Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Jeremy Johnson Johnson lives in Never Better and he's a strange boy. There's his name of course. Well, both his parents were named Johnson. When his mother disappeared his father took to his room and has barely come out. Jeremy mostly keeps to himself and studies, guided by the ghost of Jacob Grimm who narrates Far Far Away. Jacob, who died hundreds of years ago but woke up as a ghost in the Zwischenraum - the space around us mortal beings, is protecting Jeremy from "the Finder of Occassions."
When beguiling Ginger comes along, despite her friend's thoughts that Jeremy is not a worthy boyfriend, she invites him to join them. But mostly she brings him into dangerous situations, and Jeremy, flattered to be invited by such a charming girl, and despite Jacob Grimm's warnings, goes along. Is this the case of a demonic girl "luring" Jeremy into evil or an innocent girl just playing pranks?
This amazing small town modern tale, meshes with the haunting tales of the Brothers Grimm. It is full of surprises, plot twists and hidden places. I thought I knew where it was heading and was totally wrong. It's a seat of your pants thriller, but in an old fashioned, Grimm sort of way. Far Far Away is being released today, June 11.
Scarlet by Merissa Meyer
Scarlet, the sequel to Cinder is every bit as good as Cinder was. Scarlet Benoit is a farmer living in rural France. Her grandmother has been missing, she'd disappeared without leaving a message or sending a comm. She'd missed Scarlet's 18th birthday, even though she'd bought the ingredients for Scarlet's favorite lemon cake. No one had seen her go and Scarlet had found her id chip. And now the police has said her grandmother had wanted to leave, but Scarlet knew that was wrong, she knew grandmere been kidnapped.
In Rieux, the town where she goes to deliver vegetables to a tavern, Scarlet happens to meet a man, a ferocious street fighter, named Wolf. Though she doesn't know if she can fully trust him, she is attracted to him and when he tells her he will help her find her grandmother, she goes off with him to Paris.
Having escaped from prison with a dashing daredevil prisoner Cinder arrives in Paris, just when Scarlet is at her lowest. Their fight to stay ahead of Queen Levana and the Lunars is exciting and the book ends on a cliffhanger with you anxiously waiting for the third book in the Lunar Chronicles.
The Teen's Top Ten
Each year teens around the country help choose their ten favorite books of the previous year. The list is known as The Teens' Top Ten.Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Legend by Marie Lu
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Cinder by Melissa Meyer
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Abandon by Meg Cabot
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
I thought Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has one of the best titles and covers I can think of and should draw in a lot of readers. I liked the way story is told in the voice of Piedad, Piddy, Sanchez about the year she and her mother move to a different part of Queens and she has to start her sophomre year at a new high school. It's not far from her old apartment, where she can visit her "aunt" Lila, and friend Joey. But as far as school is concerned, it's a lot rougher. Suddenly she's attracted unwanted attention from Yaqui Delgado and a gang of tough girls. Piddy has no idea who Yaqui Delgado is when she's given a threatening note, but Yaqui doesn't like Piddy. Piddy doesn't hang out with the Latino students, they weren't exactly inviting, and she takes honors classes. Piddy also shakes her ass when she walks and seems to have attracted Yacqui's boyfriend's attention.
After threatening her, Yacqui and her group start to throw things at her. Things keep escalating till Piddy stops going to school and is falling behind and lying to her mother. On top of that she's angry at her mother for being so uptight, working so hard and never telling her anything about her father. And her best friend Mitzi who moved to Long Island seems to be forgetting all about her.
As the bullying escalates and all these other problems compound, Piddy begins to isolate herself more and more and even lose her sense of who she is. She begins to dress and act differently. She starts to meet Joey Delgado in the basement of her old building; Joey, whose father beat his mother and him as well.
Other characters around her provide needed joy and color. The ladies at the salon where Lila does champu and Piddy works on Saturdays are a great cast of secondary characters, as is Lila with her Avon business. Around them there is always music and dancing. In fact, it was learning to do the merengue from Lila that got Piddy "shaking her stuff" that got her noticed by Yaqui Delgado.
I loved the scenes in the salon and at Lila's as much as I dreaded the scenes at school. The ending where everything is wrapped up a bit too fast and neatly. Other than that it's really a good read.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
It was such a pleasure to read Rachel Hartman's Seraphina. The story is original and fresh and wonderful in light of reading so much dystopia lately. Seraphina is half dragon, though she does not know this at first. She only knows that her mother died giving birth to her and that her father, a lawyer in the royal court, has always been fearful for her safety. At a young age, Seraphina discovered her gift of music and taught herself the flute against her father's wishes, and then began to study with a saar, a dragon in human form named Orma, who turned out to be her uncle.
Again, against her father’s wishes, Seraphina leaves her home to become the assistant to court musician, Viridiu, just in time to play for the funeral of Rufus, prince of Goredd who was killed by dragons. Phina becomes embroiled in these human-dragon struggles and in the hunt to find the killer in the meantime falling in love with the Captain of the Guard, Prince Lucian kiggs, fiancé to the new heir to the throne, Glisselda, Serafina’s one friend at court.
The kingdom of Goredd has had a treaty with dragons for 40 years; dragons are known for their logic and analytical thinking, and do not grasp human emotion. They are thought not to understand music either, but Seraphina’s mother was a musician and Phina inherited her talent. There are those who wish to destroy the treaty and there are worries as the treaty’s anniversary approaches and the leader of the dragons, the Ardmagar , is expected to visit Goredd.
Hartman's background in music and knowledge of Renaissance music informs her writing. It is a complex story with numerous characters, dragon and human, and bears close attention, but the rewards are many.
Seraphina was a 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction Honor Winner.
Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Rosko
James Whitman is a "depressed, anxious kid." He loves to recite the poet Walt Whitman, and to yawp Whitman in the morning, which irritates his dad, the Brute. He's depressed about a lot of things, but mostly because his sister was expelled from school and thrown out of the house and is barely making it as a waitress with no car or decent place to live and she can't even keep a phone.
This could have been a real downer, but Roskos finds humor in the situation which he uses in just the right measure. For a year James has been seeing an imaginary therapist, Dr. Bird, a large, human sized pigeon. "Pigeon's strike be as good listeners--they discern the voices of mates over the cacophony of the natural world. They move the right way too. A pigeon's head-tilts suggest the kids of things that I imagine therapists say: "Really?" or "How did that feel?" or "Tell me more." Plus: one intense, glassy black-eye staring at me, the neck-bob of agreement, the puffing of feathers when I'm being evasive."
James has a real friend Derek, who maintains their long friendship with James and they help each other, despite Derek being a popular guy. There's also Beth, a smart girl who heads the poetry journal. James is attracted to her and almost gets run over by a bus trying to save a bird, all to try and impress her.
With the help of Dr. Bird, Derek, Beth, a real therapist and his sister Jorie, James works his way into dealing with his anxiety and gaining the ability to "Sing the Body Electric" and write his own ode of himself, "America! I Sing to the tiny part of you that I call home."
In case like me you're not really familiar with Walt Whitman and don't know where the word comes from, he used it in Leaves of Grass,
I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
Plus, Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets has got to be one of the best covers ever.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Midwinterblood is an overwhelming book in seven sections, starting in 2073 on Blessed Island where Eric Seven, a journalist, has gone to do research. There he finds people who seem to live forever, where there are no children and where, though he seems to forget why he is there, he recognizes a woman, Merle. The following six sections take us back through increasingly longer stretches of time, to the time of the vikings and further back with more and more apprehension to the days of sacrificial cults. In each section there is an Eric, a Merle and a Tor or semblances of these names. There is also the Little Blessed Dragon Orchid from which a tea is brewed that that has many properties, often there is a painting and there are hares. All the stories are connected; there is love, deep love, but also sacrifice and death. An epilogue circles back to the first story. It's an amazing, evocative novel that left me with many questions and the need to reread it. You can read Midwinterblood in one setting, and it may be even better that way, since you can keep hold of the many parts and how they intertwine.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
"The day before my father's arrest, I read an article about a mother who cured her daughter of the Spanish flu burying her in raw onions for three days."
So begins In the Shadow of Blackbirds. The reek of onions follows you and Winters fills this atmospheric story with the colors of bodies turning purple and black from the flu, the smells in hospitals and veterans' homes and the smell of people with onions around their necks and the sight of people with salt stuffed in their noses and wearing gauze masks.
It's October 14, 1918 when sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black takes the train from Portland to San Francisco to live with her aunt, after her father's been arrested for being a pacifist. Mary finds that her dear friend Stephen has enlisted and will soon be shipping off to France. Her Aunt Eva has been widowed at the young age of twenty-six by the influenza epidemic that is killing thousands and is working in the shipyards. Mary is free to explore on her own. One of my favorite parts is when she spends some time volunteering in a veteran's home passing out tea and reading and speaking to the suffering veterans.
Mary soon find herself amidst the world of spiritualism and spirit photography. Stephen's half brother Julius is a practitioner and a fraud and is always trying to get her to pose for him, particularly after Stephen has died. Mary is a skeptic, and finds Julius most unsavory. Despite this, Stephen's spirit comes regularly to Mary and she needs to find a way to put them to rest while protecting herself from Julius.
In addition to an interesting and unique plot, which gets a bit bogged down in the middle, there are amazing archival pictures from the trenches of World War I and the streets of San Francisco with masked policemen and ambulance workers at the beginning of each chapter. The typeface of chapters is also artfully done in Art Nouveau fonts and graphic design. In the Shadow of Blackbirds has it all, ghosts, mystery, romance, horror and history and is due to be released on April 2. If you liked Libba Bray's The Diviners, you're sure to like this.
Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Mallory's dad is in the resale business and at the beginning of Going Vintage is involved in cleaning out her dad's mother's house in Orange, Ca. after she's moved into a fancy retirement village. While sorting through her things, Mallory to finds a list of 5 things her grandmother set out to achieve during her junior year in 1962-63 in what Mallory thinks were simpler times.
When Mallory discovers after an evening of too much kissing that her boyfriend Jeremy has not only been cheating on her, but cheating with an online friend, an avatar named BubbleYum, who is his wife on Alternate Life, and that he has a deeper relationship with BubbleYum than he ever did with her she swears off boys. She writes "Jeremy is a tool" on his Friendspace page and so begins his retaliation against her on the Internet and her renunciation of modern technology and an attempt to live like people did in the early 1960's.
Mallory also swears to achieve all the goals on her grandmother's list that she found in her garage:
1. Run for pep club secretary (There is no pep club, so she’ll have to start one)
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming (despite the fact that she doesn't know how to sew)
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
Each chapter starts with lists. The steady is not for her, Mallory is off of boys. She realizes her life was too much about Jeremy and not enough about who she was and what she wanted. She wants to find one for her sister, Ginnie. Mallory has a lot to learn about herself and her family. Swearing off technology isn't easy and it turns out that technology isn't the problem anyway. Mallory as older sister, seems naive in her expectations; she's not very grounded and not up to the task of completing her tasks, but she does grow up. Ginnie is a great character. She seems to do more of the work on the lists than Mallory does. Funny, hipster Oliver is a terrific. Their grandmother, whose teenage years were not as perfect as Mallory thought, is a great supporting character and the parents are sufficiently annoying though real. Altogether, this was a fun, light read. Going Vintage is due out March 26.
The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman
In Chinese Astrology, girls should never be born in the year of the Fire Horse. They will bring tragedy to their families. Jade Moon was born in the year of the Fire Horse and her first breath was her mother’s last. She is a clumsy, unlucky girl. No one wanted to marry her, so at 17 she is still single. Her father does not want much to do with her. When a stranger, Sterling Promise, arrives in her village and claims to be her father's brother's adopted son she knows nothing of an uncle. Indeed, he shamed the family by running off. He was supposed to have tended the family's rice fields so that her father could become a scholar.
Now this stranger wants her father to travel with him to Hong Kong to meet some shady master and then sail to America? Jade Moon takes her father’s place and goes to America. She sure will have a better life there. That is until she arrives at Angel Island off the coast of San Francisco where she and other Chinese are imprisoned for weeks, months and longer in miserable conditions. In 1923, Chinese immigrants are not welcome in America, and mostly only men are allowed in. On the island the women are kept separate from the men. A moving section from that part of the book is when Sterling Promise secretly brings her to a room full with poems written all over the walls. Jade Moon calls this the burial ground for dreams and realizes that other people have had their dreams broken as well as her.
Being headstrong and full of anger, Jade Moon manages to land in San Francisco disguised as a man and before she knows where she is finds herself caught up with members of a Chinatown tong, or organized syndicate. You’ll have to suspend a great deal of belief here and allow yourself to enjoy the action as Jade Moon gets taken in by a major player in one of the tongs, runs numbers and then comes to understand what she’s gotten herself involved in. The Fire Horse Girl is a great book to read if you like historical fiction with lots of action and romance.