Read me a story?

And now for something completely different! All three of us are – or have been – involved with preschool storytimes and reading informally to kids, and we definitely appreciate the storytelling in words and illustrations of picture books. So here are several recent (and upcoming) works that have delighted us!

Cover artwork for several awesome picture books

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Title: Musk Ox Counts

Author: Erin Cabatingan, illus. by Matthew Myers

Publisher & Release Date:  Roaring Brook Press, September 2013

The Lowdown (from the back): 1 rowdy musk ox + 1 annoyed zebra = 1 awesome counting book!

Overall Impressions: Not your usual counting book, this will be a total hit with kids who are into Mo Willems and Bob Shea. Musk Ox and Zebra argue their way 1 through 10, Musk Ox skipping 7 simply to annoy the zebra and using questionable math to justify his presence in the other pages. There’s a lot of details hidden in the pages, which are fun to find, and the expressions on the animals’ faces are hilarious.

~

Title: The Snatchabook

Author: Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty

Publisher & Release Date:  Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, October 2013

The Lowdown (from galley jacket): “In every house, in every bed, a bedtime book was being read. But then, one night, all the animals’ bedtime storybooks start disappearing. Is there a book thief? Who could it be? One brave little bunny sets out to solve the mystery.”

Overall Impressions: A delightful story to read aloud! Eliza Brown is determined to figure out what happened to everyone’s books and comes up with a clever plan. She does get scared but faces her fears because what she’s doing is important. The Snatchabook? Actually quite adorable and wanting some bedtime stories for himself! Eliza comes up with a solution that has a happy ending for everyone. The warmly charming illustrations are a perfect match for the rhyming story.

~

Title: Don’t Push the Button!

Author: Bill Cotter

Publisher & Release Date:  Sourcebook Jabberwocky, November 2013

The Lowdown (From galley jacket): “There’s only one rule in Larry’s book: don’t push the button. (Seriously, don’t even think about it!) Even if it does look kind of nice, you must never push the button. Who knows what would happen? Okay, quick. No one is looking…push the button. Uh, oh.”

Overall Impressions: A simple, fun and playful interactive story. What child wouldn’t want to push the button?

~

Title: Dream Boats

Author: Dan Bar-El, illus. by Kristi Anne Wakelin

Publisher & Release Date:  Simply Read Books, September 2013

The Lowdown (from the book):  “I don’t have naps. I have adventures. I don’t sleep in a bed. I ride a Dream Boat.”

Overall Impressions: The artwork on this is stunning. Gorgeous artwork is paired with lyrical snapshots of children’s dreams and lives from across the globe. A perfect example of why picture books are not just for babies – I would hand this as easily to an adult or a kindergartener, and anywhere in between. Kids interested in mythology or other cultures will be especially interested, but the poetry would be soothing for a younger child’s bedtime, as well.

~

Title: Dinosaur Kisses

Author: David Ezra Stein

Publisher & Release Date:  Candlewick, August 2013

The Lowdown (from the jacket): “For newly hatched dinosaur Dinah, the world is an exciting place. There is so much to see and do. She tries this — STOMP! And she tries that — CHOMP! Then she sees a kiss and knows just what she wants to try next. Who can she kiss? And after a few disastrous attempts, can she figure out how to give someone a kiss without whomping, chomping, or stomping them first?”

Overall Impressions: Emily and Julie loved this book – it’s perfect for the exuberance of toddlers and preschools and a hoot for adult readers. Uncluttered, friendly artwork and the simple, humorous text make it a winner for multiple re-reads.  Dinah’s facial expressions capture the gleeful naughtiness of toddlerhood perfectly, and there are some great surprises that will evoke howls of laughter from little ones.

~

Title: Journey

Author: Aaron Becker

Publisher & Release Date:  Candlewick, August 2013

The Lowdown (from the jacket): “A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire?”

Overall Impressions: An absolutely gorgeous wordless book. I think of it as a beautiful homage to the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon – there’s even a boy with a purple crayon at the beginning! The illustrations are a lush dream and the girl’s travels an exciting adventure with some worrisome but never too scary moments. Excellent for all ages.

~

Title: Hank Finds an Egg

Author: Rebecca Dudley

Publisher & Release Date: Peter Pauper Press, June 2013

The Lowdown (from the jacket): “While walking through the woods, Hank finds an egg all alone on the forest floor. Spotting its home high up in a tree, Hank diligently tries to return the egg to its nest, but is met with failure each time. After keeping the egg warm overnight, he returns to the scene the next morning. To his surprise, he is met by another forest creature. Will they find a way together to see the egg safely home?”

Overall Impressions: Sweet, charming and earnest! Hank’s a lovable little bear and he takes such careful care of the egg he finds. This is another wordless book, and the pictures are excellent for having children tell adults the story – especially the different ways Hank will try to return the egg to the nest and if they think he’ll succeed. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also tell you the art is amazing – Rebecca Dudley handcrafted each part of the miniature scenes and then photographed them.

~

Title: The Dark

Author: Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Publisher & Release Date:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2013

The Lowdown (from Goodreads): “Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark is not afraid of Laszlo.

Laszlo lives in a house. The dark lives in the basement.

One night, the dark comes upstairs to Laszlo’s room, and Laszlo goes down to the basement.

This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.”

Overall Impressions:  It should come as a surprise to no one that when Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen came together to create a book called “The Dark”, the results would be a bit, well, dark.  Illustrated in dark, muted tones and written in stark, declarative sentences, this book starts out creepy.  Really creepy.  As in, “this is a book for kindergarteners that might give ME nightmares” creepy.  However, the story resolves itself into something infinitely reassuring, with a strong message about the importance of facing our fears.

~

Title: Warning: Do Not Open This Book!

Author: Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

Publisher & Release Date:  Simon and Schuster, August 2013

The Lowdown (from jacket): “CAUTION! This book contains monkeys, toucans, and a whole lot of silliness. You really shouldn’t be opening this book.

I’m serious.

Just put it back on the shelf.

Right…now.

You’re still reading this?

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you…”

Overall Impressions: This is another great interactive read for toddlers and preschoolers.  As you turn the pages, you’ll release hordes of monkeys, toucans and other perils.  It falls on you, the reader, to trap the animals on the back page.  You’d be hard pressed to find a 2 to 4-year-old who doesn’t get a kick out of this type of book, and this one is a lot of fun.  My favorite part?  The monkey with a ukelele strapped to his back.  Squee!!

~

Title: Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters

Author: Jane Yolen, illus. by Kelly Murphy

Publisher & Release Date:  Candlewick Press, July 2013

The Lowdown (from Amazon): Welcome to a playground teeming with monsters, bristling with energy, and scaring up ways to have fun! Monsters swing and slide and piggyback ride. Monsters run three-legged races and fall on their faces… In this high-octane sequel to Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters, wild and whimsical artwork revs up a read-aloud text that will have little listeners jumping up to join the action.

Overall Impressions: Short catchy rhymes and fun illustrations make this perfect for storytime, or a restless toddler. Warm and creative examples of all sorts of monsters playing fill each page, and kids will find they have a lot in common with these little monsters – from playing to settling a fight.

Sources and Disclaimer: A mix of galleys from publishers, and published books bought from bookstores and/or accessed through work (bookstore, libraries). No money, magical markers or amazing artwork to hang on our walls was exchanged for these reviews.
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I read a sad book and I loved it.

Cover art for Second Chance SummerTitle: Second Chance Summer

Author: Morgan Matson

Publisher & Release Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 2012

The Hook: From the author who wrote Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour!

The Lowdown (from jacket): “Sandwiched between two exceptional siblings, Taylor Edwards never felt like she stood out—except for her history of running away when things get too complicated. Then her dad receives unexpected, terrible news, and the family makes the last-minute decision to spend the summer together in the cramped quarters at their old lake house.

“Taylor hasn’t been to the summer house since she was twelve, and she definitely never planned on going back. Up at the lake she is confronted with people she thought she left behind, like her former best friend, Lucy, and Henry Crosby, her first crush, who’s all grown up…and a lot cuter. Suddenly Taylor is surrounded by memories she’d rather leave in the past—but she can’t run away this time.

“As the days lying on the beach pass into nights gazing at the stars, Taylor realizes she has a second chance—with friends, with family, maybe even with love. But she knows that once the summer ends, there is no way to recapture what she stands to lose.”

Overall Impressions:  This was, at minimum, a four-Kleenex book for me.  The nature of the terrible news is revealed fairly early on – Taylor’s father has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and given just months to live. Her family loves each other, but they’ve all been so busy with their own things that they’re not really close. Dad’s busy at work; older brother Warren’s focused on preparing for college; Mom, a retired dancer, helps younger daughter Gelsey with her dancing dreams. And Taylor can’t run away, from her father’s diagnosis or, when she gets back to the lake, from Henry or Lucy.

Matson wrote a quiet story. One that mostly takes place in a sleepy older summer community where all the houses have names. The setting and the story have a bit of a timeless quality – technology plays a limited role and community activities harken back to more innocent times.  But in that quiet story Taylor slowly grows into someone who can hold herself back from running away when things go bad and builds stronger relationships with people she cares about.

Of her family, Taylor has the most distant connection with her mother, I think this is because 1) her mother is far more focused on her father at this time and 2) Taylor has always been closer to her father. The three children develop stories outside the house – Gelsey learns to have a friend, Warren falls in love, Taylor gets a job and reconnects with Lucy and Henry. (When they first arrive at the lake, they shadow their father until he tells them to stop, to go outside, to do things.) We see less of the mother’s story because her story is inside the house. We read the story Taylor experiences.

The foreshadowing was a bit obvious in a few places, but it didn’t feel heavy-handed. More like, ah, I anticipate we will see this Dickens quote again. Ah, I see this where detail A and part B of job description will come together.

The Highs: You may mock, but I loved that the older brother was terrified of dogs but tried to be casual about it even though the whole family knows because I also have an irrational fear of dogs.

The bad puns that Taylor and her dad enjoy.

How the silly five questions to start a conversation lists at the diner prompt wonderful discussions for Taylor and her dad.

Taylor, Warren and Gelsey seeing a new side of their grandfather.

Taylor and Lucy making sure Gelsey and Nora have a proper best friends sleepover. “They’re doing it wrong,” Taylor says when she calls Lucy.

Henry, who is lovely, and Leland, who is amusing.

Buzzkills:  Well, it’s a cancer book, so you pretty much know what’s going to happen at the end.

The Source: Bought the e-book. Must say that e-books are hard to hug.

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor a trip to a mountain lake was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Round Table Discussion: Rose Under Fire

rose under fire

All three of us are extremely excited about Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire, companion novel to the amazing Code Name Verity, so we opted for something a little different: dinner and discussion. We have no crepes to offer (we ate every delicious bite), but here are the notes from our discussion – some spoilers and multiple characters without full explanations included!

Book summary (from jacket): “While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?”

Short version: Read Code Name Verity. Read Rose Under Fire. They are incredible.

(Just for background, Julie read Code Name Verity last year and recommends every chance she gets; Katy read Code Name Verity just before Rose Under Fire; and Emily has Code Name Verity high in her TBR pile.)

After we all agreed we loved the book, Katy broke the ice, noting Rose Under Fire is not nearly as much of a nail-biter as Code Name Verity.

J: The structure is quite different, but the author couldn’t have done the same thing. it would have lost the power of surprise.

E: It’s refreshing to read something where a romance doesn’t overshadow everything. Granted, true romance is almost impossible under wartime, but true friendship is not only possible, it’s vital.

K: Like even though Maddie was married, her husband was a minor note in the book – the defining relationship was actually that Rose was her bridesmaid. Much more so than the reality of Rose’s relationship with Nick.

J: I was fascinated to see Anna Engel again and the increased complexity of her character.

E: Even in wartime, you have a range of goodness in people – the ideology behind the war is remote, and the fellow human in front of you, suffering, is pretty immediate. I guess that how you found out who’s “good” or “evil” in that situation: look at what they do with the power that they’re given over other people. Do they acknowledge their humanity, or not?

K: There were conflicting characters on both sides, showing good and evil both – resistance fighter Peter in Verity, for example.

J:  Irina’s situation after the war was another facet of those complicated relationships. She couldn’t return to her own country because they would automatically suspect her as a former prisoner. She had such limited opportunities after the war, too, and that must have been so hard for women who won respect during the war. They lost it again so quickly afterward.

E: The entire culture of the ’50s plastered that false façade over everything – June Cleavers and Stepford Wives, everything deliberately and horribly normalized in the media and popular culture.

K: That had to be supremely frustrating for these women who had spent their youth as heroes, makers and doers. They would have been in their thirties and forties by that time, mostly finished with kids and bored out of their skulls at home.

E: One of the most horrible realities that I found in this book wasn’t even the camp – it was the denial of the horrors that went on there. Everyone believed that it was anti-German propaganda or a Jewish lie. There was still a huge amount of anti-Semitism in America and Britain. Rose was descended from German immigrants, and many other Americans were as well – the Germans were a lot more “like us” than Jewish people in people’s heads.

K: I think part of it was also a disbelief of scale – like people thought that it was simply exaggerated, there was no way there could be that many or be that horrible. It was unprecedented.

J: Actually, there was the Armenian genocide in the early 1900s.

K: Good point – I wonder how much people in the U.S. were aware of that? [Note: pretty well, actually, thought it wasn’t as large.] But look at what’s happening in Syria today – even with multiple video sources on the ground, we can’t make a case in the world court of who it actually was, and for a while if it was even happening. They were still trying to argue that they were faking.

E: It’s really hard to imagine the level of suffering that a person can go through when we’re surrounded by security and safety – both for people at the time and as readers looking back on it.

J: Wein was great at showing that disconnect between what different people were doing at 18. Rose had spent her entire life thus far canoeing and going to dances and Girl Scout meetings, and it was literally unbelievable meeting Roza, who was biking bombs around in Poland at 14 and motherless at 16. Her whole persona was wrapped up in being a prisoner and a Rabbit, because she had no other life, no other identity that solidified before the camp.

E: Part of what made Ravensbruck so awful is that it was completely arbitrary and random, and dehumanizing. The awareness of your inevitable death, but not knowing when, combined with illogical orders and nearly random coincidences, like all of the tall girls getting the bunk-clearing detail – that would drive anyone insane.

K: They mentioned that, at the end – you could tell who was at the camps because of the look in their eyes. It wasn’t just the normal horror of war – it was actual madness.

E: Soldiers on the front knew that war had risks, but you could minimize them, or they were expected and understandable. That horrible randomness of the camps – they might decide that they didn’t like your curly hair, or your height, or you got shuffled into the wrong bunk.

K: The surprising thing to me was that it was clear that Ravensbruck was initially meant to be a somewhat humane facility. Everyone with their own bunk and blanket, adequate toilet and hospital facilities. But the longer the war went on, the worse the conditions got –huge amounts of people, little  food, no medicine, no clothes. Even for the people in charge, fewer things were available.

E: And they continued to dehumanize them. By the end, there were so many atrocities to cover up that even with the new gas chamber, they couldn’t do it all.

J: One question I had when reading Rose was whether Wein intended to write two of these books, or if she just sunk so much time into the research that another story needed to be written.

K: I’m also very curious to see what she writes next – there are so many other stories she could tell about World War 2. Another facet of the Nazi regime, or maybe the Russian Front?

J: If you’re looking for a story set in the Soviet Union during WWII, Between Shades of Grey is excellent.

[Brainstorming other reads about World War II: The Devil’s Arithmetic; The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom; Number the Stars by Lois Lowry; The Book Thief; Sarah’s Key; The Boy in the Striped Pajamas; Schindler’s List; The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood…]

J: If Rose had known what was to come, do you think she still would have been unable to make fuses? Or was it like Roza said when Nazis were beating her mother to make Roza talk – “I was lucky, I didn’t know anything.”

K:  She did have a glimpse of some of the horror first, and knew that she was giving up a pretty comfortable position. Based on her strength of will in later situations, I imagine she might still have refused, even if she had known. Or maybe tried harder to work in some sabotage.

US, Canadian and UK covers of Rose Under Fire

Cover rainbow of Rose Under Fire from Elizabeth Wein’s homepage

On Covers

J: The new cover of Code Name Verity is a lot closer to Rose Under Fire. Maybe the publishers didn’t think [Verity] got the audience that it deserved?

E: I really liked the other cover. (J+K agree.) It was very dynamic and of course enlarged body parts are always more of draw for older teens, which this is geared towards. I would really hesitate giving this to a 13 year old, and the new cover doesn’t seem to say that.

K: There’s another cover out there that has almost identical design to the first Verity, which raised my eyebrows. The plot is completely unrelated, though.

Code Name Verity cover rainbow from Elizabeth Wein's homepage

On Poetry

E: I found the poetry surprisingly good, although I usually cringe at any teen poetry.

K: I thought it was very well done. Admittedly, I scanned over the repeated sections pretty quickly.

J: I gave it a very light reading; it didn’t appeal to me. I did like the Briar poem.

Cool Bonus Link

Girls Like Giants’ interview with Elizabeth Wein

Disclaimer: Advance reading copies were provided by publishers at book conferences and through Netgalley. No money or chocolate was exchanged for this post.

Who’re you gonna call?

Title: The Screaming Staircase cover

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Publisher & Release Date: Random House, September 17

The Hook: I thought Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy was wicked genius (bartimaeusbooks.com will give you an idea), and in this series he’s delving into ghosts, and the young people that fight them. The trailer is quite creepy.

The Lowdown (from the author’s website): 

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood.

When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Overall Impressions:   An unexpected combination of murder mystery, ghost hunting action, and fantasy world-building kept me reading well beyond my self-imposed bedtime. The ghost hunting was believably hair-raising and the witty banter between characters was delightful.
Stroud has always impressed me with nuanced character-building, and Locke & Co. is no exception. The quirky, quasi-Sherlockian Lockwood and level-headed, determined Lucy make a balanced and amusing pair. Even George, the stodgy and slapstick sidekick, got enough narrative investment to round out his character into someone I was rooting for.
There’s considerable tension between the adults of this world and the ghost-hunting teenagers; Lucy and Lockwood’s brazen disregard for the caution and control of the adults can be both dangerous and satisfying. The rebelliousness will appeal to other teens, though this could also be recommended to the middle grades (assuming they like scary stories).

The Highs:
Lucy’s voice, and building her relationships with the enigmatic Anthony and fussy George. The wry humor throughout that Stroud is well known for. The well-plotted mystery of the dead socialite, which held some surprises until the very end. The deeply creepy feeling that permeates the entire book – these are some serious specters that will kill you in horrible ways. The little details of world building: the ghost lamps and the industries surrounding ghost hunting (like lavender fields and iron factories). The hints at future possibilities for Lockwood & Co.

Buzzkills:  None, apart from being genuinely creeped out.

The Source: NetGalley.com

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate or lavender boughs were provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Once you go in, you can never come out

Cover art for The Coldest Girl in ColdtownTitle: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Author: Holly Black

Publisher & Release Date: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Sept. 3

The Hook: Holly Black revisits the vampire mythology she created in an awesome 2009 short story. Vampires are real. And if you’re infected by a vampire, you have 88 days to try to beat it – if you can keep yourself from drinking the human blood you desperately crave.

The Lowdown (from jacket): “Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

“One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.”

Overall Impressions:  I loved this book – the story, characters and world-building had me from the first chapter. I haven’t enjoyed a vampire story so much since Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. Ms. Black excellently plays that knife-edge fascination with vampires – their immortality, forever un-aging and beautiful – and fear of their inhumanity and otherness. She never lets you feel a vampire is safe.

From my character notes:

  • Tana – Wild card. Mother was infected. Wants to do the right thing.
  • Aiden – Tana’s ex. Charming. Infected. Weaker than Tana.
  • Gavriel – Russian aristocrat gone bad. Vampire. Wild, loyal, broken. Has a plan.
  • Lucien – Manipulator. Big vampire star among humans. Gavriel’s maker. Has big plans.
  • Midnight & Winter: Blogger twins. “No more birthdays.” She’s the driver, he’s occasionally trying to put on the brakes.

Tana’s the narrator, but her story is the result of getting inadvertently caught up in others’ stories – the game of cat and mouse between Gavriel and Lucien, the twin bloggers’ mission to become vampires, the bloody politics of Coldtown. She faces a range of villainy, both in terms of scale and perpetrators.

The party-turned-bloodbath leaves Aiden infected, Tana possibly infected, and maybe-helpful-but-definitely-mentally-unbalanced vampire Gavriel locked in Tana’s car trunk, all on their way to Coldtown.

But Tana is not without childhood baggage in this venture: Her mother was bitten by a vampire and infected. Her father, who adored his wife, locked her in a basement, determined to get her through the 88 days without consuming human blood so she’ll remain human. After 30+ days of hearing her beloved mother’s begging and cajoling, Tana undid the locks. Her mother, desperate for blood, attacked the nearest human – Tana. And her father, who believed in always doing the right thing and that you can always know what the right thing is, killed his wife to save his oldest daughter.

Tana and her father are not close, but through it all, she strives to do the right thing. Even when she just wants to curl up and cry or stab someone or simply walk away from the situation someone else has put her in. But Coldtown isn’t all betrayal and secret plans. She makes new friends – the awesome Jameson and Valentina – and she saves someone important to her.

The idea and consequences of mercy weave throughout the book, as does being true to one’s self. In the end, I think, everyone is… or was.

And the reader was taken on a fantastic ride.

The Highs: The ending – a perfect fit for the characters and just the right balance of closure and open-endedness.

Valentina. Jameson.

The story Gavriel tells Tana about Koschei.

The multiple POVs that build the world: Tana narrates the bulk of the story, but we get Gavriel’s backstory through his eyes, Lucian’s in his own point of view, and the occasional chapter from Tana’s younger sister Pearl and other characters’ blog posts.

And this is such a minor point, but the main character’s name is Tana. And the main character in the short story was Matilda. (Bonus – she’s mentioned in the novel.) Her best friend’s name is Pauline. All rather different from most of the names I’ve encountered in urban fantasy stories.

If you’ve read the short story -it has the same title- something very important happens to Matilda on Sept. 3, 2013. This book is set a few years after the short story, but in the real world, it was published Sept. 3, 2013. Coincidence?

Buzzkills:  I don’t understand why cash is useful in Coldtowns. Did I miss where you could get goods from outside delivered? (Entirely possible.)

Some of the human blood bank imagery was a bit much for me.

The Source: Advance reading copy from publisher, obtained at a conference.

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor a beautiful antique garnet necklace was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Antici……pation – September 2013

September is such an exciting month for books! Picking just a handful to highlight was extremely difficult; clearly, we failed – but we’re okay with that. Happy reading!

Grid of several book covers

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Author: Holly Black

Publisher & Release Date: Little, Brown; September 3

The Hook: After the vampire epidemic has overwhelmed the country, the infected and the turned are quarantined in ColdTowns (now a hit show on YouTube!). Tana wakes up with an epic hangover, an infected boyfriend, a house full of corpses, and a vampire, Her solution: dare the trip to ColdTown in search of a cure, infection be damned. Black’s curse-workers series was amazing, and we can’t wait to see what she has in store in this new world.

Title: The Final Descent (The Monstrumologist #4)

Author: Rick Yancey

Publisher & Release Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September 10

The Hook: I do not read usually read horror. Except for this series, which is set in the 1800s. Will Henry has assisted Dr. Pellinor Walthrop in facing many terrifying monsters and survived gruesome adventures. The two have gradually shifted from distant scientist and orphaned young assistant/dogsbody to a father-son relationship. But now Dr. Walthrop fears Will Henry’s loyalties are shifting and turns on him, leaving Will Henry on his own to face what may be the most fearsome creature yet. The writing, characters and the slow-building horror in these books are amazing and I am so excited to read this final book in the series!

Title: The Waking Dark

Author: Robin Wasserman

Publisher & Release Date: Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 10

The Hook: “They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand…except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn’t even know why she killed – or whether she’ll do it again. Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander, Kansas – something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself.”

Title:  Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher & Release Date: St. Martin’s Griffin, September 10

The Hook: Cath is starting her first year of college without the the constant presence and support of her twin, Wren.  Struggling with anxiety and compulsion, she escapes into the fan fiction she writes about a Harry-Potter-like character.  In her digital world, she is confident and popular.  When the real world comes knocking, though, Cath will have to decide what is most important to her.  Anything Rainbow Rowell writes is gold, and I can’t wait for this latest release!

Title: The Chaos of Stars

Author: Kiersten White

Publisher & Release Date: Harper Teen, September 10

The Hook: “Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she’s only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family.”

Title: Killer of Enemies

Author: Joseph Bruchac

Publisher & Release Date: Tu Books, September 17

The Hook: “In the barren desert of the Southwest, 16-year-old Lozen must fight the monsters – human and animal – that threaten her family in this post-apocalyptic retelling of the Apache Killer-of-Enemies legend.” (For a really interesting look at the behind-the-scenes of the cover design, check out Lee and Low’s blog.)

Title: The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher & Release Date: Scholastic, September 17

The Hook: The sequel to “Raven Boys”, “The Dream Thieves” promises more magic, more peril, and more troubled prep school boys searching for a dead Welsh king. What’s not to love?

Title: Chasing Shadows

Author: Swati Avasthi, illustrated by Craig Phillips

Publisher & Release Date: Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 24

The Hook: Corey, Holly and Savitri are a tight-knit trio of freerunners, turning Chicago into their personal jungle gym. Then Corey is killed – victim of a random act of violence. “Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild-and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crisis. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?” Avasthi’s fantastic first book, Split, was a hard and thought-provoking story that explored abuse within a family, and the ties that makes and the ties that breaks, so I’m interested to read her next book.

Title: Untold (Lynburn Legacy #2)

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Publisher & Release Date: Random House Books for Young Readers, September 24

The Hook: In Unspoken, Kami and her imaginary friend Jared met and discovered someone knowing all your secrets is not the most comfortable thing in the world, a team of intrepid teen investigators discovered a sorcerous plot, and a sleepy village’s secrets began to come to light. In the second book, people are choosing sides, and readers are no doubt in for more excitement, tension and heartbreak. Yay!

Title: Slimed! An Oral History of Nickolodeon’s Golden Age

Author: Matthew Klickstein

Publisher & Release Date: Plume, September 24

The Hook: Frankly, I was in when I saw the title.