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Author: Nicole Dolat

2012 Best of the Best Reading Challenge check in #8

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2012 Best of the Best Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since April 1 counts, so sign up now!

I have to say, I’m loving this challenge. Each year, I vow that I will read as many of the award winners and top picks that I can get my hands on … and then I get dragged into endless other directions as the lure of this or that book tempts me away from my goal. But with this challenge, I’m making some happy progress on the YALSA lists (even with my expected non-goal reading distractions :) ).

As of update #7, my total had grown to 14 titles. I’m still a little worried about at least hitting 25 titles by June 30th, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. As of this update, I’ve completed #15-18:

young fredle
My Boyfriend Is A Monster, vol. 1
Zahra's Paradise








  • young fredle – Cynthia Voigt (audio). SO charming. I really loved it, from start to finish.
  • My Boyfriend is a Monster, vol. 1 – Evonne Tsung/Janina Gorrissen (graphic).¬†What can I say? The start of a really sweet high school romance … interrupted by hords of zombies. Needless to say, I enjoyed it :)
  • Zahra’s Paradise – Amir & Khalil (graphic). A challenging read. I wanted to like this more than I actually did. I loved being exposed to fairly recent events in Iran, but I had trouble connecting with, or immersing myself in the culture described — I felt too far beyond my own sphere and there weren’t enough footnotes to help me with the language (endnotes never really serve the same purpose for me). I will say this: the list of victims names at the end of the book is CHILLING…
  • Geektastic – various (short story collection). I’m a geek through-and-through, so this book felt like coming home :)

I’ve also started in on the audio book for Rotters, which is VERY DEPRESSING, but still captivating, so I’m going to hang in there to the bitter end with Joey (whatever comes our way)…

What have all of you been liking/not liking?

–Nicole, currently listening to Rotters and reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone


If you’ve finished the challenge by reading 25 books, fill out the following form to let us know. (The information you provide is what we’ll use to send you your Challenge Finisher badge, contact you about your reader’s response, and notify you if you win our grand prize drawing, so pick an email address you actually use!) Do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles.


“Small Demons,” Big Rewards for Inquisitive Readers

Have you ever read a book and found that you needed to keep your computer close at hand because you just had to keep looking up all of the people, places, and things that were referenced in it? But not like looking up words in a dictionary, just trying to understand an item in context–no, I’m talking about enjoying a book so much that you want to learn even more about all of the things your favorite characters love and hate, use and destroy, sell and covet. You want to literally walk in their shoes as they trot around the globe and learn about all of the places they frequent or vacation to. You want to learn more about that 18th century philosopher that inspired their own passions, or the 21st century rock musician that gets them dancing in the kitchen while they’re cooking pasta for a hot date.

Lucky for us, the folks behind the awesome website Small Demons are just as obsessed with the same literary details that we are. And even better than that, they revel in the connections between all of the bits of information introduced in our favorite books and probably dig even deeper than we ever do. Small Demons is a Los Angeles-based company that “believes powerful and interesting things can happen when you connect all the details of books.” The site does require free registration, but once you’re registered, be warned: you could lose yourself for hours playing around on this site.


Gail Carriger News + How Book Covers Are Made

Gail Carriger (headshot by Robert Andruszko)

I recently fell in love with the writings of Gail Carriger. I can’t even recall how I discovered her. Perhaps it was through reference to her web site (“Hail the Victorious Parasol“), well-loved by fans (and now me!). For the steampunk uninitiated (or newly initiated), her web site is a great way to get into the whole steampunk “vibe.” Regardless of how it happened, I’m just glad that I did discover her. Many of you may already be familiar with her extremely popular steampunk series, The Parasol Protectorate. Though technically an adult series due to some mature sexual content, the series could also be appropriate for older teens. In that series, readers meet heroine Alexia Tarabotti, a woman armed with a silver-plated parasol worthy of taking on any vampires or werewolves. And there are vampires, werewolves, and ghosts aplenty in Carriger’s version of Victorian England.

Soulless, vol. 1

This series may also have popped on many radars since Yen Press recently released a manga version of the first book in the series, entitled Soulless. (Incidentally, the manga stays very faithful to the original novel–also titled Soulless–the artwork is terrific, and Soulless Volume 2 is scheduled for release in November 2012!)

New YA series from Carriger!

In even more exciting news, Carriger is set to release her first book in a new series for young adults! The series is called The Finishing School Series, and the first of four books will be called Etiquette & Espionage (due out in late 2012/early 2013). In Carrigers own words, from her web site:


A Wrinkle in Time Turns 50!

Everybody has “special book memories”–memories of books that were really, really special to you. Books that rocked your world. Books that might have made you cry. Books that made stifling giggles under the covers at night really tricky. Or even books that made you look at the world with new eyes. And while you tend to collect a lot of special book memories, that first special book is really precious because it was the first and because it opened your eyes to just how amazing books and reading could be. And while I remember loving books like Robert Newton Peck’s Soup and Me series (that would fall into the “laughing under covers” category for me), the first book that was truly special to me–that really rocked my world–was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

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Don’t Judge a Manga by Its Rating…

I read manga. A LOT. And people are always asking me about manga ratings and how to make sense of them … what manga would teens like to read, and what manga are better for adults?

Well, I personally tend to judge manga in a variety of ways. There’s no better way to judge than to actually breeze through the manga volume itself. I often find that a particular style of artwork can “sink or swim” a manga series for me; some can be a little too stylized for my taste, while others can be too violent or seem to be overwhelmed with action panels. Some manga I read for the compelling story; others I read just for fun because they are so silly and off-the-wall. I think a lot of people unfamiliar with manga get caught up in the fact that it is an unfamiliar format and forget that manga volumes are stories just like all of the other YA novels out there–they just happen to be constructed a little differently. It boils down to personal taste, and ideally you find a manga that has both the artwork and the story that you love and can really sink into.

The reason I really wanted to write this post was sort of a “case in point” about manga that is technically geared for older readers (but that teen readers shouldn’t be afraid to explore). There is a category of manga referred to as “seinen” and “josei.”¬†Seinen manga are aimed at a male audience ages 18-30 (or older), and Josei manga are the female audience equivalent. When I read seinen or josei series, I often worry that some teen readers might miss out on being exposed to some really wonderful stories/manga simply because someone has fixated too rigidly on the suggested demographic. To my delight, YALSA has included more than one seinen title in its graphic novel award lists. Below, I would like to highlight some new (and past) titles that could be of definite interest to teen readers and adults alike.

A Bride’s Story (ongoing) / Kaoru Mori. YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels Top 10 2012. Kaoru Mori has a real knack for historical drama. She takes great care with her craft: you can see the research she puts into the setting, the people, and the true “slice of life” flavor. This series is set in central Asia in the 19th century. A 20 year-old bride has just been married to a 12 year-old from a neighboring town, and the first volume follows Amir’s life in this new family. Amir and her new husband have almost a mother/son dynamic through most of the volume, with genuine feelings of admiration and tenderness growing between the pair. What makes this series special is the easy way that Kaoru Mori introduces readers to a lifestyle they are likely entirely unfamiliar with. I pleasantly lost myself in the story completely. And, in case it makes a difference, you might be interested to know that just about every manga “best of” list out there mentions (and raves) about this series.


31 Days of Authors: an interview with Becca Fitzpatrick, author of Crescendo (a 2011 Teens’ Top Ten Winner)

Teen Read Week was October 16th through the 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you exclusive author interviews and profiles plus reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us. Today we feature PART TWO of a two-part post about Becca Fitzpatrick, whose book Crescendo is #3 on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list. (Read part one)

Let me start by congratulating you on being nominated by teens for your place on the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Teens’ Top Ten winners list for 2011! How does it feel to be picked with authors like Cassandra Clare, James Patterson, Ally Condy, and Andrea Cremer for this honor? Anything you would like to say specifically to fans of your series, particularly the teens that nominated you and helped you win your place in the Top Ten for the year?

Thank you! It’s such an honor to be included in the Teens’ Top Ten–there is no better list to be on. It’s a “teens’ choice” list where teens and teens alone nominate their favorite books. I’d like to say THANK YOU to everyone who voted for Crescendo!


31 Days of Authors: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick (a 2011 Teens’ Top Ten Winner)

Teen Read Week was October 16th through the 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you exclusive author interviews and profiles plus reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us. Today we feature PART ONE of a two-part post about Becca Fitzpatrick, whose book Crescendo is #3 on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list. (Read part two)

Is it any surprise that Becca Fitzpatrick has neared the top of YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten List this year? Her story about Angels and Nephilim, war in Heaven and on Earth–and, best of all, destined love–is compelling. And what drives her story to the top of fan charts are her genuine characters with undeniable chemistry.

Let’s take a look at her Hush, Hush series overall. What makes it so appealing to the masses?

  • Spunky female protagonist (Nora) who is just different enough from the pack to be cool, but not so cool that she is swimming in friends and social perfection. And she’s descended from Nephilim (progeny of angels and humans). INTERESTING.
  • A Mr. Tall, Dark, and Dangerous (Patch) that becomes infatuated with Nora for reasons not immediately known, but eventually point to “we are destined to be together.” Oh! And he just happens to be a fallen angel. NICE.
  • A spunky gal-pal that “keeps it real.” WHO DOESN’T NEED A SPUNKY GAL-PAL?
  • And many mysteries and villains to sort through. WITH PLENTY OF KISSES TO HEAL ANY WOUNDS :)
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31 Days of Authors: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (a 2011 Teens’ Top Ten winner)

Teen Read Week was October 16th through the 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you exclusive author interviews and profiles plus reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us. Today we feature Andrea Cremer, whose book Nightshade is #10 on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list.

Confession. I love books about werewolves, vampires, witches and the like.

Another confession. These days, I often find the originality of such books lacking, and titles and authors blur together into one big, indistinguishable blob in my mind.

So why do I keep reading books about werewolves and their mystical peers? Because every now and again, an author really gets it right…and Andrea Cremer is one of those authors. But don’t take my word for it. Ask the 9,000 or so teens from across the country that voted Nightshade as one of their ten most cherished books of 2011. And have no fear, Nightshade is book one in a happy trilogy. The story continues in Wolfsbane (released in July 2011) and finishes with Bloodrose (due out in February 2012).

Cremer takes common werewolf lore and twists and turns it into something totally new, utterly compelling, and just pretty darn cool. Nightshade is the story of a non-human society that exists alongside humans. Keepers, elder beings with magical/mystical powers, firmly have a place at the top ranks. Related to the Keepers are the searchers, who share the keeper powers but not their beliefs–they are presumably the enemy to all. Beneath both keepers and searchers are the guardians–and it’s the guardians that hold center stage in Nightshade. Guardians are humans who flip easily between wolf and human form and act as soldiers or enforcers on the keepers’ behalf. They obey the keepers without question, even to the extent that a keeper determines which “alphas” will lead a “pack,” who will mate with whom, where they will live, etc. Essentially, guardians accept that their lives are not their own and they do so because they believe they are part of a just cause that protects all of humanity.

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