodes of This American Life. He co-wrote the Dormia series with Peter Kujawinski and is the author of Bad Paper, a nonfiction book for adults.

His website is worldofdormia.com

Peter Kujawinski is an author and diplomat, currently serving as US Consul General for Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. His next book, Nightfall, will be released this September by Penguin Books for Young Readers. He co-wrote the Dormia series with Jake Halpern and has written for The New York Times.

His website is peterkujawinski.com

Around the Web

Edgeland on Amazon

Edgeland on Goodreads

Edgeland on JLG

Edgeland Publisher Page

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. June 27, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 513 p. ISBN: 9780062382801.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Henry Montague is the son of a lord, and as such, his behavior is entirely inappropriate. A lover of vice and hedonism, Monty prefers to spend his time drinking (acceptable) and trysting, both with girls and boys (decidedly not acceptable). Still, Monty is in high spirits as he prepares for his grand tour of the Continent. At his side is his best friend: polite, gentlemanly Percy is the orphaned product of an English lord and a woman from Barbados. Monty, of course, is hopelessly in love with him and plans to make the most of the tour, until his distinct flair for trouble gets in the way. Several miscommunications, one truly terrible party, and an act of petty thievery later, Monty and Percy find themselves on the run across Europe with Monty’s sister Felicity in tow. Tongue-in-cheek, wildly entertaining, and anachronistic in only the most delightful ways, this is a gleeful romp through history. Monty is a hero worthy of Oscar Wilde (“What’s the use of temptations if we don’t yield to them?”), his sister Felicity is a practical, science-inclined wonder, and his relationship with Percy sings. Modern-minded as this may be, Lee has clearly done invaluable research on society, politics, and the reality of same-sex relationships in the eighteenth century. Add in a handful of pirates and a touch of alchemy for an adventure that’s an undeniable joy.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
Eighteen-year-old Monty, spoiled heir to a wealthy estate in eighteenth-century Britain, embarks on a year-long “Tour” of Europe, after which he will settle unhappily into respectable life. One social offense and an antiquities theft later, Monty and his companions (prickly little sister Felicity and lifelong best friend Percy, with whom Monty is hopelessly in love) are on the run from a power-hungry duke. When Monty discovers that Percy–whose social status as the mixed-race nephew of a wealthy landowner is already precarious–suffers from epilepsy and will be permanently committed to a sanitarium upon their return, Monty is determined to retrieve the alchemical panacea that his stolen artifact supposedly unlocks. Mayhem, adventure, and a swoon-worthy emotional roller-coaster of a romance ensue. Lee’s attention to issues of privilege in this setting, and the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender as embodied by the three travelers (and the compelling secondary characters who populate their travels, including a formerly enslaved crew of so-called pirates who have been denied the papers they need to conduct legal seafaring business) add dimension to the journey. At the center of all this, Monty is pitch-perfect as a yearning, self-destructive, oblivious jerk of a hero who inspires equal parts sympathy, frustration, and adoration from readers–as well as from Percy himself. A genre tribute, satire, and exemplar in one: trope-filled in the most gleeful way. claire e. gross

About the Author

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Simmons College. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the historical fantasy novels This Monstrous Thing and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (HarperCollins), as well as the forthcoming The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (coming in 2018 from HarperCollins) and Semper Augustus (coming in 2019 from Flatiron/Macmillan). She is also the author of Bygone Badass Broads (Abrams, 2018), a collection of short biographies of amazing women from history you probably don’t know about but definitely should, based on her popular twitter series of the same name.

She currently calls Boston home, where she manages an independent bookstore, drinks too much Diet Coke, and pets every dog she meets.

Her website is www.mackenzilee.com

Around the Web

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue on Amazon

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue on JLG

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue Publisher Page

Falcon Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson

Falcon Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson. September 19, 2017. Charlesbridge, 176 p. ISBN: 9781580897884.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 620.

“I back up as Cooper did and then sprint toward the edge. Just as I’m about to launch myself across the crevice, a hot wave of nausea grips me. I stumble at the last second. My leap is not enough to propel me to the other side. I reach for the edge.

And miss.”

Thirteen-year-old Karma is lost in the backcountry of Montana with her falcon, Stark, and a runaway boy named Cooper. She ‘s desperate to find help for her dad and brother after they find themselves in a terrible accident on a back road.

Karma wouldn’t be in this mess if her parents hadn’t insisted on returning Stark to the bird’s original owner. Life at her father’s bird sanctuary–and Karma’s dreams of becoming an apprentice falconer–will never be the same now that she has to give Stark back. Lost in the wild, her bond with the tamed falcon only grows stronger. All the while, Cooper gets his own lessons on how to trust in newfound friendship.

Both Karma’s and Cooper’s mettle is tested by mountain terrain, wild animals, severe weather, injury, and their own waning hope as this edge-of-your-seat adventure story vividly portrays the special bonds that can form between humans and animals.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. Homeschooled 13-year-old Karma loves her rescued falcon, Stark, and is obsessed with learning to be an apprentice falconer; but her father, owner of a bird sanctuary, finds Stark’s original owner and insists on returning her. He allows Karma and her younger brother to accompany him and the bird to Canada, but soon after dropping off a young hitchhiker, Cooper, the trip goes terribly wrong. Their van overturns, trapping Karma’s father, and she must trek across unfamiliar, rugged terrain in search of help. A day later, she is joined by Stark and Cooper, who both sense Karma needs assistance, and together they endeavor to survive the wilds of Montana. Riveting action and harrowing experiences keep readers on the edge as the kids and falcon race to get back to Karma’s father and brother before it’s too late. Cooper’s character develops as his backstory is revealed, and fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series will see parallels between Brian and Karma, particularly their strength in the face of adverse circumstances. An exhilarating survivalist adventure.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
Lost in the Montana wilderness, two white children and a tame gyrfalcon learn to trust one another. Thirteen-year-old home-schooled Karma lives in Montana on her family’s bird-of-prey education center, where she helps her white father train raptors. Karma longs to have friends but worries she talks too much about hawks and falcons—her favorite is a rescued white gyrfalcon named Stark. When Stark’s owner reclaims her, Karma reluctantly drives with her father and younger brother to deliver her. Shortly after letting off an unfriendly teenage-boy hitchhiker named Cooper, their van blows a tire and crashes. With her father and brother injured and Stark escaped, Karma sets out to find help. After she falls into a crevice, she is rescued by the mysterious Cooper, who spotted her thanks to the white bird circling overhead. Overjoyed to find Stark, Karma continues her search for help. As she and Cooper hike into the wilderness, they endure a slew of unfortunate events that would make Lemony Snicket proud (grizzly, near-drowning, falling, infection, thunderstorm/hail), and Cooper gradually reveals his past. Karma’s simple present-tense, first-person narration is inconsistent in her worry for her father and brother, and interesting information on falconry and raptors is imparted in an academic style that lacks smooth integration into the story. The components are there; the cohesion is not. (Adventure. 9-12)

About the Author

Terry Lynn Johnson writes outdoor adventures.

Terry’s writing is inspired by her own team of eighteen Alaskan huskies. Her passion for adventure has provided her with a rich background to write from.

When she’s not writing, Terry enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking. She works as a Conservation Officer (Game Warden) in Whitefish Falls, Ontario.

Her website is www.terrylynnjohnson.com

Teacher Resources

Falcon Wild Curriculum Guide

Around the Web

Falcon Wild on Amazon

Falcon Wild on Goodreads

Falcon Wild on JLG

Falcon Wild Publisher Page

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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And Then There Were Four on Amazon

And Then There Were Four  on Goodreads

And Then There Were Four  on JLG

And Then There Were Four  Publisher Page