Audrey’s Summer Reading List

Today I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the books that I’ve either read or am planning to read this summer. If you’re looking for something to take with you on your last-minute vacation or just to enjoy by the pool, you should give these books a chance!

The Girl From the WellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gently, as your poet encourages, into the good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

KaleidoscopeKaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories
Edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein.

Kaleidoscope is an anthology of diverse contemporary YA fantasy and science fiction stories.

What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories!

Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

the livingThe Living by Matt de la Peña
Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.

But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

midnightMidnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

New Releases

We’re heading into August and those dog days of summer. If your “TBR” (to be read) pile is not already a foot high, then here are two more books to add to your reading list.

Let's Get LostLet’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
Harlequin Teen

Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost.

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.

There’s HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way. (Image and summary via Goodreads)

rinThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
Sourcebooks

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gently, as your poet encourages, into the good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story. (Image and summary via Goodreads)

 

 

Review: Of Metal and Wishes

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Title:  Of Metal and Wishes
Author:  Sarah Fine
Genres: gothic, romance
Pages: 320
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books
Review Copy: the publisher
Availability: August 5th, 2014

Summary: There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: When I first started Of Metal and Wishes, I had to stop after three pages. Within those few pages, I was so strongly reminded of the 20th century Chinese stories and dramas I had to read in college that I couldn’t continue — it was that overwhelming feeling of reading nostalgia (that’s a thing, right?). I didn’t resume reading until a week later. When I did, I sat down and burned straight through it.

In Of Metal and Wishes, Wen struggles to adjust to her new life living in the factory compounds with her father, as a shipment of Noor workers arrive. When Wen’s wish to the factory ghost goes horribly wrong, Wen discovers that there is so much more to the factory, and the Noor workers… The writing vividly evokes the life Wen lives in the Gochan One slaughterhouse, both through voice and imagery.

Now I have to admit that this book hits all of my weak spots — ghosts, mechanical spiders, and family. And a gothic retelling of Phantom of the Opera? Sounds good to me. I came for the ghost story and stayed for the, well, detailed world building, multi-dimensional characters, and political conflicts. Issues of discrimination and labor rights are woven in among the drama of Wen’s encounters with the ghost of Gochan One, and her budding romance.

Who Wen will fall for is obvious from the get-go. She locks eyes with Melik, the mysterious jade-eyed Noor, and you know they’ll be in true love soon enough. It’s very much in the proud YA tradition of love-at-first-sight between a girl and the mysterious hot guy who stands out from the crowd. Of Metal and Wishes is advertised on the back cover as a “love story like no other,” but, to my mind, it wasn’t the most compelling aspect of the book.

In recent years, I’ve grown weary (and wary) of “Asian inspired” fantasy and sci fi books that end up being 70% cultural appropriation and names straight out of the dictionary. I was relieved and happy to find that Of Metal and Wishes is, as far as I can tell, not one of those books. Research has gone into this book and it shows, through subtle details and solid writing.

 

Of Metal and Wishes is definitely a book to put on your to-read list. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel (!!) when it comes out. 

Recommendation: Get it soon (er, when it comes out on August 5th, 2014 anyway)

#nErDCampMI Celebrated Diverse Books

nErDcampLOGO2014

Logo designed by author/illustrator Laurie Keller

If you haven’t yet heard of #nErDCamps, they are EdCamps with a literature focus. They came into being through Colby Sharp and other members of the Nerdybookclub. As you may have guessed, the members of the Nerdybookclub are quite enthusiastic about reading. At this amazing “un” conference, the participants decide the session topics and each session is run collaboratively by the attendees.

I was able to attend this fantastic event earlier this month. In the morning we met to decide what sessions would be happening. I was super excited to see Cindy Minnich and Sarah Andersen offer up the topic  “Finding Diverse Lit for Diverse YA Readers.” Cindy started out the session highlighting the work of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and encouraging everyone to participate and spread the word about the campaign and about diverse books through blogging and social media. Cindy and Sarah have a website called YA Lit 101. “Cindy and Sarah created this course so teachers can read and discuss YA, try new genres, and find ways to incorporate it in their curriculum.” (quote from their site) They explained that after participating in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, they were going to have a diversity focus this year for YA Lit 101. Yesterday, they officially announced their plan. I am looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the coming year.

In addition, the people who attended the session (and there were many – yay!) spent a lot of time asking for specific types of titles and sharing great titles they have found. A list of titles and resources was compiled here. I was encouraged that there were so many teachers and librarians that wanted to learn and share about diverse lit. I look forward to seeing the conversation continue throughout the education and library communities. More than that though, I am eager to see actions taken as a result of these types of discussions.

Two More Releases This Week

We’ve got two new books out this week that sound like they’d be fantastic summer reads. You should check them both out!

ExtractionExtraction by Stephanie Diaz
St. Martin’s Griffin

“Welcome to Extraction testing.”

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.

What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon’s lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet’s leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don’t want her running—they want her subdued.

With intense action scenes and a cast of unforgettable characters, Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender’s Game and leave them breathless for more.

The Fire WishThe Fire Wish by Amber Lough
Random House Children’s

A jinni. A princess. And the wish that changes everything. . . .

Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad—which she’ll do anything to avoid. So she captures Najwa and makes a wish. With a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form—as each other. A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered—enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.

Book Review: Girl in Reverse

Girl in ReverseTitle: Girl in Reverse
Author: Barbara Stuber
Genres: Historical, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 320
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Review Copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: In Bookstores now

Summary: When Lily was three, her mother put her up for adoption, then disappeared without a trace. Or so Lily was told. Lily grew up in her new family and tried to forget her past. But with the Korean War raging and fear of “commies” everywhere, Lily’s Asian heritage makes her a target. She is sick of the racism she faces, a fact her adoptive parents won’t take seriously. For Lily, war is everywhere—the dinner table, the halls at school, and especially within her own skin.

Then her brainy little brother, Ralph, finds a box hidden in the attic. In it are a baffling jumble of broken antiques—clues to her past left by her “Gone Mom.” Lily and Ralph attempt to match these fragments with rare Chinese artifacts at the art museum. She encounters the artistic genius Elliot James, who attracts and infuriates Lily as he tries to draw out the beauty of her golden heritage. Will Lily summon the courage to confront her own remarkable creation story? The real story, and one she can know only by coming face-to-face with the truth long buried within the people she thought she knew best. (via Goodreads)

Review: Set in the time period of the second Red Scare and McCarthyism, Girl in Reverse is a lovely novel about a Chinese girl searching for her identity. I felt for Lily as she had to deal with horrible racism and bullying in school, and even in her own family – through her parents refusal to even admit that she was being bullied. Lily is the only Chinese person in her high school and the treatment she receives shuts her down, as would anyone else in that situation. It was brutal and honest and I respected Barbara Stuber for not sugar-coating the hurtful words expressed because of fear and propaganda that was being spread at the time. Lily’s search is beautifully done as the mystery is revealed slowly, with Lily questioning if she really wants to know the answers. I like how Stuber expressed the inner conflict an adopted child may go through and the effect that it can have on a family. There is a push and pull desire to want to know one’s origins, one’s biological identity, but also knowing that our identity is also shaped through our experiences. This inner conflict within Lily was beautifully written and very true to life.

On the other hand, while Lily’s character was well-written, I did take issue with the portrayal of two other characters. Mr. Howard, the janitor at Lily’s schools, comes off to me as the Magical Negro trope. Lily ends up befriend Mr. Howard because she received detention for an act of protest and Mr. Howard assures her that she did the right thing. I felt like Mr. Howard’s sole purpose was to guide Lily on being able to stand up for herself and deal with the racism head on. While he does not sacrifice himself for Lily, he is written fairly one-dimensionally because he was just there to help Lily. And yes, I’m glad that Stuber gave Lily a person of color to help her make sense of her world, but I think there could have been more to Mr. Howard to make him seem real instead of a caricature. The other character I had a problem with was Auntie Chow, who Lily ends up befriending, in a way, to learn more about being Chinese. Auntie Chow and her husband are immigrants, but speak with the stereotypical broken English given to Asian characters. The Chows have a son in medical school, so I can presume they have been in America a while, therefore their English would be much better. I just felt that in a novel about searching for identity, specifically a girl’s Chinese heritage, writing Chinese characters using a stereotype was bad form. Both of these character portrayals ruined my enjoyment of the novel.

Recommendation: While the overall story is excellent and Lily is a character you can love, but with the characterization of Mr. Howard and the Chows, I cannot give it a glowing recommendation. Borrow it someday.