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Saturday, June 27, 2015

REVIEW: The Anatomy of Curiosity

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Having read quite a bit YA fiction, I can undoubtedly say that Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff are two of the most talented and unique among a sea of other writers.  I am less familiar with Tessa Gratton; however, she has now made it to the top of "to-read" list based on this anthology's science fiction fantasy short story.

What is truly unique about this volume is its purpose and structure.  Not only do Stiefvater, Gratton and Yovanoff offer up three well-written and thought provoking stories, but each also includes insightful commentary and footnotes about the writing process. As a former writing teacher and a teen librarian who hold regular teen writing opportunities, this is a fantastic resource for myself and other writers.  What's better than accomplished authors actually leading readers and other writers through their process?

Stiefvater begins with an introduction about writing based on characterization. The story which follows illustrates how powerful a character driven piece can be for readers. Set in Brooklyn, Petra embarks on a strange and curious journey--learning how to be 'lady-like', the importance of context, and to speak her mind--all from a curious tutor who is much more than she seems.

Within Part II, Gratton emphasizes the importance of details when world-building.  In this science fiction story, a faraway land is immersed in a brutal war. A young soldier in the desert has to learn how to do his duty but also learn who is really is as he struggles with love and acceptance.

Yovanoff closes Part III with a discussion of reoccurring ideas and themes.  Her focus is drowning and from there she crafts the beginnings of several haunting interrelated stories.

I definitely recommend this be added to school and public library collections.  If you are a writer and know others who write and would like to improve their skills by learning from others, then this a stellar anthology. If you are just a fan of Stiefvater, Gratton, and or Yovanoff, then you will enjoy it as well!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the authors on Twitter: @brennayovanoff @mstiefvater@tessagratton

#review #writing #YAlit #curiosity #netgalley

Monday, June 22, 2015

REVIEW: The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige

The Wicked Will Rise is the much anticipated sequel to Danielle Paige's 2014 release Dorothy Must Die. Modern teenager,  Amy Plum, still finds herself very much stuck in Oz amidst a power struggle of epic proportions.  SPOILER ALERT!

The end of the previous book left readers in the lurch.  After magic bootcamp, Amy can wield enough mojo to join the team as they attempt to defeat Dorothy in the Emerald City.  Of course, things do not always go as planned.  While Amy does kill the Tinman, everything else goes to hell in a hand-basket.

Book two begins with Amy separated from her allies, questioning herself, and in as much danger as ever.  Throw in two formerly winged monkeys, the crazier than a loon, Ozma--rightful leader of Oz-- and being on Dorothy's and Glinda's most wanted list. Reader's won't be disappointed with the new set of adventures in store for the sarcastic, moody, and yet likeably vulnerable heroine.

Major highlights include Lulu, the Monkey Queen and former 'nanny' to Ozma.  She is a delightful character.  Lulu is hilarious--especially the Judge Judy bit--but also heartbreaking in her guilt she feels for abandoning Ozma when she needed her the most.  Never fear readers! Lulu has a great moment of redemption. I enjoyed the Island of Lost Things as well as the land 'over' the rainbow full of hippies.

Key themes emerge early on--namely, that immense power ultimately has the potential to corrupt. Amy gets of taste of this and has to struggle with the consequences--it remains to be seen just how all of this will pan out.  There are certainly the ever present themes of love, trust and friendship but also those essential to the Oz legacy: a brain, a heart, a home, and the nerve.

I really enjoyed this book. Paige has done a fantastic job with reinventing our notions of Oz while keeping the integrity of the original novels and its significance to cinematic and popular culture. The novel is timely with respect to the types of twisted YA fairy tales popular with readers today. Not only is this well written with a mix of humor, romance and adventure but The Wicked Will Rise is also deliciously dark. I can almost imagine a Tim Burton transformation.

Overall, I was aghast at the cliffhanger and cannot wait until the next installment is published. I recommend this for lovers of twisted fairy tales or fantasy reads.  If you liked these, try Spelled by Betsy Schow and the Splintered series by A.G. Howard.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @daniellempaige

#dorothymustdie #wickedwillrise #wizardofoz #YAlit #review

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

REVIEW: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Nowhere But Here marks the beginning of McGarry's Thunder Road YA (new adult light) series.  Set in Snowflake, Kentucky, readers become immersed in the mysterious life of motorcycle club the Reign of Terror.  Eighteen year old Oz has only ever wanted on thing--to join the Terror. He's waited and his chance at becoming a club prospect is in sight; however, the arrival of Emily, the estranged and sheltered daughter of one of the club's most respected members, changes everything.

Emily has grown up sheltered and privileged in Florida.  She is doted on by her mother and adopted father. Any contact with her biological father, Eli, has happened on annual visits in the past seven years. While she is curious about this unknown part of her heritage, the stories she's been told about Eli's abandonment of her mother and herself mean Emily wants little to do with him.

All of this changes when an unforeseen event summons Emily to Snowflake, but more is at stake than just meeting her long lost family.  Instead, Emily's safety is at risk when a rival motorcycle club, The Riot, learn of her existence and threaten to use her as a pawn in an ongoing war between the two gangs. Sparks fly and love blossoms when Eli tasks Oz to protect his daughter at any cost. Throughout her extended summer stay, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems.  As Emily's feelings for Oz grow and she bonds with Eli's family, she uncovers secrets from the past that shock her to her core and will forever change her future.

I'm a huge Katie McGarry fan, having met her twice and worked with her when she Skyped with my library's Teen Writing Group.  This was a long awaited release for me and I was not disappointed. This novel is edgy and fast paced.  McGarry's research into motorcycle life is poignant and allows for truly authentic and purposeful writing depicting this lifestyle.  One constructive criticism, if any, was that there where instances where the pacing and transitions felt choppy, as if the progression of time throughout the depicted summer could have been smoother.

As always, I am a lover of the author's romantic couples, Oz and Emily are no exception.  Oz is dangerous and devastatingly handsome but also intelligent, gentle and kind. The bad boy with a heart of gold and super sexy to boot! At first, I didn't care for Emily; however, I grew to like her more as she matured, conquered her fears, and learned to expand her acceptance of the truth and its impact on her beliefs. What I always like about McGarry's romances is the realistic connection between characters, the development of the relationship and her ability to write sexy, emotionally charged yet YA appropriate scenes.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Follow the author on Twitter: @KatieMcGarry

#review #netgalley #thunderroad #YAlit #teen #romance

Sunday, June 14, 2015

PROGRAM: Mask Making

Summer reading is in full swing.  While many of us are embarking on week 3 of summer fun, I thought I'd share the results of our Mask Making kick-off event. If you want more details on how I planned this event, check my previous post here.

The photos only partly do these justice. The feathered creation in the top left corner was stunning!

Love all of these but the bottom left was like a glitter bomb exploded!!

The anime bunny mask was a personal favorite, but I loved the cut out mask on the top right!

#unmask #SummerReading #craft #teen

Saturday, June 13, 2015

REVIEW: Spelled by Betsy Schow

A big thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book!  

Never judge a book but the cover, unless you do!  What first peaked my interest was seeing this cover on Netgalley.  The mirror, smoke, lettering and of course, THE SHOES, immediately grabbed my attention.  I've shared by obsession with the Wizard of Oz so it is only natural that such a cover with dazzling, sparkly high heels mystified me at first sight. The best surprise was that the story lived up to my high expectations.

When I read the blurb--A seriously princed-out Princess Dorothea, wants nothing more than to escape a curse, her overprotective parents and the Emerald Palace to embark on adventures of her own--I knew that I just had to read this book.  What follows is a twisted fairy tale which plays homage not only to the Wizard of Oz but also masterfully and humorously weaves other popular tales into the plot.

The descriptive writing is sound, filling the plot with imaginative twists and turns. The dialogue is fantastic! I loved the characters as well. Dorothea aka Dot is smart and sassy.  Her development as a character throughout the story is believable. She learns some valuable lessons in the process but remains snarky, relateable and fun. Kato is a swoon worthy love interest.  I loved the love/hate tension filled relationship which develops into more but with an edge of humor.

Overall, I found this to be a stellar debut in what I hope will be a promising series.  Personally, I liked the ending.  As a reader, I can imagine where Schow is headed with future books and I cannot wait to meet these characters again. This is a definite must read for fans of twisted fairy tales and authors Marissa Meyer, Alex Flynn, or Sarah Cross as well as if readers loved the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige or the Splintered series by A.G. Howard.

Follow the author on Twitter: @BetsySchow

#spelled #netgalley #review #yalit  #TeenRead #twistedfairytale

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

REVIEW: Ensnared by A.G. Howard

Ensnared marks the finale to A. G. Howard's Splintered trilogy, a lush, dark winding urban fantasy foray into Alice in Wonderland.  Alyssa must again battle Red and other foes when she travels to AnyElsewhere in order to save her dueling loves, Jeb and Morpheus, following the disastrous outcome of events in Unhinged. However, such a task is but the tip of the iceberg as Alyssa must also devise a plan to save Wonderland from utter destruction, repair her love life and truly accept her role as the Red Queen.

I won't bore you with a long winded summary. Check out the Ensnared summary on Goodreads for more details. What I will elaborate upon is how much I adore this series.  Those closest to me know there are no two classic tales closer to my heart that The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. I love all pop culture references, book, film, and television adaptations, and I am an avid collector. That being said, Howard has captured what a modern retelling of Wonderland should be. Alyssa is a admirable female protagonist whose journey will compel readers of any age with her personality, snark, strength and even occasional vulnerability.

As a prolific reader and lover of writing in general, I cannot gush enough regarding Howard's vivid world-building. The intrinsic themes of creativity and imagination, which are imperative behind any incarnation of Wonderland, is finessed in such a way through Howard's words that reader's are literally 'ensnared' by these beautifully crafted, often haunted, and utterly unique descriptions. The adventurous plot, memorable characters, and truly swoon worthy love interests make for a delicious read. While typically a speed reader, I took my time to savor each bit.

I am so sad to see this series come to an end; however, a bonus for series fans is Untamed, a collection of three novellas set in the Splintered world and revolving around all of our favorite characters will be published in late 2015. I can't wait!  In true fashion, Amulet Books has done an amazing job with the cover art. Check it out!

Check out the author on Twitter: @aghowardwrites

#splintered #unhinged #ensnared #YAlit #review #teen  #aliceinwonderland

Monday, June 1, 2015

Happy Monday.....Let Summer Reading Commence!!!!


I wish you all a very successful first official week of summer reading.  May the programs be well attended and may you keep your sanity intact! My first program is 'mask making' on Tuesday.  I'm excited and will post pictures as soon as it is done.

Until then...

#monday #SummerReading #teen #programs #unmask #yalit #librarylife #books #reading