Friday, September 14, 2018

Future Favorites Friday




I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

I love Anne Ursu's books and her Twitter. She is a fabulous human and a talented writer. It feels like way too long since we've received a new book from her, but our wait is almost over.


When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it is decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace. As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.
 

Release Date: February 12, 2019 from Walden Pond Press

I geeked out and squealed about this one all over my social media the moment I discovered it. (Megan Whalen Turner posting things like teasers worthy of her main character is the whole reason I joined Tumblr in the first place. It has PAID OFF.) I'm sure most of you know about this one already and can guess how excited I am. Take this opportunity to admire and be perplexed by the cover yet again. Become anxious and imagine all the worst case scenarios as you read the synopsis. Despite it only being two sentences, there's a lot to unpack there. They may be the two most stressful sentences to ever grace a book copy. But we trust MWT. She will end this well. I CAN NOT BELIEVE IT IS ACTUALLY ENDING THOUGH!!!!!!! *whispers* please let both Gen and Irene be okay please please please*


Neither accepted nor beloved, Eugenides is the uneasy linchpin of a truce on the Lesser Peninsula, where he has risen to be high king of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis. As the treacherous Baron Erondites schemes anew and a prophecy appears to foretell the death of the king, the ruthless Mede empire prepares to strike. 

Release Date: March 19, 2019 from Greenwillow Books

Stephanie Burgis is one of those amazing authors who can shift back and forth between children's an adult novels seemingly seamlessly. She is a top-notch talent at both. This is the prequel to last year's Snowspelled. I adore this universe Burgis has created and the strong-willed, intelligent women who inhabit it. (And the men who would throw themselves in front of any danger for them.)


Amy Standish is a born politician, and she's spent all her life training for the moment when she will finally step into the political arena with a rising mage as her match...which makes it entirely unfortunate that, just as all of her careful plans are coming together, she is faced with the hopelessly impractical and irresistible prospect of Jonathan Harwood - a man who will never, ever be a mage. 

Now, on the night of the Harwoods' Spring Solstice Ball, in an underwater ballroom full of sparkling fey lights and danger, Amy will have to fight the greatest political battle of her life to win a family and a future that she could never have imagined...and it will take an entirely unexpected kind of magic to keep everything from crashing down around her.

Release Date: September 30, 2018 (You can get it now as part of the anthology The Underwater Ballroom Society

What upcoming releases are you looking forward to? 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Ghost Boys

Joining a list of excellent books that includes The Hate U Give and  All American Boys amongst others, Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a story about police violence and racial prejudice toward African American boys. What makes it stand out for me is that it is the first MG novel on the topic we've gotten. Yes, I do think it's MG even if my library shelves it in the Teen section. (I have THOUGHTS on this.)

Jerome is enjoying a bit of rare freedom to play outside when someone calls the police on him. He has a toy gun (one he knows his family would not approve of him playing with). The officers who arrive on the scene don't ask questions. They just shoot. Now Jerome is a ghost hovering around as his family grieves. The only living being who can actually see him is the daughter of the man who took his life. Sarah is struggling with implications of her father's actions and the reality of the boy she is getting to know. Joining Jerome and Sarah is the ghost of Emmet Till. Jerome and Sarah have to figure out how to help each other and the people they love most move on and try to make a difference.

Nothing I wrote in that synopsis is a spoiler as you get all this information rather early in the book. This is not a book about surprises and plotting (though the plotting is well done) so much as it is about the journey and themes. The narrative shifts between dead Jerome and alive Jerome so the reader gets all of the pieces to what happened a little at a time. Jerome has a strong voice and is indisputably young. He is only twelve when he dies. Sarah is likewise twelve, and you get a true sense of her youth too as she struggles to understand what's happened and come to grips with her father not being quite the man she thought he was. Again she is so very young.

Rhodes handles this narrative well and kept it well within the reach of the intended MG audience. I am impressed by how well she managed that. All of the characters have depth. The historical thread involving Till is educational and relevant to the story being told and the characters' journeys. The plotting is superb. Rhodes keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end while filing the story with layers and nuance. Thematically this is a masterpiece that touches on the complexities of policing in America while also not pulling any punches about what needs to change and how we are, on the whole, failing an entire population of people. This is done at the perfect level for the MG audience to take it in and comprehend it.

Share this with the kids in your life. Talk about it. There can never be enough awareness of how we let our internal bias rule us or how deep institutionalized racism in this nation goes.

Friday, August 10, 2018

School Starts

The best part about being back in Knoxville is that we are once again reunited with our Homeschool Co-op, which means I'm once again teaching classes of kids literature. This is what I love doing more than anything else. It does mean that I have been very busy preparing lesson plans and have had less time for reading and keeping up with this blog. I know posts have been sporadic anyway since the move, but I felt like I was going to get back to a regular schedule eventually. I can't imagine that will be the case anymore. It doesn't mean I'm quitting. Just that things are going to continue the same way they have for the past year. When I get the chance to post, it can be a pleasant surprise for all of us. That being said I do post bookish content more frequently on both Litsy and Instagram. If you are on either of those platforms and care, I'm brandymuses on both.

I am truly excited about what I get to teach this year. School began this week, and, while not without its hiccups (like any first week), it was truly fantastic. Here are some of the great books I get to share with middle schoolers and high schoolers this year.

5th-7th Literature:


6th-8th (Full ELA class where the writing focus is on US History):


Freshman English:


British Literature Survey (11th-12th grade):



As you can see, I have four separate preps to do every week in addition to the grading. And, of course, teaching all the other subjects to my own children thy need throughout the week. Also, Bit is now a Freshman (if you can believe it). I have discovered that my time is less my own with a young teen than when she was a preschooler. I controlled her social life completely then. Now, there is so much she knows about and wants to do, yet she can't drive herself anywhere. I feel like half my time is spent driving her back and forth places. So I'm very very busy. Please bear with me as I figure out a new rhythm for my writing here with all of these changes. Thank you so much for still being here after all this time!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Shorter Musings: YA

Here are some shorter musings on recent reads.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I have had this on my list since it came out. Then I thought I might wait unlit the trilogy was finished. One of my teen book club girls chose it for our June book, so I read it earlier than intended. It is quite excellent. I am well and truly over dystopians, but this is so well done. I appreciated the philosophy and exercises in ethics found throughout, as well as the themes on the corruption of man and our lust for power. I also loved the adult characters in the book. They are truly fascinating. The two teen protagonists could have been developed a little better, which is the only reason this isn't getting 5 stars from me. (Funny thing is, this was the prevailing opinion of the teens too.)

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Odler
I enjoyed this sequel to Shadowshaper. It is a broader book, requiring knowledge of both plot and characters for the previous book in order to fully enjoy it. (If you haven't read Shadowshaper, start there and know you have TWO amazing books awaiting you.)  Shadowhouse Fall picks up a few months following the end of the first story. Sierra is training her Shadowshapers and trying to grow into her role as Lucera. In the midst of all of this, The Sorrows are again on the move eager to use Sierra's youth and naivety to gain power again. The world Older created in the first book in the series is widened here, showing many layers and depths. Several new characters are introduced, all of whom add new angles to the story. This is an excellent series that uses mythology and magic and also highlights many social injustices and societal issues. Older does an exquisite job of balancing hope with the starker realities of the world. I also appreciate how there is closure but everything isn't tied up perfectly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Shorter Musings MG Historical Fiction Edition


Here are some shorter musings on three recent MG historical fiction reads.

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renee Watson
This book is a narrative on the life of Betty Shabazz's childhood. This is the little girl who would grow up to be the wife of Malcom X and a community leader. It is considered fiction because of the way the story is told, but her daughter is one of the author's so the basic facts of Betty's life are true. The book is a short, quick read. It's perfect for kids who love historical fiction or stories about complicated families and friendships. I found it engaging and hard to book down.

The Journey of Charlie Little by Christopher Paul Curtis
This book is about a share cropper's son who must travel with a slave catcher to Michigan in order to pay of a debt his father incurred before his tragic death. Charlie doesn't like the overseer he is indebted to and finds everything about their journey distasteful. I enjoyed this mostly because it is a glimpse into a part of this country's history we don't see much in children's books. There are many books that cover slavery, but not from the point of view of slave catchers. I was sort of disappointed because I went in with the expectation that this was more about a friendship between Charlie and the son of the family he is being forced to retrieve. This was not the book's fault, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development all around.

Rebound by Kwame Alexander
This a prequel to the Newbery winner [book:The Crossover|18263725] (one of my all time favorite MG books). I had a harder time clicking with this one. I think part of the reason is that I put up a wall between the characters and me because I know what happens in the future. The end when it ties into The Crossover did make me tear up.