Mars in 1816 is a world of high society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines.
Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan wants to become a spy like the ones he reads about in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales, but he’s far too busy keeping his eccentric family from disaster. All of that is about to change. In the north, great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology, and the villainous archaeologist Sir Titus Dane is determined to loot one.
When Sir Titus kidnaps Edward’s parents, Edward, his sisters, and their mysterious cousin set off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. Together they must battle Sir Titus’s minions, dodge hungry pterodactyls, and escape fearsome Martian hunting machines in order to rescue Edward’s parents and uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb.
Steph: Mars? Victorian steampunk mystery? Dragons and treasure? Knights and archaeologists? All in a middle grade novel that features yellow skinned and pumpkin haired protagonists? Honestly, I don’t know what to think – this is a mish-mash, I mean a goulash or maybe I mean a mumble jumble (?) of stuff that all sounds . . . intriguing, but will it be intriguing all together or will it be confusing? I mean a middle grade is usually no longer than 200 pages, this is a lot to squeeze in. There will have to be suspension of disbelief, but will there have to be too much? The cover isn’t my favourite but it is very middle grade and features eye-popping colours. I think I am a maybe. Maybe?
Yash: Despite all the red, I may pass on this one. I mean, I’m sure it will interest many. That cover art is quite cute and the summary is interesting … just not for me.
Janet: The cover had me snorting, so, uh, no. The synopsis, as Steph noted, is a mishmash of adventure-type tales. It could work, but I’m not convinced it will work for me.
Nafiza: My eyeeeesssssss!!! Okay. I’ve recovered. The cover hurts my eyes because the colours are just too loud for me. And Steph, middlegrade books are usually erring on the side of 400 these days. I call them older middlegrade books. But yeah, I think this title will appeal to younger readers but it doesn’t call my name.
Some battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience. In this richly painted tale, at whose heart is the unbreakable bond of family and blood, the world of Seraphina collides with our own as three unique girls are dragged into twilight lives past, fighting for vengeance, retribution, and the survival of their exiled people.
Steph: I just have no idea what to think. The cover is alright I guess, but I don’t know what to think–angels maybe? But, though the back copy mentions a whole lot of stuff, there are no angels mentioned and, well, I’m just already confused. Does that first sentence make sense? Should “their” be “they’re” or “the” instead? Also those names… I mean, I know you have to pick creative and interesting names but this selection is just over-the-top for me. Perhaps the names are what really hints that this just won’t be my kind of book. It’ll be too dramatic and too reliant on me figuring out what the heck is going on.
Yash: I agree with Steph. There’s a lot going on in this one– on the cover and in the summary. I am not sure how I feel about the ethereal lady and the way the two guys are positioned (it says “love triangle” doesn’t it) but I do like the tiny girl. Go tiny girl. And the summary … well, I didn’t get past the fact that one of the sisters is named Cairo. Okay, fine, I did get past that point– had to try and figure out this story– but I just can’t anymore with people named after exotic-find-your-inner-goddess type places. So. No.
Janet: I like the name Seraphina, so I was disappointed by the ugly cover and by the whole synopsis. Any one of the elements in the synopsis could be a fascinating story in itself (okay, maybe I’m just curious about the sister who falls asleep and wakes as a boy), but those names? No. There is just too much going on, and I have no reason to care. (And the only assassin whose crises of conscience have ever convinced is in DWJ’s Hexwood; after him, there can be no other. But maybe that’s just me.)
Nafiza: Bahaha, Steph, I spent a good while staring at the sentence too and finally realized that the “their” is referring to “battles” but the sentence is convoluted enough that the meaning is not immediately clear. I don’t know if it’s an error but I think the sentence would have more of an impact without the confusion. Anyway, I could enjoy elements of this tale but I feel like there is too much going on. I don’t exactly mind the cover but I don’t have overly warm feelings towards it either. But the synopsis is very wordy and I’m afraid that it augurs what the prose inside the book is like so sadly, unless someone can convince me otherwise, I’m going to give this one a pass.
When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.
Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community – her world – is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.
Steph: I like the cover art a lot. The play with black and white and the silhouette (or paper puppets?) motif really work for me here. I also like that this book will be from the perspective of the POC (as opposed to the white person making friends with the POC) in the segregated South, I think this will make for a more interesting and eye-opening perspective for most readers and it avoids the white privilege trap where, even if by the end of the book the white kid and the POC have bridged their differences and become friends we readers are still left wondering what the rest of the world is going to be like for our POC. This doesn’t sound like it’s going to slip into didacticism but will instead show us a snapshot of a life. All this is to say, I’m in.
Yash: I don’t know whether I like the cover. I am sick to death with POC silhouettes. I will say this though– I am interested in this book and I’m interested in how Draper re/writes this story/history.
Janet: I really like the cover except for the silhouettes. Please, full-fleshed children from now on! I like the title, I like the background waves of blues, I like the focus of the story. I’m worried about Stella – if fire signifies violence, I don’t know how she and her family are going to survive – guess I’d better read to find out.
Nafiza: I, too, am sick of POC getting represented by silhouettes because really? Other than that, I enjoy the art of the cover. I love both the simplicity and the urgency of it. As for the back copy, if it has a happy ending, I will read it. Because I can’t handle sad endings. I can’t. I refuse to.
Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is . . . Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.
On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.
Steph: To be honest, I like the cover and the story sounds great (and important) but this is really not my favourite genre. Generally this is because these kinds of books have an agenda, even if they don’t read as overly didactic, this book is meant to show a different perspective on a familiar plot. This is important and necessary, but I don’t need to read it. The cover is great and it promises a good read for those who pick it up.
Yash: This cover looks familiar! I do like it. (Or at least, I don’t dislike it. It’s pretty minimal– not much to like/dislike.) And that tagline is awesome! I love that tagline! It’s just that I’d like to wait and hear from gender fluid readers before I pick this one up.
Janet: Not my favourite style of cover, but effective and bold. The synopsis is a little blunt (so obvious) but I suspect the narrative wont’t be. Plus, the blog set-up reminds me just a little of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Maybe I should read both?
Nafiza: I like the cover. I think it’s a clever way of echoing the main character’s gender fluidity. As for reading it, hmm, I’d have to read a few reviews to decide because–well mainly, if Yash reads it and tells me to read it, I will.
WHO KILLED GRETCHEN MEYER?
Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?
At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?
Steph: The cover is alright, I guess. I’m not a huge fan of the shapely silhouette in the fog, but what are you going to do–this a murder mystery YA romance, what other cover could it get? What I like about the feel of the back copy is that the story seems more focussed on the secrets of the people in the town. This follows more in the footsteps of a murder mystery T.V. series like The Killing or True Detective which I really enjoy. I may give this one a read simply because the promise of an interesting whodunit (for YA!) is too good to pass up.
Yash: I like the title. And the summary is interesting. The cover is much too generic to leave an impression though, much less make me pick it up. The colours and the anorexic font add to the blandness. A shame, really, considering the summary sounds rather gripping. If Steph gives it a thumbs up, though, I might pick it up.
Janet: *reads Stephs comment* *snickers at “the shapely silhouette in the fog”* The cover doesn’t appeal. I like murder mysteries, though. It is pretty safe to conclude that the murderer wasn’t Marcus and that he and Sonia will fall in love. But. Still. Murder. I might be in.
Nafiza: I’ve read *so* many books with the same summary and oftentimes similar cover that I’m going to have to pass on this. I’m over reading about privileged kids dying and then making a mystery out of it. And oh yes, the romance sounds like something I’m allergic to too. So pass! The cover? Well, everyone else has said what I want to say.