Booklist: YA Alternate History

June is history month, and while there’s a ton of great historical fiction for teens out there, it’s also a perfect time to start asking “What if?”

What if the American Revolution never happened?

What if the Axis Powers won World War II?

Alternate history books are a great way to explore these questions, and alternate history for teens is becoming increasingly popular. Here are a few books to get you started.

ALTERNATE HISTORY IN YA FICTION

These stories can blend speculative elements with historical facts, which is perfect for prompting discussion about what is truth and what is fiction in the novels discussed. They can also prompt readers to explore more nonfiction about the time period.  Continue reading Booklist: YA Alternate History

Is This Just Fantasy? : Catching Up On Current Series

Just Fantasy catching upAs summer comes to a close, I inevitably look at my increasingly dusty ‘to be read’ piles and worry about the many books I failed to read during my vacation. Simultaneously, I peer towards the flood of shiny new titles set to be released over the next few months and I am overwhelmed.  This feeling only increases when I consider the number of current fantasy series with new installments hitting the shelves soon! It is a constant dilemma–how to catch up on current series while keeping up with the new ones? I admit I have yet discover a true solution but at the very least, I’ve found that it helps to step back and take stock of the current series that might be most timely to revisit.
Here are few series worth adding to any fantasy fan’s ‘catch up’ checklist.
 
of metal and wishesOf Metal and Wishes  – Sarah Fine (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults)  Wen assists her father in the medical clinic that serves the Gochan One slaughterhouse. While Wen and her family are trapped by their debts to the factory, they remain better off than the Noor, workers brought in as cheap labor.  And now a ghost seems to be haunting the slaughterhouse– a of dreams and rustghost who will do anything to protect and please Wen. As Wen becomes increasingly involved with the Noor and their charismatic young leader, she must face both the volatile ‘ghost’ and the brutal system and decide if she dares to take a stand.
 The sequel, Of Dreams and Rust,  was just released earlier this month.
The Diviners – Libba Bray (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adultsdiviners
It’s 1926 and glamorous New York City is simply the only place to be—at least in small town flapper Evie O’Neill’s mind. So when her parents ship her off to visit her uncle in the Big Apple, Evie is thrilled. However, the trip also means staying in Uncle Will’s highly creepy museum and Evie is hiding her own supernatural secret. lair of dreamsThen, within days of her arrival, a young woman is found murdered and branded with strange occult symbols. Uncle Will is asked to consult on the case and soon Evie is in the middle of murder investigation—and perhaps something even more sinister.
 The long awaited sequel, Lair of Dreams, will be published the end of this month!
The Burning Sky – Sherry Thomas
the burning sky
Iolanthe Seabourne is an elemental mage with an special gift for fire.  Brought up in obscurity with her drug-addicted mentor, Iolanthe has never thought of her abilities as particularly extraordinary.  But when she pulls down a massive lightning strike from the sky in an attempt to mend a failed elixir, Iolanthe suddenly gains the attention of Prince Titus,  the young royal determined to follow through on his mother’s visions, revenge his family, and regain power over Atlantis.  Convinced that Iolanthe is the mage prophesied to battle and defeat the tyrannical ruler Bane, he leaps into action to hide her the immortal heightsin the non-magical world of London as they prepare for their possibly deadly fate.
The second book, The Perilous Sea, is currently available and the third volume, The Immortal Heights, is set to be released in October.

Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy? : Catching Up On Current Series

Women in Comics: Steampunk

Steampunk MechSteampunk continues to be a popular genre with its combination of fantastical steam-based technology, elements of science fiction, and alternate history. With all of these elements, it is a style that can appeal to fans of a wide array of genres. It is also well suited to the graphic novel format since imaginative design is such a core component of these stories. Whether you are already a fan of steampunk or haven’t yet given it a try, these books are fun reads that will pull you into fascinating worlds.

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek – Fans of Cassandra Clare’s works will be excited to know that the prequels to her Mortal Instruments stories have been adapted for the graphic novel format. The series is set in Victorian England as many steampunk stories are, but in a somewhat less common twist, follows a sixteen year old girl from America who finds herself alone in the city. As she discovers the world of shadowhunters, the book has a chance to come into its own with artwork that brings to life every piece of the secretive world that Clare imagined. This is a must read for fans of the Mortal Instruments series, but will also appeal to a wider audience.
Continue reading Women in Comics: Steampunk

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Gail Carriger

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I grew up reading and re-reading Verne, Kipling, Stevenson, Doyle, and the not-Victorian mysteries of Agatha Christie while trying to memorize the entirety of Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott” for reasons I’m still not certain I could articulate.  At the same time, I fancied myself something of an amateur naturalist (though at 10 I probably wouldn’t have used that word) and spent an inordinate amount of time messing around with age-inappropriate powders and vials that resulted in the cigar-box pinning and labeling of many unfortunate insects.  My teen years were draped in velvet, and at 16 I felt that elbow-length black silk evening gloves were appropriate for almost every occasion, including math class.  And I spent too much time thinking about and trying to procure tea, which was not at all easy to come by in my small mountain-ringed Utah town.

In other words, Gail Carriger is in oh so many ways the wheelhouse of my formative years, discovered slightly later, but no less welcome for that.  The world she creates (and it is a world, both on and off the page) is full of dirigibles, social commentary, mechanicals, custard, tea, diabolical secret societies, werewolves, proper manners, perfect curtsies, and treacle tarts, which is to say it’s delightful and immersive and subversive all at once.  If you’re looking for fun and froth, mystery and adventures, parasols and poison, Gail’s world is what you want; if it’s an ongoing and masterful dismantling of the Hero’s Journey, the Parasol Protectorate series is just the thing; if an unusual heroine (“with family and friends,” as Spike bemoans) flying cheese pie, and subtle examinations of race, class, and gender, among other things, sound exciting, you need to meet Sophronia, of the Finishing School series.  Or you might be, like me, waiting for the release of Prudence (The Custard Protocol: Book One) on March 17th because it’s impossible to resist a book wherein “a marauding team of outrageous miscreants in a high tech dirigible [charges] about fixing things, loudly and mainly with tea.”

Please imagine me performing one perfect curtsy here.  Thank you, Gail!

Always Something There to Remind Me

3GailCarrigerCreamPhoto by Robert Andruszko

Please describe your teenage self.

A demanding, arrogant, overachiever nerd-type with an unexpected interest in fashion who was constantly reading or writing. Not all that different from now, frankly. Except perhaps the overachiever part.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

An archaeologist, because I wanted to touch history.

What were your high school years like? 

I actually really enjoyed high school. I met, made, and kept most of my still-dearest friends. I remember laughing… a lot. I wasn’t a depressive kid. I didn’t have an identity crisis. I was proud to be weird, nerdy, and an outsider. I spoke up in class. I had a healthy relationship with food and exercise. I went to my first convention. I learned to sew and took up cosplay. I was the first to drive amongst my group, so I had purpose. I was a scholarship kid at a prep school so I was challenged. I had some fantastic teachers. And if I did need to escape, I just read books.

What were some of your passions during that time?

I remember being obsessed with Monty Python, Tamora Pierce, and dancing. I was on the swim team, but never really a team player. Dressing up and thrifting for unique fashion was very important. This was the 90s, so grunge was in and it was easy to be stylish on the cheap. I got into throwing massive costume parties and my house quickly became one of the primary gathering places (I had the “cool parents,” still do).

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?

My parents’ divorce was rough, but then I had plenty of role models. Nearly all my friends were also the children of divorced parents; I just came to it later than everyone else. It didn’t really effect how I thought about romance, but it did force me to rethink how I conceived of family. As a result threads of friendship, and the concept of building one’s own family, and the importance of loyalty weave through many of my books. My main characters are never going to be solitary agents against the universe in a hero’s journey kind of way.  In fact, I react strongly against that archetype. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Gail Carriger

2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden
Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden

This past year I had the immense pleasure to serve as chair for the 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. It was a really great year for audiobooks and my committee was fortunate to consider a total of 395 audiobooks for our selection list!  After hours and hours of listening, we had to whittle down a list of no more than 30 selections that were the year’s best.  If you have not yet had a chance to checkout our list you can see it here.  It was released last week, after the Midwinter Conference.

We also had the even more difficult task of selecting our Top Ten Audiobooks of the year. Below are our Top Ten titles for 2015, along with a suggested listen-a-like, in case you are ahead of the game and have already listened to these Top Ten selections.

2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten

  • ACID by Emma Pass, read by Fiona Hardingham with Nicholas Guy Smith and Suzan Crowley. Listening Library, 2014. 10 hours, 48 minutes; 9 discs. 978-0-8041-6832-8.

The brutal police state ACID rules all, so when Jenna is broken out of prison by a rebel group she has to fight to survive as ACID’s most-wanted fugitive.  Unique ACID reports and recordings read by Smith and Hardingham’s excellent pace combine with her authentic teen voice to highlight this exciting story.

Listen-a-Like:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham: For those listeners who are looking for another title narrated by Fiona Hardingham that is packed with action and adventure and that has a strong female main character. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2012,  2012 Odyssey Honor  Audiobook)

acidaudioscorpioracesaudio

  • Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quick.  Hachette Audio, 2013.  9 hours, 30 minutes, 8 discs, ISBN: 978-1-4789-2648-1.

In the second installment of the Finishing School series, Sophronia and her classmates use their training to search for a dangerous device that may have fallen into the wrong hands.  Quick’s lively narration highlights the wit and humor in Carriger’s story.

Listen-a-Like:

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison: The Finishing School series, narrated by Quirk, is filled with sly humor but also packs a punch with Sophronia’s adventures.  Likewise, The Screaming Staircase is not only is an action-packed steampunk mystery, but Raison brings variety to her narration by highlighting the nuances of the quirky cast of characters characters, including the darkly comedic Anthony Lockwood. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014)

curtsies and conspiracies audio  screaming staircase audio Continue reading 2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

Genre Guide: Spy Fiction

By Employee(s) of Universal Studios (Photograph in possession of SchroCat) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Employee(s) of Universal Studios (Photograph in possession of SchroCat) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Definition
Spy fiction is a sub-genre of mysteries and thrillers. For a novel to be considered spy fiction, some form of espionage must be present in the plot. This can include one person as a spy, or a whole agency of spies.  Spy fiction can be set in the present day, past, and future. When spy fictions are written for teens, the protagonist or protagonists are often inexperienced and considered amateur sleuths.

Authors to Know

Characteristics
Spy fiction must have action and adventure. Though some have it outright, others may have more of a cerebral approach.  The main character or characters have a mission that is given to them at the start of the story.  This can be a mission that they adopt themselves or one that is handed to them by a higher-up.  Oftentimes, spy fiction involves some kind of political entity, either employing the spy or working against them. In spy fiction, good and bad parties are clearly defined.  Most often, we are receiving the story from the good guy’s point of view, and that good guy is the spy.   However, readers must always beware of the double agent!  Unless part of a series, most spy fiction novels end with justice.  However, before justice is carried out the reader is usually led on a series of twists and turns and kept guessing as to if the main character will be victorious in the end.  Spy fictions are usually set in the past, alternate past, or present, and rarely are they set in the future. Continue reading Genre Guide: Spy Fiction

Genre Guide: Steampunk for Teens

By Catherinette Rings Steampunk (Daniel Proulx) (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Catherinette Rings Steampunk (Daniel Proulx) (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Definition

Steampunk, believe it or not, is a term that has been round since the late 1980s. It is usually defined as a sub-genre of science fiction and features a late 19th century or early 20th century setting, but with steam-powered and clockwork inventions and machines.  Steampunk can also be identified as a sub-genre of speculative fiction and is often described as alternate history.  Most steampunk novels are set in Victorian England or America, but are also known to be set in the Wild West of America.

Authors to Know

Characteristics

Steampunk is often characterized by the setting of the story and inventions that are fantastical and magical. Steampunk uses a lot of visual descriptions, especially when it comes to the machinery and fashion. Oftentimes, a lot of description will go into how a machine works.  Supernatural elements are typically included in a steampunk story. Steampunk plots are adventure-driven stories, where machines play the part of moving the adventure along.  Since there is so much action packed into most steampunk novels, the pacing is usually fast.

The characters of steampunk novels are quirky and include inventors, mad scientists, or the like. Characters in steampunk novels also take on the punk mentality.  Usually the main character or characters is individualistic often goes against the mainstream, and he or she may be fighting for a cause or movement.   Many times the plot of a steampunk novel involves good vs. evil, where the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined. Continue reading Genre Guide: Steampunk for Teens

Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
June is Audiobook Month!  Many of us have fond memories of being read to as a child, but did you know that you can still be read to?  That is the value of audiobooks! The story comes alive and, with the right narrator, you can hear a story much more differently than you would reading it.  Accents are perfected, exclamations are understood, and even words or names you may not know or have never heard before make sense to you.  This is my second year evaluating audiobooks for YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee.  As chair of this year’s committee, I am so excited for all the great audiobook-related things happening this month.  Articles are being written about the importance and resurgence of audiobooks, you can get in “Sync” this summer and download free audios, and the audiobook circulation at my Library sees a nice increase starting in June with many people going on road trips and vacations.

To give you an idea of what makes an audiobook a good listen, here are some of the criteria that gets an audiobook on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection list:

  • The narration has to expand or compliment the original text.  In other words, when you listen to a narrator tell the story, it comes alive and allows the you to experience the text in a different way.
  • Character voice variation is key!  We must have a sense of who the character is by the different qualities in the voices that the narrator uses.  For example, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are listening to a narrated conversation and can tell which character is talking without the text cues letting you know.  Accents, exclamations, and sound effects also are considered.  If done well, they really make an audiobook amazing!
  • There is also the importance of a match between the text and the narrator.  You know when it is right; your ear picks it up.  The narrator embodies the main character and sometimes even all the characters in the books.
  • The technical production on an audiobook is also a criteria for the Amazing Audiobooks list.  We want to make sure the editing is done well, the sound quality is even, and that there are no issues with extra sounds or mike pickups. Additionally, we do consider the music that you hear at the beginning, end, or in between the tracks–does it match the story?  Is it effective in heightening the story? If it is, then it just adds more quality to the production.

So, where should you start if you have never listened to an audiobook before?  Well, some great awards and lists are put out every year: the Odyssey Award, the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults annual list, and the Audies are a few places to start.  Below I have compiled some of my favorites, that I think will be a great first listen for all of you who are new to audiobooks and want to give them a try.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, read by Jeff Woodman.  Brilliance Audio: 7 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

http://youtu.be/qKVa5d9iE4E

Continue reading Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

Genre Guide: Mysteries for Teens

Definition

Image by Wikimedia Commons user Alterego
Image by Wikimedia Commons user Alterego

The definition for teen mysteries seems to be slightly less strictly defined as in comparison to their adult counterparts.  First, there is usually “something” to solve.  Generally, it is a crime, but in some cases it can be a secret that is not necessarily illegal or punishable by law.  For example, why someone killed themselves or discovering that someone is cheating in a contest or academic endeavor.  Also, while adult mystery novels usually have detectives at work at solving mysteries, in teen novels it is often an average teen with an inquisitive nature–someone who is a true amateur.

Teen mysteries are similar to their adult counterparts, however, when it comes to the plot unfolding.  The clues are presented to the main character(s) and to the reader, and steps are taken as to get more information to discover the how, what, why, who, and sometimes even the where and when.  Ultimately, we are given the final reveal at the end of the novel.

Authors to Know

What Would They Read? Captain America: The Winter Soldier

captainamerica

Captain America: The Winter Soldier debuted in theaters this weekend opening to the tune of $37 million dollars on its first day alone. It’s an entertaining new installment to the Marvel universe and one that has certainly shaken up the status quo for subsequent movies and the ABC television show SHIELD. There are lots of amazing articles on the interwebs that can speak to the awesomeness of this movie, its post-credit introduction to the second Avengers film and the many theories about this all means for the Marvel-verse going forward.

Since they pretty much have the movie and the film/comic nerd analysis covered for us, I thought it would be fun to create a “What would they read?” list for some of our favorite Captain America characters from Winter Soldier.

  • Steve Rogers aka Captain America – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  (2007 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults)
    Death narrates this story from World War II where he tries to understand the horrors of human nature while also relating to Liesel, a young German girl who steals books and tells stories to sustain her friends and family during the war. Given that the Captain has missed out on years of popular culture, it seems like he would be the type of reader to relish the historical fiction novels more. This one might especially appeal to him since it is based in a time period he can actually remember. There is also a nice connection to be made between Death trying to understand the human race in the novel and the Captain trying to understand this new world that he finds himself in.  Continue reading What Would They Read? Captain America: The Winter Soldier