Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

Cover

This book was seriously bad-freakin’-ass. I got it as an advanced copy, so this one will be released at the end of the month.

Release Date:

March 30, 2015

Plot:

Stephen and his dad just moved back to Spencer, Michigan. They’re moving in with his grandma, and she’s reveling in the fact that Stephen’s mom isn’t with them because she was institutionalized. Soon after, Stephen meets Cara (hot goth chick) and her twin brother, Devon, who also have a crazy mother. What a coincidence! But when Devon invites Stephen to a Revel at the Playground (the local cemetery) he starts to realize something sinister might be afoot.

Verdict:

Wow. I can honestly say that this book reminded me of The Raven Boys meets a small-town urban myth. Very interesting. If you’re into dark cult material, this is your book!

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Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

I received this advanced copy during ALA’s Midwinter conference in sunny Chicago, IL! (Note: It was not sunny. This was the weekend of the blizzard).

Conviction cover

Ok so I’m not gonna lie, I was skeptical about this book. Most of the Disney/Hyperion books I read and love are fantasy and Conviction has it’s feet firmly planted in the crime genre of realistic fiction.

How I love to be pleasantly surprised. I was so impressed with this book. The duality of the title comes in when Braden’s TV pastor dad is arrested for homicide. You see, there’s a cop that had it out for Braden’s dad for months. And now he’s dead. Vehicular manslaughter at the hands of Braden’s dad. While Braden is in the car.

Enter: Trey (the older brother/chef from New York that moved out of his dad’s house without notice soon after high school graduation). Now Trey’s broody self refuses to talk to or support Braden in any way besides being an adult body in the house, thus preventing CPS from taking Braden away. On top of baseball, Braden has to deal with his father’s upcoming trial where his testimony will be key in the defense. All the while, Braden is struggling with his own faith (his “conviction,” if you will. Get it? Get it?!)

This was a heartbreaking read. By the end, the pace was kind of breakneck. I read the last 100 pages or so in 45 minutes, biting my nails the whole time. Can’t say enough good things.

Cinder

I started reading this series for my GSLIS Young Adult Literature class, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I love, love, love fairy tales. And there has never been a story more beloved and retold than the classic underdog story of “Cinderella.” It’s told in every culture. It’s been retold in some of our favorite adventure stories (Harry Potter, anyone?) and yet it’s never been retold with such a Science Fiction twist.

So yeah, when I started reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer I was a bit skeptical. I know this story could get me on the protagonist’s side like no other or I could really not like the way this book takes place in a futuristic society. I really loved it, though. I just finished Scarlet, which features Cinder and Emperor Kai along with Wolf and Scarlet, who are loosely based on the classic “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Plot:

Cinder CoverThis book takes place in New Beijing in a completely new era, where cyborgs (humans that have been modified with robot parts for medical purposes) are marginalized and spit on by society. Enter Cinder, a part-cyborg who’s only friends in the world are her adopted sister, Peony and a robot named Iko who she works with in her family’s mechanic shop. One day, Peony comes down with the plague, a disease that has been rampant in the Eastern Empire for decades. It is the same disease that has the current emperor in the hospital.

So imagine Cinder’s surprise when Prince Kai shows up in her mechanic’s shop (in a disguise, of course. He is the prince of everyone’s dreams) with a robot in desperate need of repair. Kai tries to woo Cinder but is unsuccessful at first. Eventually he asks her to the ball to which Cinder has been specifically banned by her stepmother from attending.

How will Cinder deal with Peony’s death? Will the emperor formerly known as Prince ever find out the truth about Cinder? Why does Cinder black out when she sees the Lunar visitors who have come to Earth in want of peace?

Read Marissa Meyer’s Cinder to find out.

Subject Headings:

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, cyborg

Appeal:

compelling, bleak, chilling, gritty, suspenseful, romantic, eccentric characters, recognizable characters, action-oriented, layered, open-ended, plot twists, futuristic, urban, accessible, engaging, vivid.

Favorite Quotes:

“Even in the Future the story begins with ‘Once Upon A Time.'”

“I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”

The Diviners (part 1)

It’s not often that I stumble upon a 15-CD audiobook and think, “yes Margaux! Brilliant! You have the time and patience for this!” but for some unknown reason I did this time. I was at the library looking for our hard copy of The Diviners by Libba Bray (let us all bask in the glory that is that woman’s name for just a moment…… okay done) to no avail. I’m convinced someone was reading it IN THE LIBRARY that day.

Anyways I hunched my shoulders in mock-disappointment over the text version and as I walked past our audio section and saw that we had it on CD. I’d read in School Library Journal that the audio was one of the best of 2013 so I gave it a shot.

I find myself listening to it in the car and wishing that I had the sultry voice of Theta and could jaunt around New York City unnoticed like Sam. The characters are so well-drawn in this book and I really think the audio does it justice. If you need me at any time in the next few weeks, you’ll find me on the couch with a cup of coffee listening to The Diviners in the glow of my Christmas tree.

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & ParkI was told by an annoying person to read Eleanor & Park a few months back. This was way way back in the summer when I had just signed up for my Young Adult Literature class. I was dreading it (and reading YA Lit) because I knew the average near the end of the semester (where we are right now) was about six books a week. So as you do with annoying people, you ignore the advice. What a mistake. I read the book about two months ago now and since then I’ve also read FangirlRainbow Rowell‘s other book, and I’ve fallen in love.

There are those that attempt to write realistic teen romance. And then there is Rainbow Rowell (the link above is to her beautiful blog which is updated on the reg) who simply makes everyone else’s attempts look like fingerprinting next to the Sistine Chapel.

Plot

Eleanor is not your typical manic pixie girl heroine. In fact, she doesn’t fancy herself a hero at all. Her mother and abusive stepdad are finally letting her move back in with them after they kicked her out. So all Eleanor wants to do is blend in. She wants to disappear. She gets on the bus and sits next to a skinny Asian boy.

Park sees Eleanor get on the bus. She’s dressed like a crazy person–her bright red, curly hair is accentuated by her bigger-than-average size, bright clothing, copious accessories and “don’t fuck with me” attitude. Nobody wants her to sit next to them. It’s half-way through the semester and everyone has already claimed their regular seat. But when people start to laugh, park moves his backpack–the universal non-verbal signal for “if you must.”

Fast forward to a few weeks later. Park reads his comics on the bus every day and has started to notice that Eleanor reads over his shoulder. He starts to bring the early Watchmen comics for her to read on her own. How can he know that this is the only kindness she’s been shown in weeks?

This book is pretty heavy, guys. When I say her stepfather is abusive, what I mean to say is that Eleanor is afraid to shower when he’s around because she’s worried he’ll harass her for her size–or worse–try to touch her. She sometimes doesn’t have the means to wash her clothes. And when she finally does see her biological father (yes, that’s right, he’s not dead), she ends up stealing a toothbrush from his house because she can’t afford one.

This was one of those books where 23-year-old Margaux is saying “WHERE THE HELL ARE THE RESPONSIBLE ADULTS?! THE PARENTS?!” I just want to give Eleanor a hug. I also want to give park a fist-bump because he basically found his soul-mate at 16. And I’m not ruining anything when I say that, don’t worry.

Subject Headings

Throwback, teen romance, family issues, bullying

Appeal

Compelling, densely written, relentless, bittersweet, bleak, poignant, moving, sympathetic protagonists, dramatic characters, multiple points of view, authentic, character-centered, accurate, detailed setting, candid.

Favorite Quotes

“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

The Coldest Girl in Cold Town

Coldest Girl in Cold TownI realize I won the geographical the jackpot, growing up in the Chicago suburbs, living in a village just outside of the city. I have access to Chicago’s finest and I (generally) don’t have to deal with terrible, awful traffic. One of the other plusses: I have access to great, beautiful, awesome bookstores. It’s like Candy Land–and not the Django kind. There’s libraries where I vet my books (and let’s face it, serve the more wealthy of Chicago’s suburbanites) and then there’s bookstores where I buy my stash. I’m a book junkie. I have too many books. I can’t part with them. Someday, I’ll have piles and piles of books all over my house and Hoarderswill have to come and dig out my cat from under a pile of Penguin Classics.

Now back to this book. I went to Anderson’s Bookshop to pick up my new copy. Now, don’t be jealous, but it’s totally autographed. I’m such a fangirl. I was just telling a friend about it tonight and literally started squealing like a teenager. I ended up finishing The Coldest Girl in Coldtown in about a day and a half, & reading it just made me want to re-read everything else of Holly Black‘s because she’s just so dark and romantic. She has this way of throwing fairytale creatures (fairies, changelings, demons, vampires) into the modern world. I think reading Tithe, Valiant and Ironside as a teenager is what gave me my dark, morbid, and at times very charming sense of humor.

Plot

17-year-old Tana wakes up in a bathtub. No joke. She was at a party the night before, she remembers going to the bathroom, but she doesn’t remember laying down in the tub and she sure as hell has no idea how her dress got all messed up. She walks around the house and starts seeing bodies. Where is her ex, Aiden? Wasn’t he there at the party? She realizes quickly that what she’s seeing is the aftermath of a vampire attack (they probably escaped the ghettos scattered throughout the country called “Coldtowns”). As quietly as possible, Tana makes her way to the bedroom where she left her purse the night before and sees Aiden tied to the bed… Alive. 

That’s also the first time she sees him. Gavriel. He’s as handsome as he is truly terrifying.

After throwing together a shoddy rescue, the trio make their way to the nearest Coldtown because Aiden is infected and Gavriel is… well… a vampire. Little does Tana know that Gavriel has revenge on his mind and only the death of his enemy will slake his bloodlust (although he does try draining every human Tana will let him near). He’s killed several people along the way and it terrifies her (which is a nice change, don’t you think, from the star-crossed lovers you’re always reading in YA novels) while at the same time mesmerizes her.

Per usual, Black does a beautiful job melding the modern world with the classic dark vampire motif that’s all over YA lit today. There is real violence in several passages (and I say this having read all of Anne Rice‘s works) and definite sexual tension that only YA novels can create. It’s a totally new universe where reality TV is usually streaming directly from one of the U.S.’s coldtowns. Will Tanna become a vampire? Will her family ever be whole again? Will Gavriel exact his revenge? Read Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown to find out.

Subject Headings

Paranormal Romance, Vampires, Fantasy, Young Adult, Modern

Appeal

Compelling, haunting, foreboding, gritty, hard-edged, sarcastic, romantic, provocative, vivid characters, flawed characters, episodic, open-ended, graphic violence, urban, contemporary, polished, lyrical.

Favorite Quotes

“If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then surely you should be friend to my friend.” (Gavriel page 316).

“You are more dangerous than daybreak” (Gavriel page 160).

Winger

Winger: Andrew SmithFor my Young Adult Literature class, we’re doing “Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll” as our topic this week. I picked Winger up from the library I work at about a week and a half ago and decided this would be the first book I read for this week’s class because of the cover alone. Look at it: It’s so stark and somehow reminds me of an Instagram shot this kid would have taken for his friends. The whole book jacket is amazing; the back is a sketch (presumably done by Ryan Dean–similar to the style of the ones throughout the entire novel–of the front cover image. It’s a mirror image cartoon. Bloody brilliant. I love the advertising and planning that had to have gone into making the cover for Winger.

Plot

Ryan Dean West is a 14-year-old Junior at Pine Mountain boarding school (it’s got boys and girls in it). He’s been placed in “Opportunity Hall” or “O-Hall” for bad behavior, meaning his friends aren’t going to be in his dorm. He struggles with bullying, and being seen as a child. He’s a 14-year-old boy. So (obviously) there’s this girl… Annie. A brilliant character to play opposite Ryan Dean. His nickname is “Winger” because that’s the position he plays on the rugby team. The team captain is Joey (he has no nickname because Joey is already short enough) who is the only openly gay student at PM.

Enter the Halloween Dance–that pivotal night. JP, Winger’s best friend prior to Junior year, asks Annie to the dance. What a traitor. Seanie, JP’s roommate, thinks Winger is overreacting. Joey, Winger’s new best friend thinks Winger should have grown a pair and asked Annie before anyone else could have. Winger thinks JP deserves a punch in the face.

This book reads like the tried and true thoughts of an adolescent boy–lots of sarcasm, attitude, humor, & regret. However, the ending has a tragic twist. Will Annie ever see Winger as anyone but her “adorable” best friend? Will JP and Winger reconcile? WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END? Read and find out, buddies.

Subject Headings

Young Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Humor, Tragedy, Young Love, Boarding School

Appeal

compelling, steady, easy, candid, darker, hopeful, gritty, foreboding, introspective, moving, playful, poignant, stark, unpretentious, detailed characters, eccentric, sympathetic characters, strong secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, issue-oriented, twists, strong language, rural, small-town, stark, contemporary, unembellished, vivid, witty.