Category Archives: Teen Reads

York

York by Laura Ruby

Walden Pond Press

476 pages (hardcover)

© 2017

York is Book One in Ruby’s The Shadow Cipher series. I ordered this title because I loved the author’s book, Bone Gap, a magical realism story. York will appeal to readers who like steampunk, mystery, magic, and history. The story starts out a little slow, but the mystery of the Old York Cipher lures the reader on.

The Morningstarr twins, architects of dazzling machines and buildings in New York, disappear and leave behind a puzzle which promises a treasure beyond all imagining. Despite tries by many people over the decades, the cipher remains unsolved. A note here: the imaginative machines and inventions would make a wonderful movie on the big screen!

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment. When a real estate developer buys the building with destruction in mind, the young people decide to save their home by proving the cipher is real. This means they have to solve the mystery.

Written to appeal to younger and older readers alike, this story lacks the depth and literary beauty of Bone Gap. But then this is an entirely different book. Delighted with the fantastic world of York and curious about the cipher, I will definitely read Book Two when it comes out!

Bronte's Thunder by [Stein, Lucinda]

PhotoFunia-1535831772

Side note: If you enjoy magical realism stories, try Bronte’s Thunder!

 

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A Sneak Peak at Bronte’s Thunder

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Author pic 2018I’m super excited to share this prequel to my new YA book, Bronte’s Thunder. Strange connections to thunderstorms have always surrounded sixteen-year-old Bronte Monroe. Her grandmother claimed she was born under the sign of Blue Lightning and has the gift of barter—mysterious exchanges that change fate.


Bronte’s Omen

   A whoosh and a tock.

   Silence.

   Whoosh. Tock. My eyes flutter open to everything white and foreign with strange, pungent odors spinning around me. A clear tube runs to my face and into my nose. If I wasn’t so weak, I’d scream.

   The ventilator pumps like a medieval monster. I’ve never been in a hospital before. The only good thing about my captivity—at last, I can breathe.

   A figure appears in the doorway to my room. Backlit from a window across the hall, the dark silhouette pauses for a moment. He approaches the bed with stealthy footsteps.

   Nick. Nick Ford.

   He’s come for revenge.

   My heart races, the organ threatening to burst from my chest. All he has to do is rip the tube from my nose or yank the ventilator’s electrical cord from the outlet. I’ll stop breathing.

   I’ll die like his brother.

   I bolt up in bed, hot sweat beading my forehead like condensation on my mother’s glass of whiskey. The walls of my bedroom reassure me I am no longer in the hospital. I’m no longer eight years old.

    Dishes clang from downstairs, the familiar sound of Aunt Flo preparing breakfast. The slate sky outside the window does nothing to brighten my spirits. I rub sleep from my eyes and stretch my legs. Throwing back the covers, I wiggle my toes. Hot-pink polish brightens each nail. Today is my first day of school as a junior.

    Sitting on the edge of my mattress, I picture Nick Ford sneaking into my hospital room all those years ago, the image as vivid as yesterday’s junior orientation.

   At eight, I believed he intended to kill me. An eye for an eye. At my bedside, Nick extended his arm, and I cowered, convinced he’d strike me. He brushed an errant strand of hair from my eye, his touch as light as butterfly wings, surprising for an eight-year-old boy.

   He tilted his head and studied me. “Are you okay?”

   I nodded, though a lingering fear shot into the pit of my stomach. We were in the same class in third grade, but we had never actually spoken. With my senses on high alert, I stared at him, his blue eyes captivating. Then he did something I couldn’t believe. He reached for my hand and gently held it. His voice came almost in a whisper, “My grandma had pneumonia once.”

   Marching footsteps approached. A woman stood in the doorway, her hair disheveled, her eyes red and swollen. In a low, almost menacing, tone, she said, “Get out of there this instant.”

   Nick obeyed his mother and followed her from the room. In the doorway, he glanced over his shoulder. I couldn’t tell if I saw pity or disdain in his eyes.

   At that moment I morphed into a leper like in the Bible story told in Sunday school, flesh decaying, someone everyone stayed clear of. Worse than that, Nick’s little brother had been killed that day by my mother.

   Aunt Flo’s shrill voice snatches me from my dark memories. “Bronte! Breakfast will be ready in five minutes.”

   “Be there in a moment.”

   For years Nick’s kindness in that hospital room baffled me. I finally gave up trying to understand it. Thunder Moon is a small town, and news travels fast. He must have heard I was admitted to the hospital. Yet how could he have been so caring when his little brother lay lifeless and cold?

A year after Johnny’s death, the Fords moved away. Grief probably drove them from Thunder Moon.

   In my attic bedroom, a low roll of thunder rumbles through the rafters and sends shivers down my back. Thunderstorms never did me any favors, at least none that didn’t leave me feeling guilty.

   Two hours later, I stride through the halls of Thunder Moon High, a disturbing sense of unbalance hanging over me. Am I unhinged from the dream that morning and the memories the nightmare brought back? Maybe the threatening clouds on my way to school triggered my mood.

   Girls’ chatter in the high school restroom pricks my attention.

   “New guy alert.” A girl giggles. “Nick Ford’s so hot.”

   I turn to stone behind the stall door.

   “Heard he’s trying out for the football team,” another said. “Hand me my lip gloss.”

   “I could drink that tall glass of water.”

   Riding a cloud of choking perfume, laughter fills the room.

   My stomach clenches. After all these years, I still can’t face Nick. Just the news that he moved back brings the horrible event to life. That was the day my mother disappeared.

   I remained behind to carry the shame of Johnny Ford’s death.

   My stomach turns sour. Maybe I can talk Aunt Flo into homeschooling me. Highly unlikely, my instincts warn.

   I hurry past the cliquish girls and escape into the hall. A hundred yards down the corridor, I turn a corner and run face to face into Nick Ford. His eyes widen. I almost don’t recognize the boy from the hospital room all those years ago, except for those smoky-blue eyes. How has that skinny little boy grown into such a good-looking guy? The girls were right. He is hot. On the other hand, he probably thinks I look as plain as an unbuttered pancake.

   I stand frozen. As I stare, the image of little Johnny Ford rises from all the nightmares I’ve had over the years. Johnny Ford, pale and dead, lips blue. The misty specter of Johnny haunting my dreams like in Dicken’s novel, his boney finger pointing at me, always pointing at me.

   Nick nods.

   I rush past him, lungs tight, membranes burning, once again unable to draw a breath. Farther down the hall, I gasp, air rushing in as I remember to breathe. Through the school’s cinderblock walls, a thunderclap sounds, the explosion a warning of things to come.

* * *

Follow BrontVector Rain Cloud Background.e’s story in the new YA novel, Bronte’s Thunder.

BUY NOW on Amazon

Bronte’s Thunder is Lucinda Stein’s second YA novel. Inkspell Publishing published her first YA book, Jadeite’s Journey. Lucinda is the award-winning author of several adult books.

An avid reader, Lucinda loves good coffee, great books, and anything vintage. She likes to camp with her husband, Rob, and her shelter-rescue dog, Opie. See her bookish bookstagrams on

Instagram!

 

 

 

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

daughter of smoke BoneI just finished Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and I loved it. The subject of angels and demons in itself is fascinating, but Taylor brings her own vision of these creatures into a full-bodied story.

The book opens with a seemingly ordinary teen girl—despite her long peacock-blue hair—named Karou. Her wrists hold tattoos with the words true and story. An art student, her sketchbook is filled with strange, otherworldly creatures. Magic enters the picture when Karou handles a cheating boyfriend with some hilarious effects. No spoilers, you have to read it! Soon we learn Karou has another life when she enters a portal where the strange creatures of her sketchbook come to life. These creatures called chimaera contain parts of various animals. Some creatures have horns, some with human faces but animal legs and hooves. Some with wolf faces and claws, you get the idea. Humans would call them devils.

Brimstone, the creature that took her in as a child, has human arms and torso but the haunches of a lion and the clawed feet of a lizard or dragon. He has horns and the eyes of a crocodile. Strange indeed! Even stranger is the mystery of why Brimstone collects teeth.

Black handprints begin appearing on doorways across the world, and angel sighting are reported over the globe.

Karou has an encounter with a magnificent angel who asks her who is she? What is she? This is a question that has plagued Karou for years. She has never felt completely whole. Karou finds herself attracted to the angel, but little does she know that an otherworldly war is about to being and she will be caught in the middle!

Taylor artfully introduces the character of Karou, just an ordinary girl (or so we think), and slowly draws the reader into her spectacular world building. At 418 pages, the book keeps the reader intrigued to the end. 5 stars to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone!

Jadeite's Journey final coverFor another “otherworldly” story, you might enjoy, Jadeite’s Journey! Available at Amazon

Bone Gap Revisited

Have you ever read a book and knew you wanted to read it again? Bone Gap by Laura Ruby was one of my favorite reads in 2017. The story introduced me to the genre, magic realism, and I was hooked. I had checked the book out from the library and knew I liked the story enough to buy a hardcover copy! The book arrived with a Printz gold medal and a National Book Award finalist seal. Perhaps I read the book too quickly the first time, maybe the story is so unique, but as I read it a second time, I appreciated the book even more. You’ll find Ruby’s writing as surprising, rich, and fascinating as her plot.

People call Finn: Spaceman, Sidetrack, Moonface, Loner. Everyone in Bone Gap knows Finn is odd. He’s different. Finn and his older brother, Sean, live alone after their mother left them to marry a man out of state. But when a stranger arrives in their barn one night, their lives change. Beautiful Roza doesn’t tell them why she’s on the run or who hurt her. They take her into their home, and their loneliness fades as Roza becomes part of their life. Sean falls in love with her.

But when a strange man kidnaps Roza at a county fair, Finn blames himself. He was the one who saw the stranger, but at the time, he thought Roza wanted to leave them, just like their mother did. Only when Roza looked back from the SUV, did Finn realize something was terribly wrong. Sean and Finn report her disappearance to the local law enforcement. But when Finn is unable to give physical details of the abductor, the townspeople wonder if Roza was truly kidnapped. Or worse, did Finn have something to do with her disappearance.

Finn not only lost Roza that day, he lost his brother. Heartbroken, Sean withdraws into his work and ignores his younger brother. Finn’s guilt and loneliness makes him miserable until he starts spending time with Petey, a girl most people in town consider homely.

That’s a brief summary of the story, but it’s the theme that makes this a great book. The theme is about people being “seen,” really seen for who they are inside.

Rosa has drawn attention from men her entire life. But they only see her outward beauty and want her for their own selfish desires. Her Polish grandmother told her, “There will be boys who tell you you’re beautiful, but only a few will see you.”

Petey knows how the people of Bone Gap talk about her. How can she be so homely when her mother is pretty? Only Finn really “sees” her.

Finn falls in love with Petey because she sees him for who he is, not the odd boy everyone else knows.

Sean falls in love with Roza but not just for her beauty. When he looks into her eyes, his gaze demands nothing, unlike the other men she’s known. It’s what’s inside her that draws him to her.

Hints of magic scatter through the beginning of the story. It emerges further as Roza describes her captivity. The reader soon learns this is no ordinary man who has kidnapped her. The stranger is otherworldly. Magic also surfaces when a black horse appears in Finn’s barn. He takes Petey for rides late at night, and they travel through forests that don’t exist in Bone Gap and fly over cliffs that are not part of the natural terrain.

You might wonder how the title of the book, Bone Gap, fits into the story. Hint:  gaps in the world, places to lose yourself, slip into, retreat to. I won’t give any spoilers, but know that the ending blossoms into a powerful culmination of the theme. Ruby proves to be a fantastic writer and storyteller! A must read for young adults and adults.

School Library Journal: Grades 10 and up

Check out my bookstagram on Instagram @lucindastein

The Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

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

 

 

 

 

Words in Deep Blue

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Product DetailsThe 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 storyBe sure to see my bookstagram picture for Words In Deep Blue on Instagram: @lucindastein

Publishers Weekly guideline: Ages 14-up

 

 

 

Outrun the Moon

Outrun the Moon

By Stacey Lee copyright 2016

Product DetailsFifteen-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

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.

Product DetailsDefinitely 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!)

I love creating bookstagrams. Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein.

 

 

The Sun is Also a Star

I was between books, and The Sun is Also a Star kept appearing on social media. I sun is also a starthought—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 jadeites-journey-final-coverwant to read my debut YA novel, Jadeite’s Journey, from Inkspell Publishing. Available now in print & e-book

Give Up or Get Tough

The Kick Ass Girls of YA Blog Hop
Give Up or Get Tough:
Strong Female Protagonists

What makes a strong female protagonist?

Product DetailsÉowyn 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

IMG_20170329_152433
Jadeite meets Orion, a boy who is everything Mattie is not.

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

Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein

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