Tag Archives: fantasy

Castle in the Stars by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 (Book 1) by Alex Alice. September 12, 2017. First Second, 64 p. ISBN: 9781626724938.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5.

In search of the mysterious element known as aether, Claire Dulac flew her hot air balloon toward the edge of our stratosphere―and never returned. Her husband, genius engineer Archibald Dulac, is certain that she is forever lost. Her son, Seraphin, still holds out hope.

One year after her disappearance, Seraphin and his father are delivered a tantalizing clue: a letter from an unknown sender who claims to have Claire’s lost logbook. The letter summons them to a Bavarian castle, where an ambitious young king dreams of flying the skies in a ship powered by aether. But within the castle walls, danger lurks―there are those who would stop at nothing to conquer the stars.

In Castle in the Stars, this lavishly illustrated graphic novel, Alex Alice delivers a historical fantasy adventure set in a world where man journeyed into space in 1869, not 1969.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. What do you get when you mix steampunk, historic scientific theories, Jules Verne-style adventure, and King Ludwig II of Bavaria? A rollicking good time, that’s what. In 1869, a year after Seraphin’s mother disappeared in her hot air balloon while in search of the mysterious energy source called Aether, an unsigned letter arrives in which the writer claims to have found her logbook. On their way to Bavaria to claim it, Seraphin and his father become entangled with Prussian spies who are also on the hunt for the logbook, hoping that the secret of Aether will help them overthrow King Ludwig II and take over the world. The romantic setting of the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle is the perfect backdrop for this steampunk adventure story, and the author and artists use both interior and exterior views to good advantage. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations are gorgeously detailed and alive with color and motion, giving the whole book a cinematic feel. This series starter ends on an extreme cliffhanger, so readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Some people will love this fanciful tale of a 19th-century space race so much they never finish it. This graphic novel is filled with distractions. Every scene has a new detail to focus on, usually off in the corner of a panel: a watercraft decorated with golden cherubs or an airship shaped like a swan. When one character holds up a book of blueprints (for a craft that travels “through aether”), readers may be tempted to crane their necks to get a better view of the tiny drawings. The artwork, which combines loose pencil outlines with elaborate watercolors, is that spectacular. Many panels could be framed as paintings, and it would be easy to ignore the text and just stare at the pictures of cloud banks. But that would be a mistake, as it’s a terrific adventure story with disguises and air chases and a plot against Bavarian royalty in the late 1800s. The story is full of digressions, though, and the digressions are the best part, as when the main character (a schoolboy named Seraphin) explains why there must be dinosaurs on Venus. In another, the royal architect shows off the orchestra pit on an airship. This is bad science and bad history (and surely not everyone in Bavaria was white), which makes it fantastic steampunk. Like the best steampunk, this story is one excellent distraction after another, with enough blueprints to hold people’s attention while they’re waiting for Book 2. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

About the Author

Alex Alice is a French graphic novelist, working in France and sometimes the U.S. His works have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Born in 1974, he grew up in the south of France and had the chance to travel around Europe, where he developed a lifelong passion for the ruins and castles of the medieval and romantic ages. This experience influenced his art, from the grim setting of his esoteric thriller The Third Testament (co-written with Xavier Dorison and published by Titan Comics) to the primeval, mythic world found in Siegfried, an operatic re-telling of the northern saga of the great dragon slayer (published by Boom Entertainment). In Castle in the Stars, he draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

His website is www.alexalice.com

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The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

The Ship of the Dead  by Rick Riordan. October 3, 2017. Disney-Hyperion, 423 p. ISBN: 9781423160939.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 710.

Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus and his crew must sail to the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim in pursuit of Asgard’s greatest threat. Will they succeed in their perilous journey, or is Ragnarok lurking on the horizon?

Sequel to: The Hammer of Thor

Part of Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Racism and racist language, Anti-Islamic sentiment, Child abuse, Terrorism

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.

His website is www.rickriordan.com.

Teacher Resources

Magnus Chase Discussion Guide

Norse mythology Teaching Resources

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The Ship of the Dead on Amazon

The Ship of the Dead on Goodreads

The Ship of the Dead on JLG

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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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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

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

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Even the Darkest Stars on Amazon

Even the Darkest Stars on Goodreads

Even the Darkest Stars on JLG

Even the Darkest Stars Publisher Page

Because You Love to Hate Me edited by Ameriie

Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy edited by Ameriie. July 11, 2017. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 368 p. ISBN: 9781681193649.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

Leave it to the heroes to save the world–villains just want to rule the world.

In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like “Medusa,” Sherlock Holmes, and “Jack and the Beanstalk” provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains’ acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage–and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

Featuring writing from . . .

Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon

BookTubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zoë Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Sexual assault, Murder

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. It’s true: everyone loves a character who’s a little bit bad. In the case of these 13 tales, that’s often a lot bad: collection editor and contributor Ameriie pairs 13 authors with 13 BookTubers tasked with creating stories that feature infamous villains from literature and fairy tales. The concept here is that the BookTuber provides the prompt, the author writes the story, and then the BookTuber provides commentary. Some prompts are more detailed than others, and inevitably, the best stories are often from the simplest plots: standouts include Susan Dennard’s “Shirly and Jim” (“a young Moriarty”), Cindy Pon’s “Beautiful Venom” (“Medusa. Go!”), Samantha Shannon’s “Marigold” (“Erl Queen retelling in nineteenth-century London”), and Andrew Smith’s “Julian Breaks Every Rule” (“A psychopath in a futuristic setting). A diverse array of high-profile authors are showcased (i.e., Renée Ahdieh, Adam Silvera, Victoria Schwab, Nicola Yoon), and the inclusion of the BookTubers is an interesting idea that allows for a range of perspectives. The concept alone is enough to draw readers, so stock up—it’s never been so fun to be bad..

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
Are villains born evil, or do life circumstances force them to choose a dark path?Thirteen book bloggers challenge as many young-adult authors to write stories about the villains we love to hate. There are reimaginings of familiar fairy-tale and mythological villains alongside the nefarious adventures of the newly infamous. Benjamin Alderson’s challenge to Cindy Pon—“Medusa. Go!”—yields the origin story “Beautiful Venom,” which places the Greek myth in an Asian setting (the collection’s only sign of racial diversity). Samantha Shannon’s “Marigold” is an “Erl-Queen Retelling in Nineteenth-Century London” that grants the primary female character agency denied Victorian women in real life. “You, You, It’s All About You,” by Adam Silvera, introduces “A Female Teen Crime Lord Concealed by a Mask.” Slate, that story’s villain-protagonist, deals in mind-altering drugs in order to gain control of her life after an abusive childhood. Nicola Yoon’s chilling “Sera” is a “Gender-Flipped God of War” story about a young woman with terrifying powers who becomes deathly ill when she suppresses her true nature. Each story is followed by commentary from the blogger who set the challenge. Some react with thoughtful critical pieces, while others take a creative, metafictive approach to the fruits of their authors’ labors. Some stories don’t quite meet their challenges, but overall, this anthology is an explosively entertaining joy ride of villainous goodness. (Short stories/fantasy. 13-18)

About the Editor

Ameriie is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, producer, and writer of fiction. She is the editor of the villains anthology Because You Love to Hate Me. The daughter of a Korean artist and an American military officer, she was born in Massachusetts, raised all over the world, and graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s in English. She lives mostly in her imagination, but also on Earth with her husband, her parents and sister, and about seven billion other people.

Her website is www.Ameriie.com

Around the Web

Because You Love to Hate Me on Amazon

Because You Love to Hate Me on Goodreads

Because You Love to Hate Me on JLG

Because You Love to Hate Me 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 Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz. July 25, 2017. HarperTeen, 352 p. ISBN: 9780062467775.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

A beautiful and evocative look at identity and creativity, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is a stunning debut in magical realism. Perfect for fans of The Walls Around Us and Bone Gap.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Karcz’s bold debut straddles the line between magical realism and surrealism as high-school senior Mercedes Moreno comes to terms with her identity as an individual and an artist. When Mercedes’ mother leaves to take care of Mercedes’ terminally ill abuela, a piano mysteriously appears on her front yard, setting off a bizarre chain of events. Passionate fellow artist Lilia moves in next door and introduces Mercedes to the Red Mangrove Estate, an ephemeral building that houses artists and brings the most raw, significant paintings out of Mercedes. Expertly executed irony propels the narrative forward as Mercedes finds meaning and insight in her art at the estate but can’t bring anything outside. Her best friend, Victoria, has been instrumental as Mercedes struggles to accept herself as bisexual, but Mercedes still can’t bring herself to tell Victoria she’s in love with her. Mercedes emerges as a fiercely independent female protagonist who normalizes insecurity and indecision at the end of high school.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Mercedes Moreno rediscovers her muse at a mysterious, invitation-only artists’ sanctuary. Latina high school senior Mercedes is desperate to create a painting worthy of her junior-year award-winner, Food Poisoning #1. But Food Poisoning #2 isn’t coming along, and Mercedes feels blocked artistically and personally. Recently out as bisexual, Mercedes is secretly in love with her white, dancer best friend, Victoria. Mercedes is also stuck watching over her 14-year-old sister, Angela, while their mother is in Puerto Rico taking care of comatose Abuela Dolores. A week after their mom’s departure, a piano shows up on the sisters’ front lawn, and Lilia Solis, a beautiful artist Mercedes thinks might be Latina as well, moves in next door. Lilia invites Mercedes to accompany her to her “studio” in the Red Mangrove Estate, a shuttered old Sarasota beach condo, where Mercedes finds she has boundless energy to paint and meets other artists, musicians, and photographers fulfilling their artistic dreams. The catch? Nothing created at the Estate can be taken out of it; time inside the Estate seems to work differently; and Mercedes begins to crave being there. Unfortunately, the execution hobbles the premise. Mercedes remains mostly unlikable despite the first-person narration, and the dialogue comes across as affected and inauthentic, as in the way Victoria constantly calls Mercedes “dearie” or how often the teens wax philosophical about art. Initially compelling, this tribute to young artists ultimately underdelivers. (Magical realism. 12-17)

About the Author

Lauren Karcz is a fan of new books, old dogs, long sentences, Broadway shows, adverbs, and wandering art museums. She’s a professional language nerd, having worked as an ESL teacher, a language test developer, and now as a writer. Lauren lives with her family in Atlanta.

Her website is www.laurenkarcz.com

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The Gallery of Unfinished Girls on Amazon

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Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older. September 12, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780545952828.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Shadowhouse rising

Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light—an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The Deck tracks the players and powers of all the magical houses in the city, and when the real Hound begins to stalk Sierra through the streets, the shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Worlds in revolution

Sierra and Shadowhouse have been thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new—a struggle they didn’t want, but are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds…or else she could lose all the things that matter most.

Part of Series: The Shadowshaper Cipher (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racism, Confrontations with police

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 8-11. With the same keen eye for the power of art and a sly commentary on the insidious nature of racism and white supremacy—as well as a deft handle on zippy teenage banter and cinematic pacing—Older delivers a fantastic follow-up to his best-selling Shadowshaper (2015), which not only intensifies the stakes of the first book but also expands the scope of his well-wrought, vivid world building. When Sierra receives a creepy card and a dire warning about coming conflict, at first she thinks nothing of it. But that card is part of the enigmatic Deck of Worlds, which reveals the four major houses locked in an age-old power struggle. Unbeknownst to Sierra, she and her shadowshapers are one of those houses, and other houses are in hot pursuit of their power. Older deepens the mythology of shadowshaping in this installment, subtly showcasing how cultural heritage, even the trauma of ancestors, can become a power to wield rather than a burden to bear, not to mention how the history of colonization bleeds into contemporary culture. Plenty of elements have a ripped-from-the-headlines feel, but Older expertly integrates those moments into the wider story and keeps the narrative solidly on Sierra and her quest. The expanding cast of well-rounded characters, clearly choreographed action, and foreshadowing of installments to come will have fantasy fans eagerly awaiting more of this dynamic, smart series.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Sierra and the shadowshapers are back in this sequel to Shadowshaper (2015).A few months after the close of Shadowshaper, Nuyorican Sierra Santiago has grown in her shadowshaping powers but feels overwhelmed by her new role as Lucera, head of Shadowhouse. One night in Prospect Park, a girl from school attempts to give Sierra a creepy playing card from the Deck of Worlds, warning Sierra that the Deck is in play again and the Sorrows (who tried to wipe out the shadowshapers in the last book) are out to get them once more. Meanwhile, Older paints a compelling picture of contemporary life for black and brown teens in cities: Afro-Latinx Sierra and her friends deal with police harassment and brutality, both on the streets of Bed-Stuy and at school, themes that feel especially timely and relevant. When Sierra learns the Sorrows want her to join them in order to complete their magic, she must take a dangerous chance in order to protect herself and those that she loves. Older excels at crafting teen dialogue that feels authentic, and props to everyone involved for not othering the Spanish language. This second volume features a tighter plot and smoother pacing than the first, and the ending will leave readers eagerly awaiting the further adventures of Sierra and her friends. Lit. (Urban fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher (Scholastic), the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series (Penguin), and the upcoming Middle Grade sci-fi adventure Flood City (Scholastic). He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and yes, the World Fantasy Award. Shadowshaper was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read.

His website is www.danieljoseolder.net

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Shadowhouse Fall on Amazon

Shadowhouse Fall  on Goodreads

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Two Times a Traitor by Karen Bass

Two Times a Traitor by Karen Bass. August 21, 2017. Pajama Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9781772780314.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 720.

Angry over his family’s recent move and current enforced holiday in Halifax, twelve-year-old Laz Berenger rebels against a guided tour of the Citadel and sets out to explore on his own. In one dark tunnel, his St. Christopher medal burns suddenly hot. There’s a strange smell, and Laz blacks out. When he wakes up, everything happens at once. A sword is put to his throat. Men who look like extras from Pirates of the Caribbean hand him over to a ship’s captain who strips him and takes his medal. He is declared a French spy. Laz realizes, to his horror, that it is 1745 and he is trapped in time. These English colonists, still loyal to King George, are at war with the French. To earn his freedom, Laz must promise to spy on the French at the fortification of Louisbourg. But once in Louisbourg, Laz earns a job as runner to the kind Commander Morpain and learns to love both the man and the town. How will Laz find a way to betray the inhabitants of Louisbourg? How else can he hope to earn back his St. Christopher medal, which is surely his key to returning to his own time? The award-winning author of The Hill and Graffiti Knight has written an enthralling, swash-buckling time-slip adventure for middle-grade readers centered on a fascinating period in North American history.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Anti-Catholic epithets

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
After fighting with his controlling dad while the family tours the Citadel in Halifax, Laz runs off—and then somehow slips through time to 1745.It’s not an easy place to be. He appears in the midst of the New Englanders’ preparations to attack the French fort at Louisbourg, on Cape Breton Island. The English colonists believe that the white American boy is French—somewhat true since his grandmother is French-Canadian, and he speaks the language fluently. Convinced that the St. Christopher medal that a New Englander captain took from him might be the key to time travel and, at least initially, desperate to return to his own time, Laz agrees to spy on the French at Louisbourg to get it back. There, a French pirate takes him under his wing, giving him the fatherly relationship that Laz has longed for. As he adjusts to the time, it’s only his treasured little sister that he finds himself missing, but eventually that’s enough to motivate him to seek home. The past is accurately and engagingly depicted, and Laz’s reactions to the harsh conditions, especially bad food and filth, are totally believable. If this effort were longer it could be fully immersive, but often the narrative seems slightly jumpy, lacking connective tissue. Still, time travel is a thrilling concept, and the tale overflows with compelling action, more than making up for minor flaws. (Fantasy. 11-16)

About the Author

Karen Bass is the multi-award-winning author of a number of novels for young adult readers. Graffiti Knight won the CLA Young Adult Book Award, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the R. Ross Annett Award, and the CAA Exporting Alberta Award, among other honours. Uncertain Soldier won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and was a finalist for the OLA Forest of Reading Red Maple Award. Her most recent novel, The Hill, is a White Ravens Selection and a Junior Library Guild Selection, and is nominated for the Forest of Reading Red Maple Award. Formerly the public library manager in Hythe, Alberta, Karen now lives and writes in Hamilton, Ontario.

Her website is www.karenbass.ca

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Two Times a Traitor on Amazon

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Two Times a Traitor Publisher Page