Thursday, February 28, 2013

Earth Angel

Angels are a hot topic in teen literature these days. In some books they're vicious, scary creatures bent of ridding the world of humans; in others, they're guardians who are fighting for the wellbeing of Earth. In Cynthia Hand's brilliant series, however, it's not exactly the angels who are the focus of the story--that title goes to the angel-bloods, the off-spring of angels and humans.

In UnearthlyClara Gardner is one such angel-blood--she's a quarter angel, to be exact, and has received a vision of the "purpose" she has been put on Earth to complete. Unfortunately, her purpose involves saving a mysterious boy from a raging forest fire in Colorado. She has no idea when, where, or why this fire happens, but she does know one thing; if she doesn't get it right, someone could die.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tucson Festival of Books Author Spotlight: Jacqueline Woodson

If you like realistic fiction about teenagers with problems, like Crank by Ellen Hopkins or Monster by Walter Dean Myers, you should pick up something by Jacqueline Woodson. You're in for a treat. She'll be a guest speaker at the Tucson Festival of Books this year, which is a huge gathering on the U of A campus to celebrate books, authors, and reading. Here's their page for teens.              

The first book I read by her was If You Come Softly. It's a sad, kind of Romeo and Juliet-esque story. Jeremiah's black, and Ellie's white. They meet at a private school and fall in love without being prepared for how society views their relationship. On her website, she writes that it was inspired by a poem by Audre Lord, which begins:
If you come softly  
as the wind within the trees
you may hear what I hear 
         see what sorrow sees.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Welcome to The (thunder)Dome

In "Pure" by Julianna Baggott, the world has been decimated by nuclear detonations and there are only two places to survive: inside and outside.

Inside The Dome life is controlled by the government and the government is controlled by the Dome designer, Ellery Willux. Life is coded, perfect, Pure.

Outside The Dome life is desolation and survival. Wretches have to live with the horrible mutations and fusings caused by the nuclear blasts. Food, water, even the ground and trees are no longer safe.

Partridge, a Pure, was eight when he survived. He was inside with his father, Ellery Willux, and his brother though his mother died outside helping others get to The Dome. Now, after seven years of living in harsh government control inside, it looks like his mother might still be alive. Longing for the mother he loved and answers to what happened with the detonations, Partridge escapes The Dome into the wild outside to find her. Wretch Pressia was seven when the explosions happened and unlucky enough to be outside. Having spent her life growing up in a brutal world with her own mutation and scars, she is now nearing her 16th birthday. The violent revolutionary militia that took control after the explosions will be coming to take her soon, either to train as a soldier or to use as live bait during soldier training. She rescues Partridge during her escape from the militia death squads. Soon they are both on the run with Pressia's friends Bradwell and El Capitan, desperate to find Partridge's mother. But they are not the only ones looking for Partridge's mother and Ellery Willux will stop at nothing to find her and the secrets she holds, secrets that could change the world.

The story was originally designed as a trilogy and the next in the series, "Fuse," was released this month. According to the book website, the movie options have already been sold off so expect this trilogy to be the next in the teen trilogy movie adaptation line!

Friday, February 15, 2013

More, Please!

I know someone who refuses to read a series until it's finished because he can't stand waiting for the next book to be written.  I have the opposite problem in that I read a good book and then hope and hope and hope for a sequel to be written.  Currently, I'm on tenterhooks hoping for another book from both Sarwat Chadda and Sage Blackwood.
Sarwat Chadda wrote The Savage Fortress, which features Indian mythology, archeology, and action adventure.  It may be a retelling of the Ramayana legend, but it reads like a combination of young Indiana Jones, a comic book, and an action movie - only with demons and homicidal godesses.  So good.  The sequel is coming out later this year and I have high hopes. 

Sage Blackwood's newest book is Jinx, about a young orphan boy taken in by a wizard of dubious character who lives in the middle of a dangerous enchanted forest.  And you may think to yourself, "This sounds like every fairytale or fantasy book ever," but it really isn't.  Jinx has some unusual talents, there are cursed children, witches who ride butterchurns, and a richly detailed world with a whole background story of politics, magic, betrayal, and wars.  And I need there to be more books in this world! 

So there you have it - two books that currently have me repeatedly checking the catolog to see if their sequels have magically appeared yet. 

~ Book Ninja

P.S.  Yes, they're technically Children's books, but don't judge me or the books by that, ok?  Just read them, they're so worth it.  Remember, Harry Potter is technically a Children's book too!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll!

While I generally don't listen to punk music, I have to admit that I love books about that world, and the people in it. Here are three of my favorites.

Born to Rock - Gordon Korman
Conservative, buttoned-down teenager Leo Caraway discovers that his real dad is a punk-rock legend. To his horror, Dear Old Dad wants to spend a summer together. On tour with a  punk band, getting into the kind of trouble that could threaten his admission to an Ivy League, Leo comes to a whole new understanding of music, family, and himself.

Five Flavors of Dumb - John Antony

Teen rock band Dumb (yep, that's their name) has just won Seattle's Battle of the Bands, but internally, they're a mess. School outsider Piper takes a dare from the narcissistic lead singer to get them organized and on the way to stardom, or at least to paying gigs. Unfortunately, she doesn't know anything about keeping a band together. Or for that matter, anything about rock. Oh, and she's deaf, too. Yep. This should be interesting.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Guernica Comes to Life

You may be familiar with the famous painting "Guernica" by Picasso which conveys the horror of the Spanish civil war. It shows the suffering and destruction of a town by bombing and has become a powerful reminder of the tragedies of war.  I never thought much about the town itself, just focusing on the work of art as an anti-war symbol.  When I saw the book A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Gonzalez, there was something about the cover that drew me in, the way book covers often can. Reading the back and the inside cover flap put this book on top of my pile: this was a time and place in history I wanted to know more about! The main characters, Ani and Matthias, are teens that inadvertently get pulled into the underground spy network.  Ani is not sure she believes in working for the greater good of her people, the Basques, but she is swept along by Matthias' enthusiasm and vision.  Sneaking a peek at secret messages hidden in baskets of sardines they deliver, the two teens suspect that a bombing raid is planned for their town.  Ani is not sure she can believe this.  As I read the story, I felt I was along for a  perilous ride, getting to know these appealing characters as they get to know each other during difficult times. This is a story about a serious subject, but it's told from the fresh point of view of a young girl and so it never drags you down.  This is the second book I've read by Christina Gonzalez, the first being her book, The Red Umbrella, based on her family's experience during the exodus of Cuba in the early 1960's.  The author has a gift for bringing an intimacy of a historical time and place with very appealing characters. Take a trip in time reading her books!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tucson Festival of Books Author Spotlight: A. S. King

Some authors find their groove and stay there--think Meyer (vampires), Rowling (wizards) or Paolini (dragons).  If you like their stuff you are set, unless they crash and burn after a few books!  A. S. King is definitely "groovy", but don't try to pin her down.  Since I can't reduce her books to one word, I will have to try two:  reincarnation and pirates, death and justice, bullying and Vietnam, and sexuality and fear.  And by all accounts, her new book coming out in October 2013, Reality Boy, is about reality tv show child stars and runaways.  Okay, I'm cheating a bit there but you get the idea!  What she lacks in consistency, however, she more than makes up for in ingenuity, and that is a rare talent indeed.