Archive | September, 2012

What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang

29 Sep

“Addie and I were born into the same body, our souls’ ghostly fingers entwined before we gasped our very first breath.”

Hi, precious flowers. Once upon a time, I got my very first YA or GTFO ARC in the mail. OK, so maybe it was through Goodreads firstreads, but whatever. I would like to think that maybe I got chosen because of this blog. We all have our little delusions. Needless to say, I was pretty excited about Kat Zhang‘s What’s Left of Me, both because it was an interesting concept for a “dystopia” (I am using this term loosely here) and because it was the first time an ARC showed up on my doorstep with my blog’s name on it. Unfortunately, all those fresh-faced hopes were really disappointed with this dud.

Eva lives in an alternate reality in which people are born with two souls in one body. As the body goes through childhood, one of the souls gets weaker and weaker until finally it relinquishes control to the dominant soul and takes a nap for the rest of its “life.” Eva is a recessive soul that never left; she and Addie share one body, but they must live as if only Addie is present. People who make it through childhood with both souls alive and kicking are known as “hybrids,” and if they are discovered they’re carted off to looney bins or whatever and never heard from again. After years of being covertly dual-souled, Eva and Addie befriend Hally, a girl whose “foreign” looks mark her as strange in this alternate imagining of a pseudo-Aryan nation isolated U.S.A. (the rest of the world is overrun by rascally hybrids, which means wars and famine and general chaos). As they become closer, Hally shows Eva/Addie that there is a way to give Eva control over their body again, and even though it could risk their lives, Eva is willing to risk anything for the opportunity to be bodily alive for even a short while.

I’ll start with the positive. This was a really interesting concept and Kat Zhang did a good job of playing with language to convey the idea that there are two people living in one body; whenever something happens to Eva/Addie, Eva refers to herself as “we,” or “us.” The only times that she refers to herself as “I” is when she is talking about her thoughts or feelings, or when she is actually moving their body. It’s an interesting examination of what it is to be human, what it means to have an identity, and the horribly claustrophobic feeling of being trapped inside a physical body that you cannot control. I enjoyed the relationship between Addie and Eva; there was a subtle examination of the power play between them, and the interplay of guilt and reassurance that comes from it. Aside from those positive points, I’ve got nothing.

Continue reading

September 25 New Releases

26 Sep

Egads, only my second week doing new releases and already I’m running behind! I had all these intentions of writing not just this post, but the review of Kat Zhang‘s What’s Left of Me, but instead I sat out in the late September sun and finished reading John Corey Whaley‘s Where Things Come Back. I’ll give you a hint: I really liked one of the books, the other one was rather underwhelming. I’ll let you try to figure out which one’s which before I write up the reviews. Now, without further adieu, WHAT THE HECK IS NEW THIS WEEK????!!! (Or at least: what are SOME of the new books this week??)

NEW FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 25

Title: Dodger
Author: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: historic fantasy
Blurb: A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he’s . . . Dodger.
Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl—not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England. From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.
Excitement Factor: OMG.

Title: The Blessed
Author: Tonya Hurley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: supernatural thriller
Blurb:  What if martyrs and saints lived among us? And what if you were told you were one of them? Meet Agnes, Cecilia, and Lucy. Three lost girls, each searching for something. But what they find is Beyond Belief.
Excitement factor: Maybe, if I’ve got nothing else on my bookshelf.

 

Title: The Infects
Author: Sean Beaudoin
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: horror, (black) humor
Blurb: Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back. Serving up a cast of irreverent, slightly twisted characters, an unexpected villain, and an ending you won’t see coming, here is a savvy tale that that’s a delight to read — whether you’re a rabid zombie fan or freshly bitten — and an incisive commentary on the evil that lurks within each of us.
Excitement factor: Maybe, if I’ve got nothing else on my bookshelf. (I should clarify: this actually looks good, but I have a hard time with zombies.)

Title: The Other Normals
Author: Ned Vizzini
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: …fantasy? I think?
Blurb: Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin. But that isn’t happening—not if his parents have anything to do with it. Concerned their son lacks social skills, they ship him off to summer camp to become a man. They want him to be outdoors playing with kids his own age and meeting girls—rather than indoors alone, with only his gaming alter ego for company. Perry knows he’s in for the worst summer of his life. Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. There he meets Mortin Enaw, one of the creators of C&C, and other mythical creatures from the game, including the alluring Ada Ember, whom Perry finds more beautiful than any human girl he’s ever met. Perry’s new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero. But to save the princess, Perry will have to learn how to make real connections in the human world as well.
Excitement factor: Yes, please!

Title: The Paladin Prophecy
Author: Mark Frost
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: fantasy/thriller
Blurb: Will West is careful to live life under the radar. At his parents’ insistence, he’s made sure to get mediocre grades and to stay in the middle of the pack on his cross-country team. Then Will slips up, accidentally scoring off the charts on a nationwide exam. Now Will is being courted by an exclusive prep school . . . and followed by men driving black sedans. When Will suddenly loses his parents, he must flee to the school. There he begins to explore all that he’s capable of–physical and mental feats that should be impossible–and learns that his abilities are connected to a struggle between titanic forces that has lasted for millennia.
Excitement factor: Maybe, if I’ve got nothing else on my bookshelf.

Title: The Turning
Author: Francine Prose
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Horror
Blurb: Jack is spending the summer on a private island far from modern conveniences. No Wi-Fi, no cell service, no one else on the island but a housekeeper and the two very peculiar children in his care. The first time Jack sees the huge black mansion atop a windswept hill, he senses something cold, something more sinister than even the dark house itself.
Soon, he feels terribly isolated and alone. Yet he is not alone. The house has visitors—peering in the windows, staring from across the shore. But why doesn’t anyone else see them . . . and what do they want? As secrets are revealed and darker truths surface, Jack desperately struggles to maintain a grip on reality. He knows what he sees, and he isn’t crazy. . . . Or is he?
Excitement factor: Maybe, if I’ve got nothing else on my bookshelf.

Title: Darkwater
Author: Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Dial
Genre: horror fantasy
Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Sarah Trevelyan would give anything to regain the power and wealth her family has lost, so she makes a bargain with Azrael, Lord of Darkwater Hall. He gives her one hundred years and the means to accomplish her objective–in exchange for her soul. Fast-forward a hundred years to Tom, a fifteen-year-old boy who dreams of attending Darkwater Hall School but doesn’t believe he has the talent. Until he meets a professor named Azrael, who offers him a bargain. Will Sarah be able to stop Tom from making the same mistake she did a century ago?
Excitement factor: Maybe, if I’ve got nothing else on my bookshelf.

 

A Grave Ommission!

21 Sep

Oh dear. On my very first NEW THIS WEEK post, I left out a book that I am actually super duper excited about. Now, without further ado, I present:

Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy
Blurb: Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.” When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.
Excitement Factor: OMG.

Libba Bray is DA BOMB. Between this and Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys, this is a very exciting week for new YA titles.

New this week! And some other thoughts on life.

16 Sep

So, it’s come to my attention that I don’t post enough. When I first started this blog, I thought I would just post a review whenever I happened to read a YA book, which ends up being roughly every month or so, which just isn’t enough. How to remedy this? I probably won’t read more than one YA book a month since I am an adult and do like to occasionally read books meant for grown-ups; for example, right now I am ALMOST DONE with Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and holy cow it’s amazing but it’s taken me a couple weeks to plow through 540 pages of tiny typeset for adults. I also decided that, while I’m sure EVERYONE is DYING to hear my long-winded, snotty ex-English major reviews, people might want a little more. Some spice, some fluff, some little slurps of juice to hold you over until I wax snarky on whatever teen book is just waiting for me to devour it.

My point being, I decided I’m going to start doing a weekly post on new books for the coming week and, because I am a librarian, readers advisory booklists. So, if there are any themes or read alikes you want to know about, send me an email (contact info in my “about” section) or post a comment, I’d love to hear from my readers!

NEW FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 18

Title: Because it is My Blood
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: crime drama, dystopia, romance
Blurb: Since her release from Liberty Children’s Facility, Anya Balanchine is determined to follow the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, her criminal record is making it hard for her to do that. But when old friends return demanding that certain debts be paid, Anya is thrown right back into the criminal world that she had been determined to escape. It’s a journey that will take her across the ocean and straight into the heart of the birthplace of chocolate where her resolve–and her heart–will be tested as never before.
Excitement Factor: Perhaps, if I ever get around to reading the first book, All These Things I’ve Done.

Title: Burn for Burn
Author: Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: contemporary, chick lit, drama
Blurb: Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes—and three girls secretly plotting revenge. None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together…anything is possible. With an unlikely alliance in place, there will be no more “I wish I’d said…” or “If I could go back and do things differently…” These girls will show Jar Island that revenge is a dish best enjoyed together.
Excitement Factor: Nope.

Title: Glass Heart
Author: Amy Garvey
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Blurb:  Wren can do things that other people can only dream of. Make it snow on a clear, crisp day. Fly through an abandoned tunnel. Bring a paper bird to life. Wren knows her abilities are tinged with danger—knows how easy it is to lose control—but she can’t resist the intoxicating rush. And now that she has Gabriel by her side, someone who knows what she can do—what she has done—she finally feels free to be herself. But as Wren explores the possibilities of her simmering powers, Gabriel starts pushing her away. Telling her to be careful. Telling her to stop. The more he cautions her, the more determined Wren becomes to prove that she can handle things on her own. And by the time she realizes that Gabriel may be right, it could be too late to bring him back to her side
Excitement Factor: Perhaps, if I ever get around to reading the first book, Cold Kiss.

Title: Ten
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Horror, Suspense, Mystery
Blurb:  It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, which involve their school’s most eligible bachelor, T. J. Fletcher, and look forward to three glorious days of boys, bonding, and fun-filled luxury. But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine. Suddenly, people are dying, and with a storm raging outside, the teens are cut off from the rest of the world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for three days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?
Excitement Factor: Maybe.

Title: The Crown of Embers
AuthorRae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Fantasy
Blurb: Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country’s ruler should be secure. But it isn’t.Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from both foreign realms and within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled. To conquer the power she bears once and for all, Elisa must follow the trail of long-forgotten–and forbidden–clues from the deep, undiscovered catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who–despite everything–she is falling in love with. If she’s lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
Excitement Factor: Perhaps, if I ever get around to reading the first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Blurb: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
Excitement factor: OMG.

Title: What’s Left of Me
Author: Kat Zhang
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Blurb: Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else–two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t… For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.
Excitement Factor: Buzz buzz buzz! This freshman offering has been generating some talk. And, psst, I’m reading my very own ARC right now!

So I was on a podcast with some famous people.

15 Sep

I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to post this here, but uh…better late than never? A couple months ago my good friend Julia Pistell invited me to be a guest on Literary Disco, a bookish podcast she does with Rider Strong (yes, THAT Rider Strong) and Tod Goldberg to talk about books for young folks, being a librarian, and one of my favorite books ever, Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach MeI was hella nervous to be doing my first ever podcast (isn’t hearing one’s recorded voice always just the worst?) with someone whose face I had taped up on my wall when I was thirteen, but overall I think it turned out mighty fine. In retrospect I wish I had chosen a different, weirder book that answered the second part of Rider’s challenge a bit better, but what can you do. I got caught up in ye old QUALITY question, especially after Julia asked me to choose the best book with the best writing,  and When You Reach Me is probably one of the highest quality kids’ books I’ve read in, well, ever. So, here it is. Not 100% about YA lit but I do talk about it a bit. Have a listen if you so choose, and please share your thoughts!

P.S. Now you all know my last name! Horrors.

Literary Disco Episode 10