Max’s grandfather regularly tells him fantastic tales about the ancient tower near their home and a journey to another, magical place. The stories become all too real when Max needs to help a young refugee flee from dangerous pursuers. Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan is a great read for kids ages 9 – 12 who love a good story.
Petra Peña wants to be a cuentista, a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Petra’s world is about to change forever. Earth is gone-destroyed by an asteroid. Petra and several hundred humans are voyaging hundreds of years into the future in the hope of saving humanity on a different planet. Before arriving on the new planet Petra and the others will remain in a sleep stasis, downloading information that will help them start over a new planet.
When Petra wakes up, hundreds of years later, she soon discovers the original plan has drastically changed. There is a new group in charge of their spacecraft with a different agenda for those left on board. What does the future hold for Petra and the others? Will she be reunited with her family, and preserve the art of storytelling for future generations?
This is an enjoyable book for ages 12+ who are interested in sci-fi but who might be intimidated to pick up a traditional title from the genre. It’s layered with a beautiful message of family, perseverance, and the lifesaving power of storytelling.
Acclaimed Young Adult author Elana K. Arnold knows there is realism to be found in dark fairy tales and the award-winning author delivers once again, following up her Printz Award-winning Damsel with Red Hood (Feb. 2020), a retelling of the classic fairy tale geared toward older teens. The story centers on Bisou, a girl in a red hooded sweatshirt, who discovers she has inherited the instincts and supernatural strength -- triggered by menstruation during the full moon -- to stop the boys who turn into werewolves at that time from hurting the young women they prey upon. It's a violent and bloody tale enhanced by layered depictions of strong females, positive male allies and a realistic portrayal of teen life. Arnold effectively blends magical realism, dark fantasy elements and modern prose together into a disturbing but ultimately empowering story that celebrates sisterhood that spans generations while shining a light into the dark shadows of rape culture. The story quickly builds to an ending that does not disappoint.
When Casper hides from the boarding school bullies, he finds himself magically transported to a land of enchantment and is immediately arrested as a criminal by a cranky girl named Utterly Thankless and her little dragon. Thus begins a headlong crash into a quest to save Utterly's kingdom complete with monsters, magicians, witches, trolls, griffins and other unearthly dangers. Kids 8-12 will enjoy the fantasy escapade Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings by Abi Elphinstone.
"Universal Love" is 11 short stories set in the near future, showing how people use technology to navigate relationships. In one story, a widower signs up for a program to re-create his deceased wife, only to find out his daughters downloaded a fictitious history from romance novels. Another story has testimonies of why people use on-line dating services. A third story explores the relationship of two robotic children who try to act like human children, even to the point of having real life problems and addictions. An interesting look at technology and how it could be in our not far future of how we relate to each other. One constant remains, and that is our need for human interaction, no matter the media we use to get it.
Cinderella is dead is about a girl in a society where women are expected to behave like Cinderella in the beloved (well, they're forced to love it) fairy-tale: wait until you're somethingth birthday and then you must go to a ball to be chosen by a boy/man/grandpa who you will be forced to obey for the rest of your life. Those who refuse are executed. When our main character falls in love with another girl instead of waiting to be chosen at the ball, she decides it's time for a change.
I saw this book ages ago on Netgalley and while I love the cover (and don't be afraid to chose a book by it's cover, kids!), I'm pretty over anything to do with Cinderella as I feel as though I've read around 8 million re-tellings in the last five years or so. Then, I heard some folks from Bloomsbury talk about this book at a recent conference, and I was sold! Unfortunately, though, there was way too much Cinderella in it for me to truly enjoy it. The worldbuilding and plot waffled between being creative and a bit silly. The characters were one-dimensional and the romance unearned. That said, I think the book's audience, younger teens, will enjoy it, so I'll definitely be recommending it.
This is the perfect book for younger teens who just can't get enough of Cinderella or who are looking to make the jump from middle grade to young adult fiction. For this older reader, the coolness of the author's innovation with the Cinderella fairytale was outweighed by bland characters and forced romance. 2 stars - it was ok.
Thanks to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for the eARC which I received for an unbiased review. You can put Cinderella is Dead on hold today!
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water follows a nun who joins a group of bandits trying to protect a religious relic from those who would destroy it. It's a novella, so that's really most of the book, but Zen Cho crams a ton of character development and plenty of plot into this short little read. The two main characters are so well drawn, and I absolutely fell in love with them. The banter between the bandits is loads of fun - I laughed out loud on multiple occasions. There are plenty of fight scenes. I got to learn the word wuxia (think Chinese martial arts heroes). It's very rare that I want a book to be longer, but I so wanted more of this. I'll be checking out Cho's backlist work, Sorcerer to the Crown. 4 stars - that was very good.
Thanks to Tor and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected on Water is available now - put your copy on hold today!
Everyone is has heard the macabre childhood rhyme about Lizzie Borden, and the gruesome murders that took place in Fall River, Massachusetts. Many have questioned the acquitted Lizzie's innocence, but few have explored if there might have been a very justified reason for Ms. Borden to wield her infamous axe. After the trial, the Borden sisters have retired to a more secluded life in their new home called Maplecroft. In a scenario worthy of HP Lovecraft, Cherie Priest uses her Fantasy/Horror/Mystery skills to shape a very different version of Fall River - one where people are starting to act "peculiar". Something from the ocean is calling to them, controlling them, and causing them to change, and commit murderous acts. Lizzie and her studious sister Emma, have seen something like this before, but they had hoped it had ended with their parents. Unbeknownst to the town, the Borden sisters have been keeping mysterious night creatures at bay, but now townspeople are becoming infected with some madness Lizzie and Emma suspect may engulf the town. Lizzie searches for answers in ancient lore, while Emma conducts her research in modern science. Can their combined efforts save the very town that shuns them?
This book is not for the faint of heart, as it details some ghastly fight, and murder scenes, but it is a fresh paranormal take on an existing notorious history. Maplecroft:The Borden Dispatches is available in book form, but can also be downloaded in eBook and eAudiobook formats.
Hark is an orphan who forms a bond of brotherhood with Jelt, a fellow orphan. So when Jelt asks Hark for help executing a job for a local gang, Hark reluctantly agrees. And gets caught, natch. He ends up as an indentured servant of a scientist studying the leftover pieces dead sea-monster gods that ruled the island until they all fought each other to death 30 years prior. Hark talks to the former priests who worked with the gods and is largely enjoying himself, until Jelt shows up with a new job that threatens Hark's new life.
There is obviously a lot going on in this book, and the worldbuilding was next level creative. Each sea-monster/god is different, and the descriptions of them were fantastic and a bit creepy. The mysteries of their existence and sudden disappearance unravel throughout the course of the book. That's kind of half of the book, and the other half is the adventures of Hark (they are, of course, intertwined), which I didn't love as much due to his blind devotion to Jelt. But even still, Hark's story goes down a very interesting and unexpected path and I think a lot of young teenage boys will identify with him. The book's message ends up being about your story/legacy and storytelling, which resonated with me as it will with anyone who understands the power and value of good storytelling.
This is a perfect read for tweens and teens graduating from middle grade fiction to YA who love adventure with a touch of horror. If this book finds it's audience, I can see it being really popular. I really enjoyed it! 4 stars.
Thanks to Netgalley and MacMillan for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Deeplight is available now - put your copy on hold today!
Tamra is desperate. After two of her rider trainees were hurt in practice, she found herself without anyone to teach and no source of revenue. When her patron gives her a measly 200 gold coins to purchase a Kehok (a racer) and find a rider to train, she knows she'll do what it takes to win the annual Becar Races and and the huge purses that come with it. So she finds an untrained and unproven Kehok that no one wants, and a rider whose a clearly a recent runaway. Raia, the runaway rider, is fleeing her parents who would marry her off to a man who murdered his last wife. Both Tamra, Raia and the increasingly strange Kehok must win the races to save themselves and win their freedom.
That was a really tough description to write, because there's a ton going on in the world! Reincarnation is widely accepted and the motivation for a lot of folks actions (Kehoks were monsters in their former lives and cannot reincarnate as anything but a Kehok, for example), there's a religious caste that low-key rules everything, at least BTS, and the not-quite-coronated-yet-because-his-brother-just-died-emperor is fighting off revolution. That last bit leads to a lot of political and court intrigue in the second half of the book. This was a really solid standalone fantasy. As you can tell, the worldbuilding was rich and complex, but it wasn't so complex as to be confusing. I found it to be refreshingly new and inventive, and would recommend the book on the strength of that alone. There's also quite a bit of ethical questioning of one's actions and what folks owe each other (this did occasionally feel a tad heavy handed), which is something that I love.
The worldbuilding is not the only star of the show - Tamra and Raia are easy to relate to, and quite lovable. You'll fall in love with their monstrous, strange kehok as well and you'll think about any horse-related novel that you adored as a kid. In fact, this book would have been catnip for me when I was 12 as I was into all things Tamora Pierce (Tamra is her namesake) and most things horse (I kept thinking about the "Thoroughbreds" series when I read this book, which I reread a bunch of times as a kid). In fact, this book could have easily been marketed as YA, although Tamra is clearly the main character, and she is very much an adult - I don't remember her age, but she's late 30s on the very low end. Since fantasy novels, even those for adults, often star adolescents (and yes, Raia is 17), I found this to be refreshing.
TLDR: With inventive worldbuilding, strong female characters, and major crossover appeal, fantasy readers of all ages will love this book! It's sort of The Scorpio Races meets Tamora Pierce and from me, that's high praise. I wouldn't say it was amazing, but I did love it, so 5 stars!
Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Voyager for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Race the Sands is available now - put your copy on hold today!
This debut novel is a refreshing romp through the Apocalypse narrated by a foul-mouthed domesticated crow whose only knowledge of the world is TV. This mash-up of "The Incredible Journey" and "The Walking Dead" has an environmental message, focusing on humankind's increasing disconnect from the natural world. You may want to reconsider all those hours of screen time. But do read this novel, which while a tad long, chronicles the adventures of S.T. (not a library appropriate name) and his heroic steed, the dim-witted dog Dennis. The crow tries to save humankind, learns about himself and the natural world in a frightening new Seattle featuring an emerging predator.
Is your friendship strong enough to defeat a demon? High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen find out after an evening skinny-dipping in 1988 outside Charleston, S.C. goes awry. Gretchen is no longer the same girl who's been
Abby's best friend since fourth grade. She's moody and irritable. Not unusual for a teen, but then odd things begin happening whenever she's around. What's a friend to do?
While this title is considered adult fiction, this hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist and its themes of teen angst and adolescent drama makes this a novel that can be enjoyed by adults who remember Esprit shirts and big hair or by young adults who identify with being a social outsider.
This is the first in a new Young Adult series. It features a girl, Yumeko, who is a half-fox demon. She is tasked with taking an ancient scroll to a secret monk. With the help of Tatsumi, a samurai-esque boy who also wants the scroll, she begins her dangerous journey. The book is overall a fun read, but is more suited to a younger audience or fans of anime. Throughout the book, I found myself nostalgically reliving DragonBall Z, Inuyasha, Samurai Champloo, and Rurouni Kenshin. The severity of their mission with the familiar tropes from beloved manga and anime had me smiling...but the story itself is not one that I feel obliged to finish. I would recommend this title to any anime-fan in your life or young adults needing a quick, action-filled read.
Boneshaker is the novel that kicks off Cherie Priest's "Clockwork Century" series - one of the most widely acclaimed book series in the Steampunk genre. Boneshaker explores an alternate history of the United States during the Civil War era. The plot centers around Briar Wilkes, the widow of the infamous Leviticus Blue - inventor of the titular boring machine that he was commissioned to create, in order to retrieve the vast veins of gold that are hiding under the thick ice of Alaska in the midst of the Klondike Gold Rush. During a devastating test run, the Boneshaker destroys the foundations of a good portion of Seattle, killing many, and releasing a dangerous gas that turns survivors into zombies. Leviticus disappears, and walls are erected around Seattle to contain the "blight" gas, and the "rotters". Briar does her best to survive and raise her son Zeke in the "Outskirts" of Seattle, suffering the prejudice shown to both of them, due to her husband's actions. Zeke is convinced that he can prove that his father was innocent, and that the destruction was purely unintentional, so he journeys beneath the wall, into Seattle to find the evidence he needs. Unlike Leviticus, Zeke's
grandfather (Maynard Wilkes) is revered as a folk hero, having lost his life in the exodus of Seattle, freeing inmates from the prison. Zeke feels this may help him if he runs into trouble within Seattle's walls. When Briar finds Zeke gone, and what his intentions are, she arms herself with Maynard's accoutrements and catches an air ship over the wall, to search for her son. Separately, Briar and Zeke find people who help to save them from being devoured by the "rotters", and attempt to aid them in their respective searches. Briar learns of the mysterious Dr. Minnericht who seems to run the
doomed city within the walls, and that many are convinced that he is in fact, Leviticus Blue (something she doesn't believe). When events draw Briar and Zeke both into Dr. Minnericht's stronghold, it seems the heart of the mystery
will be resolved with this fateful meeting.
Boneshaker is an epic foray into a dystopian alternate universe, and readers of various genres, are sure to find many wonders to be fascinated by in this version of Washington's famous "Emerald City".
In addition to physical book and audiobook formats, Boneshaker can also be downloaded and enjoyed at home, in either ebook or eaudiobook form.
Alessandra wants to channel her murderous rage into something more productive than, well, murder. So she aims to become the Queen (of course, she'll have to murder the King once she's married him, but that'll be the last one). As the second daughter of a minor royal, this doesn't seem like a super realistic goal, but...you haven't met Alessandra.
I'm a huge sucker for the love-him-then-kill-him trope, and it is awesomely used here. I was expecting this book to be more of a fantasy, but it's really a romance with fantastical trappings. And it is so sex positive! I have been describing it as Wuthering-Heights-only-it's-actually-fun-to-read, but the author describes it as a romance between two Slytherins, which is better. Even though the characters are objectively horrible, you'll find yourself rooting for them. It was a tad ridiculous in terms of how the characters talked and interacted with each other, but in the same kind of way as Daughter of the Pirate King, the author's other book that I've read, which I also enjoyed.
If you are looking for a fun, purely escapist romance, I would highly recommend this book. I read it in one sitting. 4 stars - I really liked it!
Thanks to Netgalley and Feiwel & Friends for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Shadows Between Us is available now!
Nizhoni Begay is a normal seventh grader in many respects, minus the thing where she can see monsters. One day, she gets home from school to see a monster in her kitchen masquerading as her dad's potential boss. Sure enough, the boss-monster kidnaps her dad, and Nizhoni, her brother Max and their best friend Davery take off on a race to the House of the Sun to find weapons they can use to defeat the boss-monster and save Nizhoni's dad.
I really liked this one! All of Rick Riordan's books and the books on his imprint have something of a sameness to them, but that's not necessarily a bad thing (I'd compare it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe). You know you're going to get a snarky teenager narrating an epic quest to save the world where they'll be attacked non-stop by monsters from some sort of mythology. That's what you get here, but its the Navajo edition. I liked it a lot - I think it helps when the mythology being referenced originated more or less in your backyard, and as a Coloradan, it was a lot of fun to read. Plus, the mythology itself is just cool; Black Jet Girl, Spider Woman, and Crystal Rock Boy were particularly fun.
For readers who like mythology, action, adventure and snarky main characters. I really enjoyed this one, and will add this series to the list of books I listen to while I run! 4 stars - I really liked it.
Thanks to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchanged for an unbiased review. Race to the Sun will be released on 14 January, but you can put your copy on hold today!
Ximenia Rojas has been the decoy for Condesa Catalina ever since the usurper Atoc overthrow the Illustrarians a decade ago. Ximenia's family, along with the Condesa's, perished during the civil war, and Ximenia and her fellow Illustrians want revenge. When Atoc summons the Condesa to the palace to be his bride, Ximenia goes in Catalina's place and uses her weaving magic to send messages to the Illustrians via tapestry. With only eight weeks before the wedding, Ximenia must find intel about a magical gem that is the Illustrian's only hope.
My literary 2020 is off to a great start with this gem of a historical fantasy YA novel! I went in with fairly low expectations as 2019 was, on the whole, not a great year for YA fantasy. This was very good and felt like something of a course correction. The "historical" aspect covers Bolivian politics and the introduction of cocaine, at least somewhat (I know nothing about Bolivia and the eARC didn't have an author's note at the end, but the author does reference her two Bolivian parents) and deftly weaves a story of magic, moonlight and betrayal. The moon magic is subtle, but well utilized. Ximenia's ability is, for lack of a better phrase, quite cool. The author took a familiar story of rebellion and a headstrong girl and combined those seemingly stale tropes with magical realism and Bolivian flavor to create a book that felt like something new. The romance was earned. The main character grows a lot throughout the course of the book. Ximenia's story is tied up by the end, but there's an intriguing jungle based thread that's left dangling (not a spoiler!) that I'd be willing to bet will be a second book. I'll read it.
Also, I dare you to read this book and not want some tasty Bolivian treats. The food sounds amaaaaaaaaaaazing and it's mentioned a lot.
TLDR: Woven in Moonlight takes a familiar tale of revolution and spices it up with excellent character development and creative magical realism. I'm having trouble thinking of something to compare it to, because I like it better than most books that I've read that are similar (The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson for example - this is in the same zone, but I enjoyed it a lot more). Recommended for readers who like their fantasies to be revolutionary (ha) with a strong female lead and a touch of magic. 4 stars - I really liked it.
Thanks to Netgalley and Page Street Books for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Woven in Moonlight is available for purchase or you can put your copy on hold today!
Artemis Fowl is back!
Well, not really. But his little brothers are a more than sufficient replacement. Twins Myles and Beckett have lived a life of education and luxury (with some mild kidnapping thrown in). But everything changes drastically when a small troll appears on their island. Before they know it, they find themselves kidnapped by ACRONYM (a government organization that deals with magic) and working with a fairy to escape from not one, but two baddies - an evil, mustache twirling duke and a deranged nun that are themselves at odds. Will the Fowl Twins escape in time to save their lives and, perhaps more importantly, human-fairy relations for the rest of time?
This was very cute. Colfer was in top form here, and this held all of the characteristics of a middle grade book that I find to be readable (they aren't always my favorite). Myles is snarky. Beckett is a loose cannon (who can talk to animals!!!). The duke has access to insanely quirky gadgets and wouldn't be out of place as a Despicable Me super-villain. The evil nun is an evil nun. The pace moves quickly, but we still get to know our characters. Aside from its general predictability (adults will see all the twists coming before they happen), it's a fantastic middle grade read. If the narrator is any good, I'll add this series to my list of books that I listen to while running.
TLDR: If you loved the Artemis Fowl series, you'll love this one too! It has all of the best elements of the original series with some fun new quirks and characters. 4 stars - I really liked it.
Thanks to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Fowl Twins is available for purchase on 05 Nov, but you can put your copy on hold today!
Premise: Guinevere died in the convent where she'd been sent by an her father. An imposter, Merlin's daughter and Arthur's new protector, is her replacement, and all have been fooled into thinking she's the "real" Guinevere, save Arthur, who she immediately marries and starts to protect.
I found the beginning of the book, with its delicious hints of a larger story of evil and darkness, to be captivating. Unfortunately, those hints, for the most part, stay hints, and the book ended up being a pretty predictable retelling of sorts that was paradoxically too faithful and not faithful enough to its predecessors. It had glimpses of the humor from Mallory, T. H. White and Steinbeck. It had the promise of the adventure that lies in those tales. It just never fully delivered. And the end, when it finally came, was predictable enough to be a bit disappointing.
That said, I do love Arthurian legend, and this version of Guinevere is not without promise. If the next entry gets great reviews, I'll give it a go as my familiarity with the characters and story would render a re-read unnecessary. 3 stars. I...liked it? I'll recommend it to younger readers new to the legend.
Thanks to Netgalley and Delacorte for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Guinevere Deception will be on sale on 05 November, but you can put your copy on hold today!
Eva's nameday is coming up. And on that day, she'll become a Rival Heir. From then on, she'll be expected to try to kill her sister (or die in the process), so that one of them could take the throne. Eva's always been her father's favorite, but in this matriarchal society, her mother, the Queen, who, of course favores Eva's sister Isadore, would do anything to make sure that Eva doesn't get the throne. Including helping Isa with her magic while trying to keep Eva from accessing hers. But the throne is Eva's destiny. It's that, or death.
This was another instance of the plot being hard to describe, though that's mostly due to the fact that there are so many things happening in this book. It's pretty complicated. Not in a bad way - I really enjoyed it. The worldbuilding was very cool, I loved the khimaer. A lot of it was new to me, or a fun twist on a familiar concept. I loved the book's mythology. Something about it felt fresh. I also bizarrely really liked the middle part of the book - its full of layered mysteries, court intrigue, training montages and the right amount and type of romance. It's built on mutual and earned respect (and yes, hotness). There's a lot to like in this book, and it won't be the last by this author that I read.
That said, the beginning and ending were rote and felt a bit weak. The end, in particular, felt like it existed only to get you to read the next installment. There was no resolution, and it felt very rushed, especially after a story that was otherwise taking its time unfolding. I don't want to spend a lot of time criticizing what was otherwise a fun read - give it a go!
TLDR: This was so close to being really good, but it just missed the mark (rote beginning and ending, super strong middle and worldbuilding). I quite enjoyed it, nonetheless. 3.5 stars - I almost really liked it. :)
Thanks for the eARC Netgalley and Putnam for the advance copy! A River of Royal Blood will be available for purchase on 29 October, but you can put your copy on hold today.