The Shadow Hero

22 Jul

ShadowHero-Cov-final2Back in the 1940s, a new superhero was introduced who defended American Allies in China during World War II. He was called the Green Turtle and some speculate that the comic’s creator, Chu Hing, intended the Green Turtle to be Chinese-American and therefore the first Asian American Superhero. It’s further speculated that the publisher feared a Chinese superhero would not sell and so insisted that the character appear white. The Green Turtle’s run in comics was short-lived and so the audience, and his sidekick Burma Boy, never learned his true identity nor saw the Green Turtle unmasked.

Enter Gene Luen Yang, 70 years later, who offers both an identity and an origin story for the Green Turtle. In Yang’s story, a first generation Chinese-American named Hank Chu transforms from a neighborhood teen working in his father’s grocery store in 1930s Chinatown to a crime-fighting superhero who is invulnerable to bullets. It all starts when his mother is saved by The Anchor of Justice and becomes obsessed with the idea of her son becoming a great superhero. She signs him up for fighting lessons with Uncle Wun Too, makes him a costume, and gives him a superhero name (Golden Man of Bravery). While he does gain some fighting skills, throwing a few good punches in a costume does not make someone a superhero. Sadly, it takes a tragedy to give Hank both the super powers and motivation he needs to be a true masked crime-fighter.

One thing I appreciate about The Shadow Hero as an origin story is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While there is some heartbreak to help spur our hero into action and the racism of the era is not ignored, there is also quite a bit of humor as Hank survives his mother’s many efforts to have him stumble upon some super powers and as he figures out how to work with the ancient turtle spirit who is always just over his shoulder sharing his input like it or not.

ToxicSludgeIsGoodForYou

Hank’s mother and Uncle Wun Too are wonderfully entertaining supporting characters who offer the story a good dose each of humor and heart while also having a strong impact on the storyline. We’re introduced to a love interest for Hank – a beautiful, young woman named Red Center with special skills and family issues of her own. We also meet Detective Lawful, a lawman who isn’t quite up to the challenge of fighting a fight he cannot win, and the real “law” of Chinatown – Ten Grand, Mock Beak, and Big Cookie – who collect taxes from the people of Chinatown and deliver punches and bullets to those who disobey. And then there’s the ancient Chinese turtle spirit who inhabits Hank’s shadow, who is part sidekick, part guardian angel, but really neither of these two roles quite describes the relationship between him and Hank.

In addition to the strong ensemble, Yang and Liew offer action, romance, humor, suspense, and a desire for more adventures to follow. Whether there will be more Green Turtle adventures from Yang and Liew or not, I do not know. The end of The Shadow Hero suggests that the Green Turtle will be heading off to war soon (i.e. the adventures featured in the 1940s comics), so perhaps the idea is that what comes next has already been written and so need not be written again. All I know is that I would gladly read more from Yang and Liew and would be thrilled to see more Green Turtle stories in their (and my) future.

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Illustrator: Sonny Liew
Publisher: First Second (July 2014)
Note: eGalley received from publisher for review

Maddie Reviews: Emma by Jane Austen

9 Jul

9780143106463_Emma_ClaDlx.indd
Earlier this year, I decided to deviate from my usual reading material and go for something a bit different. I got a copy of Emma through a free book something-or-other, and decided- why not? I had been inspired to start reading Jane Austen because of Gwyneth Paltrow, The Mother Daughter Book Club series, and just because it sounded like something that would be more interesting to me. I figured that if I was going to finally start to brave literature from the early 1900s, why not start with something a bit gossipy and love triangle oriented?

You’ve probably heard of this book before. It was the last book that the famous Jane Austen published in her lifetime. Its heroine is the witty and intelligent but extremely nosy Emma, a member of the higher branch of English society from around the eighteen hundreds. As the publisher description adequately describes her, “she was beautiful, clever, rich, and single.” She is set apart from her peers (and, I think, other heroines of her time) by being content to remain perfectly clever and single. As she says in the book, “’I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature, and I do not think I ever shall.’” Certainly, the main plot point of the story is her delightful nosiness.

In the very beginning, she sets out to match her new charge/protégé, the young Miss Harriet, an orphan of unknown parentage, to the handsome, young, and wealthy Mr. Elton. Emma decides she must take Harriett under her wing after her main companion, the former Miss Taylor turned Mrs. Weston, is married. Making matches and getting into people’s business is our dear protagonist Emma’s favorite pastime. The story evolves to include the interesting twists and turns of Emma’s scheme, with some things extremely unexpected, and others that could be guessed from the beginning – for, really, what is a Jane Austen novel without romance?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I noticed how Jane Austen seemed to use some facts of English society in the story, remark about them in a clever prose, and then (very subtly) make fun of them, as if to say, through her characters and their actions, that some aspects of society were just plain stupid. To give a specific example I have in mind would spoil some of the book, so I’m just going to leave it at that.

Another thing I liked about this book were all the different characters. There is the disagreeable friend of Emma’s, Mr. Knightly, her father, Mr. Woodhouse, who seems to have a rather stalkerish obsession with their town doctor, Perry (and health), the young, slightly dimwitted Miss Harriet, and the dapper Mr. Elton.

I also love her use of language. It was the kind of book that you are bursting at the seams to read in a British accent, and cuddle up with a cup of mint tea, a blanket, and a small dog by the fireplace.

There were things about this book that I wasn’t as fond of. First, there are spaces in places they simply shouldn’t be. The same can be said of the letter u, and other odd things that appear in places that they don’t in American English. The book, while much more interesting, than, say, The Scarlet Letter, is still a bit tedious and hard to read at times. The plot as well, or at least parts of it, was extremely predictable. For example, I knew that ______ would end up with ______ and that ______ would, like, NEVER work out, and they’d end up back with _______ . . . I think you get my point. Saying all of this, though, it was still readable.

If you struggle sometimes with regular English, let alone older English, and classics just aren’t for you, then you may want to wait a few more years to tackle Emma. On the other hand, I highly recommend this book if you like classics, or want to start reading them. This book is most definitely a great place to begin! Also, if you appreciate love complications and just all-around extremely satisfying (read for five hours straight in a very large generously stuffed chair) books, you’d definitely adore this one.

So, pick up Emma, by Jane Austen: It’s a great way to start reading classics, and to perfect that British accent.

Maddie
Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Originally published in 1815 by John Murray

Note from Em: Maddie and I used to co-host a radio show together where we talked about all the great (and sometimes not great) books that we read. Sadly, Maddie had to leave the radio show when she and her family moved several hours away. Luckily she still shares her love of reading and her book reviewing talents with the world! Her reviews are also posted on the Bound By Books radio show blog.

Not So YA: Vegan Cookbook Edition

6 Jul

This is a YA blog and these books aren’t YA. I could make the connection to my teen years – that I went vegetarian when I was 15 and vegan when I was 18. I could talk about how much I would have loved these books as a young vegan and how glad I am that vegan teens today have so many more options in restaurants, grocery stores, and on the bookshelves. This is all true, but I also just wanted to highlight these two books because they’re awesome. The recipes are delicious, creative, and easy to follow. The design is eye-catching and informative. These two books are two of my new go-to cookbooks that I’ll be revisiting time and time again in the years to come. I can’t wait to see what my next great recipe is!

afro-vegan
Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry

Bryant Terry creates amazing cookbooks and delicious flavor combinations. His book Vegan Soul Kitchen is one of my all-time favorites. There are few dishes in my life that I have loved as much as his Cajun-Creole-Spiced Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits. But boy do I have a new favorite in Afro-Vegan with his recipe for Texas Caviar. mmmmMMMM. It is fresh and decadent and reason enough to buy this book (though there are plenty of other reasons).

In Afro-Vegan, Terry offers over 100 delicious recipes organized by staple ingredients such as “Grits. Grains. Couscous.”, “Greens. Squashes, Roots.”, and “Okra, Black-Eyed Peas. Watermelon.” Each section’s intro and each recipe’s blurb ties back into the central themes of the cookbook – building community around food and around the table, honoring personal history and food history, and celebrating the food and the people of ancient Africa and the African-diaspora and their contributions to New World cuisine and agricultural practices.

As he does with every book, each recipe comes with a suggested music track. For example, Texas Caviar is paired with Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”. This recipe is absolutely divine and I feel like a super rich kid when I eat it. Other dishes from Afro-Vegan that I have made and enjoyed include Glazed Carrot Salad and Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup. The suggested tracks for these two recipes: “Sweet Bite” by George Duke and “Africaine” by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.

The Glazed Carrot Salad is a delicious warm carrot salad with cilantro, mint, and peanuts. I’m always excited to find dishes that give me a reason to appreciate the mint that grows like a weed in front of my house. This recipe is a bit time-consuming prep-wise for a side dish, but the resulting dish is beautiful and offers diverse textures and flavors that I appreciate. The Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup recipe uses a great trick that I first learned in Vegan Soul Kitchen – soaking cashews and blending them with water to make a nice protein-rich alternative to heavy cream. I made this recipe for Christmas dinner and my non-vegan family members thought the creamed cashews idea was genius and the resulting recipe delicious. They were correct.

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The book design is also lovely, with food photography by Paige Green, artwork by Nick James and Keba Konte, and a textured cloth pattern along the spine. I literally pet the book when it showed up at my library and thought to myself “this will look great on my cookbook shelf”. Then remembered that the copy belonged to the library, not me. Oops! I quickly remedied that situation and bought a copy of my own. Doesn’t it look so cozy with its friends?

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Bryant Terry
Photography: Paige Green
Publisher: Ten Speed Press (April 2014)
Note: eGalley received from publisher.

“If A People’s History Of The United States and Joy of Cooking had a baby, Afro-Vegan would be it!”
—Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Veganomicon and Isa Does It

Isa-Does-It
Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

What I love about Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipes is that they’re really easy to follow and the resulting dishes are always delicious. What I love about her latest cookbook (in addition to the tasty dishes she introduces) is that almost every recipe is accompanied by a mouth-watering photograph. While the photography doesn’t technically make the recipes any better, aside from offering a reference for what the dish should/could look like, it does help build the excitement for trying out new dishes.

With Afro-Vegan I offered Texas Caviar as the recipe that is reason enough to buy the book. Here I suggest Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach as the recipe that alone is worth the price of the book purchase. I’ve had several vegan sloppy joes over the past 20 years, but this one is by far the best and I will never go back. The Coconut Creamed Spinach is a delicious addition that I never would have thought to add to a sloppy joe. Other recipes that have become go-to recipes for me in this book are the Meaty Beany Chili and the Cornbread Muffins; both are simple recipes that offer a lot of flavor. Here’s a video of Moskowitz making her Meaty Beany Chili and Cornbread Muffins (the video is by Breville, so she uses their slow-cooker and toaster oven – I use a good old fashioned pot and oven for these recipes at home, but hey, options are always good):

Other recipes that I have tried include Norah’s Lemon-Lemon Cookies and Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu & Kale which were both delicious. I’m excited to try out more recipes this summer with all the fresh local produce available! Yum! The only trick is trying to narrow down which recipe to try out next. They all look so good!

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Photography: Vanessa Rees
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 2013)
Note: eGalley received from publisher.

TBR: Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

4 Jun

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

I love Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers series and the final chapter in the series, Blood of My Blood, is coming out this September! The second book in the series, Game, left us with some mighty cliffhangers and I can’t wait to see what happens next. SPOILERS AHEAD!

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Jazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz’s serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz’s own home in tiny Lobo’s Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he’s never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: “Like father, like son?” Who is the true monster?

The chase is on, and this time Jazz is the hunted, not the hunter. And beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet…the Crow King.

If you can’t wait until September, you can check out a recently released prequel to the series, Lucky Day, which was released as an ebook in April 2014.

LuckyDay

Four years before Jazz started hunting, his father was still on the loose. This is the story of the small town sheriff who captured one of the world’s most ruthless and cunning murderers.

It all started with Dead Girl #1 and Dead Girl #2, the first killings in the sleepy town of Lobo’s Nod in decades. Two murders: just a coincidence, or something more sinister? One thing’s for sure — it was definitely inconvenient in a year when Sheriff G. William Tanner, a mourning widower, had to run for reelection.

With a trail gone cold, it’s only luck that links the murders to the most notorious serial killer in memory. And in a town like Lobo’s Nod, the killer must be someone Tanner already knows….

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga is scheduled for a September 9, 2014 release from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Add it to your TBR list and let me know what titles you think I should add to mine!

June 2014 (Mostly) YA Releases

2 Jun

It’s apparently a good month for me and Macmillan as the four YA titles I’m most anticipating this month are all from Macmillan imprints. I also have two potential adult-YA crossover titles on my list this month, both from Little, Brown and Company.

TheTruthAboutAlice
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Roaring Brook Press, June 3

Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody.

Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the “slut stall” in the girls’ bathroom: “Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers” and “Alice got an abortion last semester.” After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they “know” about Alice–and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But in this novel from Jennifer Mathieu, exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.

TheBodyInTheWoods
Body in the Woods by April Henry
Henry Holt and Co. BYR, June 17

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series, The Body in the Woods is full of riveting suspense, putting readers right in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

Shackleton
Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi
First Second, June 17

Ernest Shackleton was one of the last great Antarctic explorers, and he led one of the most ambitious Antarctic expeditions ever undertaken. This is his story, and the story of the dozens of men who threw in their lot with him – many of whom nearly died in the unimaginably harsh conditions of the journey. It’s an astonishing feat – and was unprecedented at the time – that all the men in the expedition survived.

Shackleton’s expedition marked the end of a period of romantic exploration of the Arctic and the Antarctic, and this is as much a book about the encroaching modern world as it is about travel. But Nick Bertozzi has documented this remarkable journey with such wit and fiendish attention to detail that it’s impossible not to get caught up in the drama of the voyage. Shackleton is a phenomenal accompaniment to Bertozzi’s earlier graphic novel about great explorers, Lewis & Clark.

Complicit
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn
St. Martin’s Griffin, June 24

Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of the gripping psychological thriller Complicit from Stephanie Kuehn, the William C. Morris Award–winning author of Charm & Strange.

The Fever
The Fever by Megan Abbott
Little, Brown and Company, June 17

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire, THE FEVER affirms Megan Abbott’s reputation as “one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation.”

ThoseWhoWishMeDead
Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
Little, Brown and Company, June 3

When fourteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.

I’m currently enjoying listening to The Fever and reading Shackleton. What June releases are you most excited to check out this month?

End of Spring Mix Tape

29 May

If I had to list my three biggest media addictions of Spring 2014, they would be graphic novels, Bollywood films, and new music. After not really buying much in the way of music the past few years, I went a little wild this spring. Here are some of my recent favorites from said purchases. Happy listening!

Girls Chase Boys – Ingrid Michaelson
This song is super catchy and I love watching the quirky dance moves. I especially love how the guy to the left of Michaelson looks like he really wants to get down, but he holds it in until the end when they finally get to let loose.

MFN – Cibo Matto
From Hotel Valentine, their first album release since 1999 (what?!), comes this and plenty of other fantastic and fun songs. Remember when they used to inspire sexy dancing in The Bronze? Oh the good old days. I’m sure the Scoobies would get down to this track as well.

La La La (Brazil 2014) – Shakira
Just in time for the 2014 World Cup, Shakira has released a new version of a song from her self-titled 2014 album with lyrics changed to be more soccer-y and worldly (e.g. “Now here we are. You rock it.” becomes “Hear the whistle. Kick the ball.”). The music video features her baby daddy, Pique, and several other futbol stars lip-synching along, as well as her baby, Milan, playing futbol with an elephant (cute!). The original song was my favorite track off her latest album and I have to say the soccer player eye candy doesn’t hurt. Watch out though, this song is a major earworm.

Love Is The Answer – Aloe Blacc
While “The Man” is the biggest hit (thus far) off Aloe Blacc’s Lift Your Spirit, this is by far my favorite track off the album.

Holding On For Life – Broken Bells
After the Disco is one of my favorite new albums of the year and Holding On For Life is one of my favorite tracks. The music video features scenes from a short film the Broken Bells created to celebrate their album release, a little sci-fi romance starring Anton Yelchin and Kate Mara. The full film is available for viewing online (go for it!).

Fever – Black Keys
Here’s another great new track off a new album that I love. Yes, the phone number onscreen throughout the video is a working number.

Rumble – Kelis
I love Kelis’s new food-themed album. An artist perhaps best known for her hit “Milkshake” off her album Tasty who later studied at Le Cordon Bleu, she’s quite the food-loving singer-songwriter! And how fun is it that she operated a food truck at SXSW 2014 to promote her new album? This song doesn’t seem to have anything to do with food, but I’ll take it anyway.

London Thumakda – Labh Janjua, Neha Kakkar & Sonu Kakkar
The Bollywood film, Queen, was released while I was on vacation in India and this music video played on TV a lot. I finally watched the film this month and loved it! It’s about a girl who gets dumped two days before her wedding and decides to go on her honeymoon (London and Amsterdam) by herself. This video shows a festive wedding celebration prior to the wedding getting called off.

Do you have a favorite song of Spring 2014? Share it in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: BEA 2014

27 May


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature created at the fabulous The Broke and the Bookish, featuring weekly top ten lists on a variety of bookish topics.

This Tuesday is a pick your own topic week and I decided to list the Top Ten Books I Hope to Pick Up at BEA also known as Top Ten Authors/Illustrators I’m Excited to Meet at BEA. I’m only attending BEA on Thursday and Friday this year, but I have quite the line-up those two days. Here are the ten books/authors/illustrators that I’m most excited for:

Benny and Penny
FOR THE KIDDOS
Benny and Penny in Lost and Found by Geoffrey Hayes

    Date: Thursday, May 29
    3:30 pm – 4:30 pm
    Location: 2857

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (illustrator)

    Date: Friday, May 30
    3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
    Location: Table 1
    (Jon Klassen signing)

Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer

    Date: Friday, May 30
    11:00 am – 12:00 pm
    Location: Table 13

Brown Girl Dreaming
FOR THE TWEENS
The Giver by Lois Lowry

    Date: Thursday, May 29
    & Friday, May 30
    11:30 am – 12:30 pm
    Location: 1657

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

    Date: Friday, May 30
    2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
    Location: Table 18

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

    Date: Friday, May 30
    11:00 am – 12:00 pm
    Location: Table 2

Glory O'Brien
FOR THE TEENS
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

    Date: Thursday, May 29
    11:30 am – 12:30 pm
    Location: Table 15

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

    Date: Friday, May 30
    1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
    Location: Table 3

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

    Date: Friday, May 30
    10:00 am – 11:00 am
    Location: 1521

The Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

    Date: Friday, May 30
    3:45 pm – 4:45 pm
    Location: 2638

Edit: Let’s make this a Top Eleven list! We listed Adele Griffin’s The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone as an “honorable mention” – i.e. an ARC that we were interested in that wasn’t tied to a signing, but it turns out Adele Griffin will be there! Thanks to Soho Press for the update!

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

    Date: Friday, May 30
    3pm-4pm
    Location: 2946

Honorable Mention (no author signing, but an ARC I would love to get my grubby hands on): The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Are you attending BEA? If so, what books/authors/illustrators are you most excited to cross paths with? Hope to see you there!

Giveaway: Touching the Surface and Send Me a Sign

23 May

Each year on the first Saturday in May, my local school district hosts the Hudson Children’s Book Festival, a wonderful event that brings young readers together with outstanding authors and illustrators. This year, I had the pleasure of hanging out with booth buddies Kimberly Sabatini (who I first met a couple years back at a Hudson Valley YA Society event) and Tiffany Schmidt, who are both so friendly that I decided to buy copies of their debut novels to share with one lucky visitor to Love YA Lit.

KimberlyAndTiffany

Kimberly’s debut novel, Touching the Surface, is about a young woman who finds herself dead for the third time and realizes that before she can move on to the great beyond she’ll have to reconcile issues with her past life. (Oh yeah, and there’s a love triangle and the cover is super pretty.)

Tiffany’s debut novel, Send Me a Sign, is about a popular teenager who is diagnosed with Leukemia during the summer break before senior year and decides to keep her illness a secret from her friends and classmates. She confides in her longtime neighbor and best friend, Gyver, but the sicker she gets, the harder it gets to keep her secret from the rest of the world. (Also a love triangle here and a lovely cover as well.)

Want your very own signed copies of these books? Enter to win below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One winner will be chosen at random on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 to win a signed copy of Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini and a signed copy of Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt. One entry per person, US mailing addresses only, 13 years of age or older. Winner will be contacted by email.

Maddie Reviews: Code Name Verity

4 May

Maddie
Note from Em: Maddie and I used to co-host a radio show together where we talked about all the great (and sometimes not great) books that we read. Sadly, Maddie had to leave the radio show last year when she and her family moved several hours away. Luckily she still shares her love of reading and her book reviewing talents with the world! Her reviews are posted on the Bound By Books radio show blog and here’s one of her latest reviews, which I thought you all would enjoy!


CodeNameVerity
Code Name Verity was an amazing and thought-provoking book. As I have said before to those I know (in post-novel babbling disorder), I love fantasy and science fiction, and yet, despite this love, the genres that really GET me. . . the genres that affect me and leave a lasting impact are realistic and historical fiction. Code Name Verity is, I believe, the epitome of why this is true.

This story starts out with the narrative of “Verity”, a prisoner of the Gestapo in Nazi occupied France during World War Two. The time is October of 1943, and “Verity” is a Special Operations Executive for the Allies. She was sent to France to help with the French Resistance, but in the first 48 hours of her mission, she looks the wrong way when crossing the street and someone notices, which leads to her capture. She arrived in France by way of plane flown by her best friend (Maddie Brodatt, an English First Officer with the Air Trasnsport Auxiliary), but their plane is hit by an antiaircraft gun and crash lands. “Verity” gets out by parachuting, but she never finds out what happened to Maddie before she is caught. She (and the Gestapo) can only believe that Maddie is dead. Through torture by the Nazis, she goes on to reveal her story to the captain. She tells much of it through the eyes of her best friend. The book has many, many, many unexpected twists and turns, and has so many delicious spoiling opportunities, I can’t even explain farther than the first 57 pages without giving away something you really wouldn’t want to know.

I loved this book.

It was brilliant. It was historical. It was heart-wrenching. It was heart-warming. . . it was, without a doubt, an illustrious, absolutely stellar novel. I loved the characters – Queenie, “Gloriously daft, drop-dead charming, full of bookish nonsense and foul language, brave and generous”. The one who you would normally think of as the character you hate, but. . . you just. . . can’t. Then Jamie, the favorite brother and subject of Fear Number Three. There was the Bloody Machiavellian Intelligence Officer, who really doesn’t have a huge role, but whose “name” is brilliant. SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer von Linden, the Nazi captain with a soft spot for children. They all resonated with me, in some form or another.

In this book, I also loved the historical aspect. Now, I know that it IS historical fiction, but this book seemed especially well-researched and thought out. It almost felt like you were reading an extremely descriptive biography. I don’t know that much about World War II, but I certainly learned a lot by reading this, especially about how women were involved, specifically in the UK.

This leads me to another thing about this book that I appreciated. It showed a different, less explored point of view. Regarding the second World War, most of the fictional literature that exists is about the Holocaust – or, at least, everything I have come in contact with. This book shows the different perspective of the people actually fighting in Britain. To tell the truth, I have never really thought about that viewpoint.

Finally, this book made me cry. All of the best books that I’ve read make me cry – and they are all historical or realistic fiction. You get so wrapped up in the story, and, as I mentioned earlier, it feels like you are reading a biography. The characters come to life, and it takes a few minutes when you’ve finished to remember that they’re fictional. Code Name Verity really provides some thought (and makes me appreciate my nickname).

I loved this book a lot, but there were a few things that were less perfect. I suppose that the time it took Verity to write her confession novel was a bit unbelievable. Would she really have gotten that much time? Probably not. Also, Verity’s many names were hard to either keep track of or adjust to. Right after you had just gotten familiar with calling her one name, she would introduce another, and you would have to re-order your picture of her in your mind to get familiar with it, just like some of the plot twists in the story. Oh, the plot twists! I sometimes pride myself in predicting what is going to happen in a book, for, really, I am usually right. But in THIS book, I was continually shocked and surprised, marveling at how I really didn’t see some of the things coming. I loved it. Nevertheless, as with the name changing, it got confusing, which I believe can be both good and bad. It is puzzling the first time around, and you may want to reread some paragraphs over again, but in the long run, it makes you want to reread the book. Basically, the quote from the New York Times on the front cover explains it nicely: it’s “a fiendishly plotted mind game of a novel.” I feel that it is one of the books that doesn’t get old very easily, and you can spot something new every single time. Lastly, I suppose the worst thing about this book was that it took me six days to read the first 84 pages. The start seemed very slow, and I kept reading it in little increments. I discovered that you have to start this book when you have a good long time to just sit down and READ. After you get over the initial hump, the plot drags you in, and then you’re glued until the finish.

I would recommend this book to absolutely EVERYONE to read. If you like historical fiction, then this is a must. Its plot, as well as its characters, are well-crafted, and it tells an inspiring overarching tale of friendship that makes you love it to bits. That said, though, you have to have tolerance for descriptions of things you may not know anything about, like wireless operators, Puss Moths, and Nazi officer rankings, so you might want to have an interest in the time period.

So, the bottom line is. . . READ THIS BOOK. It is amazing, thought provoking, and tells a tale of friendship that you simply cannot miss.

Maddie’s Rating: 5 out of 5
Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (2012)

TBR: A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

16 Apr

A-Time-To-Dance
“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating. This week I wanted to highlight the upcoming Padma Venkatraman release, A Time to Dance. I recently posted about Indian YA lit on my TBR and this one is officially being added to the list!

Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

I love South Asian literature and I love verse novels. I’m also drawn to the focus on disability in India, as this was my area of study during my semester abroad in India (way back when). Venkatraman is getting a lot of advanced praise for A Time to Dance, including starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and VOYA. A Time to Dance is scheduled for a May 1, 2014 release (Nancy Paulsen Books). Be sure to add it to your TBR list! You can read an excerpt here.