Labyrinth Lost: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaAlex is the most powerful bruja her family has seen in generations. Her mother and sisters are thrilled when Alex’s powers manifest so powerfully. But Alex knows that magic always has a cost and she’s unwilling to risk her family after already losing her father to wayward magic years ago.

Determined to rid herself of her magic before anyone else gets hurt, Alex turns to the family Book of Cantos for a spell to use on her Death Day–before she accepts the blessings of her family’s dead spirits and truly comes into her powers.

When Alex’s spell to get rid of her magic backfires and her family disappears from their Brooklyn home, she’ll have to travel to the world of Los Lagos to get them back with help from her best friend Rishi and a strange brujo boy with his own agenda in Labyrinth Lost (2016) by Zoraida Córdova.

Labyrinth Lost is the start to Córdova’s new Brooklyn Brujas series.

Córdova borrows from elements of santeria and latinx culture to create her own well-realized magic system in this highly enjoyable urban fantasy. Alex is a kickass heroine whose love for her family leads to near-catastrophe as her magic backfires and sends her relatives (living and dead) to Los Lagos.

Alex remains proactive and wastes no time wallowing as she bargains with a more knowledgeable (though less powerful) brujo named Nova to bring her across to the magical world of Los Lagos where she has to navigate treacherous lands and travel to the Labyrinth to rescue her family from the Devourer. Rishi, Alex’s best friend, comes along offering moral support, strength, and strategy even though she is uninitiated in bruja ways thanks to Alex’s reluctance to talk about her family to outsiders.

In a world where many things are uncertain, the love and support of Alex’s friends and family remain unconditional and rock solid throughout this novel where family plays a huge role. Alex is a fantastic protagonist who is empowered both as a bruja and a girl as she learns to embrace all aspects of her identity.

Córdova’s evocative writing brings Los Lagos and its otherworldly inhabitants vividly to life. Moments or peril contrast well with Alex’s witty first person narration and a sometimes tense romance as Alex tries to make sense of her growing feelings for Rishi while fighting for her life.

Labyrinth Lost is a fast-paced and atmospheric story filled with action and adventure. A must-read for urban fantasy fans and readers looking for a new coven of witches to join. (Just be ready with your best Resting Witch Face.)

Possible Pairings: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst, Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Charmed (TV series)

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2016*

This Month at Teen Services Underground: Flexibility of Duct Tape Crafts

This month I have a new post over at Teen Services Underground talking about the flexibility of duct tape crafts in a library setting.

For most of the summer when I had a craft program on my schedule, I would pull out the duct tape. My kit includes instructions to make bookmarks, bows, wallets, and even a flower pen. All of which have been smash hits with the kids and teens who come to programs.

The fun thing about working with duct tape is that the kids really get to run with it. I give minimal instruction on basic techniques. The rest is up to the kids and depends on how much effort they want to invest.

You can read the rest of my post at Teen Services Underground.

Spontaneous: A Review

Spontaneous by Aaron StarmerMara Carlyle’s class is thrown into chaos when Katelyn Ogden explodes in the middle of third period calculus. After Katelyn’s untimely demise more seniors start blowing up. After suspecting terrorism, suicide, and other sundry conspiracies, the town of Covington soon realizes that the high school seniors are falling victim to spontaneous combustion.

No one knows why it’s happening. No one knows who might be next.

All Mara and her best friend Tess want to do is make it to graduation in one piece. But that might be harder than they think as students keep popping with no obvious pattern or warning. Mara’s senior year is going to have love, friendship, drugs, and even more explosions than the usual high school drama would suggest in Spontaneous (2016) by Aaron Starmer.

Mara’s first-person narration is dark, no-nonsense, and sometimes blatantly insensitive as she tries to make sense of her friends and classmates blowing up. She deals with the stress and the possibility of her own eventual demise with humor and avoidance.

Starmer’s prose is snappy and substantive. Like many critically acclaimed novels, Spontaneous strikes a good balance between philosophical and absurd. Unfortunately, much of the story also feels like it is being spoon-fed to readers with heavy-handed descriptions and plotting.

Spontaneous isn’t the first quasi-literary YA novel to be written by a male author with a female protagonist. It also won’t be the last. Unfortunately, and this speaks to a number of potential flaws in the text, nothing about this book makes it matter that Mara is a girl. She could be anyone from any background. Nothing about her feels distinct or unique, begging the question why is this her story and not the story of one of the other unlucky seniors at Covington High School?

Throughout the novel, Mara keeps readers at a remove both from herself and from the other characters who populate the novel. While possibly a deliberate decision by Starmer, it does little to endear Mara to readers or generate much interest in her story.

Unfortunately an interesting premise and strong writing are not enough to make Spontaneous a compelling story. Spontaneous is a wacky, macabre novel sure to appeal to fans of Grasshopper Jungle.

Possible Pairings: Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes, Going Bovine by Libba Bray, Deadline by Chris Crutcher, Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn, Hellhole by Gina Damico, We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

*An advance copy of this title was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2016*

Week in Review: October 23

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week was my committee’s big training. We presented new books, backlist titles, and one of my committee members facilitated a discussion on diversity as it relates to books, readers advisory, and the library.

The training went really well and we received a lot of positive feedback. Being a committee chair is one of the most rewarding parts of my job and now that this training is done I’m excited to shift gears to planning for the Mock Printz!

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my October Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Top Fives from HarperChildrens’ Spring 2017 Preview #harperpreview

On October 14 I was able to attend my first publisher’s preview for HarperCollins. This felt a bit like arriving and it was fascinating to see their new downtown offices. With new titles from Megan Whalen Turner and Gail Carson Levine (not to mention Goldenhand by Garth Nix which came out this season), it felt a bit like my childhood was coming back in full force. Some micro-trends I spotted: duologies and alternating POV.

missprinttopfivesHere are my Top Fives presented at the preview across all of Harper’s imprints:

Picture Books:

  1. Egg by Kevin Henkes: Described as a graphic novel for preschoolers, this book will be Henkes’ fiftieth. Coming January 2017.
  2. Good Night! Good Night! by Carin Berger: Berger’s signature collage-style illustrations tell the story of rabbits who don’t want to go to sleep. Watch for it in January 2017.
  3. I Do Not Like Al’s Hat by Erin McGill: Herb loves everything about being a magician’s rabbit. Except Al’s hat. Which he hates. So Herb quits and answers an ad to become Sophie’s pet rabbit. Out January 2017.
  4. The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Adam Rex: Rock, Paper, and Scissors travel through the venerable kingdom known as Backyard trying to find worthy opponents. April 2017.
  5. Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler: Compared to books by Peter Brown and Jon Klassen this is a picture book about learning how to share–and what happens when everyone wants to be king or queen of the playground. Coming April 2017.

Middle Grade:

  1. Joplin, Wishing by Diane Stanley: A New York City girl receives a Delft platter and the girl painted on the platter comes to life (kind of like a genie). Adventure! Magic! Heart! Watch for it in June 2017
  2. Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done: by Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Hauser: Non-fiction title about girls who code and more.
  3. York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby: First in an epic series pitched as National Treasure meets The Westing Game. The scale of the cipher and a hunt across the city also brings Ready Player One to mind. May 2017.
  4. Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive by Ammi-Joan Paquette: A collection of non-fiction stories. Full color photos and illustrations. The catch? For every two stories that are true, one is a lie. An answer key in the back gives a rundown of what’s true and what isn’t. Described as National Geographic in book form.
  5. Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder: Every year a new child is brought to the island and the eldest is taken away in this story about growing up. Compared to Anne Ursu and Kelly Barnhill. May 2017.
  6. Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood: Story about a girl trying to become a sorceress. A diverse cast and dragon magic! March 2017.

Young Adult:

  1. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer: Sleeping Beauty style story where a girl goes on a quest to rescue her half-sister. Watch for it in April 2017
  2. Literally by Lucy Keating: A book about a book about falling in love. Anabel is the MC in the new hit YA novel being written by the hot YA author of the moment. She she finds herself falling for an unexpected boy, she goes off script. Stranger Than Fiction meets books by Jenny Han or Stephanie Perkins. Watch for it in April 2017.
  3. Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson: Three teen girls in three different eras (Oklahoma 2065, Oklahoma 1934, England 1919) all connected in this novel that is all about connection. Coming April 2017.
  4. By Your Side by Kasie West: What happens when the Good Girl gets locked in the school library for the long weekend with the Bad Boy? Coming January 2017.
  5. A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White: YA novel about the first woman drafted to MLB as a pitcher. If it sounds like Pitch, that’s because it’s really similar! “Gets you in the feminist feels.” From the author of the president’s daughter series. Out February 2017.
  6. American Street by Ibi Zoboi: Zoboi was the keynote speaker for this preview and talked about her inspiration for this novel which follows Fabiola, a teen girl who has emigrated from Haiti only to find her new life in Detroit isn’t everything promised by the American Dream. February 2017.

This Month at West Elm: Flashlight Reads

If you head to West Elm’s Front + Main blog you can check out my booklist of 13 Haunting Books for Reading By Flashlight. West Elm paired the list and annotations I wrote up with a photo shoot including some of the books and some West Elm decor items.

Here’s their amazing photo with some of my picks:

And here’s what I have to say about the list:

Emma Carbone, a YA librarian for The Brooklyn Public Library, has selected 13 creepy reads that are perfect for reading out loud after dark with a flashlight. “With the witching hour fast approaching,” she says, “these books about ghosts, witches, magic, and the way the past can haunt a person are perfect to read as the air gets sharper and the nights grow longer.”

Be sure to head over to West Elm to read the full list!

Iron Cast: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Iron Cast by Destiny SoriaIn 1919 Boston Prohibition is on the verge of making alcohol illegal and hemopathy shows are officially against the law. Thanks to a blood condition hemopaths can perform a variety of illusions through poetry, painting, or music. While it is not illegal to be a hemopath, it is deemed dangerous to regular society and highly restricted.

Best friends Corinne Wells and Ada Navarra have called Johnny Dervish’s club, the Cast Iron, home for years blending their respective talents as a wordsmith and a songsmith both on stage and in cons meant to rustle up enough money to keep the club open.

After a routine job goes awry, Ada is imprisoned in Haversham Asylum, a hemopath prison with dark secrets and dangerous implications for its hemopath inmates. Ada’s escape from Haversham sets off a series of events leaving two Cast Iron workers dead and Dervish in the wind.

With only each other and their talents as hemopaths and con-women to rely on, Ada and Corinne will have to confront uncomfortable truths about Johnny, the Cast Iron, and themselves if they want to keep their freedom in Iron Cast (2016) by Destiny Soria.

Iron Cast is Soria’s debut novel.

The narration alternates close third person between Corinne and Ada’s perspectives which highlights and contrasts the girls’ vastly different upbringings. (Corinne comes from a high society family, while Ada’s parents are working class immigrants–her mother is from Mozambique and her father is Portuguese.) Ada and Corinne’s differing perspectives on their work with Johnny Dervish and the use of their hemopath talents add nuance to the story.

An atmospheric combination of alternate history and fantasy complete with vivid descriptions of everything from historic Boston locations to complex hemopath illusions make this fast-paced novel incredibly evocative. A diverse cast of flawed and complex characters striving to do better complement the solid female friendship at the core of this story.

Iron Cast is a simultaneously whimsical and chilling blend of mystery and fantasy. Numerous twists, sweet romance, humor, and strong pathos make Iron Cast even more appealing. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Game of Love and Death by Martha A. Brockenbrouch, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Sorcery and Cecelia by Caroline Stevemer and Patricia C. Wrede, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

You can also read my interview with Destiny Soria!