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

Reader Response: The Flawed Heroine of The Young Elites by Marie Lu

young elitesThe following is a reader response from 2015 Hub Reading Challenge participant Hannah Rapp, who weighs in with her analysis one of the books she read for the challenge: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, a Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten pick.

When it comes to books, we all have a few things we tend to gravitate towards.  For instance, I’m a sucker for high fantasy, from the rosy-tinged to the dystopian-esque.  For another, I love stories involving complicated female friendships or sibling relationships.  And I usually love a good anti-hero.  So when I picked up The Young Elites by Marie Lu, it didn’t take me long to realize that this book was going to be right up my alley – dark fantasy, a fascinating and deep relationship between the protagonist and her sister, and of course, an angry, vengeful, powerful, and bitter anti-hero.  Adelina Amouteru took this book from good to great for me, and I love her for it.

Of course, it is Adelina’s good qualities, as well as her bad, that make her a good character and anti-hero.  She is loyal, if wary of others.  She does, despite all the anger and bitterness between them, love her sister.  And she comes from a place of righteous rage.  Because we can all understand why someone who was hated and despised for something she couldn’t control, who watched those like her be persecuted, tortured, and executed, would become angry and vengeful.  It makes sense.  And a good anti-hero has to be relatable as well as flawed.

But it is Adelina’s flaws that make her so compelling to me personally.  The way she starts to love the power she can manipulate, and to love the power it gives her over others, is dark and terrifying but still somehow relatable.  The war between the dark parts of her and the gentler ones was more exciting to me than any of the battles she engages in with those around her.  It was like staring at a fight between two wild animals – it was horrifying and brutal, but also beautiful to watch all that power and rage being given form.

It’s not often that we get to see a heroine whose bad qualities are explored as much as their good, much less one whose worse qualities are part of what makes them powerful, exciting, and a protagonist.  But it’s so good to read, and so important.  Because of course, girls and women are just as capable of having dark impulses or cruel streaks as men.  They are not always just “good” or “bad,” and expecting that out of them is part of what makes us judge them so much more harshly than boys and men when they fall short of our expectations.  And so for that reason, readers of any gender don’t just need Heathcliffs and Humbert Humberts and Holden Caulfields – they also need Catherine Earnshaws and Arya Starks and Adelina Amouterus.  And with men so dominant in the realm of my beloved anti-heroes, is it any wonder that I was thrilled when I discovered Adelina, and that I fell for her so entirely?

-Hannah Rapp

Women in Comics: Science Fiction

Robot by Robin Zebrowski. CC BY 2.0.
Robot by Robin Zebrowski. CC BY 2.0.

This month for my Women in Comics post, I’m focusing on science fiction graphic novels. Science fiction is generally one of my favorite genres and there are many great examples that are graphic novels. Whether you prefer near-future, dystopia, or science fiction blended with a hint of fantasy, this list will have a great book to add to your to-be-read list.

In Real LifeIn Real Life by Cory Doctorow with art by Jen Wang (2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten) – Anda is a dedicated player of Coarsegold Online, a massively-multiplayer online role playing game by the time she meets a gold farmer from China named Raymond. As she learns about the work that he does – which includes long hours and no benefits – she becomes outraged and tries to take action to help him. The book is transparently aimed at teaching readers about the politics and economics of gaming as well as sparking an interest in activism. It will appeal to fans of online games and of Doctorow’s other works.

Alex + AdaAlex + Ada by Sarah Vaughn with art by Jonathan Luna – When Alex receives an X5 android as a surprise birthday gift, he is pretty sure he wants nothing to do with it, but once he meets Ada he becomes deeply conflicted about the idea of returning her. This comic follows Alex and the android he names Ada as they meet and navigate a complicated world where fear of artificial intelligence runs rampant in the wake of an AI organized massacre. Alex must decide what his beliefs about the rights of androids are and how he should interact with a completely lifelike, but non-human being. This is a great series for those with an interest in robots and artificial intelligence.  Continue reading Women in Comics: Science Fiction

Spotlight on: Teens’ Top Ten Nominees – Part 2

TeensTopTen_winner_WMToday’s post is the second installment in our 4-part series highlighting each of the 24 titles (and their authors) nominated for the Teens Top Ten list. You can check out the first post here, and a handy pdf list of all the nominees, annotated for reader’s advisory, is here. To recap, the Teens’ Top Ten list is determined entirely by teens; first the nominees are chosen by teen book groups, and then voting is opened up online to teens everywhere.

Teen readers can vote starting August 15th through Teen Read Week (October 18-24, 2015), with winners announced the following.

So here we go; your next 6 (alphabetically by author’s last name) Teens’ Top Ten nominees, chosen by real, live teenagers.

Love Letters to the DeadLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira. A debut contemporary realistic novel about coming to terms with grief, told in a series of letters to dead celebrities, starting with Kurt Cobain. This snagged a glowing review from The Perks of Being a Wallflower‘s elusive Stephen Chbosky, and the audiobook production was a 2015 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, if you prefer to listen your way through the nominees. Dellaira has an author website, is on Facebook and Twitter, and there’s buzz that the production team behind the TwilightThe Fault in Our StarsPaper Towns, and Maze Runner movies is in talks to do a movie adaptation, so expect this title to stay in the spotlight for awhile.

into_the_dark_shadow_princeInto the Dark: The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain. The first in a new series based on the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades from the author of the paranormal Dark Divine series (the first book in that series, Dark Divine, was a 2011 Popular Paperback for Young Adults pick). The second book in the Into the Dark series is already out, and the third is slated for fall 2016. Despain has a website, and a blog, and is on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Continue reading Spotlight on: Teens’ Top Ten Nominees – Part 2

Book/Life Pairings

MultitaskingFinalHow do you fit reading into life? Everywhere of course! Here are some fun suggestions of how to incorporate books into (almost) all parts of your life. I guess there are some events where books don’t belong… But you may be surprised by these multitasking opportunities.

Running/Vigorous Exercise

Some fast paced audio that will make you want to work out every day and never stop!

The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Knife of Never Letting Go

 

The Knife Of Never Letting Go
(and Chaos Walking series)

(2011 Odyssey Honor Audiobook, 2011 Top Ten Audio Books for Young Adults, 2009 Best Books for Young Adult)

by Patrick Ness and Nick Podehl

The action-packed audio book will help you keep up an energetic pace and be thoroughly entertained all the while.  Podehl’s amazing narration enhances Ness’ Sci-fi world which consists of only men whose thoughts are audible. Bonus: best talking dog voice ever.

Girl, Stolen

by April Henry and Kate Rudd

(2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Here is a thrill ride of a book that will keep you on your toes.  Follow Cheyenne, a sixteen year old girl who is blind, as she gets kidnapped accidentally by a car thief.  Clever Cheyenne methodically and systematically plans her escape while poor mistreated wannabe criminal Griffin tries to do the right thing in spite of his horrendous family.

Divergent (and sequels)

(2012 Quick Picks for Young Adults , 2012 Teens Top Ten )

Divergent Audio
Divergent Audio

by Veronica Roth and Emma Galvin

This nail-biting gritty tale is perfect to listen to and get in shape!  You will run like a Dauntless trying to catch a train as you join Tris on her epic search for the truth in post-apocalyptic Chicago.

 

Continue reading Book/Life Pairings

Diverse YA Books from BEA

I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend BEA (Book Expo America) this week in NYC since I live in NJ.  BEA will be held in Chicago next year, so I think this is the last time I’ll be going for a long time. I thought I would help those of you out who are going – or not going – by highlighting some of the diverse YA books available as ARCs that you might want to be on the lookout for. The need for more diversity in youth literature is ongoing, led largely by the We Need Diverse Books campaign. The following list of books and their descriptions are taken directly from SLJ’s BEA Guide to ARCs & Signings. 

Photo May 25, 4 48 16 PMLizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick, 9/8/15, ages 14 & up)

In a futuristic society run by an all-powerful Gov, a bender teen on the cusp of adulthood has choices to make that will change her life – and maybe the world by the author of Blue Fish.

 

 

Photo May 25, 4 25 32 PMThe Bamboo Sword by Margi Preus. (Abrams, 9/15/15, ages 10-14)

This is a companion book to Preus’s 2011 Newbery Honor Book Heart of a Samurai. In 1853 in Japan, Yoshi, a Japanese boy who dreams of someday becoming a samurai is taken up by Manjiro and becomes his servant and secret watchdog. Meanwhile, Jack, a cabin boy on Commodore Matthew Perry’s USS Susquehanna, becomes separated from his American companions while on shore. When he and Yoshi cross paths, they set out on a grand adventure to get Jack back to his ship before he is discovered by the shogun’s samurai.

Photo May 25, 6 15 19 PMA Step Towards Falling by Cammie McGovern (HarperCollins, 10/13/15, ages14-17)

Sometimes the worst thing you can do is nothing at all. This honest and heartfelt novel by the author of Say What You Will follows a disabled young adult who is attacked and a fellow student who witnessed the crime but failed to act.

 

 

Photo May 25, 7 46 04 PMNot if I See You First by Eric Lindstrom (Little, Brown; 12/1/15, ages 15-18)

Parker Grant is a junior in high school who loves to run, has great friends, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind – especially when it comes to how stupid some people can be around a blind person like her. The only topic to avoid is how Parker feels about the boy who broke her heart in eighth grade…who has just transferred to her school. And as long as she can keep giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago, she’ll be just fine. Right?

 

Photo May 25, 8 12 04 PMSoundless by Richelle Mead (Pengiun Young Readers, 11/10/15, ages 12 & up)

Fei is from a village where there is no sound. When suddenly the villagers begin to lose their sight and their source of food, Fei, who can suddenly hear, has to save her village from darkness and starvation.  Continue reading Diverse YA Books from BEA

YA Book Personality Test

Palm Reader
Palm Reader

Forget the Tarot cards, crystal balls, and palm-readers. Toss aside those stale fortune cookies.  You need only look to  your bookshelf to understand your deepest personality traits.  Look for some of your favorite YA titles below and you may find that my keen “psychic” abilities can be enlightening.

Vanishing Girls
Vanishing Girls

* Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver.  There is more to you than meets the eye.  You keep your secrets close, and may not be very trustworthy.  But you love deeply and are very protective.

* Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. You might have a hard time trusting yourself, but go with your instincts- they won’t steer you wrong. Be yourself and don’t try so hard to please others.

Game of Love and Death
Game of Love and Death

* The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. You may feel like you are being influenced by forces greater than your own. But it’s OK, go with it. Don’t be afraid to get hurt and great things will happen.

* Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong. Others may call you inconsistent. Your horoscope sign may be best described as “Gemini.” You are brave, smart, and have a keen sense of justice. You develop strong connections to friends and family.

Knife of Never Letting Go
The Knife of Never Letting Go

* The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2009 Best Book for Young Adults). Some would call you are a guys’ guy. But don’t discount the fairer sex, you may find a wonderful friend. You may not be “book smart” but you are clever and can get yourself out of tough situations. Just believe in yourself, and don’t forget to appreciate your dog.

* All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. You are drawn to those in pain and have some dark times. Talking through it may help.  We all have to go through difficult times.  Let yourself mourn those you have lost.  Continue reading YA Book Personality Test

Narrators You Love to Hate in YA Lit

upauthors.com
upauthors.com

Unreliable, whiney, un-likable, liars—we’ve all read characters like this!  I love to read a good book with a “bad” (and/or unreliable) narrator. This kind of flawed storyteller reaches to the reader and asks us to question, look deeper, and ponder truth and lies. It is a sign of an excellent author who can manipulate you to love the book and hate the character. Skilled writers make the reader believe the lies and then accept the truth.

Here are some favorite examples of protagonists I love to hate.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

  • In this year’s Printz Award recipient I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson twins Noah and Jude lie to each other, lie to their parents, and lie to themselves (and by extension to us: the reader). With all the lies it’s no wonder there was so much to reveal in this tale. The sneakiness and bad treatment of each other made me distinctly dislike them. But Nelson also juxtaposed the twins’ nastiness with descriptions of how deeply they love each other.
  • Cadence from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults). Here is what I consider to be a likeable character and one whom I really felt for. But what if I knew the truth of what really happened that summer at the beginning of this book? Would I still have felt so sympathetic towards Cady?
  • Froi and Quintana from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles. Only Melina Marchetta (Printz Award winner) could take a predatory lowlife like Froi was when we first met him in Finnikin of the Rock (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) and turn him around so distinctly then lead him to star in his own story. Froi is redeemed in Finnikin of the Rock; grows in Froi of the Exiles, and become a hero in Quintana of Charyn. In the second installment of the Lumatere Chronicles Marchetta also introduces Quintana: one of the grossest characters I have ever imagined in a book and quickly made me love her. Quintana is prickly, deranged, damaged, paranoid, abused, and abusive. But she becomes a hero too—fiercely protective and thoroughly decent.

Continue reading Narrators You Love to Hate in YA Lit

ALA Midwinter 2015: Best Fiction for Young Adults Feedback Session Recap

BFYA sessionOn Saturday, January 31, I had the privilege to not only attend the “Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA)” feedback session, I also was able to bring four of my local library teens to participate in the session.  Here is a picture of the five of us after the session posing with all of our swag bags.  My four teens joined up with other teen readers to comprise a group of 60, all ready to do what teens do best: share their opinions.

Just a little background, if you are unfamiliar with the BFYA list: throughout the year, librarians add books published that year to a nomination list.  From this nomination list, a committee reads the titles and ultimately whittles the list down to a BFYA Top Ten list.  In order to ensure that the best books make the Top Ten list, the committee holds a feedback session in which teens can share why they think a book should or should not be on the list.  The teens lined up at microphones that faced the committee members rather than the large crowd of librarians and teachers who stopped in to get the firsthand knowledge presented by the teens.  Each teen had no more than 90 seconds to prove their point and were allowed to write up their reviews ahead of time.  Unfortunately, due to the length of the nomination list, not every title was reviewed by the teens during the session.

Before I begin to share the details of the session, here is the BFYA Top Ten list:

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

The Crossover by Kwame AlexanderNogginCarnival at Braygospel of winteryoung elitesthe story of owen

The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Jackaby by William Ritterwe_were_liarsJackabyvangocrossoveri'll give you the sun

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston

Vango by Timothee de Fombelle

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

There was one phrase that was constantly heard throughout the BFYA session.  That phrase was, “I completely disagree.”  Continue reading ALA Midwinter 2015: Best Fiction for Young Adults Feedback Session Recap

Is This Just Fantasy?: It’s A White, White World–And That’s Got To Change.

Just Fantasy PoC fantasyAs a life-long devotee of fantasy fiction, I’ve frequently defended the value of stories that feature dragons, magically gifted heroines, or angst-ridden werewolves.  And while I’ve often stated that fantasy fiction isn’t necessarily an escape from reality simply because it includes magic or ghosts, even the most committed fan must acknowledge that the genre is incredibly disconnected from reality in fatal ways.  For one, fantasy fiction remains an overwhelmingly white world–an area of literature where you might find vampires or psychic detectives but rarely characters of color.

This lack of diversity is a widespread problem in young adult literature and the larger publishing industry but speculative fiction is especially guilty of inequitable representation within its stories and industry.  Just last week, The Guardian published an article by speculative fiction author & essayist Daniel José Older  discussing the insidious ways that systemic racism and white privilege has permeated the science fiction and fantasy publishing & fan communities.  At last month’s YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium, there was an entire panel titled “Where Are The Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci-Fi?”, which Hub blogger Hannah Gómez recapped with great accuracy & insight.

So, how do we, as readers, fans, & promoters of these genres, demand & nurture fiction with imaginary worlds as diverse as the one we live in?  To start, we need to read, buy, promote, and request titles by and about people of color.  Accordingly, I pulled together some authors and titles to check out, focusing on fiction that falls on the fantasy side of speculative fiction.  This list is far from comprehensive; for more titles, I recommend checking out Lee & Low’s genre-specific Pinterest board, Diversity in YA, and We Need Diverse Books.

High Fantasy

2004 Edwards Award winnerearthsea Ursula K. Le Guin has long been considered one of the best and most beloved high fantasy writers; she’s also consistently written stories with people of color as protagonists–although film adaptions & book covers have often blatantly ignored this, white-washing characters like Ged, the brown-skinned protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea.  The 2013 Edwards Award winner Tamora Pierce also includes characters of color in her novels; her Emelan books feature both black & multiracial protagonists.

silver phoenixFans of thrilling adventures & complex heroines should try novels by Cindy Pon, Ellen Oh, or Malinda Lo for rich high fantasy tales rooted in a variety of East Asian cultures.  Cindy Pon’s lush & exciting Silver Phoenix and its sequel, The Fury of the Phoenix follow young Ai Ling as she discovers her unique abilities and battles an ancient evil based in the royal palace. Ellen Oh’s Dragon King Chronicles (beginning with Prophecy) also focuses on a powerful young woman struggling to embrace her destiny–the yellow-eyed demon slayer Kira who might be the key to saving the Seven Kingdoms from destruction.  Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List) are richly imagined, romantic novels I recommend to all fantasy readers! Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy?: It’s A White, White World–And That’s Got To Change.