Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Home    Challenges    Reviews    Features    Contests    Review Policy    Contact

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Audio Interview w/Cori McCarthy (YOU WERE HERE), Darcy Woods (THE SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS), & K.A. Barson (CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT)

This past weekend I had the opportunity to conduct a panel interview with rockstar authors Cori McCarthy (Breaking Sky and You Were Here), Darcy Woods (Summer of Supernovas), and K.A. (Kelly) Barson (45 Pounds More or Less and Charlotte Cuts It Out). The panel was recorded, so, though you may not have been in Traverse City, MI last weekend, you can still enjoy the great conversation.

Left to Right: Sara, Darcy, Kelly, Cori

All three of these author's 2016 releases feature strong characters and themes of letting go, both of which make great fodder for discussion. We also discuss writing process, the difficulties of reaching readers, favorite books, the ups and downs of trends, the difficulty of writing humor and 'light' books, a cameo from author Amy Rose Capetta, and much, much more!

Left to Right: Kelly, Cori, Darcy
  Check out the interview with Cori, Darcy, and Kelly below, then enter to win a signed copy of each of their books. If you'd like to purchase a signed copy of any of their books, you can do so here. Brilliant Books doesn't charge for shipping, which is a plus! 

I owe a huge thanks to Linda Smith, the Teen Librarian at the Traverse Area District Library, who provided a mic for the interview, as well as edit and uploading the podcast to Soundcloud!

1 winner. US only. Ends September 7, 2016.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cover Reveals - Young Adult (82)

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success, from acclaimed author Renée Watson.

Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling YA adventure.

If you want something done right . . .

When the ruthless pirate king learns of a legendary treasure map hidden on an enemy ship, his daughter, Alosa, knows there's only one pirate for the job—herself. Leaving behind her beloved ship and crew, Alosa deliberately facilitates her own kidnapping to ensure her passage on the ship, confident in her ability to overcome any obstacle. After all, who's going to suspect a seventeen-year-old girl locked in a cell? Then she meets the (surprisingly perceptive and unfairly attractive) first mate, Riden, who is charged with finding out all her secrets. Now it's down to a battle of wits and will . . . . Can Alosa find the map and escape before Riden figures out her plan?
Literally by Lucy Keating
A girl realizes her life is being written for her in this unique, smart love story that is Stranger Than Fiction for fans of Stephanie Perkins.

Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel—and Annabelle is the heroine.

It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her.

But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story—or will Lucy Keating have the last word?

Nowhere Near You by Leah Thomas
Following her acclaimed debut, Morris Award finalist Leah Thomas takes Ollie and Moritz’s unique friendship in exciting new directions.

In this compelling story of unusual friendship, Ollie and Moritz will once again charm readers with their humor and wit as they search for their place in the world.

Ollie and Moritz might never meet, but their friendship knows no bounds. Their letters continue as Ollie embarks on his first trip away from the woods and Moritz decides which new school would best suit an eyeless boy.

Along the way they meet other teens like them, who lead seemingly normal lives in ways Ollie and Moritz never imagined possible: A boy who jokes about his atypical skeleton; an aspiring actress who hides a strange deformity. Suddenly the future feels wide open for two former hermits. But even as Ollie and Moritz thrive in new experiences, they can’t escape their past, which threatens to destroy any progress they’ve made.

The Light That Gets Lost by Natasha Carthew

A small boy hiding in a cupboard witnesses something no child should ever see. He tries not to look but he still hears it. And when he comes out, there's no mistaking. His mum and dad have been killed. And though he's only small, he swears that he'll get revenge one day.

Years later, Trey enters a strange camp that is meant to save troubled teenagers. It's packed with crazies, god-botherers, devoted felons and broken kids. Trey's been in and out of trouble ever since the day the bad thing happened, but he's he not here for saving: this is where he'll find the man who did it. Revenge and healing, salvation and hell are a boiling, dangerous mix, and Trey finds himself drawn to a girl, a dream and the offer of friendship in the dark.

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey

My name is Mallory Sullivan.

My therapist says I have an anxiety disorder.

My brother says I’m an “optimistic recluse.”

Everybody else says I'm a freak.

And they kind of have a point, because I haven't left the house in 67 days and only attend class via the webcam on my laptop. The person I talk to the most other than my mom and brother is the completely obnoxious BeamMeUp, and all we do is argue on New Mexico’s premiere alien message board.

But after yesterday, I have something: a chance. If I can win the homecoming crown by convincing resident hot popular guy and Friday Night Lights spawn Brad Kirkpatrick to go as my date, then maybe #stayathome will never appear next to the name @Mallory_Sullivan ever again.

First, I have to leave my room.

#famous by Jilly Gagnon
In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives—and their hearts—forever. But are fame and love worth the price?

Told in alternating points of view, #famous captures the out-of-control thrill ride of falling for someone in front of everyone.

Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam

For Steffi, going to school every day is an exercise in survival. She’s never fit in with any of the other groups at school, and she’s viciously teased by the other girls in her class. The only way she can escape is through her music—especially jazz music.

When Steffi hears her favorite jazz song playing through an open window of a retirement home on her walk home from school, she decides to go in and introduce herself.

The old man playing her favorite song is Alvar. When Alvar was a teenager in World War II-era Sweden, he dreamt of being in a real jazz band. Then and now, Alvar’s escape is music—especially jazz music.

Through their unconventional but powerful friendship, Steffi realizes that she won’t always be lonely in her small town. She can go to the music school in Stockholm. She can be a real musician. And she can be a jitterbug, just like Alvar.

But how can Steffi convince her parents to let her go to Stockholm to audition? And how is it that Steffi’s school, the retirement home, her music, and even her worst bully are somehow connected to Alvar and his story? Because as it turns out, everything is, in the end, linked . . .

A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho

Can the right kind of boy get away with killing the wrong kind of girl?

Fin and Betty’s close friendship survived Fin’s ninth-grade move from their coastal Maine town to Manhattan. Calls, letters, and summer visits continued to bind them together, and in the fall of their senior year, they both applied to NYU, planning to reunite for good as roommates.

Then Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out, and soon the entire town believes he was coerced and Betty has simply run away. Fin knows the truth, and she returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, even if it means putting her loved ones—and herself—at risk.

But Williston is a town full of secrets, where a delicate framework holds everything together, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda. How much is she willing to damage to get her revenge and learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance, which is more complicated than she ever imagined—and infinitely more devastating?

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman
When she was a little girl, Ingrid’s entire world was her mother: Margot-Sophia, the brilliant and sophisticated opera star. So when Margot-Sophia loses her singing voice, Ingrid loses everything. The two of them move to a small, normal house in a small, normal town, where Ingrid tries to convince her mother that there must still be something worth living for.

It’s in this small, normal life that Ingrid discovers her own passion for the theater arts. But Margot-Sophia refuses to support her daughter’s dreams. They strike a deal: if Ingrid makes it through a summer of an extreme wilderness experience, then she can have her chance to pursue life as a performer.

Over the course of this summer, Ingrid is stripped of every dignity and freedom. But she also finally comes to terms with her inner demons—and finally confronts the secret tragedy that defines her.

The White Road of the Moon by Rachel Neumeier
Leigh Bardugo meets The Sixth Sense in this story of one girl’s perilous journey to restore a lost order.

Imagine you live with your aunt, who hates you so much she’s going to sell you into a dreadful apprenticeship. Imagine you run away before that can happen. Imagine that you can see ghosts—and talk with the dead. People like you are feared, even shunned.

Now imagine…the first people you encounter after your escape are a mysterious stranger and a ghost boy, who seem to need you desperately—though you don’t understand who they are or exactly what they want you to do. So you set off on a treacherous journey, with only a ghost dog for company. And you find that what lies before you is a task so monumental that it could change the world.
A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

The new novel follows Gauri, the younger sister of the titular Star-Touched Queen, on her harrowing quest for freedom.

When Gauri, the princess of Bharata, is captured by her kingdom’s rivals, she can only find help in Vikram, the cunning prince of an enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with royal life, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. They set aside their differences and team up to compete in the Tournament of Wishes, wherein the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Rhee, better known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a holo-vision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he's forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

A modern play on the Cinderella story arc, Christina June’s IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE shows us that sometimes going after what you want means breaking the rules.

Do you have a favorite recent new cover? Or a favorite from this list? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cover Reveals - Middle Grade (81)

Counting Sheep (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet) by Jacqueline Kelly

Callie Vee and Travis help animals big and small in this illustrated chapter book series for younger readers.

In this second book in the Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet series, Callie takes a hands-on approach to animal doctoring. When Callie and Granddaddy go exploring by the river, Callie discovers a leaf covered with spots. Those spots, it turns out, are eggs, and those eggs become butterflies. One of her newly hatched butterflies has a problem, though—its wing is broken. Can Callie find a way to help this butterfly fly?

Mother's prize sheep, Snow White, is pregnant and about to give birth. With Dr. Pritzker off helping a colicky horse, it falls to Callie to deliver the lamb. Will Callie be able to take the situation in hand?

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone by Jenny Lundquist
Izzy Malone isn’t your typical middle schooler. She wears camouflage combat boots, the stars are her only friends, and after a month she’s set a new record for the most trips to her principal’s office.

But Izzy’s life isn’t so charming these days. The kids at school think she’s a mouthy misfit, her musical prodigy sister gets all the attention at home, and no one takes Izzy’s determination to compete in her small town’s Great Pumpkin Race seriously.

When Izzy’s antics land her in hot water, her parents enroll her in Mrs. Whippie’s Earn Your Charm School. At first Izzy thinks it sounds stupid—her manners are just fine, thanks—but Mrs. Whippie’s first assignment proves intriguing. Tucked inside a letter is a shiny charm bracelet and instructions telling her she will “Earn Her Charm” by performing a series of tasks. For each task Izzy completes, she’ll receive a charm to place on her bracelet. “Complete them all,” the letter says, “and you will have earned a prize unlike any other.”

Soon Izzy’s adding charms to her bracelet. But when a task goes seriously awry and threatens to derail her mother’s budding political career, Izzy has her hands full proving she’s not an emerging juvenile delinquent. Add in some middle school mean girls, a giant pumpkin that could be the answer to all her problems, and discovering she might have a crush on the boy she accidentally punched in the face, and Izzy may just pull it all together and Earn Her Charm. And she’s about to find out the best kind of friends are just like stars: Bright and beautiful, appearing just when you need them, to shine a little bit of light on a dark night.

Defender of the Realm by Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler

For hundreds of years the United Kingdom has been protected by a mysterious guardian known as the Defender. Part myth, part superhero, few truly believed the Defender existed . . . until now.

Alfie thinks he knows his destiny. As Prince Alfred, heir to the throne of Great Britain, he's fated to become the most disappointing king in the nation's history. Alfie longs for a way to prove himself, but little does he realize that with the throne of England comes an ancient secret. He who wears the crown must protect the country as the legendary hero -- the Defender of the Realm.

Hayley is an ordinary girl, living an ordinary life. She certainly never believed in the mysterious superhero, the Defender. Then, after witnessing a very public battle at the Tower of London, everything is different, and Hayley is left with no doubt. The Defender is real.

Two kids with two very different lives are about to get caught up in a centuries-long battle for the fate of a nation. Monsters and criminals, villains and dragons, together Hayley and Alfie must protect their home at all costs.

The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish
Ali Standish’s middle grade novel is a charming and captivating story about friendship, grief, and forgiveness. After Ethan loses his best friend and moves from Boston to small-town Georgia, he discovers that life can be transformed in one moment, but that one moment doesn’t have to define him for life.

Ali Standish’s wonderfully captivating debut is a stirring tale of friendship, forgiveness, and ultimately hope.

Ethan had been many things: Adventurer. Boston Red Sox fan. Sidekick to his big brother, Roddie. Coconsipirator with his best friend, Kacey.

But that was before. Before the accident and the great loss that filled his life. Before his family moved from Boston to the small beachside town of Palm Knot, Georgia.

Palm Knot may be tiny, but it’s home to possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. A girl who may be just the friend Ethan needs. But Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets, and Coralee’s are catching up with her. Ethan must decide if he can trust Coralee, or if what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk.

One Amazing Elephant by Linda Oatman High
A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.

Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.
The Spell Thief (Little Legends) by Tom Percival

Jack (of the beanstalk fame) and his magical talking chicken, Betsy, have always been great at making new friends. But when Jack spots Anansi, the new kid in town, talking to a troll in the Deep Dark Woods, everything changes. Everyone knows that trolls mean trouble, and Jack will do anything to prove to the rest of his friends that Anansi is a troll spy. Even if that means using stolen magic! A brilliant new highly illustrated series featuring all the fairy-tale characters you know and love having brand-new adventures!
Reformed by Justin Weinberger

What's harder than surviving a school bully? Surviving a school full of bullies.

The word troublemaker has never been used to describe Ian Hart. Nice, nerdy . . . clueless, if you ask the girls in his class. Which is exactly why he gets along with Devon Crawford. Devon's the kind of kid who speaks his mind and stands up for his friends -- even if he sometimes takes it too far.

But after one of Devon's pranks goes terribly awry, Ian finds himself shipped off to the scariest place on earth -- bully reform school -- where the pranks are more twisted, the bullies are more brutal, and good kids like Ian don't stand a chance.

One Hundred Spaghetti Strings by Jen Nails

When life hands Steffany Sandolini lemons, she makes…pasta sauce! This brave and heartwarming middle grade novel will leave your belly rumbling and your heart full.

Since Steffy was little, she and her older sister Nina have lived with their Auntie Gina. But when their dad comes home to live with them, everything changes.

When Steffy feels like there are pieces of her all over the place, she does what she does best: she cooks her way through the hardest year of her life. But sometimes her life feels like a kitchen-sink meal, with too many ingredients that don’t quite work together. Can the recipes put her—and her family—back together again?

Start with 1 cup of authentic voice, add a tablespoon of coming-of-age and 2 teaspoons of delicious culinary concoctions, mix together, and serve up to fans of Rebecca Stead and Sarah Weeks.

The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker

  A middle grade fantasy adventure in which an orphaned girl is caught in the crossfire of a feud between a master of mythical constellations and the captain of a spectacular flying steamship – and doesn't know whose side to join.

School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith 

Come aboard as the kids set sail for their first adventure!

Ben and Fee MacTavish are twins who’ve been homeschooled on a submarine. Now they’re heading to the school ship Tobermory. This is no ordinary school—it’s a sailing ship where kids from around the world train to be sailors and learn about all things nautical.

Ben and Fee make friends as they adjust to life aboard the Tobermory. When a film crew arrives on another ship, the Albatross, Ben is one of the lucky kids to be chosen as a movie extra. But after a day’s filming, his suspicions are aroused. Are the director and crew really making a film? Or is there a secret they might be protecting on the lower decks of the Albatross? Ben, Fee, and their friends set out to investigate, but are they prepared for what they might find?

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley
A dark secret lurks in Keira's family. She comes from a long line of Word Weavers who bring their stories to life when they use a magical pen. But Keira's mom is unable to face the truth of the family's history because the Word Weavers have been hunted for generations for their power. And so, she forbids Keira to write. Oblivious to the family's secret ability, and angry at her mom's rule of no fictional writing, Keira discovers her grandma's Word Weaver pen and uses it to write a story for the Girls' World fairy tale contest, believing it will bring her good luck. But when Keira decides to have her fairy tale reflect her family's imperfect life, and has the princess in her story vanquished to a dark tower for eternity, she starts to wonder if anyone ever truly lives happily ever after.
Under the Ashes by Cindy Rankin
Elizabeth "Littlebeth" Morgan thinks she is the smartest, bravest eleven-year-old in Paso Robles. She loves sharing stories of the outlaws Frank and Jesse James and shows no fear when she whacks the head off a rattlesnake. But she is not the proper lady her family wants her to be so they send her to live with her maiden Aunt Sally in San Francisco to be tamed and refined. While Aunt Sally's life is unlike anything Littlebeth has experienced in the country, the pain of being sent away runs deep. Then Littlebeth meets Mr. Steinberg, Aunt Sally's Jewish neighbor. He treats her like a person, not just a little girl, and Littlebeth finds a friend in him. Mr. Steinberg is sweet on Aunt Sally and takes the two of them to see the famous opera singer, Enrico Caruso, perform. But Littlebeth doesn't understand the religious differences keeping Aunt Sally and Mr. Steinberg apart. Before she can meddle in their personal lives, the earthquake hits. Littlebeth is separated from them in the chaos of the streets. She must use her wits and bravery and trust in a few unlikely friends to locate Aunt Sally and Mr. Steinberg. But will Littlebeth be able to survive the disaster and be reunited with her family?

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez
Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy's bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings that cover her room.

One day, Morpie, a mysterious pale girl, appears at school. And she knows all about Sandy's drawings...

Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting imagination of Lorena Alvarez.
The Lost Staff of Wonders (Will Wilder #2) by Raymond Arroyo

Twelve-year-old Will Wilder is back to protect the town of Perilous Falls from another ancient evil the fearsome demon, Amon.

When the storied Staff of Moses responsible for summoning the plagues of ancient Egypt vanishes from the museum in Perilous Falls, Will Wilder is suspect number one. Desperate to prove his innocence and stop the thief from unleashing terrors upon the town of Perilous Falls, Will must use his supernatural gift to locate the beast but it’s nowhere to be found.

As the river runs with blood, sharp-toothed frogs surround his home, and clouds of swarming gnats choke the streets, Will must rely on his supernatural ability, everything he learned from his training, and help from his friends, siblings, and Great-Aunt Lucille to find the missing staff and unmask the hidden evil before time runs out for all of them.

Do you have a favorite recent new cover? Or a favorite from this list? Let me know in the comments!