Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Daniel and Natasha meet and Daniel immediately falls for her. He knows in his bones that he is destined to be with her. He just KNOWS! Classic boy falls for girl, girl reacts with measured enthusiasm. Daniel knows that if she gives him one day, he can make her fall for him too. What he doesn’t know, is that one day is all she has to give. Natasha and her family are being deported back to Jamaica that very evening.
As the two spend the day together, luxuriating in each other's presence, their story becomes more complicated. Each of them is actually supposed to be doing something else instead of having this amazing day together, things that neither really wants to tell the other.
When they go to his parent's store on an errand, it becomes clear that his Korean immigrant parents do not want Daniel to be dating a black girl.  Likewise, when Daniel meets Natasha's family, sparks fly.
Yoon has created realistic, funny, warm, and touching characters. Characters a reader is drawn to read page after page to know more about.

This is a book for fans of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park, for all the hopeless romantics out there. 

Nicola can be found at:
On Twitter: @NicolaYoon
And as team member of We Need Diverse Books (I love this site!)

Monday, December 5, 2016

This is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart has written many books for teen readers including One Thing Stolen, Going Over and Small Damages. Her writing is particularly appealing to teenage girls as she has a knack for seeing the world through their eyes and showing a great deal of empathy for her exceedingly complex characters. She accomplishes all of that and more with her latest book, This is the Story of You but I also think she offers something unique to teenage boys with this title as well.

While the novel's protagonist is most assuredly female, what seventeen-year old Mira endures in this [literally] storm-tossed title is the sort of adventure that any coastal dweller must be on the lookout for. She also happens to be keenly observant, whip smart and laboring under an enormous amount of pressure. Basically, all teens facing demons of their own, both domestic and meteorological, are going to find a great deal to love in this story.

This is the Story of You takes place on an east coast barrier island, six miles long and a half mile wide. Mira and her friends are the "year-rounders", members of a local community who rely on the tourists for economic survival but long for the off season and the island's quiet beauty.

(Confession time: I grew up on a barrier island just south of Cape Canaveral. It's larger than Kephart's Haven, but with the same tourism ebb and flow. The beach in July is a madhouse; come October it's a gem. So Mira's world is familiar to me, even though we had more than one bridge to get us to the mainland.)

As the book opens Mira and her friends are enjoying the quiet of September, their small, eclectic island school (really great stuff here about a vibrant learning environment) and casting about for info on the new kid. (Yep, it's a guy, yep there's some wondering about his romantic status.) Mira's world is dominated by her close friends, her determined, hard working single mom, her smart, cool younger brother and the chronic and dangerous disease he is battling. This is life in Haven and with Kephart's always impressive writing, it's a lovely place to spend some time.

What upends the book and everyone in it is a massive storm that builds and turns in unexpected ways (shades of Hurricane Matthew) and slams into Haven when few people are prepared. Mira's family is caught on the mainland, someone breaks into her house, folks go missing in the deluge, and on and on. Everyone pulls together but there are mysteries to solve in the wake of the storm, people to find, people to mourn, a disaster to recover from. Haven will never be the same and, of course, neither will Mira or her friends.

What I enjoy so much about Beth Kephart's books is the depth of emotion her characters experience. It is not that horrible things happen to them, but that they are unashamed to feel so much on every page. In Kephart's novels, people say what they think and what they mean. They look at the world and ponder what they see. They insist on taking part in their surrounding community. They are real - everyone Kephart creates is achingly, breath-takingly real. In some ways, they are more real then the rest of us, which is something to aspire to I think, as readers, as writers and as people.

This is the Story of Us is an excellent read and a hard one to forget. You'll fall deeply for Mira and all the denizens of Haven. I certainly did and I'm finding them still with me, even months since I first read this book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Timeless Titles holidays, everyone!

If you're searching for a good book to give to the kids and teens in your life and you're overwhelmed by all of the titles in the new releases section, I suggest getting some timeless titles - especially if it's a series or author that you yourself adored when you were older. That makes the selection and the sharing all the more special. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Classic Staples (all ages)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
Call of the Wild by Jack London
White Fang by Jack London Adventures (for ages 8 and up)
The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Young Wizards by Diane Duane (start with So You Want to be a Wizard)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs
The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring by John Bellairs
The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is my favorite)
The Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix (start with Mister Monday)
Magic Zero quartet by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski (formerly titled OutCast)

Cute Comedies
(for ages 8 and up)
* Note that each of these titles, with the exception of Sixth Grade Secrets, is the start of a series!
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Everyone Else's Parents Said Yes by Paula Danziger
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar

Mysteries, Murder, and Mischief
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Body of Evidence series by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala (teens and adults; there are ten books in the series, starting with Body Bags)
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene (many books; #1: The Secret of the Old Clock)
The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon (many books; #1: The Tower Treasure)

Secrets on the Homefront: World War II (ages 9 and up)
The Diary of Anne Frank
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

For additional suggestions, pop over to my book blog Bildungsroman where I have booklists galore for all ages in a number of categories. Many for the aforementioned titles are part of my Suggested Sets booklist. Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Buy a book for Ballou SR High School on Cyber Monday!


The Book Fair for Ballou Senior High School in Washington DC is back open!

We were delighted to help Ballou librarian Melissa Jackson and her dedicated book club build a wish list on amazon so 175+ books could be bought and sent their way in October. This annual book fair is the primary way in which Ballou HS obtains books the students want and knowing that so many of them are now reading books they have been waiting for (novels! travel guides! history! biography!) has thrilled us to no end.

Seriously, we love helping this incredibly dedicated school librarian out every year!

Here's the drill for the Cyber Monday reopening - the wish list will be open this whole week and then shuts down for 2016 as Ballou gets ready for winter break. This is your last chance to buy a book for this underfunded & very deserving school library! The book club had a few more books to add last week and we got them in there and there are plenty of deals to choose from. Over 340 books are on the list and there is literally something for every price point. (PLENTY of books under $10!)

Buy a book, spread the word, do something good for our future. (And no, I'm not going to get all political right now but seriously - Do Something Good!)

Here is the tinyurl if you want to share it far & wide on social media (and please do!):

The mailing address is already loaded up on the wish list, so all you need to do is shop & the books will be on their way.

Follow @BallouLibrary on twitter (or facebook) for more pictures as books arrive!

The full link to the Ballou wish list:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Part of the Sky by Robert Newton Peck

With all of the new fiction books that have been published it would be easy to choose one of those books to review. I have found however that some books dealing with times gone past have many life lessons to impart.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Throwing down the gauntlet & getting serious

As you may have noticed, it's been a bit quiet around Guys Lit Wire.

Several of our long time posters have had to leave the site and those of us on the organizing end have been busy with our own projects and work and have not been diligent about filling those slots. We got lazy and while still doing good things (book reviews, the Book Fair for Ballou High School), we have certainly not been doing what I would call important things.

That changes now.

Like most of America, we are kind of freaked out by the current political landscape. No one seems to know what is happening next or what direction the country is taking or what that means for anyone. We are especially sensitive to the concerns of our primary readership: librarians, booksellers, parents and teens who are looking for books that will appeal to reluctant teen readers, especially guys. We think it's time to double down on our initial mission and also, now more than ever, embrace in the broadest possible terms the diversity that makes America such a wonderful place to live.

Diversity is everything in America. 

Let me say that again - diversity is everything in America. It's what matters most. It's what we love about our country and it is what we want to encourage, in ever way possible, in the literary world.

As the granddaughter & great granddaughter of immigrants, and the child of someone who primarily learned to speak English in school, I feel very strongly about this. We have not been doing our job around here on the diversity front and, I promise you, that changes now.

We will still be posting book reviews from a group of varied contributors. We will still be writing about all kinds of books and in some ways, readers will notice hardly any changes at all. We are doubling down however on diversity, in formats (more nonfiction! more poetry! more graphic novels!), in characters, in subject matter and in authors. In addition to reviewing, we are also going to do our best to share news and interviews with diverse authors who we think will appeal to teen readers. We see this as shining a light on the work of those who might be overlooked in the massive coverage of the latest "big thing". And while we certainly enjoy a best seller as much as the next person (and you might very well see a few here that we can't resist noting), we really hope that we can help make a dent in the many issues the literary world is suffering from when it comes to diversity.

More than anything, we will always keep our primary mission of getting the word out on great books but we acknowledge that part of what makes a book great is diversity

The thing that is driving us right now is doing what we can to mitigate the fear that so many American children and teens are feeling. We want to do what we can to make sure they know they are not alone. For so many of us, at one time or another, books were important lifelines. We have not forgotten that and want to make sure today's teens can find the books they need to make it through until things get better.

This is an evolving process at Guys Lit Wire - the final rollout of the slightly redesigned site will likely not take place until the end of the year. We are also going to see about partnering up with some other teen focused sites to do some cross-blogging and more.

And we will be back on Cyber Monday to reopen the Book Fair for Ballou High School and hopefully get more books to that Washington DC school library!

I guess my big message with this post was to thank you for hanging in there with us and let you know to watch this space. There are so many things we all need to be doing these days and we hope you will support us as we do what we can in our little corner of the internet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fantasy Sports by Sam Bosna

I loved Fantasy Sports, I'd never heard of it before in my life and decided to buy it for the library based solely on the cover.

I'm glad I did. It's like Big Trouble in Little China if Kurt Russell had to play a game of basketball to defeat Lo Pan.

Wiz and Mug are an unlikely pair. Wiz is a small, snarky, intelligent wizard with a lot to prove. She's working for Mug, a Zangief-esque brute who thinks with his fists before his head. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp is told in short chapters, sharing the story of a school shooting in “real-time,” told from the perspective of four students with various connections to the shooter, filling in some blanks and gaps as we proceed breathlessly to the inevitable conclusion.

I finished This Is Where It Ends the day before our faculty spent a morning undergoing active shooter response training, training that served as a morbid fact check for Nijkamp’s novel.

We were told that nearly all school shootings involve a single shooter (Columbine being a notable exception).

We were told that in nearly all school shootings the shooter is a young male.

We were told that nearly all school shootings end only when the shooter is killed or kills himself.

We were shown ways to distract, attack, disable, and disarm a shooter.

We were told that locking classroom doors and hiding, as we have been trained to do in the past, is often not the best way to deal with an active shooter scenario.

We were not told how we would react if this scenario became a reality. We were not told this because none of us know. None of us know whether the fear will paralyze us, whether self-preservation will make cowards of us, whether self-preservation is even cowardice, or whether some potent cocktail of adrenaline and morality will lead us to heroic actions. We were not told whether these heroic actions will be where it ends for us or for the shooter or both.

Nijkamp tells us where it ends for Tyler, the lone gunman. She tells us where it ends for his sister. She tells us where it ends for his sister’s girlfriend. She tells us where it ends for teachers and students alike. She tells us in staccato bursts, like gunfire, ricocheting between narrators, disorienting us at times. She shows us sacrifice and heroism and fear and terror and panic and cruelty.

Some readers may want more about where it began, more about how Tyler broke bad, more about character relationships. But Nijkamp’s novel is not primarily about those things (if you want those things, I recommend We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver). This is a novel about how much your life can change in an hour. This a novel about the short sharp shock of where it ends.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Scary Stories We Love

In the days leading up to Halloween, during conversations about costumes, candy, and celebrations for the coming spooky holiday, I asked authors, friends, and teen readers alike:

What was your favorite scary book as a kid?

Here are some of their responses.

"Well, I was always a fan of Where the Wild Things Are...that was one of my favorites year round. As I got older, I sorta skipped kids' books and went right into the old Doc Savage pulp reprints. After my pulp phase, I discovered Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and there was no going back. I found my love in horror and there was no looking back. That book scared the crap out of me. From there I discovered Stephen King, devouring Carrie and Salem's Lot, but it was The Shining that again reduced me to a quivering mass...but I loved every second!" - Tom Sniegoski

"I LOVED Baby-sitters Beware, The Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #2 by Ann M. Martin. The girls were stalked by a creepy dude. So unsettling for a BSC book!!!" - Courtney Summers

"As a kid: Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. As a teen, I read memoirs about tragedy, which scared me plenty!" - Courtney Sheinmel

"Ghost Cat by Beverly Butler changed how I felt about ghosts, cats, and Wisconsin farms. Spooky and a little quirky, which is my favorite flavor of spooky. Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn was suggested to me by my bookish friend in grade school. What I remember most about this book are the fires, the liars, and the skeletons. I'm sure I'm making it sound less chilling than it was for me at the time. It scared me. Also, Carrie was scary. I was the first Stephen King book I ever read. I was in high school and I think it's the only frightening novel I read at that age. I metabolize horror very slowly and read it sparingly. My husband is the scary writer. I'm the funny one." - Kristen Tracy

"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. It gave me nightmares." - 15-year-old reader

"There was this book about a kid who was visited by monsters every night and the monsters broke his toys. Every night. Until one night when he asked them not to do it anymore, and then they fixed his toys. I can't remember the title." - another 15-year-old reader (If anyone is familiar with this book and knows the title/author, please share the info in the comments below!)

"By far, the scariest book I remember as a young reader was James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. After all, what could be more horrifying than rolling around the countryside embedded deep in the dark, cloying, moist tunnels of an enormous piece of fruit while surrounded by huge insects? If you don't suffocate in there, you run the risk of a tunnel collapse or that the enormous spider might decide to sting you and wrap you in its web. And even if all else goes well, what if the peach stops rolling with the opening facing down? Buried alive. I still shudder at the thought of that book... I was also frightened by Shel Silverstein's foot." - Eric Luper

How about you, gentle reader? What was your favorite scary book as a kid? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Want to check out some of my favorite scary stories? Looking for more books to pick up this Halloween? Here are some booklists I created that you might enjoy:
Go Gothic
Monster Mash
Vamping It Up
Mind Readers and Ghostly Visitors

Teen Mystery and Horror Books

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Matt Cruse feels most comfortable when aboard an airship. He loves being in the air aboard the Aurora as a cabin boy. On watch one night, Matt discovers a damaged balloon with an elderly man in it. As they attempt to rescue the man, he mutters incoherently about a fierce and massive cat-like creature that flies through the air and then dies of his wounds.
As the Aurora embarks on a flight to Sydney Australia, a small air vessel docks with the Aurora and disembarks Kate de Vries and her chaperone. We find out that Kate is the granddaughter of the man who died as the Aurora rescued him. She is set on proving to the world that her grandfather was not crazy and the creatures he was muttering about actually do exist.
In due course, the pirates arrive, a massive storm hits, the Aurora crash lands on a deserted island, Kate and Matt are kidnapped and a romance buds. A terrific swashbuckling steampunk adventure. Lots of gizmos and gadgets are discussed and used, the Victorian era holds strong, and readers are bound to fall for our two heroes.