Category Archives: Cover Love

Six sensational recent reads

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present to a room of librarian colleagues (and a few teachers thrown in for good measure) about the hottest books for 2017 while reviewing some of the best from 2016. But what have I read recently? A lot. But not everything was a home run, so I’m picking through the trash to get to the treasures.

  1. When Breath Becomes Air by Kalanithi
    • An insightful and introspective approach to science and facing death from a doctor experiencing the end to his own short life.
  2. Geekerella by Poston
    • A quirky retake on Cinderella with a Con, a pumpkin food truck, evil twin stepsisters, and one spunky Elle.
  3. The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Sandler
    • Who doesn’t want to find treasure, especially when it unlocks secrets of the past. But it’s significance is in Sandler’s approach which is to demystify pirates and change the bad reputation they have earned that is uncalled for.
  4. The Takedown by Wang
    • Attempting to take down a vile post on the internet isn’t an easy feat, but Kyla is ready for the challenge and has the guts to see it through even when it’s not pretty.
  5. Saints and Misfits by Ali
    • With a rich voice, Janna details those that are saints, misfits (like herself), and saints like others through her eyes as a Muslim teenager where her actions must match her beliefs.
  6. The Book of Chocolate: The Amazing Story of the World’s Favorite Candy by Newquist
    • Who doesn’t love chocolate? The depth and breadth of this book is its strength, learning about the rivalries, chocolate during wartime, and the history of what was really a drink became the world’s favorite candy.

Seven days & counting

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A heroine with a deadline. I can definitely relate since I’m recovering from an extremely busy October where I took hold of the motto that you’ve got three choices: give in, give up, or give it all you’ve got. I got through October and Mara needs to figure out who is killing her friends and fellow freeks from the traveling circus that has been her and her mother’s livelihood. They’ve settled in Caudry and at an innocent party, Mara meets Gabe and things change.

Memorable character: For me it was Mara, a girl on a tight timeline to be able to get a hold of her powers in order to save those that she loves.What’s more endearing.

Memorable scene: Really it was the entire atmosphere of the story, not a particular scene that drives Freeks. With the resurgence of the 80s, especially after the release of season one of Stranger Things coupled with American Horror Story doing a sideshow-themed season a few years back, this is a time and ambiance that readers want to go back to. For teen readers it’s to understand and learn, for adult readers of YA, a time to reminisce. Hocking works the setting into each situation that vividly captures the imagination.

Memorable quote: It’s also this carnival world that endears readers and fears for the freeks’ lives. And who better to sum up the desperate need to catch this predator than Gideon, who also selflessly expresses why readers want to see Mara succeed when they hatch a plot to kill it. “A creature like this doesn’t just go away. We can’t run from it, and even if we can, that only means that it will harm others. I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to protect those that society forgot or threw away. I can’t just leave this thing running loose to kill anything it wants.”

Boy, don’t you hope that with as little carnage as possible they catch this beast and put an end to the suffering? With romantic overtones that provide some necessary distraction, the book is a story about family: a family that travels in a circus together and wants to live and co-exist, love and laugh like everyone else.

This is advised for lovers of carnival culture, readers that have enjoyed Hockings’ other series that include Watersong and Trylle, and anyone who roots for the heroine to come out on top even when the *ahem* cards are stacked against her.



Book hug


I had an experience when I read Page by Paige, the graphic novel by Laura Lee Gulledge. It’s one of those books that I was reading, then looked up to realize no one was experiencing the euphoria I was feeling at that moment. It was the beautiful illustrations and the perfect encapsulation of every introverted, self-doubting girl (read: basically every girl that has ever gone through puberty). And oftentimes it wasn’t the words but how the illustrations and words connected with each other that made me hug the book when I was finished: and hugged like the best friend you haven’t seen in a year.

2016-12-09-20-04-47Memorable character: Unequivocally Paige. She is the star of the show and the title character and it wouldn’t be the book about her battle with herself, being in her head, being her every single moment of every single day. Her emotions pour out on the page through the skilled hand of Gulledge to create pages like the ones included through this post. She’s someone who is growing and maturing and reflecting, even when it’s difficult. See all of her huddled around her head? (Don’t mind all of the post-it’s sticking out of the side. We’ll get to some of the others in a moment…

Memorable quote: It wasn’t so much what she said or was thinking, but the collision of 2016-12-09-20-04-59“notice me” in her eyes when she happened upon her love interest. Everyone who has begun to fall in love has felt this way, yes? The perfect marriage of creativity and empathy for Paige.

Memorable scene: Her taking the plunge. Ready to move forward even with her self-doubt, even after confronting her mother, worried about her continued relationship, being sure she remains true to herself, being a good friend, putting her artwork out there, being vulnerable. It’s the plunge that made readers love Paige even more than we already had. She speaks to everyone and it doesn’t have to be “as a girl”, but really every teenage experience feels the same way be it in love, artistic or academic expression, in relationships with family. 2016-12-09-20-06-30Gulledge succinctly interweaves this fear when she’s holding her heart in her hands hoping not to step on the hundreds of banana peels that litter the floor.

My appreciation for this book is the same giddy happiness I had when I finished Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh. Classically executed with readable font, mesmerizing illustrations, likable characters with the right amount of unselfish vulnerability inside of a great story. If it’s been sitting on the shelf since it’s 2011 publication date without a lot of movement, dust it off and put it on the top of the shelf. If it’s not in the collection, purchase it. If you have a teenage girl to buy for for Christmas, you’re done– wrap this one in a ribbon and bow– that’s just my advice! But seriously, go out and cuddle up with it next to a fire and live or re-live those years of epic self-doubt ruled the psyche.




R+J reboot

Coming in 2017 is a beauty that re-imagines Romeo and Juliet as Ronit and Jamil. Ronit is an Israeli girl and Jamil is a Palestinian boy whose fate is determined by their families, not by free will, until it isn’t any more and they fight their way to each other. The lovely cover art tells this story.

ronitjamilMemorable character: Clearly you cannot separate our two main characters who are fighting passionately for one another when all others would tell them to quit. They both speak eloquently through Laskin’s gorgeous  poetry, told alternately between the two.

Memorable scene: How can it not be the ending? Will they make it or won’t they make it? The conversations around what is, what could be, and what every reader hopes will happen make it just as complex as Shakespeare’s play. But what kind of blogger would I be if I spoiled it?

Memorable quote: There were so many I highlighted as I read the advance copy via Netgalley but this one showcases the connection Ronit and Jamil feel for one another and that the richness of Laskin’s language, the maturity of the characters, and the electricity of their political, familial, and religious situation is not PG. “My head says / this is dangerous territory, / yet each night / the cloud of my pillow / takes us to a place / where your eyes and mouth / invite me / for supper, / so I stay / not away / my sister / friend / lover”.

Just as any reboot has done from Walter Dean Myers’ Street Love to Sharon Draper’s Romiette and Julio, it’s advised to add several copies both to compile read-alikes to Shakespeare’s plays but also to add diversity to experiences as this does.


Six sensational dark tales

Having just finished Mindy McGinnis’ The Female of the Species, I reflected on my love for dark stories. Not horror stories per se with witches, vampires, or zombies, but dark in mood with tragic happenings to characters and their responses to the situations. So, let me highlight six of my favorite.

  1. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis– This one features Alex who knows the “language of violence”. She seeks retribution for the murderer of her sister, men who are sexually preying on her classmates, and ultimately displays little reaction or emotion to avenging these wrongs.
  2. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick– The master at dark and twisty tales demonstrates his master storytelling with an intelligent tale of human sacrifices all revolving around an island and through time.
  3. Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty– She packs a punch in a short amount of time balancing good and evil with ethics and exploration of what “could be” using literal dolls to… wait, I can’t tell you because that would be a spoiler. A must read for those with imaginations.
  4. Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by Stephanie Hemphill– This look at the tragic life of Mary Shelley is the combination of beautiful verse and the sadness of losing multiple children combined with her tumultuous relationship with Percy that bred her writing of Frankenstein.
  5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge– I can’t get the image of Nyx being locked in the room only to discover what was in it. The cruel Ignifix, Beast to her Beauty in this retelling is full of creepy subplots to keep interest.
  6. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann– A collection of fifty poems that poetically “attack the beauty myth” are for mature audiences looking for a fresh but raw perspective of fairy tales.

Late nights

There are nights when my head hits the pillow and I realize there’s just too much in my head to be able to fall asleep. My cure? A bath and a book. So I grabbed Ransom Rigg’s Tales of the Peculiar with it’s beautifully lush green cover gilded with gold vine. There’s just something about it. Then there’s the amiable “historian” of the peculiars, Millard Nullings, Esq., EdD, MBCh. who is compiles the tales of the peculiars. I can only hope this is the first installment.

Memorable character: Each short story brings its own set of unique characters but the tale of “The First Ymbryne” is an absolute favorite that opens with “The first ymbryne wasn’t a woman who could turn herself into a bird, but a bird who could turn herself in a woman”. It brought me back to all that I loved about Rigg’s first installment of his series and meeting Miss Peregrine herself. And meeting Ymeene is no different. Strong and fearless.

Memorable scene: In “The Woman Who Befriended Ghosts” the reunion of Hildy’s dead family with her living family is the penultimate beauty of both the creepiness of the story of a girl who could see ghosts and the themes of family (through blood or loyalty) throughout his series and this book of tales.

Memorable quote: The humor of each tale lies in the narrators nonchalance. Take for example the case of the cannibals descending upon villagers. “He went on to reassure the shocked villagers that they were civilized cannibals and never killed innocent people. They, and others like them, had worked out an arrangement with the king by which they agreed never to kidnap and eat people against their will, and in turn they were allowed to purchase, at terrific expense, the severed limbs of accident victims and the bodies of hanged criminals. This comprised the entirety of their diet.”

I advise that anyone who became obsessed with Rigg’s genius in his Peculiar series pick up this book immediately and face it OUT to admire the cover, but even those that haven’t been entangled in the world of peculiars can still appreciate the creativity in this handsome collection. More, we want more!


How to put this into words

girlinthebluecoatI usually have to distance myself by a day or two after finishing an amazing book and truly being able to write about it. Haven’t we all been there where we close a book and stare at the cover thinking about all the ways we were moved by it and how it will affect our world view? Monica Hesse’s Girl in the Blue Coat is one of those books. You can read an article written by Alexandra Alter for the New York Times who I had the pleasure of talking to based on my love for Ruta Sepetys’ works. You’ll have already guessed that John Boyne’s The Boy at the Top of the Mountain is in my pile to read after being blown away years ago by The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

But back to Hesse’s Girl in the Blue Coat, a multi-layered masterpiece of action, intrigue, history, and character.Each character introduced is richly imagined and even those with smaller parts are just as integral. It’s the power of Hesse’s descriptions and situations. Bas is never alive in the story but he is ever-present throughout and I would recognize him anywhere. Hanneke runs errands on the black market in Amsterdam. She is uniquely positioned with a real job in a morgue that supports her family, but allows her access around the city to get items for those who want them, however illegal. But it’s Hanneke’s new mission, and her reluctance at first to accept it, that is the problem. She must find Mirjam, who mysteriously vanished from a hideout at the request of her sympathizer. And in this quest, Hanneke is opened up to the underground world working against the German occupation in the Netherlands of which she was only a small part before.

Memorable character: This is a hard choice as I already mentioned, but let’s talk about Ollie. The brother of Hanneke’s dead beau who is an academic working for the underground and reveals himself as gay to Hanneke late in the book. He has as much to fear about his sexuality and persecution as he does from working against the occupation, but it’s his cunning especially when he brings Hanneke in to the fold that shows his brilliance but also his pain. After all, he did lose his brother to the war effort as much as Hanneke lost her boyfriend, but he didn’t rip up the “goodbye” letter like she did.

Memorable scene: Hanneke must grow up sooner and nothing showcases her growing frustration at discovering the dark side of war than when she finally unleashes unpleasantness toward her family. “I forbid you to leave this house again. You are still my child, Hannie.” “Oh Mama, I’m not your child.. I bring the money into the house. I buy the groceries, run all the errands. Mama, I’m the one who takes care of you.” “The daughter I know never would have spoken to me this way.” “That daughter doesn’t exist anymore… She is gone, and she’s never coming back.” I can hear her mother’s heartbreaking along with Hanneke’s. No one wants this.

Memorable quote: How do I pick one, especially with scenes like the one above? I have twenty five highlighted passages and several bookmarked pages that shocked, scared, saddened, and infuriated me. But, nothing is as unsettling as Hanneke’s visit to the Schouwburg and the subsequent answer to the smells after leaving in addition to the death and sickness- “Fear. That’s right. That was the odor I couldn’t place before. That’s the smell of my beautiful, breaking country.”

I advise anyone with a love of World War II historical fiction to put this on their list immediately. It’s the right mix of lawlessness and sabotage, mystery and guilt, with characters willing to take chances. The twists are well worth the wait, but each turn is beautiful with Hesse’s steady hand.

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Posted by on September 11, 2016 in Cover Love, Fiction, Young Adult