Tuesday, 7 February 2023

February YA Preview

Fuller details to follow.

NerdCrush by Alisha Emrich (7th Feb, Running Press Kids)

This One's For You by Kate Sweeney (7th Feb, Viking Books)

This Time It's Real by Ann Liang (7th Feb, Scholastic)

Seven Faceless Saints by MK Lobb (7th Feb, Little, Brown)

Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood (7th Feb, Wednesday Books)

The Severed Thread by Leslie Vedder (7th Feb, Razorbill)

Daughters of Oduma by Moses Ose Utomi (7th Feb, Atheneum)

When You Wish Upon A Lantern by Gloria Chao (7th Feb, Viking Books)

Afterglow by Phil Stamper (7th Feb, Bloomsbury)

And Other Mistakes by Erika Turner (14th Feb, Feiwel and Friends)

Always The Almost by Edward Underhill (14th Feb, Wednesday Books)

Planning Perfect by Haley Neil (14th Feb, Bloomsbury)

Last Chance Dance by Lakita Wilson (14th Feb, Viking Books)

She Is A Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran (28th Feb, Bloomsbury)

The Headmaster's List by Melissa De La Cruz (28th Feb, Roaring Brook Press)

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Short Story Spotlight 5th February - High Spirits by Camille Gomera-Tavarez

High Spirits by Camille Gomera-Tavarez, published by Levine Querido

I really enjoyed High Spirits by Camille Gomera-Tavarez, a debut author. In this collection of interconnected short stories, she looks at members of a family from the Dominican Republic, following their lives both in their home country and in the US.

The family tree at the start was great - it's really interesting to see how the characters in each story are connected - and I loved seeing characters I'd enjoyed reading about in one story pop up again in another, as well as the repeating themes of gender roles, legacy, and even a little magical realism. Each of the eleven stories here is short - the entire collection is under 125 pages - but they're all both thought-provoking and satisfying. Definite recommendation, and I'll be eagerly awaiting more from this lyrical author.

Favourite stories:

"B├írbaro" - Yoanson's rarely seen older brother visits him, taking him to the barber for the first time. I loved this one, with the argumentative way in which the men in the barber's shop talk about politics giving way to real empathy from Tony, the barber, as he realizes that Yoanson and his brother have different views on a suitable hairstyle, and backs up the younger boy.

"Skipping Stones" - New Yorker Ana returns to the Dominican Republic for a fuenral, and sees her friend Zahaira - but her feelings for the other girl aren't just that of friendship. This is gorgeously romantic, really impressive considering it's only about nine pages in total - it brings the two girls to life wonderfully despite its brief length.

"Domino" - Two girls desperate for money for travel to a free concert sign up for a dominoes tournament to try and win what they need. Loved how tense the final game was here!

Sunday, 29 January 2023

'Short Story Spotlight 29th January - Up All Night edited by Laura Silverman

Up All Night edited by Laura Silverman

I love the variety here, going between a number of sweet love stories, attempts to rekindle friendships, or start new ones, a shocking discovery in a game of dares, and a chilling tale of a night in an abandoned asylum. This is one of the ones where I've found it incredibly hard to pin down my favourite three - in addition to the ones mentioned below, editor Laura Silverman's own "Creature Capture", a blossoming friendship story based around a Pokemon Go-type game, Amanda Joy's gorgeous romance "Kiss The Boy", and Nina LaCour's stepsibling bonding "A Place To Start" are all delightful, while Maurene Goo's "Like Before", in which a girl tries to heal a rift between her closest friends, came very close to making me cry at times.

Personal favourites:

"Old Rifts and Snowdrifts" by Kayla Whaley - very sweet 'ex-friends to lovers' story, as main character gets trapped in the florists' shop she works at along with her best friend's twin brother, who she used to be close to but hasn't spoken to for a year. Super romantic and lovely.

"When You Bring A Dog To Prom" by Anna Meriano - gorgeously sweet prom story, in which Noemi goes to prom with her best friend and her date, along with her best friend's brother (who she's seriously crushing on), his date, and their emotional support dog. Despite a momentary panic when the dog gets loose and runs away, this is a delightful read about an awesome friendship group and the dog, Suka, is super-cute.

"The Ghost of Goon Creek" by Francesca Zappia - another real charmer, as main character Sydney, who collects local ghost stories, is persuaded to let Grace, a reporter for the school newspaper, come with her as she follows her yearly tradition of looking for the Ghost of Goon Creek. Other people coming along definitely wasn't part of the plan - but as Sydney talks to them during the night, she starts to realize she may have been wrong about people in her class, and begins to form lasting friendships.

Sunday, 22 January 2023

Short Story Spotlight 22nd January - Cool. Awkward. Black. edited by Karen Strong

Cool. Awkward. Black. edited by Karen Strong

I love the variety here - geeks of all sorts, and a wide range of genres. From contemporary, to sci-fi, to fantasy, we get to see a bunch of tremendous authors exploring the theme in a variety of ways. There's sweet romance from Elise Bryant, surely one of the most talented authors to debut over the last few years, the superb Leah Johnson and Julian Winters, who I need to read more of because I'm dazzled by everything I HAVE read of his. We have a couple of intriguing stories in which contemporary settings take a real twist, as K Arsenault Rivera's "Initiative Check" sees an RPG come to life, and Amanda Joy's "The Panel Shows The Girl" has a similar idea, but with the main character's sketches having a strange effect on her classmates. And there's sci-fi, most notably Ibi Zoboi's "Earth Is Ghetto" about an MC who's been contacted by aliens and is ready to leave with them once they appear.

There's lots here I'd like to see more of - in particular, Tracy Deonn's "Catalyst Rising" is stunning, but the ending seems to be begging for a follow-up, and while "Wolf Tracks" by Roseanne A. Brown worked perfectly as it was, the characters - a gay boy from a line of men who transform into wolves in the presence of the people they're in love with, his family, and his love interest, are so wonderful that I'd be intrigued by more.

Hugely recommended as a really awesome collection.

Personal favourites: 

"Our Joy, Our Power" by Julian Winters - waiting to go into a convention ball, a boy distracts himself from thinking of a loss in a cosplay contest - and the microaggressions in his feedback - by talking to another cute guy as they both wait for their chronically late best friends. This is a gorgeous read, with instant chemistry between the pair, and a perfect start to the anthology.

"Spirit-Filled" by Jordan Ifueko - A teenage girl, daughter of staunch Republican Christians, starts to question her family's viewpoints as she reads epic fantasies that she knows her parents wouldn't approve of, and finds support from an unlikely person. Lots of fun, Romily, the MC, is wonderful.

"Cole's Cruise Blues" by Isaac Fitzsimons - This was one of my most anticipated - I really loved Fitzsimmons's The Passing Playbook - and lived up to expectations. It's the story of Cole, a 14-year-old trans boy seeing his father for the first time in four years, going on a cruise with his 10-year-old stepsister and their parents. The two siblings connect, while Cole also meets a guy he likes. Really love the blossoming connection between Cole and Evan here, and the warmth of the family relationships. 

Friday, 20 January 2023

January MG Preview

 Not sure if it really counts as a 'preview' when we're two thirds of the way through the month, but I got busy, and it's taken longer than expected to write this...

As always, my main method of finding out about MG (and adult releases, for that matter) is Pop! Goes The Reader's superb Patreon, amazing value at $5 a month. If you want a much more comprehensive list of releases, rather than this - which is just some of the ones I'm particularly interested in - I would massively recommend subscribing, Jen is absolutely wonderful and does an incredible job with her monthly preview posts.

The one book I've read is published by HarperCollins, and I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts on it - just as soon as the HarperCollins Union get a fair deal out of the publisher. For more on that situation, and how people can support the union, check out this Twitter thread and their links on Linktree.  

Trashed! by Martha Freeman (17th Jan, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), about Arthur, who goes from helping out in his family's junk store to trying to solve a crime, sounds fantastic - loving the mention of a motorcycle-riding grandma in this one! And Torrey Maldonado, who I've heard so many great things about, has a new book Hands (24th Jan, Nancy Paulsen Books) coming out, looking at a talented artist learning to box in order to protect his mom and sisters from their threatening stepdad.

Erin Bow's Simon Sort Of Says (31st Jan, Disney Hyperion) is about a 12-year-old boy who, two years after being the only survivor of a school shooting, moves with his family to the National Quiet Zone (where the internet is banned, and astronomers search for signs of life in space.) This sounds wonderful, and timely.

As mentioned previously on this blog, I'm trying to read more short stories, and collection My Selma by Willie Mae Brown (3rd Jan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) - looking at her own coming of age against the backdrop of her hometown, with the civil rights movement unfolding there, sounds superb. For other books about the civil rights era, Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin: Civil Rights Heroes by Tracey Baptiste and Shauna J Grant (3rd Jan, First Second), in the History Comics series, and We Are Your Children Too: Black Students, White Supremacists, and The Battle For America's Schools In Prince Edward County, Virginia by P O'Connell Pearson (10th Jan, Simon & Schuster), a non-fiction book about an all-White school board closing down all public schools in a county in south central Virginia rather than integrate, both sound excellent. So does A Mighty Long Way: My Journey To Justice At Little Rock Central High School (17th Jan, Delacorte Press) by Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest of the Little Rock Nine.

Described as a 'feel-good light romance about two 13-year-old cousins and their first solo attempts at creating enchanted love potions', Suitehearts #1: Harmony and Heartbreak by Claire Kann (3rd Jan, HarperCollins, see note above) sounds like a fun plot, but it's the author name which has me really interested in this one - Claire Kann's YA books The Marvelous and If It Makes You Happy were both superb, and I'm really intrigued to see her turning her considerable talents to MG.

And, finally, a fantasy book described as The Addams Family meets The Westing Game! The Carrefour Curse by Dianne K Salerni (31st Jan, Holiday House), which is about a 12-year-old girl whose mother is estranged from her 'cursed' family, and the dreadful secret she finds when she's summoned to their home, sounds utterly wonderful. 

What are you interested in, out of January's releases? Leave me a comment!    

Sunday, 15 January 2023

Short Story Spotlight 15th January - Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles

Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles 

A diverse collection - in the wonderfully wide representation, in the styles of the stories, with Walter Dean Myers's play script and Gene Luen Yang's graphic story, illustrated by Thien Pham, as well as the prose stories, and in the genres represented, with historical fiction, sci-fi, and contemporary all making an appearance here. This has a tremendous amount of superb authors, including a few absolute favourites of mine in Sara Farizan, Aminah Mae Safi and Jason Reynolds.

Personal favourites:

"Why I Learned To Cook" by Sara Farizan - Utterly gorgeous story about a young Iranian girl getting cooking lessons from the grandmother she adores, as she tries to build up the courage to introduce her to her girlfriend. Both the chemistry between the two girls here, and the sweet relationship the MC has with her grandmother, are beautifully done and it's an ultra-sweet read, one of my favourites for ages.

"Super Human" by Nicola Yoon - When the world's only superhero announces he would see humanity destroyed unless someone can convince him otherwise, Syrita - the first girl he ever saved - is given the task of pleading for mercy. There's something far more fascinating about heroes gone bad than about straight-up villains, for me, especially when their motivations for doing so are believable. In this story, Nicola Yoon gives us a thought-provoking meeting between the two characters which shows exactly why X, the hero, has lost his faith in people. The dialogue between the pair here is very strong, and it's an emotional read tackling topics of racism and police brutality.

"Catch, Pull, Drive" by Schuyler Bailar - The story of a transgender swimmer awaiting a mastectomy, swimming for the last time prior to the surgery, and looking forward to the future, but dealing with transphobia from a teammate. Bailar was the only author here I wasn't familiar with prior to reading the book; he's a transgender swimmer himself - the first openly trans competitive swimmer in the US, in fact. His story holds its own here with a bunch of renowned authors - quite an achievement for someone's first published work. Tommy is a wonderful main character and, despite the prejudice he was dealing with from one person in particular, I loved the support he got from his mom and from a fellow teammate.

Sunday, 8 January 2023

Short Story Spotlight 8th January - Summer Love, edited by Annie Harper

Summer Love: An LGBTQ Collection, edited by Annie Harper, published by Duet Books

This book shows various aspects of love in a feel-good collection of nine stories. I just reread this for perhaps the third or fourth time and it never fails to make me happy. There's a delicious mix of characters, settings and stories here, ranging from 1930s England on the eve of war, to contemporary tales, via a carnival in the 1950s. In addition to the romances here, we also have a beautiful platonic love story - "My Best Friend" by HJ Coulter. All of the stories are happy ones overall, although a few are a little bittersweet, and it's great to see a lot of supportive parents here (I especially loved Ruth's mother in The Fire Eater's Daughter by Amy Stilgenbauer, and the parents of trans boy Carter in The Most Handsome.) Overall, really high recommendation as a superb collection for all fans of queer fiction.

Personal favourites:

"What The Heart Wants" by Naomi Tajedler

Noam and her best friend Charlie take a figure drawing class, both finding love. This is the story I've described on various occasions as my absolute favourite YA short of all time, and rereading it has done nothing to change my mind there. As well as an absolute delightful girl/girl romance between inexperienced Noam and the slightly older Amber, there's a super sweet side story as sexually confident Charlie falls for 'hyper-romantic, asexual' fellow artist Peter. I also adore how supportive Noam's mom is as she comes out to her here. 40 pages or so of pure joy and superbly-written characters.

"The Willow Weeps For Us" by Suzey Ingold

In the summer of 1939, as England waits for a seemingly inevitable war to break out, a greengrocer's son who expects to be called up soon falls for another young man in the same position. This is beautifully written, a rather slow and languid story in many ways - if it wasn't for the shadow of the war, and conscription, hanging over the lead duo, it would be an incredibly sweet story. The contrast of the looming war, though, is an element which puts everything into perspective, and really adds to it, as it builds to a touching and hopeful ending. 

"Beautiful Monsters" by Rachel Davidson Leigh 

A shy teen who volunteers for a political campaign is assigned to go and represent them at a Gay Pride Parade, where he meets the leader of the Gay Straight Alliance, and they open up to each other. There's amazingly great chemistry between the leads here and the contrast between them - Cody so timid, and Andre so forceful - and the way in which they care for other people, is gorgeously sweet.