Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult/New Adult

New fantasy YA brings a together a group of Royal Bastards

Royal Bastards (Royal Bastards #1), by Andrew Shvarts, (Jun 2017, Hyperion), $18.99, ISBN: 9781484767658

Recommended for ages 14+

This new fantasy series follows a group of Royal Bastards – illegitimate children of royals – as they try to save a royal princess’ life and prevent a war. Sixteen year-old Tilla is the bastard daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province; she lives in comfortable accommodations, but her father has held her at arm’s distance ever since his legitimate wife bore him two daughters. Tilla’s half brother, Jax, from a different father, lives on Kent’s lands as a stablehand. While Jax is happy with life as it is, Tilla longs for legitimacy and a better relationship with her father; two things he’s withheld from her thus far. She’s invited to her father’s banquet honoring the visiting royal princess Lyriana, and sits at the bastard table with Miles, a bastard from neighboring House Hampsted, and Zell, a trueborn son-turned-bastard from the warrior Zitochi clan of the North. Lyriana insists on sitting with them and getting to know them, and ends up tagging along on what was supposed to be an evening out between just Jax and Tilla. While out at the shore, the group stumbles upon a horrific and treasonous episode that puts every one of their lives in danger: in Miles’ and Tilla’s cases, even from their own parents.

The group of teens is on the run, hoping to make it back to Lyriana’s kingdom before the combined forces of Lord Kent, Lady Hampsted, and the Zitochi clan can catch them. The bastards have to stay alive, prevent a mage slaughter, and a civil war that will claim thousands of lives – can they get along long enough to survive the journey?

There’s a lot of story to unpack in this first book. The biggest stumbling block for me was the contemporary language used in the high fantasy setting. It’s off-putting and took me out of the flow of the novel. Vernacular aside, Royal Bastards is a fast-paced adventure, loaded with intrigue, betrayal, and teen romance. I like the world-building: a fantasy world where bastards are recognized and can gain legitimacy if their parents choose to bestow it upon them; a major coup in the works, and plenty of intrigue and betrayal to keep things interesting. There’s rich character development, particularly in the relationship between Jax and Tilla and Tilla’s growth throughout the novel. There’s some diversity in the characters, although some fantasy tropes pop up here; most notably, the clueless royal who wants to meet “the little people” and the brooding, fur-wearing savage.

YA fantasy fans will dig in and enjoy this one. I’d booktalk Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules as an interesting counterpart that looks at the relationship between royals and their children and war. Talk up the Game of Thrones books to readers that may be familiar with the HBO series. Give a copy of Joshua Khan’s Shadow Magic and Dream Magic books to younger siblings who aren’t ready for this one yet.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Monstertown gets Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies!

9781484713242Monstertown Mysteries (#2): Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies!, by Bruce Hale, (Mar. 2017, Disney/Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1324-2

Recommended for readers 8-12

When we last saw Carlos and his friend Benny, they’d just saved their social studies teacher from a miserable life as a were-hyena. Just when they think it’s safe to relax, they’re… bored. Seriously, where do you go from were-animals, right? They shouldn’t have worried – the lunch ladies are acting weird. I mean, weird. They start feeding the boys junk food, and the girls… well, the boys catch a glimpse of what the girls are eating, and it looks like “greenish glop, scrambled eggs, fish sticks, and a sloppy joe thing with maybe-grasshoppers inside it”. Over the next few days, kids start disappearing – all boys – and the girls start getting very aggressive. They’re talking back, bullying kids, acting kind of like the boys do! They sneer at their male classmates and threaten to bite off their heads and suck out their insides! Carlos and Benny start investigating, and they’re pretty sure that the lunch ladies are giant preying mantises that have plans for both the girls and boys in their neighborhood, but who’s going to believe them?

The second Monstertown Mystery is just as much fun as the first one, with more laughs and a lot more gross humor. (Seriously, put down that snack or that sandwich while you read this. You’re welcome.) There’s some nice social commentary about sexism, even if it comes with the whole female-biting-a-male’s-head-off sort of thing; a particularly strong statement by Carlos’ friend Tina toward the book’s conclusion. Put this out with your Goosebumps books, your Lovecraft Middle School books, and your Haunted Mansion novel (when are we getting another volume of that?) and watch the kids swarm. Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies! comes with a lenticular cover, just like The Curse of the Were-Hyena did, for transformation fun.

Come on, this is a no-brainer add to collections.

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

A new heroine rises: Gum Girl!

gumgirl_2Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny (The Gumazing Gum Girl #1), by Rhode Montijo, (Aug. 2013, Disney-Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 9781423157403

Recommended for ages 6-10

Gabby Gomez LOVES bubble gum. She will chew it any time, anywhere, much to her mother (and dentist father!)’s chagrin. Gabby also gets her gum all over everything, which makes a huge mess! Gabby’s mom lays down the law and tells her NO MORE GUM, which really doesn’t work for Gabby, who sneaks a little piece on the way to school one day. What’s one little piece, right? She blows a bubble – the biggest bubble EVER – and it pops all over her! How is she supposed to go to school, looking like this? But wait! Someone needs help! Gabby answers the call, and discovers that she’s been transformed into The Gumazing Gum Girl, a superheroine with super sticky, super stretchy, bubble gum powers! Now, she just needs to keep enough peanut butter on hand to help her get all the gum off and transform back into Gabby, before her family finds out!

 

The Gumazing Gum Girl is too much fun! She’s a superhero for intermediate and middle grade readers, adorably written and drawn by Rhode Montijo, who creates a graphic novel/chapter book hybrid that kids love. Kids will love her Latinx family, who lovingly speak Spanglish to one another, and they’ll love how the seemingly ordinary power of bubble gum transforms a girl into a superheroine. Plus, they’ll see that Gabby is a good kid, who struggles with keeping a secret from her parents: her superpowers come from her breaking the rules and chewing gum. There are fun villains and the art is super kid-friendly; combinations of pink, black and white, with bold lines and expressive fonts will catch and hold any reader’s attention.

When I was at ALA Midwinter last month, I found myself lucky enough to get hold of the NEXT Gum Girl Adventure: Gum Luck! A colleague shrieked when she saw me with it (and she does collection development for my library system, so, whoo hoo!), and another colleague read it the day I got back to the library after Midwinter. To say this is an anticipated sequel is putting it mildly.

gumgirl_1The Gumazing Gum Girl: Gum Luck (The Gumazing Gum Girl #2, by Rhode Montijo, June 2017, Disney-Hyperion, $14.99, ISBN: 9781423161172) introduces readers to a new villain, and readers will see Gabby continue struggling with her big secret. She’s torn between doing the right thing by telling her parents the truth about her alter ego and her gum-chewing habit and between… well, doing the right thing with her superhero activities.

If readers love Chews Your Destiny, they’ll love Gum Luck. Start booktalking Gum Girl now, and get them ready: Gum Luck hits shelves in June, just in time for summer reading! (Hmm… the theme for CSLP’s Summer Reading is Build a Better World… can we use gum for that? Wait, no… not in the library. Please.)

Visit Rhode Montijo’s author webpage for more info about his books, a peek at his portfolio, and his web store.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

I’m a CYBILS Judge!

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!

 

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Preschool Reads, Teen, Toddler Reads, Tween Reads

Holiday Shopping: Something for Every Reader!

The days are getting closer! Get to your nearest bookstore (or order online, if you can swing the express shipping) and fill your basket with some of these goodies for the readers you love.

Edited to add: Please excuse the terrible formatting! It looked fine when I previewed this post last night, but things have gone wonky. I’m still learning HTML, so I hope this doesn’t turn anyone off the post.

what-does-kitten-hearWhat Does Kitten Hear? A Big Book of Animal Sounds, by Lizelot Versteeg, (Nov. 2016, Clavis), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1605372525

Recommended for ages 2-4

This big board book is an adorable combination of seek and find, counting, and name that sound. A kitten wanders through a farm, city, zoo, beach, the woods, a park, and a house. Every spread is a new part of Kitten’s world, complete with sights and sounds to explore. Questions prompt readers and their favorite cuddly grownups to look identify the sounds kitten hears, and count the different objects to be found. Additional questions throughout each spread prompt discussion on about other things in the book: compare hot air balloons to see which flies higher; what squirrels eat versus what blackbirds eat. Toddlers and early preschoolers will love this book – I’m lucky I got my copy away from my preschooler long enough to write this piece.

 

artists-alphabetAn Artist’s Alphabet, by Norman Messenger, (Sept. 2016, Candlewick Press), $$17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-8123-4

Recommended for ages 2+

This ain’t your usual ABCedary. Artist Norman Messenger has created beautiful watercolor and pencil artwork to demonstrate upper- and lower-case letters in the alphabet. Kids will connect with some right away – the acrobats demonstrating the letter A, the eels for the letter E – and some will take some thought. Bold, black upper- and lower-case letters in a lined box on each page will help developing writers get an idea of scale for their letters. The only thing that would have made this perfect for me would have been a key to the drawings at the end of the book, because there are a few I’m still working out. It’s a stunning art book for kids of all ages.

 

doll-peopleThe Doll People’s Christmas, by Ann L. Martin and Laura Godwin/Illustrated by Brett Helquist, (Sept. 2016, Disney/Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781484723395

Recommended for ages 4-7

This latest Doll People book is a picture book! It’s Christmas at the Palmer family residence, and Annabelle Doll is excited to share the holiday with her best friend, Tiffany. After all, she knows what makes Christmas perfect! But nothing is perfect, and sure enough, things start going wrong. Annabelle is convinced that Christmas is ruined, but she learns that being surrounded by family and friends makes Christmas – even Christmases that aren’t what you expect – perfect. You don’t need to be familiar with the Doll People series to enjoy this story; it’s a great way to introduce the characters to new readers.

 

book-of-heroesbook-of-heroinesThe Book of Heroes: Tales of History’s Most Daring Dudes, by Crispin Boyer, (Nov. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2553-3
The Book of Heroines: Tales of History’s Gutsiest Gals, by Stephanie Warren Drimmer, (Nov. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2557-1

Recommended for ages 8-13

Guys and girls alike will love these books, each including over 100 figures from history, fiction, and entertainment. There are world leaders, athletes, gods and goddesses, pioneers for human rights, and animals here, offering something for everyone. One eyebrow raise goes to Wonder Woman, whose clothing and accessories are highlighted in the Heroines book, while a generic superhero in the Heroes version is the backdrop for “superpowered” real people (Usain Bolt and his superspeed, a blind teen who taught himself to “see” using echolocation). The cartoon hero’s superpowers of invincibility, speed, heightened senses and strength get the highlight here, thanks to these gifted individuals, but why are we concentrating on what Wonder Woman is wearing? She can fly (even without her invisible plane), she’s super strong, and she’s got superior fighting ability. Other than that? Love these books, and love the recent spate of women in history books that have come out this year, like Rejected Princesses, Frontier Grit, and Wonder Women.

dungeonologyDungeonology, by Matt Forbeck,, (Oct. 2016, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9353-4

Recommended for ages 10+

This book is AMAZING. If you have fantasy roleplaying gamers in your life, this is the perfect gift for them. If they want to game, but have just been reading Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons books, get them this book plus the D&D basic board game. Dungeonology takes readers, led by Volo the Wizard, on a journey through the Forgotten Realms universe. See basic Dungeonology equipment, fold out a giant map of the Sword Coast; check out a novice’s spell book (Magic Missile is there, fellow D&D fans), and check out all sorts of magic items. There is so much to explore in this book; pull-out books, pages that unfold to share their secrets, and a dragon waiting for you at the end of the book, if you play your cards right (and tilt the book). This is THE gift for your gamers, trust me on this.I hope you find enough here to make everyone’s holidays bright. Everything is available right now!

Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Cresswell Plot: Father doesn’t know best

creswellplotThe Cresswell Plot, by Eliza Wass (June 2016, Disney-Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781484730430

Recommended for ages 14+

Castella Cresswell is a 16 year-old living in rural upstate New York with her 5 siblings, her disabled mother, and her father, a religious zealot who believes that everyone except his family is evil and doomed to Hell. To keep the devil away from his family, he limits their interactions with other people; the kids go to public school, because they must, after a previous visit from Child Protective Services, and he insists that the siblings will marry one another in the afterlife. He’s even matched them up accordingly. I’ll let that sink in for a sec before I continue.

Castella is caught between loyalty to her family and the desire to be a normal teen, going to parties and having friends. She’s increasingly unsure about her father’s prophecies and revelations, and she just wants to save her siblings and break away from their controlling, abusive father. Her siblings have mixed emotions about Castella’s actions and ideas; whether they stem from truly being brainwashed by their father or being fearful of making waves, we never quite get: I expect it lies somewhere in between.

The Cresswell Plot is a book you sit down to read, and don’t move until you’re finished. It’s a fast read, it’s a disturbing read, but there were parts to the story that were missing; chunks that I feel could have made for an even more compelling read. I wanted more background on the Cresswell patriarch, and an entire suplot feels glanced over, really needing more development. The characters were all on the verge of being fully fleshed out, but missed nuances that really would create fully realized personalities. More conservative readers will find the subject matter – domestic violence, child abuse, references to incest – disturbing.

I enjoyed The Cresswell Plot, I just wanted more of it. I’ve heard this book compared to Flowers in the Attic, but I found more in common with Lisa Heathfield’s Seed.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Dare you venture into The Haunted Mansion?

haunted mansionTales from The Haunted Mansion, Volume 1: The Fearsome Foursome, by Amicus Arcane (July 2016, Disney-Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1329-7

Recommended for ages 9-12

Four school friends band together over a mutual love of horror stories, forming the group, The Fearsome Foursome. One night, the friends find themselves at a spooky house – a mansion – and head inside, where they meet librarian, Amicus Arcane, who sits them down to tell them a few stories. But the stories are starring each of the foursome, and things get a little spooky from there. Inspired by the Disney ride, The Haunted Mansion, this is the first volume of short stories starring the ride’s narrator and Haunted Mansion librarian, Amicus Arcane, and is sprinkled with little references to the Disney experience.

If you haven’t been to Disney and don’t know much about the ride, you won’t miss a thing. It’s still a book of good, macabre stories – like Goosebumps, taken up a notch – for middle graders. If you are familiar with the ride, though, these little references are an added wink and nudge, giving you a little creepy chuckle that runs up your spine; right next to that little chill that’s headed in the same direction.

The stories are fun, spooky, and come with a twist, and the final reveal made me look forward to reading more. There are hideous sea creatures, possessed baseball mitts, witch bones, and a dare that will leave readers cringing. It’s a fast, fun read; perfect for a summer book. I’d love to see a graphic novel adaptation – any chance we’ll get one, Disney?

A fun add to burgeoning horror collections. Booktalk it with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and, naturally, Goosebumps.