Tag Archives: maureen johnson

A New Wave of YA is Coming

After several years of being less engaged with the world of young adult books, I find myself looking forward to new releases from many of my favorite authors. 2017 has already been a brighter year for YA with a new book from Sarah Dessen and the discovery of Sabaa Tahir’s series-in-progress. Join me in nerding out over four upcoming books and admiring beautiful cover art.

There’s Someone Inside Your House on September 26!

There's Someone Inside Your House

Stephanie Perkins is a delight in her Anna and the French Kiss trilogy. Having briefly met her at NerdCon: Stories, I can also vouch for the fact that she’s a delight in person. She’s been teasing this book for a while now: like a teen slasher flick but with plenty of kissing and googly eyes (she promises!). It took some time for me to warm up to the idea, but now I’m pumped. I love that she’s willing to work outside of her established patterns. Given the humanity that she can bring to a teenage romance in Paris, I predict that There’s Someone Inside Your House will have more emotional resonance than the average horror story.

Turtles All the Way Down on October 10!

Turtles All the Way Down

By the time this book comes out, it will have been almost six years since the release of The Fault in Our Stars. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if John Green would ever publish again, at least in the YA genre. He’s certainly been keeping busy with creating educational online video. In this case, I’m glad to be wrong. Turtles All the Way Down deals with mental illness, which according to John himself, is inspired by his own experiences with OCD. Although I keep up with John through his online content, I look forward to learning what his brain has been working on these past six years. It’s sure to be thought-provoking.

Truly Devious on January 16!

Truly Devious

As blog readers probably know, my deepest wish is for Maureen Johnson to publish the fourth Shades of London book. Well, it’s vying with a few other literary wishes, but it’s right up there. Luckily, Truly Devious sounds like it has the potential to fill the void. It continues Maureen’s trend of boarding school settings, this time at an American school with ambitious students and a mysterious founder. If I can’t have ghost detectives in London, I’ll take a regular teen detective in Vermont. Not to mention, the cover art is on point!

A Reaper at the Gates on April 10!

A Reaper at the Gates

This is the third book in Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series. Since I just caught up with the series this spring, a year isn’t too long to wait for the next installment. However, there was much confusion when I saw the cover. A quick search revealed that the entire series is be re-released with new cover art. I’m not a huge fan of the high fantasy mood of the new designs, not being a frequent fantasy reader myself, but this interview with Sabaa explains her motivation for showing the faces of her diverse characters. The second book left the three main characters in unexpected places, so I’m excited to see where she takes them.

It’s worth noting that only one of these books is a sequel. There are fresh ideas brewing in the YA world, and I’m all about it.

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When Authors Are Torturers

Every book lover knows that authors are the source of both our greatest joy and our greatest pain. I’m talking about the often excruciating wait that comes between books from our favorite writers. On a rational level, we want them to take as long as needed to produce a quality novel, but on an irrational level, we’re desperate for our next fix. There are several authors whose disrupted publication schedule is keeping me in suspense at the moment, so here’s a rundown.

J.K. Rowling, as Robert Galbraith, was publishing the Cormoran Strike mysteries like clockwork. 2013, 2014, and 2015 each brought an installment. But 2016…nothing. There’s still no publication date for the fourth book, which means we probably won’t see it until fall at the earliest. I realize that she’s been busy, y’know, writing movie scripts and collaborating on plays. But I need more Cormoran and Robin in my life! The Guardian reports that she’s working on two books: the next Cormoran Strike mystery and a novel under her own name. Here’s hoping for the mystery in the latter part of 2017 and the novel in 2018.

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Meeting Rainbow at NerdCon 2015 when Carry On was freshly released

Rainbow Rowell spoiled us by being impressively prolific in her early years of publication. I believe she was already working on Fangirl (or possibly done with it) by the time Eleanor & Park was published, which resulted in two books in 2013. Then she gave us one book a year until 2016. I know she wrote a screenplay for Eleanor & Park, a movie that didn’t get made, and she signed a deal to write two graphic novels. I’ve been so anxious for the first graphic novel collaboration with Faith Erin Hicks. I imagine that the art side is extremely time consuming, but this announcement was made three years ago. Three years!

My last torturer is Maureen Johnson. Maureen has had some serious health shenanigans in the last few years, so I can’t really begrudge her the delay in her publishing schedule. And yet…the last Shades of London book came out two years ago. I miss my favorite irreverent ghost squad! I reread The Name of the Star recently, which was delightful, but it also made me impatient for the fourth book. She also has a new mystery series scheduled to launch this year called Truly Devious. That could almost make up for Shades of London. (Almost.)

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Also at NerdCon 2015, Maureen Johnson leading a Q&A with the Vlogbrothers

In all seriousness, I love these women and will happily read their books whenever they’re released. 2016 was just a dry year for a lot of my favorite authors. In literature we play the long game, so there’s always something to anticipate.

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Best of 2015: Book Edition, Part 1

With a little help from my friends at the library, I was able to read so many awesome new releases this year. If you like young adult or literary mysteries, there’s probably something on one of these lists for you. Here are my best books read in 2015, numbers 10 through 6!

10. The Shadow Cabinet, by Maureen Johnson

The Shadow Cabinet

The Shades of London series is a sneaky favorite of mine. I tend to forget about it, but when the third book came out this year, I was all over the library waitlist. (It didn’t hurt that the second book ended on a torturous cliffhanger.) The moody London atmosphere combined with Maureen Johnson’s irreverent humor make this series unique, and The Shadow Cabinet is the most exciting installment yet.

9. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything

Sarah Dessen, my first love in YA, came out with a wonderful offering this year. Saint Anything follows Sydney’s struggles to get out of her older brother’s shadow—a brother who is now in prison for a drunk driving accident. As Dessen protagonists are apt to do, she finds a dynamic group of friends to help her. Since Sarah is a master of characterization, it’s not a bad pattern. Bonus points for a creeper character who truly made me cringe. (You can read my full review here.)

8. Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On

Rainbow Rowell’s first fantasy novel is already cause for excitement. Her first fantasy novel that’s also a clever critique of Chosen One narratives—that’s even better. The story is full of complicated friendships and uneasy alliances. As always, Rainbow has a knack for putting her characters in exactly the situation you want to see them in. I’m also seriously envious of the art throughout the book, from the cover art to the section break illustrations to the beautiful map of Watford School of Magicks. (You can read my full review here.)

7. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

Yes Please is one part personal anecdotes and one part sage advice. I love the design of the book with its color photographs and reproductions of various mementos. My favorite chapter is about performing on Saturday Night Live while pregnant with her first child. It’s just the right combination of behind-the-scenes details and broader commentary on the female experience. I set down Yes Please feeling motivated to “do the thing.” (You can read my full review here.)

6. Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to have new J. K. Rowling in my life, pseudonym or no. It stands to reason that she can write a good mystery, but I didn’t expect to fall so completely in love with her detective characters. Career of Evil is my favorite book of the series because it reveals more details of Cormoran and Robin’s pasts. I was in serious denial for days after finishing this book because I didn’t want it to be over. (You can read my full review here.)

Tomorrow is the grand finale: my top 5 books of 2015!

 

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Tales from the Teen Section, Part 2

Summer is the perfect time for young adult books. I might not be in the mood for serious literature, but I can enjoy some fast and fun teen fiction. Naturally I have another batch of titles to review and recommend.The Madness Underneath

The Madness Underneath is the second book in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series. I started it shortly after finishing The Name of the Star, which made me realize that I was perhaps more invested in the series than I thought. My opinion of the book changed from beginning to end. The first half or so felt like a reaction to the previous book without much cohesive plot to make it interesting in its own right. However, the narrative strands came together in the second half for an exciting conclusion. Okay, Maureen, I’m still on board.

Divergent

Divergent is one of those books that I read because I felt like I should. The series is big in the young adult world right now, and the film adaptation of the first book is currently filming. And of course, everyone loves to ask, “Is this the next Hunger Games?” After reading the first book, I doubt that it will reach that level of popularity. I was engrossed in the plot early on, and Veronica Roth certainly creates some dramatic action sequences. The problem is that I found myself questioning the logic of her dystopian world, which shouldn’t happen with quality sci-fi. I might still read the second book, but I’m not confident that my questions will be answered.

Eleanor & Park

This book. Oh my goodness, this book. I would have been obsessed with it when I was fifteen, and I still kind of am. In Omaha circa 1986, two misfit teenagers find each other and take tentative steps toward love. The plot could veer into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory, but Eleanor and Park turn out to be wonderfully well-rounded characters. Eleanor is dealing with an overcrowded house and a creepy stepfather. Park struggles to find himself as the only half-Korean in the neighborhood. These characters have capital-E-Emotions, but I find them realistic rather than grating. I remember being sixteen when every emotion felt epic. The 80’s setting gives the story extra charm with cassette tapes, record stores, and no cell phones in sight.

After seeing these titles at the bookstore for months, it was great to finally discover what they’re all about. The best is a book like Eleanor & Park that fully meets my expectations. Of course, to-read lists have a tendency to never shrink, and there are plenty of other books on my radar. I hope to have another trio of young adult gems to share by the end of the summer.

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Tales from the Teen Section

Recently I was given some added responsibility at my bookseller gig. Along with one of my coworkers, I’m now in charge of monitoring the teen section. I guess a passion for young adult literature makes you somewhat unique in literary circles, or at least in my particular group of booksellers. For me it was an easy offer to accept.

My recent reading efforts have been mainly in adult literature, so I’ve enjoyed this motivation to get back into the YA scene. I started with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which has been a bestseller alongside The Fault in Our Stars since 2012. (That’s especially cool because Ransom Riggs and John Green attended Kenyon College together.) Miss Peregrine’s is a rare book that is truly difficult to compare to anything else. Riggs used vintage photographs, often of the creepy variety, as inspiration for a school full of children with “peculiar” abilities. The narrator Jacob is investigating his grandfather’s past, leading him to England and the peculiar children. This book is proof that inventiveness can thrive in the YA genre.

Miss Peregrine's

Next I ventured into the Teen Fantasy and Adventure section. Last year Juliet Marillier, my favorite fantasy writer, released a new teen book called Shadowfell. It’s the first in a series about a girl named Neryn who lives in a kingdom where magic is forbidden. This is dangerous for someone like Neryn with an uncanny ability, in her case to see and speak with magical folk. Shadowfell had many of the hallmarks of Marillier’s adult novels, but the story felt simplified for a younger audience. Marillier has such a lovely writing style that I enjoyed the book even when I thought I could predict what was coming next. Even better, my predictions were sometimes proven wrong. It won’t win my devotion to the extent of the Sevenwaters series, but I’m looking forward to reading the second book in July.

Shadowfell

Most recently I finished The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. She is another friend of John Green’s, so you can tell where I go for YA recommendations. This book is about Rory, a Louisiana teenager who spends her final year of high school at an English boarding school. Someone begins recreating the Jack the Ripper murders, and Rory gets caught up in the mayhem. I enjoy how Johnson approaches a classic subject like ghosts with a modern, snarky tone. She isn’t necessarily trying to be deep, but her writing is well-researched and entertaining. The Name of the Star is also the first in a series called Shades of London. The Madness Underneath,  the second book in the series, is high on my to-read list.

The Name of the Star

The floodgates have opened. I have a list of at least ten more YA books that I want to check out. As if that wasn’t enough, Sarah Dessen’s new book comes out a week from today! The teen section is often the butt of jokes, and admittedly there are some superficial and copycat titles out there. Like any genre, YA has its good and bad examples. And Gentle Readers, I will continue sharing the good examples with you.

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