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Holiday Reads for Cold Nights December 16, 2016

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — Heather @ 10:09 pm
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Here are some suggestions for when you want to escape the madness of the holidays or just snuggle up with a good book. Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books for YA readers. For those of you looking for a Christmas read, here are some titles to keep you this holiday season.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This classic has stood the test of time. Read the original story that has influenced pop culture for well over one hundred and sixty years.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Another classic, this story begins at Christmas during the Civil War. Get to know the March sisters all over again.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

A cute story about a family’s last minute scramble to plan the perfect holiday. This book has been made into the popular film, Christmas with the Kranks. 

Murder for Christmas: 26 Tales of Seasonal Malice edited by Thomas Godfrey

For the mystery lover, here’s a collection of short stories sure to make the holidays extra creepy. Famous authors like Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charles Dickens are represented in their holiday finest.

Decked with Holly by Marni Bates

Fans of Bates’ Smith High series will delight in this light romance set aboard a cruise ship. Perfect holiday reading!

What Light by Jay Asher

The reviews keep rolling in for this 2016 title from the author of the YA modern classic, Thirteen Reasons Why. Travel to a Christmas tree farm in Oregon for a story of redemption and hope.

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

The dynamic duo of YA fiction is back with two of our favorite friends, Dashiell and Lily. We met them five years ago when a chance discovery led them on an epic chase across NYC. Now they’re back one year after the events that brought them together.

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins

A who’s who of YA fiction authors feature short stories realistic and fantastic alike. There’s something for everyone in this compilation.

Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

Three interconnected stories from three of the best in YA fiction. It’s Christmas eve and romance isn’t only under the mistletoe, it could be at the Waffle House!

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YALSA 2016 Teens’ Top Ten December 14, 2016

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — Heather @ 6:54 pm
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It’s that time of year again – time for the YALSA Teens’ Top Ten list – a “teen choice” list of the favorite books of the year. Check out the website:  www.ala.org/yalsa/teenstopten

  1. Alive by Chandler Baker

“Stella Cross has received a heart transplant, but it has not stopped her emotional suffering. Then a mysterious boy named Levi Zin comes into her life. Stella’s pain goes away whenever she’s around Levi. However, Stella finds out a terrible secret about Levi. Can it be true?”

2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

” Death plays a big role in the lives of high schoolers Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. He is constantly on the verge of suicide, and she is battling grief after he sister’s death. The Indiana teens come together to work on a project and soon develop a bond, showing each other what it’s like to live.”

3. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

” Set in Seattle in the 1920s, a romance develops between Flora, who is African American, and Henry, who is white. Despite some differences, the pair has much in common, including a shared love of jazz music. However, it turns out that Flora and Henry actually are pawns in a game played by two other characters – Love and Death. This book is full of intrigue, and is, at times, heartbreaking, and will have the reader racing to the final pages.”

4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

” Young criminal genius Kaz Brekker is offered the chance to pull off a dangerous theft that can make him rich. He recruits a gang of six dangerous misfits to help him with the heist. The book follows the crew’s crazy adventure and features plot twists, betrayals, and schemes aplenty.”

5. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

“Maddy is a teenager with a serious autoimmune disease that prevents her from leaving the house. Yet, she seems content to stay home and read books. That is until a boy named Olly moves in next door. The two meet, and their quirky relationship is chronicled through emails, journal entries, IMs and old notes.”

6. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

“Samantha McAllister seems to have it all: she is beautiful, bright and part of the popular crowd in high school. But looks can be deceiving, and she is hiding the fact she has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Samantha’s life changes after she visits a place at school called Poet’s Corner and she beings hanging out with new friends like Caroline and AJ.”

7. The Novice: Summoner: Book One by Taran Matharu

“A blacksmith’s apprentice named Fletcher discovers he can summon demons from another world. He soon gets chased out of his village for a crime he did not commit, ending up at an academy for adepts, where he is trained to serve as a Battlemage in the Empire’s war against the savage Orcs. Eventually, Fletcher discovers the fate of the Empire is in his hands.”

8. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

“Kady and Ezra have just broken up, and then their planet is bombed by a megacorporation. The pair escapes to a government ship, but must put their differences aside in order to survive and stop a plague that has resulted from the use of a bioweapon.”

9. When by Victoria Laurie

“High school junior Maddie Fynn has special powers that allow her to see numbers above a person’s forehead, which she soon discovers are death dates. She identifies the death date of a young boy, but is unable to prevent his disappearance. Then , Maddie becomes a suspect in a homicide investigation.”

10. Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

” June and Delia were best friends who grew apart. Then, Delia commits suicide. Or, at least that’s what others have been told. June believes her former best friend has been murdered, and she goes on a quest to find the truth…which, it turns out, is very complicated.”

 

September is National Recovery Month September 12, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Heather @ 5:43 pm

In national-recovery-month-logohonor of National Recovery Month, we’re highlighting books that feature addiction and recovery. Take a look at some of these personal journeys. The SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) website also has many valuable resources.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

“This is a story about a monster. Not a dragon or a mythological beast, but a very real, very destructive monster–crystal meth–that takes hold of seventeen-year-old Kristina Snow and transforms her into her reckless alter-ego Bree.

Based on her own daughter’s addiction to crystal meth, Ellen Hopkins’ novel-in-verse is a vivid, transfixing look into teenage drug use. Told in Kristina’s voice, it provides a realistic portrayal of the tortured logic of an addict.” Glass and Fallout complete the trilogy.

Recovery Road by Blake Nelson

“Madeline has a drinking problem and anger issues, so she’s sent away to Spring Meadows, a rehab center in a row of rehab centers known as Recovery Road. On a weekly movie night in town she meets Stewart, who’s dealing with demons of his own. It’s an intense time, and the two of them come together intensely.

When Madeline gets out of rehab, she tries to get back on her feet, and waits for Stewart to join her. When he does, though, it’s not the ideal reunion that Madeline has dreamed of. Both of them still have serious problems. And love seems more like a question than an answer.

True and insightful, Recovery Road is a story about finding the right person at the worst possible time. And loving that person anyway. No matter what.”

Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos

“Rachel has always idolized her older brother Micah. He struggles with addiction, but she tells herself that he’s in control. And she almost believes it. Until the night that Micah doesn’t come home.

Rachel’s terrified—and she can’t help but feel responsible. She should have listened when Micah tried to confide in her. And she only feels more guilt when she receives an anonymous note telling her that Micah is nearby and in danger.

With nothing more to go on than hope and a slim lead, Rachel and Micah’s best friend, Tyler, begin the search. Along the way, Rachel will be forced to confront her own dark secrets, her growing attraction to Tyler…and the possibility that Micah may never come home.”

Clean by Amy Reed

“Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They’re addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves. None of them wants to be there. None of them wants to confront the truths about their pasts. And they certainly don’t want to share their darkest secrets and most desperate fears with a room of strangers. But they’ll all have to deal with themselves—and one another—if they want to learn how to live. Because when you get that high, there’s nowhere to go but down, down, down.”

We All Fall Down by Nic Sheff

“This New York Times bestselling memoir of a young man’s addiction to methamphetamine tells a raw, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful tale of the road from relapse to recovery and complements his father’s parallel memoir, Beautiful Boy.

Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It’s a harrowing portrait—but not one without hope.”

Zoo Station by Christiane F.

“In 1978 Christiane F. testified against a man who had traded heroin for sex with teenage girls at Berlin’s notorious Zoo Station. In the course of that trial, Christiane F. became connected with two journalists, and over time they helped to turn her story—which begins with a dysfunctional but otherwise fairly normal childhood—into an acclaimed bestseller. Christiane F.’s rapid descent into heroin abuse and prostitution is shocking, but the boredom, the longing for acceptance, the thrilling risks, and even the musical obsessions that fill out the rest of Christiane’s existence will be familiar to every reader. Christiane F.’s Berlin is a strange and often terrifying place, but it’s also a place that remains closer than we might think….”

 

 

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak Celebrates 10th Anniversary March 8, 2016

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — Heather @ 6:31 pm
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It’s hard to believe it’s been TEN YEARS since the publication of Marcus Zusak’s modern classic The Book Thief. This is the book that took 2006 by storm.

book thief cover

Here are just some of the honors awarded:

  • 2006: Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (South East Asia & South Pacific)
  • 2006: School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
  • 2006: Daniel Elliott Peace Award
  • 2006: Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year
  • 2006: National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature
  • 2006: Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
  • 2007: Michael L. Printz Honor Book The Printz award is given to the best book for teens, based only on the quality of the writing.
  • 2007: Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children’s Literature

If you’ve never read it – here’s your chance. If, like me, it’s one of your favorites, pick it up and revisit some old friends. Set in Nazi Germany, The Book Thief tells the story of young Liesl Meminger, orphaned and sent to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Liesl loves books and becomes adept at stealing them, even though she can’t read. Follow Liesl, her best friend Rudy Steiner, as they navigate the dangerous war years. Narrated by the ever-present Death, The Book Thief is a story that stays with you long after the pages have turned.

 

 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month May 28, 2014

iris

Nearly 5 million American children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental illness.  Here is a selection of fiction titles that touch on this subject.

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

Things in Delilah Hannaford’s life have a tendency to fall apart.

She used to be a good student, but she can’t seem to keep it together anymore. Her “boyfriend” isn’t much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.

Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family’s painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?

I Will Save You by Matt de la Pena

“Kidd is running from his past and his future. No mom, no dad, and there’s nothing for him at the group home but therapy. He doesn’t belong at the beach where he works either, unless he finds a reason to stay.
   Olivia is blond hair, blue eyes, rich dad. The prettiest girl in Cardiff. She’s hiding something from Kidd—but could they ever be together anyway?
   Devon is mean, mysterious, and driven by a death wish. A best friend and worst enemy. He followed Kidd all the way to the beach and he’s not leaving until he teaches him a few lessons about life. And Olivia.”

Noble Genes by Rune Michaels

It’s tough to measure up to your parents’ expectations. Imagine how much harder it would be if your mother told you that your biological father—whom you’d never met—was a Nobel prize-winning genius? NOBEL GENES is the story of just such a boy. His life consists of a series of halves; his genes are half from a donor bank that featured Nobel winners. After years of testing and tutoring, he only lives up to his mother’s expectations halfway. He spends half his time sharing in his mother’s manic ups and the other half in her depressive downs. And he always has to be half-awake in the middle of the night so that when his mother wakes up and plays with her pills, he can count them and make sure the proper amount are still there before he goes to sleep. 

Perhaps him being a “Nobel son” is a dream. Or a hope. Or a delusion. No matter what it is to his mother, it becomes devastation when he learns that his genius history is a lie. And once the truth is revealed, there is no going back. Even when he thought he discovered the most important truth, in his dreams, he finds one answer that he never imagined. Does it matter who you come from? Or are we all just made from dust?”

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

“In this raw and relatable romance, Bea learns that some things just can’t be controlled.

When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic…and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a lot about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.

Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control. But this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down…and she might end up breaking her own heart.”

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

September 1973: The beginning of Karl Shoemaker’s senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl’s been part of “the Madman Underground”- kids forced to attend group therapy during school. Karl has decided that he is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act-and be-Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has two after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker.”

Click here for a more complete list of titles.

 

The Body at the Tower April 29, 2013

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

The Agency 2

Mary Quinn is back in this exciting sequel to A Spy in the House.  Now, a full-fledged member of The Agency, she is given her first official assignment.  She is to pose as an apprentice builder to investigate the suspicious death of a bricklayer at St. Stephen’s Tower- the unfinished Houses of Parliament.  Thankfully petite Mary is able to don the ragged garb, chop off her hair and pose as a young man.  As “Mark” she introduces us to the world of the working poor.  Mary’s assignment brings forth memories of her own difficult childhood on the streets of London, where she once dressed as a boy for her own safety.

Mary is thrust into this underbelly of squalor and depravity.  She attempts to aid Jenkins, another young worker on the job site while investigating the mysterious case.  If all that wasn’t difficult enough, Mary’s old sparring partner James Easton is again in the picture.  Back from India, a weakened James coincidentally enters Mary’s building site.  Will James keep her secret or blow her cover?  And more importantly, will their acquaintance lead to romance?

Lee again makes Victorian London a focus of this novel.  Through Mary the reader is able to view the horrors of poverty.  Reminiscent of Dickens, the back alleys and dark basements roil with filth and sadness . Class distinctions and gender roles pigeon-hole many of the characters.  Through her work for the Agency, Mary is able to transcend these. Identity is a major theme in this novel.  As Mary hides her femaleness by cutting her hair and binding her chest, she is also hiding deeper secrets.  Described as exotic, we learned that Mary is half Chinese in the first installment of The Agency.  Her real last name is Lang, but was changed to better assimilate into British society.   She has so far shunned this part of herself, shutting out memories of her past. While distancing herself from her Asian roots, Mary has also learned to use her heritage to her advantage. She easily treads the boundaries of class, race and gender.

I have already said I am a fan of this series. Victorian England, mysteries, and intriguing protagonist, Lee delivers another winner. Through the course of the first two novels, Mary has matured.  I am curious to see Mary as she grows in age, experience and confidence.  The third book in The Agency series, The Traitor and The Tunnel is next on my list.

 

A Spy in the House April 25, 2013

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

agency

An orphan in Victorian London.  The possibilities are endless.  In Y.S. Lee’s debut novel, we meet Mary Quinn.  After being sentenced to hang, twelve-year-old Mary is whisked away by a prison guard, sparing her from the gallows.  Her savior is really Anne Treleaven, mistress of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.  Mary is welcomed and given an education befitting a proper lady.  Upon graduation, Anne reveals the school is really a front for The Agency, an all-female detective group. Now seventeen, Mary joins their ranks.

Her first assignment is to infiltrate the household of the Thorold family, rich merchants.  While posing as paid companion to the daughter Angela, Mary attempts to discover what happened to Thorold’s missing cargo ships.  While undercover she encounters James Easton, brother to Angela’s fiancé.  He is also snooping around, trying to find cause for his brother not to marry.  Mary discovers everyone has secrets.  She even has some of her own.

I am happy to say I have a new favorite series.  A lover of Victoriana and mysteries, The Agency is right up my alley.  Mary Quinn is a charming character; smart and spunky.  There is just the right amount of drama, mystery and romance to appeal to any reader.  Fans of period fiction will love Lee’s descriptions of 1850’s London, “Great Stink” and all.  I am pleased to announce the second and third books, The Body at the Tower and The Traitor in the Tunnel are already on the shelf and eagerly await reading.