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Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix & Sean Williams. October 31, 2017. Scholastic Press, 274 p. ISBN: 9780545259026.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

It is strange enough that Odo and Eleanor have stumbled upon a sword in a dried-up river outside their village. It is even stranger that Odo is able to remove it from where it’s buried. And it’s REMARKABLY strange when the sword starts to talk.

Odo and Eleanor have unearthed Biter, a famous fighter from earlier times. By finding Biter, Odo instantly becomes a knight – a role he is exquisitely unsuited for. Eleanor, however, would make a PERFECT knight – but she’s not the one with the sword.

Finding Biter is only the start – boy, girl, and sword must soon go on a quest to save their kingdom from threats in both human and dragon form, in this new fantasy triumph from Garth Nix and Sean Williams.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 3-5. Eleanor: bold, sharp, filled with dreams of adventure and knighthood. Odo: a little timid, a little unsure, not particularly fond of thinking about the future. But alas, when the two tweens stumble upon an enchanted sword, it’s Odo who cuts himself on it and is granted instant knighthood by the sword itself. The sword, whose name happens to be Biter, has no problem talking and fighting, although he does seem to be having a little trouble remembering his clearly illustrious past. At any rate, domineering Biter, reluctant knight Odo, and sullen squire Eleanor have a quest to complete if they want to save their kingdom—if they can figure out who they’re fighting. This first series installment is a true-blue errant-knight tale, complete with dragons, sassy enchanted objects, and a destiny that comes before anyone is ready. In this world, knighthood is given regardless of gender; it eludes Eleanor not because she’s a girl but because of bad timing. Hand to just about any middle-grader looking for a swashbuckling adventure.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2017)
Two best friends with opposing appetites for adventure are thrust into a crucial quest by a gregarious sword. The once-hearty Silverrun River through Lenburh is steadily running ever lower. As diminutive, feisty Eleanor and her best friend, brawny, bumbling Odo, fish for eels in the muddy trickle, they unearth a sword. After Odo pricks his finger and subsequently bleeds on the blade, the heretofore-slumbering sword wakes up, proclaiming its name (in Gothic type) to be Hildebrand Shining Foebiter (Biter for short) and knighting Sir Odo. Eleanor, whose deceased mother was a knight, is at once thrilled by the enchanted sword and infuriated that she’s been designated squire. Assessing the river’s pathetic state, Biter pronounces their quest to unblock the river’s source. Eleanor is gung-ho, Odo is reluctant, Biter is persistent. The trio bid adieu to Lenburh’s bucolic boredom and head toward their fate—which could very well mean death by dragon. In this medievallike fantasy world, gender equality abounds. Like the bulk of medieval European art, however, this cast is white (with the liberal inclusion of female Sirs, it would seem that some black and brown characters could have been included, too). Written by a duo, the narrative is presented from both Eleanor’s and Odo’s perspectives, although this isn’t a he-said, she-said division by chapter; there is a more fluid back and forth. En garde for an implied sequel that is already too bloody far away. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia, to the sound of the Salvation Army band outside playing ‘Hail the Conquering Hero Comes’ or possibly ‘Roll Out the Barrel’. Garth left Melbourne at an early age for Canberra (the federal capital) and stayed there till he was nineteen, when he left to drive around the UK in a beat-up Austin with a boot full of books and a Silver-Reed typewriter.

Despite a wheel literally falling off the Austin, Garth survived to return to Australia and study at the University of Canberra. After finishing his degree in 1986 he worked in a bookshop, then as a book publicist, a publisher’s sales representative, and editor. Along the way he was also a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve, serving in an Assault Pioneer platoon for four years. Garth left publishing to work as a public relations and marketing consultant from 1994-1997, till he became a full-time writer in 1998. He did that for a year before joining Curtis Brown Australia as a part-time literary agent in 1999. In January 2002 Garth went back to dedicated writer again, despite his belief that full-time writing explains the strange behaviour of many authors.

He now lives in Sydney with his wife, two sons and lots of books.  His website is www.garthnix.com.

#1 New York Times bestselling Sean Williams lives with his family in Adelaide, South Australia. He’s written some books–forty-two at last count–including the Philip K. Dick-nominated Saturn Returns, several Star Wars novels and the Troubletwister series with Garth Nix. Twinmaker is a YA SF series that takes his love affair with the matter transmitter to a whole new level. You can find some related short stories over at Lightspeed Magazine and elsewhere. Thanks for reading.

His website is www.twinmakerbooks.com/

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The Assassin’s Curse by Kevin Sands

The Assassin’s Curse by Kevin Sands. September 5, 2017. Aladdin Books, 532 p. ISBN: 9781534405233.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 610.

Christopher Rowe is back and there are more puzzles, riddles, and secrets to uncover in this third novel of the award-winning Blackthorn Key series.

Wherever Christopher Rowe goes, adventure—and murder—follows. Even a chance to meet King Charles ends in a brush with an assassin.

All that’s recovered from the killer is a coded message with an ominous sign-off: more attempts are coming. So when Christopher’s code-breaking discovers the attack’s true target, he and his friends are ordered to Paris to investigate a centuries-old curse on the French throne. And when they learn an ancient treasure is promised to any assassin who succeeds, they realize the entire royal family is at stake—as well as their own lives.

In the third heart-pounding installment of the award-winning Blackthorn Key series, Christopher, Tom, and Sally face new codes, puzzles, and traps as they race to find the hidden treasure before someone else is murdered.

Sequel to: Mark of the Plague

Part of Series: The Blackthorn Key (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Underage drinking, Murder

 

About the Author

Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher.

His website is kevinsandsbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

The Assassin’s Curse Reading Group Guide

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Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. August 29, 2017. Random House Books for Young Readers, 368 p. ISBN: 9780399549748.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

Part of Series: DC Icons (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Underage drinking, Criminal culture

 

Video Reviews

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Wonder Woman’s backstory is fairly well-known—Amazon princess, isolated island populated only by women, defender of truth and justice, snappy golden lasso, etc.—but Bardugo breathes zippy new life into the story with a twisty plot, whip-smart characters, and her trademark masterful writing. Diana is eager to prove her valor to the other Amazons on Themyscira, but her chosen act of heroism—­rescuing teenage Alia from a shipwreck outside the boundary waters of the island—wreaks havoc on the island’s delicate balance. Of course, that’s not all: Alia is a “warbringer,” and her mere existence will spark global war unless Diana can intervene. Seamlessly integrating classic Wonder Woman lore with her own updated take, Bardugo fleshes out Diana’s backstory and the mythology of Themyscira, adds in sly commentary on feminism and equality, and leavens the package with wry comedy—Diana’s dour obliviousness to contemporary culture will make readers guffaw. This will certainly please seasoned fans of Wonder Woman, but with a cinematic plot and a diverse cast of thoughtfully well-­rounded characters, don’t be surprised if it garners wider appeal, too.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)
DC Comics opens its new line of media tie-in novels with this Wonder Woman origin story.Bardugo introduces readers to Wonder Woman with two alternating perspectives: Diana, princess of Themyscira, and Alia, a 17-year-old New Yorker. While most Amazons are women warriors rewarded with new lives after death, Diana alone is untested, molded from clay, eager to prove herself worthy. Diana’s rescue of Alia from a shipwreck forces the princess into exile in order to prevent a foreordained global catastrophe. Alia wonders if her unusually dressed, oddly naïve rescuer is in a cult. Nerdy, orphaned, biracial, and identifying as black, Alia is awkward and mostly friendless despite her family’s massive wealth. Rescued from disaster by this bronze-skinned white girl who looks “like a supermodel who moonlighted as a cage fighter,” Alia learns her very existence might cause the deaths of millions. With the help of her brother and their two best friends (snarky Brazilian Theo and Indian Nim, who’s queer, fat, fashionable, and fabulous), Alia accompanies Diana on a quest to end the cycle of death. This will absolutely satisfy pre-existing fans of Wonder Woman, but it also readily stands alone for non–superhero fans (although with the first live-action Wonder Woman film opening two months before the novel’s launch, it’s likely to contribute to a new fan base for Diana). Cinematic battles and a race against time keep the excitement high, but the focus on girls looking out for each other is what makes this tie-in shine. Crossed fingers for a sequel. (Superhero fantasy. 12-16)

About the Author

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising).

She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she’s lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

She would be elated if you visited her web site.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. September 5, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062457790.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Gun violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Imagine a world in which everyone who is about to die receives the shocking news in advance by phone, and you have the premise of the wildly imaginative new novel by Silvera. Eighteen-year-old Mateo receives such a phone call at 12:22 a.m., while 17-year-old Rufus receives his at 1:05. Both boys, who are initially strangers to each other, now have one thing in common: they will be dead in 24 hours or less. Alone and desperately lonely, the two find each other by using an app called Last Friend. At first dubious, they begin a cautious friendship, which they describe in their respective first-person voices in alternating chapters. The ingenious plot of this character-driven novel charts the evolution of their relationship as it deepens into something more than simple friendship. Silvera does a remarkable job of inviting empathy for his irresistible coprotagonists. As the clock continues to tick the minutes away, their story becomes invested with urgency and escalating suspense. Will they really die? Perhaps, but, ultimately, it is not death but life that is the focus of this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
What would you do with one day left to live?In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived. Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

About the Author

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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