New Release Radar: Just Published Books You Should Really Check Out

Summer is just around the corner, when you’ll have time to read for fun again (right? right?), but there are already a ton of excellent books out there for every kind of reader. Here’s some highlights of some of my favorite, and most-anticipated, recently published books. Most of these have just come out in April, making them the newest of the new, and all are available for check out at the library.

Pure, by Julianna Baggot. Released February 2012.
Pressia was just a little girl holding a doll when the Detonations hit, but when the bombs ended, she was as irrevocably altered as the world itself, her hand fused with the doll’s head. Those who survived found themselves mutilated and fused to whatever creatures or objects were most near – some people fused with animals into Beasts, others with people and become Groupies, some even with the earth and became Dusts. The only people that survived intact were in the Dome, a protected enclave of people now known as Pures. Patridge is one such Pure, living a safe but controlled life of genetic enhancements and behavioral control, but his discovery that his mother may still be alive and outside prompts him to escape the Dome in search of her. When Pressia and Partridge meet, they begin to uncover the dark truth about the creation of the Dome, the destruction of the world, and their inevitable connection to each other. Those of you looking for something grittier and scarier than your standard teen dystopia should check out this new series about the dark, violent life after the Detonations.

Black Heart (Curse Workers, Book Three), by Holly Black. Released April 2012.
This is Book Three of Black’s standout Curse Workers series, about a family of paranormally-gifted criminals working for the magical mob, starring Cassel Sharpe, the charming con man turned good guy who is torn between his decision to work for the federal government and his love for Lila, who has become a leader in her father’s mob. Now that the entire trilogy is available, it’s the perfect time to give this funny, twisty series a try. It’s been one of my favorite paranormal mystery series since it first appeared in 2010.

The Wicked and the Just, by Jillian Anderson Coats. Released April 2012.
I’m still waiting to get my hands on this, but for those of you interested in historical fiction, this tale sounds like a brutal, complex look at both sides of the English occupation of Wales in the 1200s. It follows English girl Cecily who comes to Wales with her family to settle new land and keep down the “vicious” Welshmen, and Gwenhwyfar, a Welsh girl who must wait hand and foot on her new English mistress until the Welsh rebel against their new masters.

The Obsidian Blade, by Pete Hautman. Released April 2012.
Time travel? Alien worlds? A family in peril? This adventurous science fiction novel, the start of a trilogy, is perfect for readers looking for both action and introspection. After thirteen-year-old Tucker Feye’s parents disappear, he suspects that the strange disks of shimmering air that he keeps seeing are somehow involved, and, when he steps inside one, he is whisked away on a time-twisting journey trailed by a shadowy sect of priests and haunted by ghostlike figures.

Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers. Released April 2012.
Next on my to-read-NOW list because of two words: Assassin Nuns. Seventeen-year-old Ismae avoids an arranged marriage by making a place for herself at the convent of St. Martin, where she learns of her unique gifts and must determine whether she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. This is a dark and romantic historical fantasy.

I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga. Released April 2012.
People are describing this as a teen Dexter by way of Criminal Minds, and it fits! This is an excellent, funny, scary psychological thriller about a boy struggling to overcome his family’s history of murder. From the publisher: “What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad? Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say. But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could–from the criminal’s point of view. And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod. In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?”

Froi of the Exiles (Chronicles of Lumatere, Book Two), by Melina Marchetta. Released March 2012.
This sequel to high fantasy Finnikin of the Rock is even better than anyone could expect. It’s tense, full of equal parts political intrigue, dangerous events, and slow-burning romance. Marchetta writes characters that captivate in a fantasy world that is so detailed and imaginative, it feels like a real place. This series has a special place in my heart and any hardcore fantasy fans should give it a try. From the publisher: “Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home . . . or so he believes. Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior’s discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood . . . and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.”


My Top 2011 Teen Reads

I read close to 160 books in 2011 (I know, right?) and the majority were teens books. Here are my top five favorite teen books from 2011. If you’re looking for great reads to start our the new year, try one of these.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. Y Taylor.

Karou leads a double life: in one, she is an art student in Prague; in another, she is an errand runner for Brimstone, a chimaerae (demon) who barters teeth for wishes. Her worlds collide when she meets beautiful Akiva, who is on the other side of a centuries old war between angels and demons. This is a dark, romantic, suspenseful grown-up fairy tale, and it’s my favorite book of 2011.

The Isle of Blood (The Monstrumologist, Book Three), by Rick Yancey. Y Yancey.

Young Will Henry and his monster-hunting mentor, Dr. Warthrop, are back in their third adventure, where they travel to the Isle of Blood in search of the monster to end all monsters. If you are looking for something scary, gory, but also highly literate and thoughtful, look no further than Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist series. A fourth book will happily be coming in the next year or so, so catch up while you still have time.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Cat Valente. Y Valente.

Twelve-year-old September leaves behind her mundane life in Omaha to travel to Fairyland with the Green Wind, where she comes into conflict with the Marquess, whose fickle rule has caused problems for Fairyland’s inhabitants. This is a truly inventive, idiosyncratic story with beautiful illustrations.

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. Y Ness.

Grab some tissues, people! This is a heartbreaking yet life-affirming story of coping with loss, and the haunting, evocative black and white illustrations elevate the story to true art. Ever since Conor’s mother has been diagnosed with cancer, Conor’s been having nightmares of a terrible monster, but when the monster finally shows at midnight, it isn’t the one he expects. This monster, full of ancient wisdom, insists on telling Conor three stories in exchange for one story of Conor’s: the one story – the truth – that he doesn’t want to tell.

Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley. Y Whaley.

This is a strange one, but its strangeness is why I love it so. This literary novel tells intertwining stories of people searching for meaning and redemption in a messed up world. Cullen Witter lives in a tiny Arkansas town that is experiencing a revival after a birdwatcher claims to have seen a woodpecker long thought to be extinct. But while the townspeople are obsessed with searching for this mythical bird, Cullen is desperately searching for his missing younger brother, who disappeared at the same time. Meanwhile, Benton Sage, a missionary traveling in Africa, becomes disillusioned with his calling and sets up a chain reaction of events that dovetails perfectly with Cullen’s story. This excellent debut novel is both funny and meaningful.

Next week I’ll post my “Best of the Rest” list — books I really loved but didn’t make the top five.

My Top YA Reads 2010

It’s belated, but here’s my list of my favorite teen books published in 2010. Obviously, this list is highly subjective and totally dependent on what I got around to reading in 2010 (there are so many books to read each year that I can never keep up!); as you can tell, I read a lot of fantasy, paranormal fiction, and horror/thrillers, so generally any list I put together about my personal favorites will favor those genres heavily. Having said that, here’s the list (summaries courtesy of Ingram’s or the publishers’ themselves):

White Cat, by Holly Black. Paranormal. Y Black.
When Cassel Sharpe discovers that his older brothers have used him to carry out their criminal schemes and then stolen his memories, he figures out a way to turn their evil machinations against them. Thoughts: I love heist stories and con artists. I love unreliable narrators. I love dark tales. I love secrets and twisty narratives where you’re never sure what’s going on until after it’s all been revealed (and even then, you’re not sure). Honestly, I think this one is my TOP top read of 2010. Here’s my review.

The Demon’s Covenant (sequel to The Demon’s Lexicon), by Sarah Rees Brennan. Paranormal. Y Brennan.
Summary: Mae Crawford’s always thought of herself as in control, but in the last few weeks her life has changed. Her younger brother, Jamie, suddenly has magical powers, and she’s even more unsettled when she realizes that Gerald, the new leader of the Obsidian Circle, is trying to persuade Jamie to join the magicians. Even worse? Jamie hasn’t told Mae a thing about any of it. Mae turns to brothers Nick and Alan to help her rescue Jamie, but they are in danger from Gerald themselves because he wants to steal Nick’s powers. Thoughts: This series is a great mix of original world-building, twisty plotting, and intriguing characters who are all super witty (perhaps unrealistically so, but who cares when it’s so fun to read?).

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride. Paranormal. Y McBride.
Summary: Sam LaCroix, a Seattle fast-food worker and college dropout, discovers that he is a necromancer, part of a world of harbingers, werewolves, satyrs, and one particular necromancer who sees Sam as a threat to his lucrative business of raising the dead. Thoughts: This was one of the most thrilling and funniest books I’ve read in a long time. Sam has a great snarky voice, there’s tons of action and dark humor, and the plot kept me guessing the whole time. I can’t recommend it enough.

The Boneshaker, by Kate Milford. Historical/Paranormal. J Milford.
Summary: When Jake Limberleg brings his traveling medicine show to a small Missouri town in 1913, thirteen-year-old Natalie senses that something is wrong and, after investigating, learns that her love of automata and other machines make her the only one who can set things right. Thoughts: Good and evil battle for human souls in a dusty, rural, close-knit Midwestern town in the early 1900s. A crossroads demon, a doctor who sold his soul to save lives but winded up cursing those he helped, a musician who once beat the devil in a fiddle contest, and an ambiguous larger-than-life trickster all converge around Natalie. Natalie’s combination of innocence, bluntness, and quick-thinking make her the perfect heroine for this tale of outwitting the devil. This book melds real aspects of Americana — Jack tall tales, clockwork automata, traveling medicine shows and snake-oil salesmen — with a supernatural premise, and it all comes together perfectly.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver. Fiction/Paranormal. Y Oliver.
Summary: A terrible accident takes Samantha Kingston’s life. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she relives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined. Thoughts: This was one of those reads that really surprised me — I thought I would hate it but ended up really loving it. Here’s my review.

I Shall Wear Midnight (Tiffany Aching, Book Four), by Terry Pratchett. Fantasy. Y Pratchett.
Summary: Fifteen-year-old Tiffany Aching, the witch of the Chalk, seeks her place amid a troublesome populace and tries to control the ill-behaved, six-inch-high Wee Free Men who follow her as she faces an ancient evil that agitates against witches. Thoughts: I am sad to think there will probably not be another Tiffany Aching book, but as for series enders, this is a great one, encompassing everything that made the other three memorable: lots of British humor (both of the understated and loopy kinds), circuitous plotting, surprisingly serious undertones, and believable growth for the major characters, particularly Tiffany. I think this is my favorite one after the first, The Wee Free Men.

A Conspiracy of Kings (Queen’s Thief, Book Four), by Megan Whalen Turner. Fantasy. Y Turner.
Summary: Kidnapped and sold into slavery, Sophos, an unwilling prince, tries to save his country from being destroyed by rebellion and exploited by the conniving Mede empire. Thoughts: Turner does something different with the narrative in every Queen’s Thief book, and though I did miss Eugenidies in this fourth book, she made Sophos as interesting and complex a character, one who goes through similarly difficult trials on the road to kingdom. I’ve never written reviews of these books, because I don’t think I can do them justice, but I don’t think you can find anything better for subtle but brilliant political intrigue, fantasy world-building, and characters you absolutely fall in love with.

The Curse of the Wendigo (sequel to The Monstrumologist), by Richard Yancey. Horror. Y Yancey.
Summary: In 1888, twelve-year-old Will Henry chronicles his apprenticeship with Dr. Warthrop, a New England scientist who hunts and studies real-life monsters, as they discover and attempt to destroy the Wendigo, a creature that starves even as it gorges itself on human flesh. Thoughts: I just don’t see enough horror of this caliber, particularly for teens. The Monstrumologist, the first in the series, was a top read last year, and this one may be even better, because it raises the stakes for poor, doomed apprentice Will Henry and his recalcitrant master of monstrumology, Dr. Warthrop. I don’t love the series just because it’s gory, atmospheric, and frightening; I also love it because the characters, and their relationships with each other, have such depth, and because of the serious, literate tone to the storytelling (which fits perfectly within the setting and time frame of late 1800s New England).

Morris Award Winner 2011

The William C. Morris award is for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature. It’s a new award (started in 2009), and the 2011 winner and honor books were just announced here.

This year’s winner is The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston. Here’s a brief summary of the book, courtesy of ALA: “Loa, a strong, intelligent, hardworking sixteen-year-old girl experiences a year of loss. While trying to take care of her family and make it through school, she ponders the laws of physics as she tries to understand what can never make sense.” We have this in our new YA books section, call number Y Woolston.

The list of finalists this year are:
Hush, by Eishes Chayil. Y Chayil
Guardian of the Dead, by Karen Healey. Y Healey
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride. Y McBride
Crossing the Tracks, by Barbara Stuber.

Printz Award Winner 2011

The Michael L. Printz award is for excellence in young adult literature (it’s the Newbery for teen books), and the 2011 winner and honor books were just announced here.

This year’s winner is Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.  Here’s a brief summary of the book, courtesy of ALA: “In Ship Breaker, near a drowned New Orleans ravaged by hurricanes and global warming, Nailer and his young crew eke out a meager existence by scavenging materials on the ship-littered coast.” We have this in our YA books section, call number Y Bacigalupi.

Honor books this year are:
Stolen, by Lucy Christopher. Y Christopher
Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King. Y King
Revolver, by Marcus Sedgwick. Y Sedgwick
Nothing, by Janne Teller. Y Teller

Manga Drawing Workshop Books and Links

We had a great turn-out for the manga drawing workshop on Saturday, May 1, and everyone in attendance got lots of advice and drawing practice. David Sullivan, our wonderful instructor, mentioned several books, products, and web sites he uses in his own work, and here’s the list of his recommendations.

Comics and Sequential Art, by Will Eisner
Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery,  by Burne Hogarth (and Hogarth’s entire dynamic drawing series)
Books by Klaus Janson, like The DC Comics Guide to Pencilling Comics

Software/Products for Digital Drawing
Manga Studio Debut Four
Pencil (a traditional 2D animation software for Macs)
a graphics tablet

Web sites
Pose Maniacs – for help with drawing bodies in every pose imaginable

Finally, here are some books on manga drawing and manga history we have available in the library.

Click here to see the list

Printz Award Winners 2010

The Michael L. Printz award is for excellence in young adult literature (it’s the Newbery for teen books), and the 2010 winner and honor books were just announced here.

This year’s winner is Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Click here for the book’s web site, and here’s a brief summary of the book, courtesy of Ingram’s: “All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school–and life in general–with a minimum of effort. But that’s before he’s given the news that he’s dying. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure–if he’s willing to go in search of it.”We have this in our new YA books section, call number Y Bray.

Honor books this year are:
Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman
The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey. Y Yancey (new YA books section).
Punkzilla, by Adam Rapp
Tales of the Madman Underground, by John Barnes. Y Barnes (new YA books section).

My review of The Monstrumologist will show up on this site soon — I loved this super creepy Victorian horror novel and it’s one of my favorites for the year. I haven’t read the other award winners/honor books yet, but if you have and would like to post your opinion in the comments, feel free!