In the Afterlight: Launch Recap and Why I Love this Series

This week was pretty exciting for me as a reader for a couple reasons (one which I won’t talk about here is that I received an advanced copy of a book I’m super excited about). The main reason for all of this excitement is that it was the release week for In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken.

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On Tuesday night Nicole and I headed over to Books of Wonder to attend the launch party for In the Afterlight. (We were both so excited we planned our schedules so we could leave work early to arrive in time to get good seats!)

The event itself was a delight. Alex and her editor Emily Meehan talked a bit about the series before fielding questions from the audience. At the event we learned a bit about Alex’s writing process (packing everything into the final half of the story!) as well as what revisions looked like.We also heard about the inspiration behind this series–the characters came to Alex almost fully formed which was a first, she said.

The audience also got to see some mock-ups of covers for In the Afterlight which was really interesting. Many of the rejected covers looked similar to covers for other books while the final cover for this book looked more unique. (Also if you get a hardcover be sure to look inside the dust jacket!)

The Q & A session was also pretty cool as Alex revealed a little bit about how the final colors and powers in the books were chosen as well as a bit about the names of the Orange characters. (There is a push and pull between Reds and Oranges throughout in terms of who might actually be the most dangerous.)

By the end of the launch, I was even more excited about reading the conclusion to this series.

After the discussion and the Q & A, Alex was on hand to sign books (of course).

It didn’t really hit me until I was on line and talking with Alex, but this series has been hugely important to me as a reader and a blogger so it’s very, very strange to think that when I finish reading this final book, it will be over.

My interactions with this series started back in 2011 when Nicole and I headed to our first BEA. The day was great but planning wise it was kind of a mess because it’s hard to know how to plan for a thing you’ve never previously attended. That said, we stumbled across a lot of great signings including Alexandra Bracken signing paperback copies of her first novel Brightly Woven. I had been hearing about this book a lot because 2010 was the year of tapestry-centric fantasies. I was taken with the cover. And, when I was a Cybils judge in 2010, I thought it might be a book I’d end up reading for the shortlist. That didn’t end up happening and somehow it was still unread by the time BEA 2011 rolled around.

Needless to say I was very excited to see Alex was still signing. I started reading Brightly Woven three days after BEA 2011 (it was the second book I read from those acquired at BEA) and was completely charmed. Soon after I found Alex on twitter and started following her social media where, eventually, she started talking about her new book which she was then calling Black is the Color.

It’s a weird thing to be excited about a book not just before it’s published but before it’s even finished. But that’s how it was for The Darkest Minds. So eager was I for this title, that it became a key factor in planning for BEA 2012. As soon as I knew Alex would be signing again, I knew I had to be there. While getting an ARC from Alex I told her I had been following the book’s progress since it was called Black is the Color and that I couldn’t wait to read it. In fact, I started this book almost as soon as I left the convention center on the final day of BEA. It completely lived up to my extremely high expectations.

Victory! This was my first BEA read and it was SO. Good. I am already eagerly waiting for the sequel and this one isn't even out until December!

By 2013, a lot of other people were big fans of this series and Alex. So much so that, when Nicole and I began planning for BEA 2013 we knew Alex’s signing would be a priority (the prospect of being one of the first 30 in line and receiving a Ruby & Liam & Chubs & Zu tote was an added bonus). The hour wait was well worth it and again I gushed incoherently about the series while getting a signed ARC.

Alex Bracken BEA13Actually reading Never Fade took a bit longer this year because of crushing review obligations BUT it was still the first actual from BEA title I read. I obviously read and loved the first book, but this one blew me away with the expanded world building and Ruby’s growth as a character. Don’t even get me started about how well the plot comes together.

After the ending of Never Fade and all of its twists, I was really looking forward to seeing how everything comes together in In the Afterlight (and also to see the cover and title which, when I read Never Fade, weren’t actually known yet.) The weirdest thing about BEA 2014 was knowing that there would be no new Bracken title. But I think the wait will be worth it.

Which brings us back to the launch event I attended with Nicole on Tuesday night and that signing line where I was waiting to get my book signed with a business card ready as a sort of introduction because I never expect authors to remember me from my blog.

When I handed my book to Alex I told her about how I’d been following this series from the beginning–including seeing her at two BEA signings for it–and how much I loved it. Then, much to my surprise, Alex said she recognized me from twitter and my reviews before thanking me for supporting the series. After signing my book, Alex also gave me a hug before I left. Which was really nice.

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Later, when I got home from the signing I came home to find the giveaway I had won from the blog tour for In the Afterlight had arrived.

So now I am carrying my copy of In the Afterlight in this new totebag. And yes, I do have some duplicate copies (which also means I don’t have to worry about messing up my signed copy of In the Afterlight). But maybe that just means I have something else to talk about the next time I go to an Alexandra Bracken signing.

Obviously I’m really excited about this series. But what about you? What series books have you followed from the beginning? Is anyone as excited as I am about In the Afterlight?

The Screaming Staircase: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up.”

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan StroudLucy Carlyle has been working for Psychic Investigation Agencies since she was eight years old. Like many children born after the Problem, Lucy’s psychic abilities are highly valued as only children are able to see the ghosts that plague England. Unlike many others, some of Lucy’s abilities are highly developed. This increased sense should guarantee Lucy a successful career.

Instead Lucy arrives in London with no job and no references. Lucy’s prospects are less-than-promising until she takes up with Lockwood & Co.

Unlike most agencies, Lockwood & Co.does not employ adults who can no longer see ghosts as supervisors. Instead the agency is run jointly by its operatives Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins and–often much to her own surprise–Lucy. Unfortunately being a small agency with no clout to speak of, Lockwood & Co. has difficulties both with finding and keeping clients.

After a particularly disastrous case, Lockwood & Co. are faced with the imminent failure of their fledgling agency unless they accept a case clearing one of the most haunted houses in London of its malevolent spirits in The Screaming Staircase (2013) by Jonathan Stroud.

The Screaming Staircase is the first book in Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series.

The Screaming Staircase is a delightful book with the perfect balance of laughs and scares. Lucy’s narration is conversational and candid as she reveals the difficulties that face Lockwood & Co. as well as events from her own past that brought Lucy to London.

All three members of Lockwood & Co. are memorable characters. While George is studious, cautious and fiercely loyal, Lucy is more impetuous but also more instinctively connected to many of the ghosts that they meet during the story. Lockwood, meanwhile, is a largely aloof leader with loads of charm and an investigative style akin to Sherlock Holmes.

Not one but two mysteries unfold in this novel as Lucy works with Lockwood and George to solve cases involving violent hauntings. While key clues are withheld (or more accurately glossed over) the pieces still come together in a logical conclusion that readers will be able to piece together along with the characters.

The Screaming Staircase is a marvelous blend of mystery, humor and suspense with spine-tingling ghosts and very well-executed world building. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings:  Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin, Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones, Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, Jackaby by William R. Ritter, Lily’s Ghosts by Laura Ruby, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

*A copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Damaged: A Review

Damaged by Amy ReedKinsey Cole knows people can only bear to hear so much bad fortune. That’s why everyone in the small town of Wellspring, Michigan knows that Kinsey’s best friend Camille died in a car accident when Kinsey was driving. It’s easier for people to see the straight A student with a full athletic scholarship.

Kinsey is struggling to stick to her own plan for the future now that Camille is dead. She is going to go to college and get away from her small town and her mentally unstable mother once and for all. She is going to succeed the way everyone always expected she would.

The only problem is that Kinsey is quietly falling apart.

When Camille’s boyfriend, Hunter, invites Kinsey on a road trip to San Francisco, Kinsey jumps at the chance to get away from all the memories and start her real life. But with Hunter’s heavy drinking and Kinsey’s own demons, it will take more than a fresh start for either of them to accept everything that has been lost in Damaged (2014) by Amy Reed.

Kinsey and Hunter travel across a largely barren landscape on their way to California in this haunting and well-done novel. An unflinching focus on Kinsey and Hunter makes this character driven road trip story even stronger.

Nightmares that may or may not be her dead best friend plague Kinsey throughout the novel adding a surreal quality to the plot. Reed offers a well-plotted and excellently written meditation on grief, loss and the power of new beginnings in this striking novel about two wretched characters trying to make themselves whole.

Possible Pairings: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the September 2014 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various sites online*

Blog Book Giveaway: Born Wicked and The Caged Graves

I’m doing a special giveaway this week for Halloween.

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. SalerniBorn Wicked cover

You can enter to win:

  • A signed hardcover of Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
  • A shiny paperback (different cover than shown) of The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni

Giveaway is open to any readers over the age of 13. US only.

Giveaway will run from October 27 to November 2. Winner will be notified November 3. If I don’t hear back from the winner by November 4 I will pick a new winner from the entry pool.

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I’m running the giveaway through a Rafflecopter giveaway. Details on how to enter can be found by clicking “enter” above or clicking the photo!

(I’m also giving away an ARC of Mortal Heart which you can enter here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ccfb7e5a10/)

Monday Memories: The Screaming Staircase

Monday Memories is a weekly feature hosted by Miss Print and the Book Bandit. Just take a photo of a book from your personal library (or a library book that’s significant to you, etc.) and talk about why it matters. Is it your first ever signed book? The first book you reviewed on your blog? Whatever it is, write it up in a Monday Memories post and share it. Just please link back if you decide to join!

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Today for Monday Memories I’m talking about The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud.

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase is one of those books I wish I had read sooner (you’ll see why on Wednesday!).

I got this book as an ARC from BEA 2013. I already knew Jonathan Stroud’s work from his Bartimaeus trilogy which is a lot of fun and a book I recommend often. BUT having been burned rather spectacularly by the third book in that series, I was wary of starting a new Stroud series. I also just wasn’t sure it was for me though, in retrospect, I wonder why I thought that.

For whatever reason, the book kept moving lower and lower in my to read pile. ARCs started showing up at my then office to mock me. Still it sat unread. Until finally I began purging books and looking at what my friends had to say. After I saw that Cecelia had nothing but good things to say about this book, I knew I had to give it an honest chance because Cecelia is one of those bloggers who I not only trust but who has very similar reading tastes to my own.

Which brings us to this summer (late August in fact) when I finally read The Screaming Staircase. Suffice to say that I loved it. Not only did the book have everything I loved about the Bartimaeus books, plus it had a plucky girl narrator who is smart and witty. With ghosts! And hints of romance! While I think of this book as a middle grade (despite what cataloging at my place of employ might say) it also had everything my YA loving heart could want.

I’ve put off reading book two because I don’t want to be in a position where I am without a new Lockwood and Co. book to read. Really, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Go read it!

To join, click the Inlinkz frog below to link up. Then see what everyone else has to say :)

Week in Review: October 26

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This week on the blog you can check out:

This was a pretty hectic week. BUT I made it through without getting sick for a three day weekend (I get a three day weekend after working a Saturday because I then have Friday as my non-Sunday day off). Which is awesome! The vitamin C, hand sanitizer and conscientious hand washing are working! (In fact the hand sanitizer might be working too much as it became so rote this week that it took me a moment to figure out I was picking up and opening my water bottle instead of my hand sanitizer. that ended with water all over my hand’s and over a co-worker’s chair. Oops.)

Monday I had a school visit with blissfully well-behaved fifth graders. I book-talked The Hero’s Guide to Saving The Kingdom by Christopher Healey. A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Princess Academy by Shannon Hale with moderate success (no one clamored for the books during the visit but several kids did want to look at them after the visit ended and they were free to browse.

Wednesday we had a farewell party for a coworker so I got lots of baked goods. I also did a presentation on Reader’s Advisory (the art of recommending books to people) which was well received and will soon be adapted into a blog post on here. Did I mention the sugar? There was lots of sugar!

And in totally unrelated things I won a big giveaway as part of the blog tour for The Darkest Minds. Yay!

As you read this I’ll be heading to the Met with my friend Kiki Couture who I haven’t seen in ages. Yay!

How was your week? Are you joining me for Monday Memories this week?

 

Gilmore Girls Read-Alikes

You might have heard that the much loved TV series Gilmore Girls has made its way to Netflix. If, like me, you don’t have Netflix (or if you have already re-watched the entire series), these books might help you capture some of the happy feelings from the series. If you don’t feel like reading this whole list I’ve discovered that in my mind I consider fantasy titles great read-alikes for this series in general. (Thanks to my friend Kristin for suggesting this list idea!)

If you want books with a quirky ensemble of characters:

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  • Heist Society by Ally Carter: Time is short and the job is monumental but Kat has a crack crew and, hopefully, enough talent to pull off an impossible heist (and maybe right a few wrongs along the way).
  • Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley: As Ed walks Lucy through Shadow’s art, the night that promised to be a disaster turns into something else. In a city filled with missed connections and opportunity, Ed and Lucy are right where they’re supposed to be
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters, which everyone knows means Sophie is doomed to failure should she ever set out to seek her fortunes. Sophie is resigned to her fate–living obscurely, and less than successfully, working in the family hat shop. Except that this is not a traditional fairy tale and events soon intervene to set Sophie on a very unexpected course indeed for an eldest daughter.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Only one rider can win on race day–if they can stay alive long enough to finish the course–and the stakes for both Sean and Puck couldn’t be higher but as this unlikely pair trains side-by-side they might find a greater prize than anything from the race purse.
  • Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White: Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, an enigmatic young lord. Armed with only her wits, Jessamin will have to navigate the murky waters of Alben politics and magic–not to mention the uncharted territory of her own heart.

If you want books with witty banter:

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  • Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg: Both Macallan and Levi are pretty sure they’re better as friends than anything else. Except they can’t help wondering if the complications that come with being more than friends might just be worth it.
  • Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta: Sixteen-year-old Francesca Spinelli has a lot of limitations on her life. The worst might be her forced transfer to St. Sebastian’s, a former boy’s school that’s trying to turn co-ed.
  • Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan: If every town has a story, so does every resident. Kami’s own story has caused her a fair bit of trouble over the years and not a few friends. That’s what happens when your best friend seems to be an imaginary boy you talk to in your head.
  • The Archived by Victoria Schwab: Someone wants to hide something about the Coronado. And perhaps about the Archive too. If Mac can’t solve the mystery that remains the entire Archive could collapse.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: As Blue and these improbable raven boys find each other things start changing for them and their small town. Together they could unearth untold magic and power, as long as they can find it first–and control it.

If you want books with a sweet romance:

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  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: No one was ever supposed to see Lara Jean’s love letters except for Lara Jean. They were never meant for anyone else. With all of her feelings laid bare for these five boys, Lara Jean isn’t sure how to go back to the girl she used to be before the letters were delivered.
  • Enchanted by Alethea Kontis: In a land as ripe with magic as Sunday’s, it isn’t particularly surprising to meet a talking frog. The real surprise comes when he shows an interest in Sunday’s stories and quickly becomes her dear friend. And maybe something else.
  • Open Road Summer by Emery Lord: It takes a cross-country tour but over the course of one unforgettable summer Reagan will learn that mistakes aren’t forever,  even if friends are, and home doesn’t always have to be somewhere to leave.
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins: With uncertain plans for college and the future looming,  Josh and Isla will have to learn to be apart before they have any chance of staying together.
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith: Lucy and Owen don’t have a lot in common to start with. They don’t even know much about each other. Still their relationship plays out across the miles in the form of postcards and sporadic emails. Although both Lucy and Owen try to move on they soon realize an unfinished something keeps pulling them back to each other.

If you want books with an awesome family:

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  • Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr: What starts as an innocuous email about whether to buy a microwave or a mini-fridge turns into a series of emails that might lead to friendship and a few other insights during a summer filled with possibility.
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: Dash and Lily don’t have much in common but somehow they connect on the papers bound in that red notebook. Will these two misfits make sense in person? Only time will tell if their fledgling relationship can survive Lily’s family, Dash’s friends, some comical disasters and, of course, the holiday season in New York City.
  • The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman: The harder Katie clings to her memories of City life, the more Michaela adapts to life in Fir Lake, leaving Katie to wonder what happens when your home doesn’t feel like a home and your best friend starts to look like someone you don’t know.
  • Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson: Scarlett Martin and her family live in the Hopewell Hotel in the heart of New York City. That might sound like a dream come true but just ask Scarlett about her fifteenth birthday and it’s easy to see the sometimes harsh realities that owning and running a hotel can really entail.
  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson: With the help of some unlikely friends, Sloane starts working her way through the list her best friend left behind when she disappeared with no notice. Apple picking at night should be easy. Dancing until dawn might actually be fun. Kissing a stranger could go either way. Skinny dipping? Stealing something? Those might take a little more work

If you want books about smart characters:

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  • When It Happens by Susane Colasanti: At the beginning of the year Sara and Tobey don’t really know each other. By the end, Sara and Tobey might have a whole new beginning together.
  • Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan: Love is a word found in many languages. And with so many things around her changing, Josie is about to get a crash course in the true meaning of the word
  • The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski: Darcy always wanted to be part of something, to belong somewhere. But she may have more than she bargained for with a mysterious boy named Conn and infiltrating an even stranger group called the Shades.
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales: With a chance at real friends and something that makes her truly happy, Elise might be able to change herself after all.
  • Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin: It starts with a coin toss. If Naomi had picked tails she never would have gone back for the camera. She wouldn’t have tripped on the stairs and hit her head. There would have been no ambulance and no amnesia. Naomi would remember her boyfriend and whatever it was they had in common. She’d remember the lives her parents have been living. She would remember her best friend Will and why he calls her Chief and keeps making her mix tapes. But Naomi picked heads.