This book cover is one of the top ten eye-catching covers from 2017. From Leigh Bardugo, author of The Six of Crows, comes an illustrated book of fairy/folk tales. These types of stories require illustrations, don’t they? At least, from childhood we’ve come to expect that. Don’t misunderstand me, these are definitely stories for young adults to adults. The beautiful illustrations will appeal to readers of graphic novels.
At first, the reader will think she is reading an ordinary fairy tale, those old stories told to children for decades. But the endings will leave you both surprised and charmed!
Sara Kipin’s vivid illustrations enliven this book. There’s not much more I can say about this title. The Language of Thorns demands to be read and seen!
Check out my bookstagram pic for this book on Instagram @lucindastein
School Library Journal suggested reading: Grades 9+up
Seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The story takes place in 1950. Although she’s the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie was taken in years before by a local bookseller. She works in the bookstore after school and sleeps in an upstairs room in the shop.
Though Josie also works part time cleaning at the brothel, she wants a different life from her mother’s. Josie yearns to attend college but worries about how she can afford to attend. One afternoon, a customer comes into the store and discusses books with Josie. He encourages her to go to college. Josie, who has no idea who her father is, sees this educated, kind man as the dream father she’s always wanted. When he turns up dead a few days later, the mysterious death begins to point to her mother and her shady boyfriend.
Josie is drawn to two young men, Patrick, the bookstore owner’s literary-loving son, and Jesse, a good-looking boy from the lower side of town who also strives for a better life. When her dream of higher education looks out of reach, a man offers her big money if she’ll follow in her mother’s footsteps.
This book gives an intriguing insight to life in the New Orleans underworld of the 1950s and a young woman’s struggle to find a better life against all odds.
Check out my bookstagram posts! @lucindastein
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
School Library Journal: Grades 9 and Up
Based on German folklore, Wintersong is a fantasy twist on the beauty and the beast theme. This is an ambitious tale—436 pages—full of secrets, danger, and romance with a strong female protagonist.
Liesel has heard stories about the Goblin King since early childhood. Dreams about the Goblin King. Warnings from her grandmother. Liesel’s grandmother, Constanze, firmly believes in the Goblin King though the rest of the family thinks she’s just a crazy old woman.
Musical talent pervades Liesel’s family from her father down to her younger brother, Josef. Liesel loves to compose music for her talented brother, but long ago, her father discouraged her talent. She needed to be the dutiful daughter. Her skills couldn’t compare with Josef’s promising career as a violinist.
One day in the village, she finds her sister, Käthe, staring—enchanted—by a tall stranger, strangely handsome and ugly at the same time. His beauty hurt. Liesel recognizes his face—Der Erlkönig, the Goblin King. She also finds herself strangely attracted to him but knows this is dangerous. She rescues her sister from the spell…but only temporarily.
Later in the Goblin Grove, a place where Liesel has played with her sister and brother since they were children, Liesel comes face to face with the Goblin King—the Lord of Mischief and the Underground, the punisher of misdeeds, and the abductor of maidens. Memories flood back. Little Liesel dancing with the Goblin King, playing childhood games. When Käthe is taken to the Underground, Liesel must win a new game to bring her sister back. But Liesel recalls Constanze’s warnings: “There is no winning with Der Erlkönig. Or losing. There is only sacrifice.”
Liesel finds Käthe in the Underground, but her sister is obviously confused to who she is and why she is there. A trickle of blood, her sister’s nose bleeds. Liesel realizes time is limited if she is to bring her sister back alive.
Liesel learns that the Goblin King’s abduction of brides affects the seasons above the earth. Without a bride, spring would not arrive and every trace of green would disappear on the earth. A bargain is made: Käthe’s life in exchange for Liesel. She must become his bride.
Although the Goblin King was once a human, the goblins in the Underground prove to be spooky creatures. Black pupil-less eyes, claw-like hands, and a hunger for human life. Changelings and the Lorelei—beautiful feminine creatures—both dangerous, also live in the Underground.
The Goblin King encourages Liesel, now his bride, to pursue her music. Also a musician, he recognizes her talent. Soon she realizes he not only loves her music, he loves her. Liesel discovers she is also in love with him.
One day, a goblin informs Liesel that she will live only as long as people above ground love her. She will die once they forget her. Liesel realizes she misses her family. She wants to live. But can she escape the Goblin King and the Underground? Even worse, can she live without him?
See my picture of Wintersong @lucindakstein on Instagram!
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
The setting of this story is a bookworm’s dream. Henry’s family has run a second-hand bookstore, the Howling Books, for over twenty years. Eighteen years old, he loves everything about the store. Besides the book-loving regulars and the monthly book clubs, the best part of the store is the Letter Library, a room where patrons can write notes in their favorite books. Sometimes even letters are left between pages.
Rachel and Henry were best friends for years. The day before she moved away, Rachel tucked a love letter in Henry’s favorite book in the Letter Library. But Henry never discovered the letter, and Rachel resigned herself to the fact that Henry was in love with Amy.
Years later, Rachel returns and works in the bookstore. Everyone sees a difference in Rachel. What they don’t know is that her younger brother, Cal, drowned in the ocean. She keeps the tragedy a secret as she renews her friendship with Henry.
Henry has been in love with Amy for years. She breaks up with him only to return when her latest relationship doesn’t work out. Henry finds his life falling apart. Once again, Amy dumps him, and his divorced parents are talking about selling the Howling Books.
As Henry and Rachel work together in the bookstore, Henry remembers what he liked about his best friend, Rachel, even as she continues to deal inwardly with the loss of her brother.
The Letter Library slowly reveals its secrets of love and loss. If you love books, bookstores, and relationships, you’ll like this story.
I love the setting—who wouldn’t like living above and working in a bookstore? The depiction of Henry’s obsession with a girl who uses him like a revolving door is believable, and the author sensitively portrays Rachel’s grief. I found the repetitive use of the F word distracting from an otherwise strong story. Be sure to see my bookstagram picture for Words In Deep Blue on Instagram: @lucindastein
Publishers Weekly guideline: Ages 14-up
Outrun the Moon
By Stacey Lee copyright 2016
Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong yearns to break free of the poverty in Chinatown. Clever and determined, she strikes a deal to attend St. Clare’s School for Girls in exchange for a business deal with the president of the board. This is quite a feat since only the wealthiest white girls attend the school.
The story takes the reader through the historic San Francisco earthquake that occurred in 1906. People were forced to flee their homes and businesses after the earthquake unsettled the foundations of buildings, which either crumpled instantly or were in danger of collapse at any moment. Fires overtook the city and food and water became scarce to nonexistent.
Outrun the Moon is Stacey Lee’s second historical novel for young adults, and the genre shines under Lee’s careful handling.
Aspects of the story that I liked:
- Mercy, the protagonist, is a strong female character that persists against the many odds that come against her. She’s smart, spunky, and determined.
- Tom, the handsome boy she likes. Mercy is unsure whether her strong character is too much for him. Would he ever consider her in his future? (You’ll like where this relationship leads.) He is intrigued with air travel and has his own hot air balloon.
- The author portrays how prejudice ran rampant at this point of history, but amazingly, in times of disaster people came together.
- The portrayal of the historic earthquake was well researched, and as in all good historical fiction, the reader “experiences” a part of history.
- Mercy is able to look beyond her own losses and help strangers in need.
- The culture of Chinatown is vividly described, and the reader easily slips into the shoes of Mercy Wong.
Enjoy this engaging story with its theme of a young woman overcoming overwhelming difficulties. Definitely add this to your diverse fiction TBR list!
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Fourteen year old Faith is the “good girl,” the rock, the trustworthy daughter, and considered dull. At the turn of the 20th century, those traits fulfilled the expectations for a girl. The story begins with the family making a hasty departure from England to the island of Vane. Faith overhears a conversation and discovers her father, a minister and a renowned naturalist, has been accused of fraud. Faith doesn’t believe the rumor and doesn’t understand why anyone would attack his reputation.
Definitely cover love for this title! The latest cover for the book is one of the most unique and creative covers I’ve seen. I saw an earlier cover on Amazon, which wasn’t as appealing—perhaps why the publisher changed it.
Back to the story, Faith proves to be anything but dull, and when her father is found dead, hanging on a tree beneath a cliff, his death is called a suicide. Faith begins her journey to find out who murdered her father. Before his death, she had accompanied her father to a cave where he hid a plant. This tree thrives in darkness. She begins to suspect the unusual plant is the cause of the scandal—-and the murder.
The unusual tree bears fruit only when someone whispers a lie to it. In turn,
the fruit delivers a hidden truth.
This story is a mixture of historical fiction, magical realism, and mystery.
The author’s research into the time period reveals itself in every detail. It definitely portrays how women of this time period were viewed:
- Women didn’t need much education as their role was to run a household and raise children.
- Women were not as intelligent as men.
- A married woman must ask her husband for meager spending money.
- A woman had no control of the finances unless she became a widow.
The story kept my interest, and Faith is a well-developed main character. I enjoy magical realism, but I struggled with the concept of a plant comprehending lies. The author created a twist on the biblical Tree of Life, and perhaps it’s only me, but I had trouble with the story’s scenes involving the tree. The rest of the scenes kept me involved in the story. As I said before, the research for the time period is impeccable, and the protagonist is a strong character. Overall, I would rate the book as 3.5 to 4 stars. (I couldn’t decide!)
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I was between books, and The Sun is Also a Star kept appearing on social media. I thought—why not?—until I come across a title that really appeals to me. Was I in for a surprise! This book definitely falls in the top ten YA books I’ve read in the past year.
Natasha is an undocumented immigrant, born in Jamaica, whose entire family is being deported. Natasha is chasing a slim chance of avoiding deportation by seeking a last minute lawyer.
Daniel is a U.S. citizen whose parents came from Korea. On Natasha’s last day in the country, she meets Daniel accidentally. What follows is a whirlwind romance in one day. In fact, the entire story is told in the span of twenty-four hours.
Natasha leans toward science and believes love is just the culmination of hormones and physical attraction. Daniel is a poet who believes in love at first sight. This story is about their attraction and the dilemma—-that their romance is fated to last only one day.
“I’ve always known him, and we’ve only just met.”
The story gives a glimpse into what it’s like to come from another culture. Daniel’s parents try to maintain their original customs but their children strive to assimilate into America. Of course, that’s a recipe for parent/child head butting.
In contrast, Natasha’s father arrived in the U.S. with the dream of becoming a famous actor—he was ready to dive into the culture. Unfortunately, he continues to seek his dream at a high cost to his family. Living only on Natasha’s mother’s salary, the family lives in a one-bedroom apartment where Natasha has to share the living room with her brother in lieu of a bedroom. Her father has become very distant to her. This situation explains Natasha’s pessimism about love.
Daniel’s family pressures him to become a doctor and eventually marry a Korean girl. He blindly follows along with their expectations until one day (the day of the story) he decides to let the universe dictate his life. A series of coincidences leads him to meet Natasha.
The format of this book is unusual—-
Natasha and Daniel have separate chapters with their first-person point of view. Several minor characters also have separate chapters but these are in omniscient point of view (a godlike perspective.) As a writer, I found that surprising, but as I continued with the story it became clear that this format fit the story perfectly. The theme of the book is coincidence and choices versus true love. Each minor character reveals how even slight contact with people can have an impact on our lives.
The author portrays seemingly fleeting brushes with strangers with significance and power.
We may never know the influence of a brief connection.
If you’ve ever known the kindness of a stranger when you’re in a difficult place, you can relate to this idea.
I want to avoid any spoilers, so let me say that many of the coincidences in this story are amazing! You won’t put this book down for long. I can’t begin to describe the many nuances to this story.
The ending? A struggle between a box of Kleenex and a jubilant party!
A must read. Love, love, love! 5 stars
Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein. I’m an avid reader and a writer. You might want to read my debut YA novel, Jadeite’s Journey, from Inkspell Publishing. Available now in print & e-book
The Kick Ass Girls of YA Blog Hop
Give Up or Get Tough:
Strong Female Protagonists
What makes a strong female protagonist?
Éowyn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers, is a shield maiden. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games transforms into a warrior to save her sister’s life. These are obvious examples of strong female characters.
But there other less dramatic examples of strong women.
Elizabeth Darcy dared to marry for love rather than economic convenience as was the tradition at the time. Alice from Alice in Wonderland exhibits strength through perseverance, bravery, and common sense after falling into a strange, new world. Boring traits, you say? Don’t forget that Alice overcomes the ruthless Queen of Hearts!
In my YA novel, Jadeite’s Journey, my protagonist is a bit of both types.
Although she lives in a future society, Jadeite is an ordinary teen girl. She’s not prepared for the attention of a cute boy from school—her first boyfriend. As their relationship continues, Mattie reveals himself to be an egotistical bully. Soon Jadeite feels more like his “property” than a girlfriend.
She hates this guy, absolutely hates him!
Life is perfect in 2616. Jadeite lives in an advanced society that has eliminated disease, war, and poverty. But after she discovers her father has been leading a double life, Jadeite realizes her “perfect” life is riddled with secrets and deception.
. . .her father’s frequent trips away from home. . .the Dark Ridge.
And was it possible—was her father a Ridge Runner?
When she breaks up with Mattie, she soon learns his father is a powerful government official. Mattie has Jadeite’s best friend institutionalized.
“Did they hurt you?” Jadeite asks.
“The shock treatments were horrible,” Electra said. “That’s why
I conform and pretend I’m completely reformed.”
Filled with obsessive jealousy, Mattie refuses to accept the end of their relationship. He also threatens Jadeite’s family.
She has a choice: give up and submit
to Mattie’s power, or get tough and do whatever needed to protect her family. Similar to Katniss risking her life to save her sister, Jadeite steps into an uncomfortable role—a dangerous one—in order to save her family.
I believe the best heroines are not characters without fears or weaknesses, but characters who rise above their limitations and tackle overwhelming problems.
New from Inkspell Publishing
Jadeite’s Journey is available in paperback & e-book on Amazon
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Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
The beautiful cover (I have a real case of cover love!) drew me to this book.
Sixteen-year-old Aza suffers from a mysterious disease that doctors have been unable to diagnose. She’s thin, has trouble breathing, and knows her way inside and out of a hospital room. She says, “I think I wasn’t meant to be human.” Her only friend is Jason, a boy with OCD. They’ve known each other since they were five.
I quickly fell in love with quirky, obsessive Jason because he is a true and faithful friend to Aza. He will do anything for her.
Aza glimpses things in the sky, like trading ships and people descending on ropes. Only Jason believes what she sees is real. Aza sometimes hears disembodied voices calling her name that no one else hears.
When Aza is rushed by ambulance because of another medical emergency, Jason rides with her. She dies before they arrive at the hospital. At the cemetery he hears her voice from the sky. Thus begins his obsessive search into legends of people who navigate the skies in ships. Jason is a computer geek and manages to get into databases illegally. That’s how he tracks a storm that he connects to Aza’s travels in the skies above. You see, he believes she’s still alive.
Aza awakens in another world with a different body. This body is strong and healthy but her skin is blue. She learns that she was originally from the world of Magonia, a people in the sky who travel by trade ships. In this world, she has power. But Aza realizes she’s still in love with Jason. “Broken bonds are serious things.” She must find him again.
Magonia gives a realistic glimpse into the world of a teen with a serious, life-threatening disease. But it also sends the reader into a fantastical world of hybrid bird creatures and true adventure!
Magonia is a wonderful mix of fantasy, scifi, and dystopian. Read and enjoy!
Here’s a pic of Magonia I created. Follow me on Instagram at: lucindastein
I am made of my memories. . .
Nadia lives in a city surrounded by stone walls. Every twelve years, each person’s memories are lost, completely forgotten, except for what they write down. In the city of Canaan, your individual book is your identity, and you choose what to write down. . . and what to eliminate.
Nadia knows who hasn’t written the truth. She knows because she has never forgotten.
Nadia is a strong character, independent and courageous. She wants to protect her mother and sisters, even if her oldest sister doesn’t believe Nadia is part of their family. Along with a good-looking boy, Gray, she explores the world outside the city walls and begins to discover the secrets behind the Forgetting. They uncover the fact that the Head of Council of Canaan’s governing body knows the cause of the forgetting but does nothing to stop it.
I am made of my memories. . .
Consider how much of yourself is wrapped up in your memories—what you’ve done in the past, the people you’ve known and loved, and even those things you’re passionate about such as hobbies, sports, and other pursuits. Now consider if all that became a blank. Who would you be?
The topic of forgetting has impacted my life with my mother’s dementia. Most of her memories now come from her childhood, but memories of my sister and me seem to be lost. Although I’m still a familiar face to my mother, she never recalls anything about my childhood. She doesn’t remember my children. This has left me with a real sense of loss.
The Forgetting is a unique dystopian novel that will keep you riveted in your pursuit to discover what is causing the Forgetting. And the true history of Canaan is guaranteed to surprise you.
Follow me on Instagram at: lucindastein and see the picture I created for this book!