— Books I’ve Read in 2016 —
FORGET TOMORROW (Forget Tomorrow #1) REMEMBER YESTERDAY (Forget Tomorrow #2) and BEFORE TOMORROW (Forget Tomorrow Prequel) by Pintip Dunn
I came across the first book in this series while participating in a YA Scavenger Hunt. The cover was just gorgeous and the story was right up my alley. I finally took it off my TBR pile and then couldn’t stop following the series straight through to the bonus prequel. Loved it all! Now I’m dying to read the final book! The torture!
Plot summary for FORGET TOMORROW:
It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision―a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist.
Or in Callie’s case, a criminal.
In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo―a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes.
But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all—Callie, herself.
Plot summary for REMEMBER YESTERDAY:
Sixteen-year-old Jessa Stone is the most valuable citizen in Eden City. Her psychic abilities could lead to significant scientific discoveries―if only she’d let TechRA study her. But after they kidnapped and experimented on her as a child, cooperating with the scientists is the last thing Jessa would do.
But when she discovers the past isn’t what she assumed, Jessa must join forces with budding scientist Tanner Callahan to rectify a fatal mistake made ten years ago. She’ll do anything to change the past and save her sister―even if it means aligning with the enemy she swore to defeat.
Plot summary for BEFORE TOMORROW:
In a world where all seventeen-year-olds receive a memory from their future selves, Logan Russell’s vision is exactly as he expects—and exactly not. He sees himself achieving his greatest wish of becoming a gold-star swimmer, but strangely enough, the vision also shows him locking eyes with a girl from his past, Callie Stone, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of love and belonging.
Logan’s not sure what the memory means, but soon enough, he learns that his old friend Callie is in trouble. She’s received an atypical memory, one where she commits a crime in the future. According to the law, she must be imprisoned, even though she’s done nothing wrong. Now, Logan must decide if he’ll give up his future as a gold-star swimmer and rescue the literal girl of his dreams. All he’ll have to do is defy Fate.
All plot summaries from author’s website.
Learn more about Pintip Dunn here.
Follow Pintip on Twitter here.
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ILLUMINAE (The Illuminae Files #1) and GEMINA (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (illustrations for GEMINA by Marie Lu)
Although I’d heard about the first book, and I’d been intrigued, I’d stayed just on the verge of buying it. I must admit, I didn’t start reading the series until the second book came out and I saw Marie Lu contributed the illustrations. Then I was completely sold. I made the mistake of getting the first book in ebook format – so hard to view all the goodies this way! I caved and later got it in hardcopy, too – no regrets! Great heart-pounding tension and gut-wrenching story-telling throughout the two books. Loved the multi-media format. Didn’t take away from the character development or story. Can’t wait for the next book!
Plot summary for ILLUMINAE:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again!
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. (Plot Summary from author’s website.)
Plot summary for GEMINA:
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.
But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Amie Kaufman here.
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Learn more about Jay Kristoff here.
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DARING AMELIA by Barbara Lowell (illustrated by Jez Tuya)
Wonderful story about one of my childhood heroes! I loved learning more about her journey. (Still after all these years, I wanted a different ending for her.) Great book for ALL young readers! (This is also the second book to be published by my lovely critique partner – go, Barbara!)
Soar to new heights with the story of the world’s most famous female pilot, Amelia Earhart!
Even as a kid, Amelia Earhart was always looking for adventures. She had mud ball fights, explored caves, and even built a roller coaster in her backyard. And the adventures continued as she grew up. She took flying lessons and was soon performing stunts in the sky. She became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Still, she wanted to achieve more. So Amelia set out to fly around the world. She took off and made stops on several continents. But tragedy struck. She was unable to find the small island in the Pacific Ocean that she needed to land on. Despite rescue efforts, she was never found. But Amelia Earhart is still remembered today as a daring explorer who loved to fly. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Barbara Lowell here.
Follow Barbara on Twitter here.
(GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL FIELD DAY by Tammi Sauer (illustrated by Lynn Munsinger)
The follow up to the first Ginny Louise story is just as lovable as the first one. Three cheers for Ginny Louise!
A good dose of optimism and unflinching kindness in the face of bullies is just what the world needs. Ginny Louise knows how to spread the love and make everyone feel like a winner! Even the bullies. She remains my favorite hedgehog.
Nobody loves Truman Elementary more than Ginny Louise. She didn’t think school could get any better until–
School Field Day! Ball throws, long jumps, tug-of-war, and, to top it all off, a sack race! Ginny Louise is game for it all. But the Truman Elementary Troublemakers, Cap’n Catastrophe, Destructo Dude, and Make-My-Day May, aren’t playing fair. When they go too far, can Ginny Louise use her irrepressible good humor to give everyone a reason to cheer?
Jaws will drop and eyes will pop before this School Field Day crosses the finish line. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.
Follow Tammi on Twitter here.
Follow Tammi’s group blog Picture Book Builders here.
DECEPTION (Defiance #2) and DELIVERANCE (Defiance #3) by C.J. Redwine
I started this series with the first book, DEFIANCE, as part of Colleen Houck’s Goodreads Book Club some time last year, and I really wanted to finish the series. Fast-paced and intense, I read through these last two books quickly. I couldn’t wait to see how Rachel and Logan would survive the next catastrophe.
Plot summary for DECEPTION:
Baalboden has been ravaged. The brutal Commander’s whereabouts are unknown. And Rachel, grief stricken over her father’s death, needs Logan more than ever. With their ragged group of survivors struggling to forge a future, it’s up to Logan to become the leader they need—with Rachel by his side. Under constant threat from rival Carrington’s army, who is after the device that controls the Cursed One, the group decides to abandon the ruins of their home and take their chances in the Wasteland.
But soon their problems intensify tenfold: someone—possibly inside their ranks—is sabotaging the survivors, picking them off one by one. The chaos and uncertainty of each day puts unbearable strain on Rachel and Logan, and it isn’t long before they feel their love splintering. Even worse, as it becomes clear that the Commander will stop at nothing to destroy them, the band of survivors begins to question whether the price of freedom may be too great—and whether, hunted by their enemies and the murderous traitor in their midst, they can make it out of the Wasteland alive.
In this daring sequel to Defiance, with the world they once loved forever destroyed, Rachel and Logan must decide between a life on the run and standing their ground to fight.
Plot summary for DELIVERANCE:
Everything hangs in the balance, and nothing is certain: Rachel has been kidnapped by enemy forces and is being taken to Rowansmark while Logan, imprisoned and awaiting trial, is unable to leave Lankenshire. Separated from each other and their Baalboden comrades, each must find a way to achieve what they desperately want: to rid their world once and for all of the Commander and the tech that controls the deadly Cursed One.
Fighting through her pain and embracing the warrior she’s become, Rachel will do whatever it takes to escape her enemies’ clutches and join Logan in his fight. But when she learns a secret that changes everything, she realizes that escaping Ian and his tracker friends is no longer an option if she wants to save the people she loves. Instead, she’ll have to destroy Rowansmark from the inside out—if she can survive the journey through the Wasteland.
Logan needs allies if he wants to thwart Rowansmark’s power grab and rescue Rachel. But securing allies will mean betraying his beliefs and enlisting the help of the man he hates more than anyone: Commander Jason Chase. Driven by his fierce love for Rachel and his determination to make their world safe, Logan may be just the weapon the city-states need to defeat the Cursed One.
But as Rowansmark bears down and uneasy alliances are tested, will Rachel and Logan’s love for each other be enough to surmount the unbelievable odds against them? (Plot summaries from author website.)
Learn more about C.J. Redwine here.
Follow C.J. on Twitter here.
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ECHO by Pam Muńoz Ryan
I saw Ms. Ryan speak in LA this year and really enjoyed her talk. I bought her book ahead of time looked forward to reading it. I wish I had enjoyed it more. I really wanted to. For me, it fell short of its promise. It still was a decent read, but i found it wanting – I know, I know, Newbery Honor and all. Still, it started strong and with promise and there were enough moments I liked that I would give her another chance in a heartbeat. Many who have listened to the audiobook have been blown away. Maybe I should have tried that version.
Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.
Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.
Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, this impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Pam Muńoz Ryan here.
Follow Pam on Twitter here.
THE THANK YOU BOOK (Elephant & Piggie #25) by Mo Willems
My son has enjoyed every single one of these books and I’ve enjoyed reading them out loud with him. Love these characters. Love Mo Willems. Thank YOU, Mr. Willems, for all the great books.
Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.
Gerald and Piggie are best friends.
In The Thank You Book!, Piggie wants to thank EVERYONE. But Gerald is worried Piggie will forget someone . . . someone important. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Mo Willems here.
Follow The Pigeon on Twitter here.
YOUR ALIEN RETURNS by Tammi Sauer (Illustrated by Goro Fujita)
Gleep! What a beautiful continuation of the saga of a stellar friendship! Makes me want an alien friend of my very own. Loved how Sauer nailed the range of emotions one feels when visiting somewhere new and trying to fit in. And again with those far out illustrations from Goro Fujita! To die for! I highly recommend this book to all readers, young and young at heart.
Come along on an out-of-this-world experience! In this heartwarming sequel to the critically acclaimed Your Alien, it’s the human boy’s turn to visit the extraterrestrial’s home planet—and to feel like an outsider. But with a little help from his very best friend in the whole universe, our young hero finds a way to fit in. Like the two irresistible characters, readers will have the ride of their lives. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.
Follow Tammi on Twitter here.
Follow Tammi’s group blog Picture Book Builders here.
ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven
Beautiful. Funny. Surprising. Broke my heart in such a fantastic way. Up close and personal view of what it feels like to live with depression and thoughts of suicide, and what happens when those thoughts overwhelm you. Loved Violet and Finch so so much.
An exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground—it’s unclear who saves whom. And when the unlikely pair teams up on a class project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, they go, as Finch says, where the road takes them: the grand, the small, the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising—just like life.
Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a bold, funny, live-out-loud guy, who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
This is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Jennifer Niven here.
Follow Jennifer on Twitter here.
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RED QUEEN (Red Queen #1) and GLASS SWORD (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Great fun, fast-paced adventure stories with strong female lead with fantastic flaws – what’s not to love? Unique world-building as well. I raced through these two books in a matter of days. Just the thing after reading two powerfully emotional and psychologically heavy books. Nothing wrong with fun reading! I’m even looking forward to the next book coming out early 2017.
Plot summary for RED QUEEN:
This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.
The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.
That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.
Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.
But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.
Plot summary for GLASS SWORD:
If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.
Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.
The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.
Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.
But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.
Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?
The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.
Plot summaries from Goodreads.
Learn more about Victoria Aveyard here.
Follow Victoria on Twitter here.
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CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman
I had the honor and privilege of listening to Neal tell the deeply personal story behind this book at this year’s LA SCBWI Summer conference. Let me tell us, it was phenomenal. I couldn’t wait to read my signed copy when I got back home.
Powerful storytelling. Insightful and empathetic view of the world of mental illness. That’s this book at its core. But they way Neal tells this story puts you right in the mind of someone with mental illness. You have no choice but to experience it. And it is life-altering.
Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Neal Shusterman here.
Follow Neal on Twitter here.
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BELOVED by Toni Morrison
Powerful, mesmerizing storytelling at its best.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Toni Morrison here.
Follow Toni on Facebook here.
BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray
RELAXED AND GROOVY BOOK CLUB PIC
Even better the second go around, this book delivers more than superficial good looks.Still a very relevant commentary on girl culture and a must-read for every young woman. Find full discussion here.
Teen beauty queens. A desert island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to e-mail. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Libba Bray here.
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MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM by Tammi Sauer (Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton)
I love a rhyming book that’s fun to read out loud, and this one has so much flair! Mary knows how to show her classmates and the readers a good time.
This little Mary has STYLE! In this fun take on Mother Goose, fashion-forward Mary helps some of childhood’s most beloved characters go glam. From the kid who lives in a shoe (and dons some fab footwear, too) to Jack, who breaks his crown but gets a great new one, Mary’s school friends look fantastic in their finery. But are they now too well dressed for recess? Not to worry—Mary always shows her flair for what to wear! (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.
Follow Tammi on Twitter here.
Follow Tammi’s group blog Picture Book Builders here.
THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT by Drew Daywalt (Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers)
Although I saw this book everywhere, I didn’t pick it up to read until after I heard Drew speak at the LA SCBWI Summer conference. And I was suddenly really curious. Great story, so irreverent and funny. My kind of picture book for sure!
Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.
What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best? (Plot summary from book’s website.)
Learn more about Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers here.
Follow Drew on Twitter here.
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THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater
This was a very satisfying ending to a fantastic and unique series. I will miss reading about Blue and the Raven boys. Although, Ms. Stiefvater has alluded to a new Ronan-centric series in the works. I could really get into that!
Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.
For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.
Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Maggie Stiefvater here.
View Raven Cycle series own website here.
Follow Maggie on Twitter here.
Follow Maggie on Tumblr here.
GEORGE by Alex Gino
I had heard so many positive reviews of this book, I just had to read it.
This book may be little, but it is mighty.
I cried so hard at the end and hugged it close to my heart. What an important book to add to the world and to put out there for MG readers. Fantastic story that needs to be read.
When people look at George, they see a boy. But George knows she’s a girl.
George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part … because she’s a boy.
With the help of her best friend Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
GEORGE is a candid, genuine, and heartwarming middle grade about a transgender girl who is, to use Charlotte’s word, R-A-D-I-A-N-T! (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Alex Gino here.
Follow Alex on Twitter here.
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THIEF OF LIES (Library Jumpers #1) by Brenda Drake
This is the first book in a series by the wonderful and charming Brenda Drake, the YA author behind the Pitch Wars phenomenon. I loved the premise and the feisty female lead character. Drake does an excellent job with world-building and her fast-paced story has you racing to the end.
I look forward to the next installment.
Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.
Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Brenda Drake here.
Follow Brenda on Twitter here.
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ARE WE THERE YET? by Dan Santat
This is a fun read and would definitely spice up a boring car ride with this wildly imaginative trip care of Santat’s outrageous creativity.
“Are we there yet?” Every parent has heard this classic kid question on a long car ride–and after reading this astonishingly inventive new book (that even turns upside down for several pages!), you’ll never look at being bored the same way again.
Let’s face it: everyone knows that car rides can be boring. And when things get boring, time slows down. In this book, a boy feels time slowing down so much that it starts going backward–into the time of pirates! Of princesses! Of dinosaurs! The boy was just trying to get to his grandmother’s birthday party, but instead he’s traveling through Ancient Egypt and rubbing shoulders with Ben Franklin. When time flies, who knows where–or when–he’ll end up. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Dan Santat here.
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I LOVE CAKE!: Starring Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose by Tammi Sauer
I laughed, I cried, I ran out and bought myself some cake so I could read this book again. Loved the humor of this story. Great way to show how we all get it wrong sometimes and it’s okay as long as there’s cake, and friends to share it with.
Moose may be my new favorite picture book character, now that Mo Willems has retired the Gerald & Piggie series. (A moment of silence, please.) Yes, I know, that is high praise. Read the book and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Bestselling author Tammi Sauer’s characters are both lovable and mischievous. In I Love Cake!, the first picture book featuring irrepressible Moose, orderly Rabbit, and fun-loving Porcupine, Rabbit plans a fabulous birthday party with fun activities and a delicious cake. Porcupine and Moose come to enjoy Rabbit’s big day, but everything goes south when impulsive Moose loses control of his appetite!
With hilarious bits of dialogue throughout, I Love Cake! is not only a dynamic read-aloud, it works as an inspiration for a short play. Themes of friendship and forgiveness come through on every page—and the birthday theme makes I Love Cake! an excellent choice for a birthday gift! (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.
Follow Tammi on Twitter here.
Follow Tammi’s group blog Picture Book Builders here.
TINY STITCHES: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman
Gwen Hooks is a talented writer whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing through SCBWI OK. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her fascinating book about this talented and humble man who deserved to have his story told. The beautiful illustrations by award-winning illustrator Colin Bootman enhance the wonderful storytelling.
Read my interview with Gwen where she talks about her book here.
Vivien Thomas’s greatest dream was to attend college to study medicine. But after the stock market crashed in 1929, Vivien lost all his savings. Then he heard about a job opening at the Vanderbilt University medical school under the supervision of Dr. Alfred Blalock. Vivien knew that the all-white school would never admit him as a student, but he hoped working there meant he was getting closer to his dream.
As Dr. Blalock’s research assistant, Vivien learned surgical techniques. In 1943, Vivien was asked to help Dr. Helen Taussig find a cure for children with a specific heart defect. After months of experimenting, Vivien developed a procedure that was used for the first successful open-heart surgery on a child. Afterward, Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig announced their innovative new surgical technique, the Blalock-Taussig shunt. Vivien’s name did not appear in the report.
Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien ushered in a new era of medicine—children’s heart surgery. This book is the compelling story of this incredible pioneer in medicine.
Learn more about Gwendolyn Hooks here.
Follow her on Twitter here.
Follow her on Facebook here.
Follow the Brown Bookshelf blog here.
Learn more about Colin Bootman here.
MY FRIEND MAGGIE by Hannah E. Harrison
I received an advance copy of this wonderful story from the lovely Hannah Harrison during our spring SCBWI OK conference. I was so excited to see her latest work! My son carries one of her books around with him every single day – yes, he has his own copy.
This is such a fantastic story of friendship put to the test. Harrison’s vibrant and clever use of color and perspective enhance the emotional impact. It’s a truly great read! And because Maggie’s an elephant, my son’s favorite animal, (and the artwork is so awesome!) he’ll soon be carrying this one around with him every day, too.
Paula and Maggie have been friends forever. Paula thinks Maggie is the best—until mean girl Veronica says otherwise. Suddenly, Paula starts to notice that Maggie is big and clumsy, and her clothes are sort of snuggish. Rather than sticking up for Maggie, Paula ignores her old friend and plays with Veronica instead. Luckily, when Veronica turns on Paula, Maggie’s true colors shine through.
This moving friendship story has all the heart and emotion of The Giving Tree and Kevin Henkes’s Chrysanthemum. The gorgeous artwork and important message make this a book to treasure. It’s truly a classic in the making. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Hannah E. Harrison here.
Follow Hannah on Facebook here.
THE BANE CHRONICLES by Cassandra Clare
As a serious fan of all things Shadowhunter, I couldn’t resist getting to know one of my favorite characters in the series. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peek at the life of Magnus Bane and the illustrations – I only wish there had more more! The tales answered some questions and raised some others. The only drawback is now I feel compelled to reread the entire series of books. What’s a booklover to do?
Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices can get to know warlock Magnus Bane like never before in this collection of New York Times bestselling tales, in print for the first time with an exclusive new story and illustrated material.
This collection of eleven short stories illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.
Originally released one-by-one as e-only short stories by Cassandra Clare,, this compilation presents all ten together in print for the first time and includes a never-before-seen eleventh tale, as well as new illustrated material. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Cassandra Clare here.
Follow Cassandra on Twitter here.
Follow her on Tumblr here.
ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
So much buzz about this book as THE book to read this year brought this title to my attention. And now I know why.
Such an important topic and so well handled by these two incredibly talented authors. Bravo!
Critically acclaimed authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely have joined forces to write an explosive new novel, ALL AMERICAN BOYS, inspired by recent controversial events and the national firestorm over police brutality.
Rashad Butler and Quinn Collins are two young men, one black and one white, whose lives are forever changed by an act of extreme police brutality. Rashad wakes up in a hospital. Quinn saw how he got there. And so did the video camera that taped the cop beating Rashad senseless into the pavement. Thus begins ALL AMERICAN BOYS, written in tandem by two of our great literary talents, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. The story is told in Rashad and Quinn’s alternating perspectives, as they grapple with the complications that spin out of this violent moment and reverberate in their families, school, and town. Over the course of one week, Rashad tries to find the strength to accept his role as the symbolic figure of the community’s response to police brutality, and Quinn tries to decide where he belongs in a town bitterly divided by racial tension. Ultimately, the two narratives weave back together, in the moment in which the two boys, now changed, can actually see each other—the first step for healing and understanding in a country still deeply sick with racial injustice. Reynolds pens the voice of Rashad, and Kiely has taken the voice of Quinn.
“As a black man and a white man, both writers and educators, we came together to cowrite a book about how systemic racism and police brutality affect the lives of young people in America, in order to create an important, unique, and honest work that would give young people and the people who educate them a tool for talking about these difficult but absolutely vital conversations,” said Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Jason Reynolds here.
Follow Jason on Twitter here.
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Follow Jason on Instagram here.
Learn more about Brendan Kiely here.
Follow Brendan on Twitter here.
Follow Brendan on Facebook here.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES by Cassandra Clare
I have some type of addiction to these stories. I can’t get enough of them! So as a mental break from all of my have-to reading, I read the first story for the millionth time because I wanted to. And I still enjoyed it. And I still read it as fast as the first time. Then, I couldn’t stop myself.
Thank you, for the Shadowhunters and all their friends, Ms. Clare. What a gift.
Plot summary for CITY OF BONES:
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it’s hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.
Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon.
But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….(Plot summary from author’s website.)
Plot summary for CITY OF ASHES:
Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.
To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?
Plot summary for CITY OF GLASS:
To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters — never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and her best friend, Simon, has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.
As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City — whatever the cost?
Learn more about Cassandra Clare here.
View Shadowhunters Novels site here.
Follow Cassandra on Twitter here.
Follow her on Tumblr here.
ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Sáenz Alire
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The way Sáenz paints with language gets me every time. He uses evocative language so well to hit right to the heart of the emotional moment of every scene. And his characters Ari and Dante are just the greatest. I loved this book even more the second time around. Find full discussion here.
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Follow Benjamin on Twitter here.
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins
Another book many of my writing friends were ranting about, so I threw it on the TBR pile. Interesting read. It was a little bit of a slow-starter for me, honestly. Which surprised me, since everyone seemed to be talking about what an intense, fast-paced story it was. I think my problem was I didn’t much like Rachel in the beginning – I didn’t find her character very sympathetic. That’s one thing editors are always talking about, isn’t it? Make us care about your character. well, it took me a little while to feel anything positive for her.
Then the story really took off.
I did enjoy the book. And I did end up warming to Rachel. I also managed to do something I don’t do too often when reading mysteries – I figured out the plot way early. I still enjoyed the story, and I wasn’t totally sure about my hunch, so it kept me reading. It was a subtle thing the author did that I picked up on, but I think reading so much and being an author helped me see it.
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Paula Hawkins here.
Follow Paula on Twitter here.
Follow Paula on Facebook here.
CAREER OF EVIL (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)
There’s nothing like a hard-boiled mystery novel, is there? I really enjoy reading these books by Rowling, er, Galbraith. Just a fun read. I know, I know, murder and mayhem, fun? I may be a little weird. Either way, I read through this book in a flash to find out whodunit.
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible- and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Robert Galbraith here.
Follow Robert on Twitter here.
Follow Robert on Facebook here.
(I’m sure you know how to find J.K. Rowling, but here’s her other main site, just in case, here.)
WHAT THE LADY WANTS: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age by Renee Rosen
I read Rosen’s DOLLFACE a few years ago and really enjoyed it. While this novel is also set in historic Chicago, and while it starts out strong, it left much to be desired as far as the story. I’m afraid it rambled on too long and the main character was not as strong as I like mine – things tended to happen to her – time passing, waiting for people to die to remove obstacles to her desires – instead of her taking charge of her life. Blech.
I did enjoy reading about the great fire that leveled Chicago and Rosen always writes the historic details with flair, I just didn’t care that much for the actual story this time.
In late 19th century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.”
His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer, and led to an infamous love affair.
The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watched the flames rise and consume what had been the pioneer town of Chicago, she couldn’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world was about to change. Nor would she have guessed that the agent of that change would not simply be the fire, but more so the man she met that night…
Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie— including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.
But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago was transformed into the Gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Renee Rosen here.
Follow Renee on Twitter here.
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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I can’t count how many people recommended this book to me. Everyone who read it was moved in a profound way. Obviously I signed up to read it.
Powerful doesn’t begin to describe this story.
Coates puts you immediately in the conversation and lets you explore the fear and worry and anger and enlightenment from the point of view of a parent teaching a son how to come to terms with the same. A must-read book for sure.
“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Ta-Nehisi Coates here.
Follow Ta-Nehisi on Twitter here.
THE ORPHAN QUEEN duology by Jodi Meadows
I read Jodi Meadows’s debut novel INCARNATE a few years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. I loved the whole Incarnate series and I know I won’t be disappointed when I reach for one of her books. I did torture myself by waiting to read this book until the second book was coming out because I know how she likes a good cliff-hanger.
The first book in the series was no exception!
Right after I closed this one, I immediately purchased the sequel (and the conclusion to this duology. I haven’t read many of these!) That is the sign of great writing in my book – when you want to find out what happens next. Without delay.
Plot summary for THE ORPHAN QUEEN:
Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.
She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.
She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.
She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.
Plot summary for THE MIRROR KING:
Wilhelmina has a hundred enemies.
Her friends have turned. After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in the devastated city. When the Ospreys’ leader emerges at the worst possible moment, leaving Wil’s biggest ally on his deathbed, she must become Black Knife to set things right.
Her magic is uncontrollable. Wil’s power is to animate, not to give true life, but in the wraithland she commanded a cloud of wraith mist to save herself, and later ordered it solid. Now there is a living boy made of wraith—destructive and deadly, and willing to do anything for her.
Her heart is torn. Though she’s ready for her crown, declaring herself queen means war. Caught between what she wants and what is right, Wilhelmina realizes the throne might not even matter. Everyone thought the wraith was years off, but already it’s destroying Indigo Kingdom villages. If she can’t protect both kingdoms, soon there won’t be a land to rule.
Learn more about Jodi Meadows here.
Follow Jodi on Twitter here.
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Follow Jodi on Instagram here.
Follow Jodi on Tumblr here.
EVERY DAY by David Levithan
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Not your average story right from the start. And it just gets better. The character Leviathan has created is amazing. The situation he’s put in, switching lives every day, allows ‘A’ to comment on the human condition in a unique way and offer up fantastic insights. Find the full discussion here.
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day. (From author’s website.)
Learn more about David Levithan here.
Follow David on Twitter here.
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REQUIEM (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver
I read the first two books in this series about three years ago and then I somehow missed the last book until now. (I think I was waiting for it to come out in paperback.) Great series. So glad I finally got to find out what happened to Lena.
Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has transformed. The nascent rebellion that was underway in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.
As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain of the Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor. Requiem is told from both Lena and Hana’s points of view. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Lauren Oliver here.
Follow Lauren on Twitter here.
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LADY MIDNIGHT by Cassandra Clare
I absolutely love the Shadowhunters series from Calre. I’ll read these books over and over and never tire of them. So excited about finally getting to read more about Emma and Julian and all of the LA shadowhunters. Fantastic story, which I devoured only too soon.And that cover! Too die for!
In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.
A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other — but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a Shadowhunter, one in a long line of Shadowhunters tasked with protecting the world from demons. With her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of an secret Los Angeles where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries start turning up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were murdered years ago, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge — and Julian’s chance to get back his half-faerie brother, Mark, who was kidnapped five years ago. All Emma, Mark and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks . . . before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. As she uncovers the past, she begins to peel away the secrets of the present: What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents — and can she bear to know the truth?
The magic and adventure of the Shadowhunter Chronicles have captured the imaginations of millions of readers across the globe. Fall in love with Emma and her friends in this pulse-pounding, heart-rending new volume sure to delight new readers and longtime fans. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Cassandra Clare here.
Follow Cassandra on Twitter here.
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GLORY (The Dust Chronicles #3) by Maureen McGowan
This is the final book in the series that I started late last year. Nice to finish it and read the ending of Glory’s journey. Good read. Really enjoyed the series.
Glory is a Deviant. That is what she was always taught, growing up in the domed city of Haven. She has the power to kill with her gaze, but she’s learned to control this power and use it only against the monstrous Shredders who survive on the asteroid dust that mutated their DNA.
Now, living in a settlement Outside, Glory has the chance to embrace her “Gift” and reunite her remaining family. But she can’t hide from the threat of Shredder attacks or the knowledge of what Management is doing to the employees of Haven.
Can she face losing everything she has left to bring freedom to Haven? Will she choose the familiar safety of Cal’s love or risk Burn’s dangerous passion? Ultimately, Glory must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her family safe, and what it really means to be a monster.
This is the thrilling finale to The Dust Chronicles trilogy. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Maureen McGowan here.
Follow Maureen on Twitter here.
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SUNSETS AND HAIKU by Una Belle Townsend
I received a copy of SUNSETS AND HAIKU from Una Belle herself, when she read about the reading challenges I am attempting this year. So thoughtful! I wrote a review of her book. Find the full discussion here.
Ever-changing. Exotic. Thought-provoking.
In this exquisite photography collection, Una Belle Townsend, author and photographer, captures nature at its most elusive–when the sun, earth, clouds and atmosphere collide to create stunning tableaus from firecracker red prairies to picture-perfect pastel skies. Famous worldwide, Oklahoma sunsets explode in a kaleidoscope of colors as the sun disappears beyond the horizon. Paired with her stunning photos is a Japanese poetry form, haiku, which traditionally calls to mind nature and its seasons. (Plot summary from publisher’s website.)
Learn more about Una Belle Townsend here.
Follow Una Belle on Facebook here.
HOLES by Louis Sachar
Just about every one of my writing friends could not believe I’d never read this book. “I’ve seen the movie” was not good enough. I promptly agreed to read this book as soon as possible. I’m glad I did. It’s a fantastic story and well told by Sachar. (And of course it’s better than the movie – which was pretty darn good.)
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.
It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Louis Sachar here.
Follow Louis on Facebook here.
PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S King
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King has become one of my must-read authors, and I am knocked out by each new novel she publishes. She is a master at using magical realism with astounding impact. This book is where it all began, and it won her a Michael L. Printz honor in 2011. Find the full discussion here.
Eighteen-year-old Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, or even the police. But will she emerge and clear his name? Does she even want to?
An edgy, gripping story, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about A.S. King here.
Follow A.S. King on Twitter here.
THE FIVE RED HERRINGS by Dorothy L. Sayers
I enjoy a good old fashioned murder as much as the next person. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading my first Dorothy Sayers novel last year, STRONG POISON. This one, I’m sorry to say, fell a little flat for me. Missing not only the fantastic chemistry with Harriett (whom I hope returns very soon!) but also missing was clarity. In understandable dialect for one thing! The Scottish vernacular was so thickly shown that I had difficulty discerning what was being said much of the time – NOT ideal in a mystery novel! And the plot was a little lackluster as well. Still, I did adore the scenes with Lord Peter in them, especially when he was full of enthusiasm for a good murder. I hold out hope that the next book in the series will show this one to be a mere stumble.
During a painting retreat, a killer takes a creative approach to the ancient art of murder
The majestic landscape of the Scottish coast has attracted artists and fishermen for centuries. In the idyllic village of Kirkcudbright, every resident and visitor has two things in common: They either fish or paint (or do both), and they all hate Sandy Campbell. Though a fair painter, he is a rotten human being, and cannot enter a pub without raising the blood pressure of everybody there. No one weeps when he dies. Campbell’s body is found at the bottom of a steep hill, and his easel stands at the top, suggesting that he took a tumble while painting. But something about the death doesn’t sit right with gentleman sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. No one in Kirkcudbright liked Campbell, and six hated him enough to become suspects. Five are innocent, and the other is the perpetrator of one of the most ingenious murders Lord Peter has ever encountered. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Dorothy L. Sayers here.
KIKI AND JACQUES by Susan Ross
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This was a debut novel that had an intriguing premise, although it mostly fell flat for me. I reviewed this book in detail on the blog.
All in all, it wasn’t a great read for me, just an okay read.
Twelve-year-old Jacques’s mother has passed away, his father is jobless and drinking again and his grandmother’s bridal store is on the verge of going out of business. Plus he’s under pressure from an older boy to join in some illegal activities. At least Jacques can look forward to the soccer season. After all, he’s a shoe-in for captain.
But the arrival of Somali refugees shakes up nearly everything in Jacques’s Maine town, including the soccer team. So Jacques is surprised to find himself becoming friends with Kiki, a cheerful and strong-minded Somali immigrant. Despite their many differences they are able to help one another triumph over problems with friends, family and growing up.
(Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Susan Ross here.
Follow Susan on Twitter here.
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ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake
An agent who read the beginning of one of my WIPs suggested this book to me as a comp title. I have to say, it was enlightening, and it did help give me some great ideas for my own story. I don’t read too many horror novels, so it was nice to branch out and read a good book in a different genre.
The cover had a quote from a famous YA author I like, touting this book as, “spellbinding and romantic”. While I did really enjoy it, I didn’t exactly find it romantic. At all. It was still definitely well worth the read…just maybe keep the lights on. ALL the lights.
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
Yet she spares Cas’s life.
(Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Kendare Blake here.
Follow Kendare on Twitter here.
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WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart
My daughter recommended this book to me. She rarely steers me wrong. This one was no exception. I love when a book surprises me and moves me.
This one did both.
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
The truth. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about E. Lockhart here.
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ORBITING JUPITER by Gary Schmidt
This is another perfect, beautifully written book.
Schmidt crafts a wonderful and heartbreaking story that draws you in and makes you feel everything for Jack and Joseph and want so much more for them.
I love when I close a book with tears still fresh in my eyes. Ah! such a great story!
When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:
Joseph almost killed a teacher.
He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.
He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her.
What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl.
Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help.
But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.
This tender, heartbreaking novel is Gary D. Schmidt at his best. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Gary Schmidt here.
SHATTER ME SERIES by Tahereh Mafi
I was drawn to the cover and the description of a character who’s touch is deadly. I wanted to know her story. Then this series fit in with the Read Harder Challenge as my selection for the challenge to read the first book in a series by a person of color. Of course, once I read the first book, I couldn’t just stop; I read the entire series, including the two novellas told from the two main male characters, Warner and Adam.
Mari has such a unique writing style. She has a beautiful use of language that paints vivid emotional pictures, and really draws you in to her story. Her heroine, Juliette was fantastic. I loved following her struggle to self-discovery and finding her own inner strength. Such a wonderful series.
Plot summary for SHATTER ME:
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice:
BE A WEAPON. OR BE A WARRIOR.
Plot summary for DESTROY ME:
This novella-length digital original bridges the gap between Shatter Me and Unravel Me from the perspective of the villain we all love to hate, Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.
Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.
Plot summary for UNRAVEL ME:
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
Plot summary for FRACTURE ME:
Set during and soon after the final moments of Unravel Me, Fracture Me is told from Adam’s perspective.
As Omega Point prepares to launch an all-out assault on The Reestablishment soldiers stationed in Sector 45, Adam’s focus couldn’t be further from the upcoming battle. He’s reeling from his breakup with Juliette, scared for his best friend’s life, and as concerned as ever for his brother James’s safety. And just as Adam begins to wonder if this life is really for him, the alarms sound. It’s time for war.
On the battlefield, it seems like the odds are in their favor—but taking down Warner, Adam’s newly discovered half brother, won’t be that easy. The Reestablishment can’t tolerate a rebellion, and they’ll do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam has ever cared about.
Plot summary for IGNITE ME:
With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.
All plot summaries from author’s website.
Learn more about Tahereh Mafi here.
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SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Abertalli
I was intrigued by the title and the cover and by all of the online love this book received by writers I respect. This debut novel was well worth the time. I really enjoyed the secret relationship Simon had with Blue and how honest he could be with someone he didn’t really know. The lengths he went through to protect this relationship from being harmed – what made this one more real than others in his life? Great concept and so well executed.
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Becky Abertalli here.
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THE SKIN GAME (The Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher
Jim Butcher really knows how to layer a story with complex plots and how to keep you guessing to the very end. One thing I love more than anything is his use of humor. Even in the midst of the worst moments, his main character, Harry, can throw out a fantastic quip that has me rolling and also wondering if he isn’t just a bit insane. I absolutely love this series, and I am fascinated by the depth of characters and story lines that Butcher weaves into each one. The dynamic between Harry and his badass pint-sized sidekick Murphy is pure genius and she is also one of my favorite female characters in this genre – yep, the vanilla human with no magical powers who dares to fight monsters.
Butcher is the king of taking his characters so close to what they want and having it ripped away from them, just to be put through the worst possible scenarios while taking a hell of a beating as they try to survive by any means necessary. On occasion they don’t survive, which breaks our hearts even more. And yet, I still can’t stop reading each book at a break-neck pace. I’m already anticipating the release of PEACE TALKS later this year.
Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….
Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.
He doesn’t know the half of it….
Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.
It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.
Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance…(Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Jim Butcher here.
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THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker
This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time. What finally made me pick it up hearing how much the book impacted one particular reader. Author Matt de la Peña mentioned how influential this book was on him personally, and how surprised he was to see similarities in his life with that of Celie, the main character. Good enough recommendation for me.
I really enjoyed reading this book, and watching Celie discover her own inner strength and see her way to forgiveness over bitterness. Beautiful story.
Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Alice Walker here.
INTO THE STILL BLUE (Under the Never Sky #3) by Veronica ROSSI
I picked up the first book in this series after hearing the author speak at an SCBWI LA Summer conference a few years ago. The first book, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, was part of my 2015 PBR Pile Challenge and I wrote a review of it here.
Spoiler Alert: I loved, loved, loved it!
I read through the entire series in less than a week. The last book, INTO THE STILL BLUE, is the first book I finished reading for 2016.
One of my favorite dystopian series by far.
The race for survival comes to a thrilling close in the earth-shattering conclusion to Veronica Rossi’s New York Times bestselling Under the Never Sky trilogy.
Their love and their leadership have been tested. Now it’s time for Perry and Aria to unite the Dwellers and the Outsiders in one last desperate attempt to find the fabled Still Blue and bring balance to their world. (Plot summaries from author’s website.)
Learn more about Veronica Rossi here.
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