Category Archives: Young Adult

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

I absolutely love fairy tale reworkings, especially in the YA genre, and this one does not disappoint. A retelling of Cinderella, Geekerella reads like the Geek Girls Guide, with a true and complete understanding of the geek fandom lifestyle. Elle and Sage are the perfect team as they go on this adventure together, and the “evil” stepmom and twin stepsisters are fleshed out to not just be flat, mean people, but very nuanced in why they are the way they are. The love story between Elle and Darien builds beautifully and I loved how both characters fumble through it but ultimately prevail. The best part of the book however is how accurately Poston captures what these various fandoms mean to so many people. There were several times that my eyes filled with tears as Elle described how Starfield helps make her feel accepted and understood in the crazy world of being a teen girl.  This book is a fun adventure and definitely one of of my favorite YA Books for 2017!

Feral By James DeMonaco and B.K. Evenson

A dystopian novel that is scary, creepy and features women kicking butt! From the writer/director of “The Purge” movies, Feral explores what happens when women are left to fend for themselves after all of the men are infected with a genetically engineered virus that makes them violent and blood-thirsty, causing them to hunt women down and slaughter them.

The main character Allie is well developed and an emotional character to explore. Her mental toughness is balanced by the love she has for her sister and her loyalty to the community she is protecting and scavenging for. Each of the female characters add an aspect to the story that makes the whole community work well within the disaster they are living in, and the Sam twist definitely kept me reading. A fast paced read, filled with action, plenty of gore and horror. Although this book is marketed as an adult horror novel, I feel like this falls more into the YA genre and will be very successful with readers who like The Hunger Games and Divergent series.

Grendel’s Guide to Love and War by A.E. Kaplan

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Tom Grendel and his father, an Army veteran who is struggling with PTSD, are trying to lead a quiet life to allow his father to heal not only from his battle scars, but the loss of his wife and Tom’s mother.  But when a family moves in next door that threatens to upset the quiet neighborhood they all love, adventures ensue as Tom, his best friend Ed, and Tom’s sister vow to end the loud parties that have driven Tom’s dad from their home.  And then there’s Willow…

This book is everything that is right about YA.  I absolutely loved this reworking of Beowulf.  The adventures and plots were fun and crazy, together with the perfect amount of angst, the all important first love, and my new favorite best friend in a YA novel, Ed.  So many laugh out loud moments, but also moments that tugged at your heart and made the characters so easy to relate to and empathize with.  I had more fun with this book than I have in a long time and truly enjoyed every second of it.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

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I was so anxious to read this new book from Jeff Zentner as I completely fell in love with his debut novel, “The Serpent King.”  Mr. Zentner writes his characters with true emotional depth and this book did not disappoint.  Goodbye Days is based around a tragedy that allows the main character, Carver, to explore many difficult topics not only for young people, but the adult characters in the story as well – friendship, guilt, grief, blame, loneliness, choices, love, family, regrets, but most of all forgiveness.  I love “Southern Novels”. and once again, Mr. Zentner captures the atmosphere of the South perfectly, almost as if Nashville, where the story is based, is a character in the book as well.  Yet another phenomenal YA book from Jeff Zentner and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra

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This is well executed historical fiction from a YA perspective.  If you love Jane Austen, the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, or Ruta Sepetys, you will definitely want to try this book.  A very smart young lady named Leonora, or Leo for short, struggles with a terrible stammer that causes her to compensate by becoming a spot-on mimic of other people’s voices.  Charmed by a seemingly handsome, rich and good Lord, Leo gets swept up into an opium plot that threatens to literally blow up London.  Suspenseful, fast paced, and action packed, this book was a lot of fun to read and kept me guessing, as well as hoping that Leo would find her happily every after.

The Nerdy and the Dirty by B.T. Gottfred

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Penelope and Benedict are two teenagers just trying to make their way through high school and their family lives at home. Their unlikely friendship leads to a love story that blossoms when they both just start being real for the first time in their lives, and find the other is far more accepting of what they deem abnormal about themselves. I loved how they were both able to get what they wanted from their relationship just by being open and honest about who they are on the inside, not just the image they portray on a daily basis. Funny, extremely quirky, explicit and honest, “The Nerdy and the Dirty” is one of the few YA books to accurately capture the thoughts that go through the minds of young men and women, especially about fitting in, sex, and growing up.

Infinity by Jus Accardo

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A strong start to a new series from Jus Accardo. Kori, a strong female character who is simply wading the treacherous waters of just being a teenage girl and losing her mother, finds herself thrust into a secret government organization, inter-dimensional travel, and extremely complex love interests. Dylan is a deliciously evil character, baiting Cade and Noah into his evil plans for revenge against them. Kori holds her own and proves that girls can often save themselves and be tough as hell!

Texas Book Festival 2016 – Day One!

The 21st Annual Texas Book Festival was held in Austin this weekend and the line up this year did not disappoint.  Over 250 authors were available this weekend for speaking and signing.

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Set around the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, the event features tents from C-Span/Book TV, as well as for YA and Children’s authors, signings, music, and vendors of all sorts.  Several talks were also held in the rooms of the Capitol, as well as neighboring churches and hotels.

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My first stop was a reading with festival founder and former First Lady of both Texas and the US, Laura Bush, and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager.  They spoke about their love of books and education and did a very charming reading of their newest collaboration “Our Great Big Backyard’ after which they graciously signed their book for the attendees.

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Next stop was to the YA tent where I listened to some of the top YA authors in their panel called “It’s The End of The World as I Know It.”  Featuring Aaron Starmer, A.S. King, Siobhan Vivian, and Rachel Cohn, they talked about turning disaster into YA literature and how their own lives inspire their work.  I highly recommend Mr. Starmer’s book “Spontaneous” to anyone looking for an interesting take on spontaneous combustion and literally “blowing up.”

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After a quick walk to the Omni Hotel, I was extremely happy to attend a session on the great David Bowie featuring journalist Rob Sheffield and performer Thomas Dolby.  Their insights on Bowie’s career added a whole new level to his work as a musician.  I also found Mr. Dolby’s life after “She Blinded Me With Science” to be extremely compelling and definitely worth picking up his book after the lecture.

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After a delicious lunch at one of the numerous food vendors that were at the festival, I made my way back to the YA tent to hear “Twice Upon a Time,” a panel featuring Danielle Paige, Jonah Lisa Dyer, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, three authors who have taken classic stories and given them updated and modern YA spins.  One of my favorite books this year, “The Season” written by Dyer, is an updated take on Pride & Prejudice set in the crazy world of the Texas Debutante scene.  Loved it and Ms. Dyer was a delight to speak with!

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I closed out my day at First Baptist Church and was blown away by the panel featuring Noah Hawley and Don DeLillo.  Mr. DeLillo’s writing has been highly awarded and his stories and inspirations were so entertaining.  Mr. Hawley is an accomplished writer himself and his debut novel “Before the Fall” perfectly illustrates the hyper media culture we all live in today.

If you are visiting Austin, make sure you also check out the food and nightlife scene.  The restaurants and bars in town are incredible and were a lovely way to relax after a long and busy day!

Author Signing with Jennifer Niven

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What a pleasure to meet Jennifer Niven last night at Blue Willow Books in Houston, TX.  If you haven’t read All the Bright Places or Holding Up the Universe, you need to pick them up immediately along with several boxes of tissues.  She is one of the best YA authors out there right now and is as nice as can be!

Wrecked by Maria Padian-Hour 6 and one book complete!

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This book could not be more timely considering the conversation about sexual assault in this country.  Realistic insights into the rape culture that has permeated college campuses.  Highlights the dangers of drinking, what consent is and isn’t, as well as how the investigative process often victimizes the victim all over again.  We have to do better as a nation to stop this violence against women and reading books like this and educating our young men and women is definitely a place to start.

One Night by Deanna Cabinian

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Thompson Lake, average guy and Hawaii resident, has just come off The Worst Valentine’s Day Ever ™. After breaking up with his first love, he drowns his sorrows in the Elvis Presley music she got him addicted to. He heads out to see an Elvis impersonator, hoping his ex will be there too. But when he hears the impersonator, also known as Johnny Lee Young, sing “Hurt”, he is profoundly changed. Johnny asks to Thompson to be his summer “intern” and the two grow to be close friends, and find they have more in common than they thought. Johnny still mourns the loss of the only woman he ever loved, and Thompson seeks to get them back together, even though she’s about to get married in Chicago. Thompson hatches a plan to get Johnny there to win his true love back.

This was a sweet YA novel and it was nice to see the heartache from a male perspective. The similarities between both Thompson and Johnny’s heartache, even with the age difference, was interesting. They supported each other and kept the other one with the plan. I especially loved the confidence and self discovery Thompson went through himself as he tried to help Johnny get his girl back. Thoroughly enjoyed this quirky cast of characters and the setting.

The Gender Game by Bella Forrest

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If you like the Hunger Games and Divergent, this is an excellent read alike for you.

What happens if the world is divided into two factions? Matrus, where women rule and men are subservient, and Patrus, where men rule and women are subservient, are at odds with each other. Our main character Violet has grown up in Matrus and has had a few two many run ins with the authorities there, after the last incident of possible womanslaughter, she is offered a choice: go undercover to Patrus to retrieve an item that was stolen from them, or be executed. Violet’s arrival in Patrus sets off a plot to steal back the item, but along the way she finds love with someone that should be her enemy. Excellent plot twist at the end that definitely made me want to read more of this story, as it appears that it will be a series from the way the ending is written. Strong female vs male tension that builds from a simmer to a boil. Highly entertaining and looking forward to the next installment!

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

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This has been the year of the 80’s throwback in books at least for me and this one scratched that same wonderful itch. Teenage boys planning an Ocean’s 11 type heist to get a coveted copy of Playboy featuring the babe of the moment, Vanna White, from the local store. All Billy has to do is romance the shopkeeper’s frumpy and nerdy daughter Mary into giving him the alarm code. But in getting to know Mary, he realized they both have an incredible love of computer game programming and team up to win a coveted prize from a top game designer. Suddenly that all important Playboy doesn’t really matter much to Billy, even though his friends are pressuring him to stick with the plan. Mary now understandably holds his interest.

Full of 80’s pop culture and computer programming references, this book was highly entertaining, especially for an 80’s kid like myself. The ending even had a bit of a twist I never saw coming that added even more of a dimension to Billy and Mary’s relationship.

 

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

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Take teenage angst, set it in the 1980’s and throw in a little demonic possession for good measure and you have a book that is a fun ride. Abby and Gretchen, along with Margaret and Glee, are a tight group of friends. Until one night of skinny dipping doesn’t go as planned, and Gretchen seems somehow “changed.”  Word of warning: Do not read this book at night because you will get the creeps big time.

The thing I liked most about this book is how the “possessed” Gretchen behaved towards her friends, and how accurately this parallels how girls in high school tend to treat each other: kind one day, brutal and hateful the next. Half the time I was wondering if Gretchen was truly possessed or just a jerk. If you love YA and horror, this one will scratch both itches.

Pottermore Presents… by JK Rowling

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Just released today, JK Rowling and Pottermore offers three new short story collections based on the Wizarding World, and they do not disappoint.  All of the books take less than an hour to read and are very entertaining and informative!

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists

Gives you the backstories of the hated Dolores Umbridge, Professors Slughorn and Quirrell, as well as a history of the Ministers of Magic, Azkaban, Potions and Polyjuice and everyone’s favorite poltergeist – Peeves!!!!

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies

Again, took less than an hour to read.  Find out about the pasts of Minerva McGonagall, the beloved Remus Lupin, the less than blessed Professor Trelawney, and the previous Game Keeper Kettleburn.  Now we know why Hagrid had to take over for him…

Hogwarts An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

This book was a lot of fun.  Once again, less than an hour to read, but you learn the history of Platform 9 3/4, the Sorting Hat, the Sword of Godric Gryffindor, as well as more of the secrets of the castle.

I am very happy to have these glimpses into some of my favorite places and people in the Wizarding World and hope that Ms. Rowling produces more of these short story collections in the future!  And at $2.99 each (they are only available electronically right now), you can’t go wrong.