Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

Regency, betrayal, superpowers: These Ruthless Deeds March 17, 2017

These Ruthless Deeds (These Vicious Masks #2), by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, (March 2017, Macmillan), $10.00, ISBN: 9781250127952

Recommended for readers 12+

The sequel to These Vicious Masks (2016) picks up shortly after the first novel leaves off. Evelyn is grieving the loss of her sister and finds herself working with a secret society that promises her they are devoted to protecting and working with Evelyn and her friends: friends with special abilities. She’s reunited with Mr. Kent, and even manages to locate Mr. Braddock. Her reputation is intact, even if she does have to be around the awful Mrs. Atherton, who is somehow involved with the society’s work. Still, Evelyn has a bad feeling about things. She’s going to have to take a deeper look into the society, and what she finds may not sit so well with her, after all.

I loved These Vicious Masks, and was excited for the sequel. While it did take a little bit of reading to get as into the second book as I did the first, it was worth it. If you haven’t picked up These Vicious Masks, I suggest you read it before diving into These Ruthless Deeds – you’ll be at a disadvantage in terms of key characters and situations otherwise. Everything that made book one such a strong read is here: secret organizations, heroes and villains (and you may not always know who is who), intrigue, betrayal, witty banter, and a strong heroine.

Display and booktalk with Alison Goodman’s Lady Helen series (Dark Days Club and Dark Days Pact), and Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, for readers with a craving for more steampunk.

 

Things aren’t right in The Spill Zone… March 3, 2017

spillzone_1Spill Zone, by Scott Westerfeld/Alex Puvilland, (May 2017, First Second), $22.99, ISBN: 9781596439368

Recommended for ages 12+

Something happened three years ago in the upstate New York city of Poughkeepsie. Now known as The Spill Zone, it’s forbidden to enter – things are different there now. There’s danger in the Spill Zone; things that just shouldn’t be. Addison and Lexa are sisters who lost their parents that night. Lexa, the younger sister, hasn’t spoken since, preferring instead to quietly communicate with her doll. Is that conversation in her head? Who knows? Addison provides for herself and her sister by sneaking into the Spill Zone at night to take photos of the bizarre images in the Zone, often risking personal safety to get the most disturbing shots. Collectors offer big money for these shots, but one collector in particular gets in touch with Addison and offers her a deal she can’t possibly turn down: a million dollars, but she has to go into the Zone hospital where her parents died.

 

Newsprints blends steampunk with Newsies February 26, 2017

newsprintsNewsprints, by Ru Xu, (Jan. 2017, Scholastic Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-545-80312-2

Recommended for ages 8-12

In an alternate universe, a young orphan named Blue is a girl, disguised as a newboy. With seemingly constant war going on, girls are expected to help the struggling economy by baking cookies, but Blue has no interest in that. She loves She lives with her guardians, the father figure of whom happens to be the town Mayor, and she loves working as a newsie for The Bugle, the one newspaper that tells the truth in an environment of “fake news” (flashing light for extra relevancy alert, folks). It’s not always easy to keep her secret, but Blue lives in fear of being found out and losing everything she loves: her family, her job, her lifestyle. When she meets a strange kid named Crow, she brings him into the fold; Crow has secrets of his own, which Blue can respect. When government officials appear on the scene, in search of missing military technology, there are more questions than answers, and Blue’s determined to stick by her friend, no matter what his secrets may be.

Inspired by manga, Newsprints tells a relevant story on so many levels: we have truth in the media, gender identity, and the power of friendship. Blue is a girl who doesn’t wants to do what she wants to do, not what society is telling her that her gender should be doing. She enjoys the freedom afforded to newsies, and embraces the dangers that come with a life on the streets. She gets the Crow has secrets he wants to keep, motivated only by a desire to help a kindred spirit survive and be safe.

My biggest issue with Newsprint was what I saw as disjointed storytelling, but that is entirely my issue. I’m not a regular manga reader, and Newsprints seems to follow manga-type storytelling, which isn’t always linear. The kids in my library love this book – my two copies have been out since I put them out on the shelves – and the emerging themes in the story make this a strong selection for booktalking.

Scholastic has a 34-page excerpt available for free, if you want to take a look and decide whether Newsprints is for you. Ru Xu has a Tumblr with an author calendar and links to her webcomic, Saint for Rent, which updates three times weekly.

 

Gifted versus Non-Gifted in a Class War: Gilded Cage February 21, 2017

gilded-cageGilded Cage (Dark Gifts, Book One), by Vic James, (Feb. 2017, Random House/Del Rey), $26, ISBN: 9780425284155

Recommended for ages 13+

In an alternate United Kingdom, aristocrats are born with special magical gifts… powers that give them control over the “commoners”, who must serve them as slaves for 10 years. The commoners are free to decide when they will serve, but they will serve. The running comment is, “serve young and never get over it, serve older and never survive it”. Abi, an 18 year-old with a promising future as a doctor, decides to take her family’s future into her hands and procures a deal that will allow them all to serve at Kyneston Estate, home of one of the most powerful families, the Jardines. But on the day they are picked up for transport, her younger brother, Luke, is sent to a Millmoor, horrible slavetown to labor under inhumane conditions. While Abi learns that the Jardines have some pretty big secrets of their own, Luke finds strength in numbers and bands with a group in the slavetown to resist. With an abolition referendum on the line, things are tense in the government and at the camp, and one of the Jardine heirs is keeping his loyalties close to the vest.

Gilded Cage is the first in the Dark Gifts series, and has some promising intrigue and world-building. The story is told in character POV chapters – about six or seven – and spends a great deal of time on laying out what I hope are future plot details. The Jardine family are fascinating – we get a nice background on this leading family, including some internal conflict and outside rivalries. Silyen Jardine is easily the most interesting character, playing his own game, but doesn’t get enough print time – yet. I hope to spend more time with him in future books. Abi’s younger brother, Luke, takes much of the center stage in this first book; he is on a hero’s journey that teaches him about himself and the world around him.

I had a few problems with the book, most notably, the very slow build-up. Being able to choose your 10 years of slavery being another – what’s to stop you from just not serving? Why serve when you’re young? Why not live a full life and go in when you’re on your deathbed? The women in the novel seem to be either hand-wringing damsels in distress or cruel harpies (with one or two exceptions), and the men are calling many of the shots here. Still, I’m interested to find out what Vic James has in store for us in her next installment.

Gilded Cage received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was designated Debut of the Month by Library Journal.

 

Star Scouts gets the merit badge for fun reading! January 26, 2017

starscouts_1Star Scouts, by Mike Lawrence, (March 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626722804

Recommended for ages 8-12

Avani Patel is not feeling this new scouts Flower Scouts troop her parents signed her up for. She’s the new kid, her parents figured it would be a new way to make friends, but the Flower Scouts are so lame. All they talk about are boys and makeovers; it’s totally out of line with her interests, like rodeos and adventure. Things change for the better when Avani is accidentally picked up by an alien named Mabel, who happens to be a scout – a Star Scout – working on one of her badges. The two girls hit it off, and Avani finds herself an unofficial Star Scout! She’s zooming around on a jetpack, working on teleportation, and avoiding the xenoscatology lab; she’s made some out of this world friends, and she’s happy. When Star Scouts announce their yearly camping trip, Avani manages to fib her father into signing off on the trip – she’s going away to camp, she doesn’t need to mention that it’s not exactly on the planet, right? But shortly after arriving at Camp Andromeda, Avani finds herself on the wrong side of a rival group of aliens; Avani, Mabel and their friends are in for a heck of a week, if they can work together to get through it.

Star Scouts is a fun outer-space adventure for middle graders. It’s scouting with a little more adventure added in, and lots of hilarious bathroom humor (look, I raised three boys, I find poop and fart jokes funny) to keep readers cracking up. There are positive messages about friendship and working together that parents and caregivers will appreciate, and the two main characters are spunky girls that aren’t afraid to take on an adventure.

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If you want to go the sci-fi way with displays and booktalks, you have to pair this with Zita the Spacegirl and Cleopatra in Space. You can revisit this book when you’re getting ready for Summer Reading by booktalking this with camp books like Camp Midnight, Beth Vrabel’s Camp Dork, and Nancy Cavanaugh’s Just Like Me.

Check out more of Mike Cavanaugh’s illustration at his website.

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Time fractures can cripple cities in Timekeeper January 17, 2017

timekeeperTimekeeper, by Tara Sim, (Nov. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781510706187

Recommended for ages 13+

My first entry in this year’s Diversity Reading Challenge is Tara Sim’s Timekeeper, a steampunk story taking place in an alternate Victorian London, where clock towers control time. A damaged clock affects the populace, and if a clock is badly damaged or loses a vital part of its machinery, the town “stops”: no one dies, but no one can leave; the citizens are stuck in a time loop. That’s what happened to 17 year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart’s father three years before, and Danny’s become a mechanic in the hopes that he can free his father one day. On an assignment to a clock in the London borough of Enfield, Danny meets Colton, who throws a figurative wrench in all of Danny’s plans. Colton is a clock spirit – the essence of time for the Colton Tower clock – and the two boys fall in love. Danny knows this can’t end well, but he risks everything to be with Colton, who will find a way to keep Danny coming back to Enfield.

Some of the people of London are against the clock towers. They want time freed, uncontrolled, and stage protests that get heated. Clock towers are attacked, and Danny is blamed. He has to find a way to clear his name, keep Colton safe, and keep his father’s town safe so he can bring him home alive.

Timekeeper is the first in a planned trilogy by debut author Tara Sim. The story is very detailed – budding clock aficionados, and readers interested in the science of time (horologists – thanks, Google!) will fall in love with the lyrical way Sim discusses the delicate parts of the clocks and the idea of a spirit manifestation of each clock tower. The romance between Danny and Colton is sweet and gentle, and Danny’s feelings for men is more or less accepted, with some minor snark from the novel’s bully.

Shadowhunters fans will love this one. Get your steampunk on and put this with your Gail Carriger books, your Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, and your old school Jules Verne and HG Wells collections.

 

I’m a CYBILS Judge! January 7, 2017

cybils

I can finally talk about it! I’m thrilled to be a CYBILS judge again, returning to the Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category. There have been SO many great books published, and I’ll be diving into the finalists this time around, as a second round judge. Wanna see who’s up for the award? Take a look, and adjust your TBRs accordingly.

grace-lin

When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2016, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 978-0316125925

Inspired by Chinese folklore, this companion to the Newbery Honor Winner, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is the story of a girl on a mission to save her kidnapped grandmother.

voyage-to-magical-north

The Voyage to Magical North, by Claire Fayers, (July 2016, Henry Holt & Co.), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1627794206

An orphan keeps house for an irritable magician and his equally obnoxious apprentice, and ends up accidentally becoming a pirate.

smallbone

The Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, (Sept. 2016, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0763688059

A boy runs away from his uncle’s home, discovers a bookstore run by a self-proclaimed Evil Wizard who won’t let him leave, but calls him his apprentice.

shadow-magic

Shadow Magic, by Joshua Khan, (April 2016, Disney-Hyperion), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1484732724

An outlaw’s son is sold into slavery. A girl is the last surviving member of her family, a line of dark sorcerers. Together, they’ll break the rules.

memory-thief

The Memory Thief, by Bryce Moore, (Sept. 2016, Adaptive Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781945293030

This was published as a Barnes & Noble exclusive in 2016, but is being published in wide release this March.

Twins wander off at a county fair; Benji, the brother, wanders into a tent where he meets an old man who collects memories. He asks to train as a Memory Thief and ends up on an adventure.

goblin-puzzle

The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice, by Andrew Chilton, (Jan. 2016, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0553520705

A fantasy adventure filled with dragons, goblins, and puzzles.

firefly-code

The Firefly Code, by Megan Frazer Blakemore, (May 2016, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1619636361

When a new girl moves to Firefly Lane, a girl and her friends start questioning everything they’ve known.

 

I’ll recap after we select a winner!