Last week I featured three new books that take music as a central theme, a plot driver, a character changer. This week, let’s look at sports in that role. Sports books aren’t a huge genre. Besides the big names, Mike Lupica and Carl Deuker, there aren’t many authors that spring to mind. This fall, though, there have been several new releases featuring sports as a plot point and theme – not to mention the fact that I think they may be quintessential and classic sports stories! So if you love to read about your favorite sport – whether you play or not – pick these up.
Publisher summary: “Felix O’Sullivan, standing in the shadow of his dead brother, an angry, distant father, and racial tension, must lead the last-ever Muckers high school football team to the state championship before a mine closing shuts down his entire town.” It’s a small-town story about a football team no one thinks will make it, based on a true story, written by a former ESPN sportscaster: what’s not to love?!
Sneak Peek! “I come to the shanty in the Barrio from behind, dipping under the broken shutters so the late-October moon won’t cast a shadow and wake up Cruz.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Sandra Neil Wallace)
Maybe baseball stories are more your thing. Well then, Pitcher is a home-run for you. Ricky Hernandez dreams of being a pitcher and has done ever since he learned he had an arm while playing a carnival game. Thing is, now that he’s 14 and he’s got even more speed behind his pitches, he still has not learned to control the ball. He needs a chance and training, but he can’t afford it. He does have this reclusive neighbor, though, who is rumored to have been a big-shot MLB player, long-retired. Ricky’s mom wants nothing more than for Ricky to succeed, so she approaches their neighbor pleading for help; but she has no idea how much this will help them all, in the end.
Sneak Peek! “I never knew I had an arm until this guy calls out, ‘Hey, you want to try and get a ball in the hole, sonny?'” (Text copyright © 2013 by William Hazelgrove)
With all the recent coverage of the NFL’s head injury policies, or lack thereof, this is a particularly perfect book. Another football story, this time one that also features media scandals – high school paper style. The story is told in the form of emails and blog posts, making it a fast read. Jerry is the star quarterback, with all the drama that entails. When he’s thrown off the team after a drunk-driving incident, he thinks he’ll never get back into the world of sports. Enter, Carla, the high school paper’s star reporter. She recruits Jerry to work on a sports blog for the paper. Before he knows it, Jerry is deeply involved in Carla’s attempts to unearth a scandal surrounding head injuries sustained in contact sports at their school – something no one wants to hear as the school and town are poised for glory. It’s as dramatic as a perfectly timed interception when the team is down and needs to get on the board.
Sneak Peek! “On game day, I usually wake up very early and lie in bed thinking things over.” (Text copyright © 2013 by David Klass and Perri Klass)
This week, several new books that take music as a central theme. In each, the main character’s life comes to be defined in a unique way by music.
16-year-old Elise is unhappy, unpopular, and unsatisfied. A year ago, all of these feelings came together in an ugly way and she attempted suicide. Her home is not her happy place, so she gets out often at night – leading her to discover a world she had no idea existed. She quickly falls in love with the warehouse parties – and in lust with a hot older DJ – but even more she falls in love with DJing. She is excellent at it and through it she feels an escape from the pain. This is a true-to-life story of triumph – despite, or because of, Elise’s stumbles along the way. Bonus: the publishers made a playlist for the book so you can be completely immersed.
Sneak Peek! “You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Leila Sales)
Like your musical tales a little more magical? Our unnamed narrator and her best friend Aurora grew up like sisters in the atmospheric Pacific Northwest. Their mothers were both wild, and their fathers are both long gone, so mostly they have had each other – similar and yet different like mirror images. When a mysterious and magical musician arrives along with a charmingly conniving boss, the differences between the two girls cause their bond to rupture. Infused with art and music, this is a darkly romantic punk-rock tale for fans of Francesca Lia Block – and it’s the first book in a planned trilogy.
Sneak Peek! “Aurora and I live in a world without fathers. Hers is dead and mine was gone before I was born.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Sarah McCarry)
What if you accidentally fell backwards through time and found yourself at Woodstock? Yes, THE Woodstock. With Jimi Hendrix in all his glory rocking the Star-Spangled Banner. When he finds a white Stratocaster played by Hendrix, Rich wonders what on earth his uptight dad is doing with it. Even weirder, when he plays the right chord, he’s transported back to 1969. There, he runs into his dad and uncle as teens – the thing is Rich’s uncle OD’d at Woodstock, and his death is what left Rich’s dad the angry, sad man ruining Rich’s life. So Rich does the only thing that makes sense in this love-filled hippy fest: sets out to save his uncle – and thereby his dad and himself. Sound like a wacky premise? It may be but it is ultimately a realistic, funny and fun read.
If you loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, you will love this book. It’s the 1970s. Lewis is the only kid from the Tuscarora Reservation in the smart-kid track at the county middle school. So you could say he’s a misfit. Used to being bullied and without many friends at his mostly white school, Lewis is surprised when he finds himself becoming friends with the new kid. Misfit meet misfit: they bond over their shared love of rock and roll – The Beatles and other greats – and both slowly begin to trust and understand one another. But when the school’s biggest bully decides Lewis is his next target, their friendship is tested. Given the barriers of class, race, and bullies – can their friendship survive?
There have been some major books released over the last couple of months, so it’s been hard to choose which ones to highlight. This week, though, I was struck by how many “challenging” books I’ve seen hitting the new shelves recently.
By “challenging,” I mean books that suck you in, mess with your head, and knock you back out again as a new person. Books that leave you feeling winded, introspective…changed. Books that make you think – and keep you thinking even when you’ve finished them. One that sticks out in my memory as a challenging read for me is Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Not everyone likes these kinds of books: some of us read to be entertained or for comfort, and don’t want to be messed up by a book. That’s okay. You might be surprised, however, next time you reach for what sounds like a comforting read. One thing that is unique about “challenging” reads is that they come in all genres – and they sometimes come out of nowhere. You remember how you felt the first time you read The Hunger Games? You thought, “Boy, my life is different now that I have lived through that.” It’s entertainment, yes, but it left you breathless and altered. Personally, I read it in one night, convinced I wouldn’t like it, but completely changed by watching these children (children!) fight and die for nothing in the messed up world of Panem.
I digress. Without further ado, here are some challenging new reads I hope you pick up soon!
What if you knew the world was ending soon? The characters in this book do. An asteroid is headed for Earth, and all anyone can do is wait. Sienna returns from a mental health facility in time to watch her father get married. Zan must face her fears and get past the recent death of her boyfriend. And Caden is confronted by his long-lost father. Despite the terrifying premise, or maybe because of it, this is a deep and quietly wise book that will make you stop and think about your own life. It’s really kind of joyfully sad, in a way – so perfect for a “challenging” read that leaves you thinking.
Sneak Peek! “The day she gets out, it feels like the end. It’s funny to think about endings now. Now that all there is to do is wait. Now that the real end is coming, all of the other endings feel like something else completely.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Alexandra Coutts)
This one is challenging on several levels. It’s short – so it has less time to hook you, but it still manages to do so quickly and effectively. Narrated by Hannah in somewhat broken English, she tells the story of her youth. When her parents died in a flash flood on a river, she and her friend Becky were left to fend for themselves in the forests of Tasmania. They were essentially adopted by a pair of tigers who managed to keep them safe and fed, despite the girls’ fear and worry. But when Becky’s father finally found them, they were forced to reintegrate into human society at great cost.
Sneak Peek! “Me name be Hannah O’Brien and I be seventy-six years old. Me first thing is an apology – me language is bad cos I lost it and had to learn it again.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Louis Nowra)
The title sure puts it all out there, huh? In a sense, that’s the point: these two topics run rampant in our society, many believe to the detriment of it. And this story tells just how the normalization of sex and violence hurts young people – without preaching a moral message. It’s is honesty on a plate – and it’s not always pretty. 17-year-old Evan is a master of being the new kid in school, after spending his lifetime moving around with his dad’s job. Evan is also the master of figuring out which girl will say ‘yes.’ But this time, he picks the wrong one and ends up getting beaten by the kings of his school. When he moves to a quiet small town to recover with distant family, he must confront the fears and weaknesses that have driven him, and result from his miscalculations. Gritty, funny, life.
Sneak Peek! “When I came out of the Connison gang shower, Collette Holmander was waiting for me.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Carrie Mesrobian)
Mila is highly attuned to people – able to read the room, sense emotions and put together the puzzles people make of themselves. When her father’s best friend goes missing, what was to be a visit to him turns into Mila and her father on the case, so to speak. But this story is far more than a mystery with an easy solution. Written in first person, so much so that the dialogues is filtered through Mila’s head, without quotes, you are drawn into Mila’s world in a strange and thrilling way. This is a complex story that will challenge your worldview and assumptions.
Sneak Peek! “The first Mila was a dog. A Bedlington terrier. It helps if you know these things. I’m not at all resentful at being named after a dog.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Meg Rosoff)
We have a huge manga following in Shorewood, and a lot of readers of graphic novels, too. I post frequently about what’s new in that section because of those fans!
Here’s what’s hot on the manga/graphic novel shelves this week:
On the recommendation of some manga fans, we now have Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure! We will eventually have Volumes 1-7, but for now you can get started in the middle with Vol. 4 or Vol. 7. This is an older Shonen Jump manga from way back in 2006. Jojo is possessed by an evil spirit – and that’s why it’s a bizarre adventure.
Roll Percy Jackson and Superman together and you’ve got Battling Boy. Paul Pope is a comics genius, too, so this is an awesome read. Battling Boy – a demigod – is sent into Acropolis to see what he can do about a little child-snatching ghoul problem they are having. Along the way, his godly status and manhood are tested by problems both normal – an overbearing father and a meddling young lady – and not so normal – uncontrollable superpowers granted by his magical t-shirts.
Yes, this is non-fiction. But this epic saga of American life from the early twentieth century is made more epic by the fact that it’s told as a graphic novel. The Dust Bowl is anything but dusty history when told this way – with clear imagery, cite-able facts (you can use it for research!) and compelling narrative both visual and textual. It’s a really fun way to learn your history.
There are a lot of horror-type books written these days. Even non-horror fans can find horror books they like simply because authors are rolling thrilling, chilling moments and plot lines into all kinds of genres in all kinds of ways. Check out a few brand new ones guaranteed to be a little haunting:
For realistic fiction fans: Marshall survived the car accident that killed his twin brother. This fact consumes him with guilt and drives him to search fora way to communicate with the dead in an effort to somehow assuage his guilt. He seeks a thin space, where the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead is not as solid, something he could potentially reach right through. A woman in his neighborhood – Mrs. Hansel – may have created one with her death, but a new family moves into her home before Marsh can investigate. He befriends the new residents and soon has their help locating the thin space. He’s barely keeping it together as the weight of regular life coupled with keeping dark secrets weighs on him. This is a spooky – and yet realistic – story, with a chilling atmosphere of grief, guilt and secrets.
Sneak Peek! “Every morning, I walk by Mrs. Hansel’s house and plan my break-in. Today I think about kicking down doors, shattering windows. I have a one-second flash of myself climbing down the chimney. Which just shows how far gone I am lately.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Jody Casella)
She wakes to hear what she thinks is her death sentence. All she knows is what she can see and hear – the ramshackle cabin surrounded by nothing, and the two men fighting over killing her. Who she is and how she got here is a mystery. Spurred into action by fear, she moves fast and manages to escape, but has no idea where she should go. Thanks to a stranger she meets soon after her first escape, she manages to evade capture and begins to piece together her story. But what she finds about who would want to silence her is shocking. It’s a race against the clock that will keep you turning pages.
Sneak Peek! “I wake up. But wake up isn’t quite right. That implies sleeping. A bed. A pillow. I come to.” (Text copyright © 2013 by April Henry)
Dystopia meets zombies in this thriller. In a bleak future, millions have been transformed into zombie-like creatures thanks to a mass market weight loss beverage. Velvet’s mother was among the unlucky ones. Now, Velvet and her family must live amongst the undead of America. The suspense that comes from Velvet sharing her world with a crew of unpredictable demonized former humans is palpable – and will keep you up at night.
Sneak Peek! “They keep them in cages. The unclaimed. Long rows of narrow, filthy cages lined up along dark corridors lit by bare, hanging bulbs.” (Text copyright 2013 by Em Garner)
From one of the authors of the Beautiful Creatures series comes this haunting new paranormal romance. Kennedy Waters discovers she is a member of an ancient secret society called the Legion when two other members sweep in to rescue her from an attack by a poltergeist. Her mother has just died, so joining forces with the Legion provides some comfort, even as it gets spookier by the minute. The Legion must protect themselves from a demonic force that wants them all dead, and their only hope to do so is to brave the scenes of grisly murders to track down a mysterious device that is supposed to be their savior. From haunted mansions to abandoned mental hospitals – this book takes you to all the creepy spots while keeping you enthralled in the haunting story.
Next week is Teen READ Week! The theme this year is Seek the Unknown, so think about that when you visit the library in the coming days.Here are some new books that ask you to seek the unknown, too!
Sanderson is a reliable author of really cool books. He’s always taking us to unexpected worlds. In Steelheart, it is a world populated by superhumans known as Epics who became that way after a mysterious event everyone calls the Calamity. The most powerful Epic of all, Steelheart, brutally murdered David’s father when he was eight. Now, ten years later, he has joined group called the Reckoners, bent on destroying Steelheart. Action-packed, mysterious, thrilling sci fi at its best!
Set in an anonymous town, in an unknown time, with a mute narrator, calling this book a mystery is an understatement. The setting is a village, a close-knit community, but in an undefined place and time. Judith is mute – her tongue was cut out by a madman who held her prisoner for two years. Just to complicate matters, this madman happens to be the father of the boy she pines for from afar. Another girl went missing around the time Judith was being held hostage, and she may know the truth behind her disappearance – if only she can find a way to get it out.
Pick this up if you loved the Maze Runner series by James Dashner, the Blood of Eden series by Julie Kagawa and/or the Gone series by Michael Grant. It’s the same kind of fast-paced, gritty storytelling. A great take on both the vampire genre and the dystopian genre. Gene is a human in a world where humans are food. But Gene has not let the vampires know the truth about him, carefully keeping it secret through a web of lies. When Gene is chosen to go on the hunt to kill the last remaining humans, the web begins to unwind and Gene must find a way to protect his very humanity without succumbing to the merciless vampires.
Sneak Peek! “There used to be more of us. I’m certain of this. Not enough to fill a sports stadium or even a movie theater, but certainly more than what’s left today. Truth is, I don’t think there’s any of us left. Except me. It’s what happens when you’re a delicacy. When you’re craved. you go extinct.” (Text copyright 2012 ©by Andrew Fukuda)
When I saw Gene Luen Yang’s newest graphic novel on the shelves, I was inspired to pair it with a couple of other new releases set in, and about life in, Asian countries. Interestingly, these books almost perfectly span the entire 20th century, and are also tied together by a common theme of ancient versus modern cultural values: Yang takes us to late-nineteenth century China, we fast-forward to mid-century India in A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury, and finally Amanda Sun’s first book in the Paper Gods series lets us travel to modern-day Japan.
In true Yang fashion, this is an incredibly unique offering. First of all, it is two books, published simultaneously. You finish one and pick up the other immediately. Oh yeah, and it’s a fictionalized account of real Chinese history. In China in 1898, Christian missionaries from abroad roam the country, converting Chinese peasants through demeaning and violent coercion. Little Bao is fed up with seeing his people suffer in the name of this foreign religion, so he summons the powers of the ancient Chinese gods, and an army of commoners who call themselves Boxers, to fight them down. Saints tells the story parallel to Little Bao’s. Four-Girl is an unwanted daughter, not even given a name, But she finds acceptance, and a name, through Christianity. Because of the Boxer rebellion, China is unsafe for Christian Chinese like herself and she finds her loyalties tested between her nationality and her faith.
It is 1947 in India, a country about to be liberated and partitioned – the Muslim part, Pakistan, severed from the remainder of the country. Tariq is a Muslim Indian, so life is not easy at this moment for him. He dreams of getting out and studying at Oxford in England, but because of his religion he does not have clear access to that world. When he is offered a job translating for the English cartographers working on drawing the India-Pakistan borders, he leaps at the opportunity in the hopes it will lead him to his Oxford dream. He soon meets Margaret, the cartographer’s daughter, who is desperate for fun and attracted to Tariq’s foreignness. But Anupreet, the Sikh girl – and thus very off-limits – catches Tariq’s attention. The tensions in the country do not make love easy, and all three young people find their paths are wilder than they had every hoped.
Sneak Peek! “‘I know you will make us proud, Tariq,’ Master Ahmed calls out to me as I step onto the dusty sidewalk outside the school gates. I lift my palm to my face, fingertips to my forehead, bow. ‘Khuda hafiz.'” (Text copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Bradbury)
This is the first book in a planned series by debut author, Sun, called Paper Gods. When Katie’s normal life explodes in front of her eyes, she is sent off to live in Japan with an aunt. She doesn’t speak the language and is utterly alone and out of place, until she meets Tomohiro. Tomo is popular, gorgeous, and shouldn’t want to have anything to do with awkward Katie, but neither of them can deny the things that happen when they are together. Pens explode, ink drips from nowhere, drawings…live. Tomo is part of an ancient order called the kami. Soon the two are drawn into a world of intrigue as the wrong people start asking the right questions about the kami and both Katie and Tomo find themselves in danger.
Sneak Peek! “I made it halfway across the courtyard before I realized I was still wearing my school slippers. No lie. I had to turn around and slink all the way back to the genkan, the stifled laughs from my classmates trailing me as I mustered what slippered dignity I could.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Amanda Sun)
Every so often I have to highlight series books. Why? Because there are more series than stand-alone books, or so it seems! This fall, there have been and will be a lot of sequels out. It’s a great time to be a fan!
Sequel to The Last Dragonslayer. Jennifer Strange and all of the magicians are back in this sequel that shares the funny, quirky style of the first book. When the King chooses a rival magician from the firm iMagic to be his court magician, Jennifer and the wizards at Kazam are thrown into a magic duel. They know that the King is up to no good, attempting to control magic for his own personal gain. Kazam has a problem though: some of its strongest wizards are under a spell, and the King has decided to lock up the others as criminals. The quarkbeast might just save the day.
This is not so much a sequel as a companion novel to last year’s Code Name Verity. Set during the same time period as Code Name Verity, this is the story of a young American girl who, like Queenie and Maddie, finds a way to be involved in the war efforts. As a pilot, Rose’s job is to move planes, not to fight. But then Rose is captured during a routine mission and sent to a notorious concentration camps with other prisoners of war.
This is a long-awaited sequel to 2006’s Burned, written in Hopkins’ signature novel-in-verse style. As in Burned, we are following the story of Pattyn. The story begins abruptly, and somewhat violently, but readers of Hopkins’ books know to expect the troubled situations she portrays. Pattyn finds her father beating her sister Jackie, and presumably kills him. But only the girls know the truth of what happened. Although Pattyn and Jackie have not had it easy, they are easy characters to root for and see ourselves in.
Other sequels out now:
United We Spy by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls #6)
Monsters by Ilsa Bick (Ashes trilogy finale)
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (Fire and Thorns trilogy finale)
Are you a graphic novel fan? And I don’t mean manga – that is its own thing. Or comics – that’s another separate entity. Comics are usually published in issues, they’re shorter and have an ongoing storyline like a series book (i.e. Superman. Or any other superhero you can think of. Or Calvin & Hobbes). Manga is Japanese comics. Same idea: ongoing storyline, etc. Graphic novels is a name that usually refers to stories told in pictures and words, typically one-off or non-series stories (or sometimes short series like a trilogy), with unique characters (not Batman), etc.
Graphic novels cross audiences: they’re typically realistic or fantasy fiction, so could easily be read by fans of those genres, but they are told visually, so could be read by fans of visual story forms like manga and comics. But it seems to me that neither of these fan groups really find the graphic novels. I’m here to tell you that you are both missing out!
Start with these three new graphic novels that pack a punch:
A sort of semi-fictionalized memoir, this book tells the story of Beyer’s freshman year at an art college. She’s far from home, exploring her art form, making new friends, and learning who she is. And she conveys this story in a completely brilliant way: through lists, drawings, panels of comic-strip-type action, and more. It’s like a scrapbook that tells a wonderful story of some big life moments, something we can all relate to.
You will love Delilah Dirk if you love feisty lady protagonists like Katsa (from Graceling by Kristin Cashore). She’s like Indiana Jones, but a young lady in the early 19th century! Delilah seeks and finds adventure, but that adventure has landed her in prison. When she makes her escape, Delilah decides to take along a lieutenant who is decidedly her opposite. Selim, despite being quite a proper gentleman who prefers staying in to going out, actually makes a great partner for daredevil Delilah as the two gallivant across the world. Action and adventure await!
This is a little like Diary of a Wimpy Kid for those of you in middle and high school who have already grown out of that series. Annie and her friends are not the popular crowd. Not that life is much easier for those people – everyone is a freshman and being a freshman is not always fun. But it is a constant learning experience, and as Annie and her crew learn, that learning extends far outside of the four walls of the classroom. And it is sometimes really awesome.