Tuesday, December 9, 2014

HO HO HO - Who Likes Middle-Grade Books?

It's THAT TIME OF YEAR again (like you needed me to tell you). The mall parking lots are totally overwhelmed with morons who don't know how to drive, their angry faces throwing shade (and worse) at each other for the spot closest to the food court entrance. The television blasts Christmas programming interspersed with ear-splitting ads for must-have toys and gadgets that the kiddies will break/grow tired of thirty-one-point-two minutes after opening. The neighbors put up their Griswold Christmas-worthy lights and then launch preemptive strikes to outdo one another. Monday night, Neighbor 1 adds two strands around the naked maple tree; Tuesday, Neighbor 2 adds THREE strands to their fir tree and a blow-up snowman on the porch; Wednesday night, Neighbor 1 is again on the ladder with FIVE more strands, TEN of those light-up candy cane thingies stabbed into the yard, and two motorized, light-up wicker reindeer. By the time Friday rolls around, you have to put on sunglasses just to go into the kitchen for a glass of water. The glare -- it burns us. Don't blame Canada if there are power shortages this Christmas.

And the food -- don't get me started on the food. Every year, I'm like, okay, I will be calm with the cookie eating this year. I am a grown-up. I have self-control. And every year, I get so excited about the cookies that I have special pants to wear just for the months of November and December. WHY DOES CHRISTMAS TASTE SO GOOD? If Christmas would just taste like broccoli, I wouldn't need the special pants. Also, if someone could make broccoli taste like a cookie, that would be way better.

ANYWAY: You have readers. Young readers. Middle grade readers. For whom YOU NEED BOOKS. So, on with the show, then, Rambling Jenn.

Here are our top recommendations for this year's middle grade books, chosen by everyone's favorite curly-haired, book-loving chap, KennyG.

OUR MIDDLE-GRADE RECOMMENDED READS 

FOR 2014


(P.S. No, we have not read *all* of these. But most. Some are still sitting on the shelf, waiting their turn. And some of these were not published in 2014. We just happened upon them during this calendar year. Oh, also, the summaries were taken from Amazon.)

THE UNWANTEDS - series by Lisa McMann

(***Kendon's FAVORITE SERIES EVER!***)

Books 1 through 4 available now; Book 5, Island of Shipwrecks due Feb. 3, 2015 

  
Quill prevails when the strong survive

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their graves.

On the day of the Purge, identical twins Alex and Aaron Stowe await their fate. While Aaron is hopeful of becoming a Wanted, Alex knows his chances are slim. He's been caught drawing with a stick in the dirt-and in the stark gray land of Quill, being creative is a death sentence.

But when Alex and the other Unwanteds face the Eliminators, they discover an eccentric magician named Mr. Today and his hidden world that exists to save the condemned children. Artimé is a colorful place of talking statues, uncommon creatures, and artistic magic, where creativity is considered a gift ... and a weapon.

~~~

THE BOUNDLESS, by Kenneth Oppel


Will Everett always wished for an adventure … but he wasn’t expecting it to start the moment he boarded the Boundless, the largest and most magnificent train ever built.

After a murder is committed, Will finds himself in possession of a key that has the potential to unlock the train’s hidden treasures. Together with Maren, a gifted escape artist, and Mr. Dorian, a circus ringmaster with amazing abilities, Will must save the Boundless before someone else winds up dead.

With villains fast on his heels and strange creatures lurking outside the windows, the train hurtles across the country as Will flees for his life. His adventure may have begun without his knowing … but how it ends is now entirely up to Will.

~~~ 

THE ABILITY, by M. M. Vaughn

(We shared this one last year, but the sequel is out -- see below -- so it's a good reminder!)



Delve into the extraordinary abilities of the twelve-year-old mind in this “fast-paced, superhero-tinged spy novel” (Publishers Weekly), the thrilling start to a middle grade series that expands the possibilities of power.

No one has any confidence in twelve-year-old Christopher Lane. His teachers discount him as a liar and a thief, and his mom doesn’t have the energy to deal with him. But a mysterious visit from the Ministry of Education indicates that Chris might have some potential after all: He is invited to attend the prestigious Myers Holt Academy.

When Christopher begins at his new school, he is astounded at what he can do. It seems that age twelve is a special time for the human brain, which is capable of remarkable feats—as also evidenced by Chris’s peers Ernest and Mortimer Genever, who, at the direction of their vengeful and manipulative mother, are testing the boundaries of the human mind.

But all this experimentation has consequences, and Chris soon finds himself forced to face them—or his new life will be over before it can begin.


MINDSCAPE (ABILITY BOOK 2), by M. M. Vaughn

Telekinetic preteens use their powers for good—and evil—in this mind-bending sequel to The Ability, which Publishers Weekly called a “fast-paced, superhero-tinged spy novel.”

Everywhere that Christopher Lane turns, he sees the face of the boy he killed. There is no escape from the guilt, not even on his return to Myers Holt—the secret London academy where he and five others are being trained to use their mental powers, their Ability.

But now that the threat of Dulcia Genever has been dealt with, his friends are too busy working for the police, entering the minds of some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, to sympathize. Chris’s teachers are already concerned enough about him, especially when Chris starts to wonder if the boy may not be a figment of his imagination after all.

Meanwhile, alone in Darkwhisper Manor, Ernest Genever is enjoying watching Chris’s torment. Yes, he will keep his promise—Christopher Lane will die—but not until he has watched Chris lose his mind waiting for Ernest to appear. For, if nothing else, Dulcia Genever did teach her son one valuable lesson:

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

~~~
 
JUST JAKE, by Jake Marcionette

Note: This book is written by a KID! Jake was 12 when he wrote the first installment. Very cool!

JUST JAKE introduces readers to sixth-grader Jake, whose life is turned upside down when his family moves from Florida to Maryland, where Jake must adapt to a new school. 

Jake has always ranked the kids at school in his hand-made, humorous “Kid Cards,” and when he arrives at his new school, Jake starts building a new collection, befriending as many people as he can while staying under the radar from the school bully.  

But what happens when the school bully decides Jake's next in line for annihilation and his Kid Cards get into the wrong hands?!!

JUST JAKE is a genuine—and as Jake himself would say, AWESOME!—world of school, family, friends, and teachers; it’s the product of a writer talented well beyond his years. 

And March 2015 will bring us JUST JAKE #2, DOG EAT DOG:

Sixth grader Jake Ali Mathews is slowly climbing his way back up the ladder of popularity. Increasingly settled in his new school and with a great new best friend, Michael, everything seems to be going okay for Jake. Until Jake's beloved teacher, Mrs. Pilsner, has a baby and the students in Jake's homeroom are handed off to the super-scary substitute, Ms. Cane.  

Rather than teach through traditional methods, Ms. Cane decides to have these go-getters help her with a fledgling pet-grooming company. Dogs, cats, and more get bathed, popularity struggles become boardroom struggles, and Jake's friendship with Michael is tested.  Even Jake's diabolical sister, Alexis, gets in on the puppy-cleaning action and hilarity ensues. 

But will Jake's brand of AWESOMENESS be enough to clean up this furry mess? 

~~~

SISTERS, by Raina Telgemeier

The companion to Raina Telgemeier's #1 New York Times bestselling and Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir, Smile.
 
Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all. 

Raina uses her signature humour and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.

~~~

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES #3: EVERBLAZE, 
by Shannon Messenger

Note: This is a fantastic series -- and Shannon Messenger is a VERY cool human being -- so interactive with her young fans. In addition to being an author for middle grade and young adult fiction, she is also an artist. Be sure to check out her Society 6 page!

Sophie uncovers shocking secrets—and faces treacherous new enemies—in this electrifying third book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

Sophie Foster is ready to fight back.

 

Her talents are getting stronger, and with the elusive Black Swan group ignoring her calls for help, she’s determined to find her kidnappers—before they come after her again.
 

But a daring mistake leaves her world teetering on the edge of war, and causes many to fear that she has finally gone too far. And the deeper Sophie searches, the farther the conspiracy stretches, proving that her most dangerous enemy might be closer than she realizes.
 

In this nail-biting third book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must fight the flames of rebellion, before they destroy everyone and everything she loves. 

~~~

POPULAR: VINTAGE WISDOM FOR A MODERN GEEK, by Maya Van Wagenen

A breakout teen author explores the true meaning of popularity and how to survive middle school in this hysterically funny, touchingly honest contemporary memoir.  

Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help a shy girl become popular? Maya Van Wagenen is about to find out.  

Stuck near the bottom of the social ladder at “pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya has never been popular. But before starting eighth grade, she decides to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell.
 

The real-life results are hilarious, painful, and filled with unexpected surprises. Told with humor and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence, along with a better understanding of what it means to be popular.
~~~

SPARKERS, by Eleanor Glewwe

In the city of Ashara, magicians rule all.
 

Marah Levi is a promising violinist who excels at school and can read more languages than most librarians. Even so, she has little hope of a bright future: she is a sparker, a member of the oppressed lower class in a society run by magicians.

Then a mysterious disease hits the city of Ashara, turning its victims’ eyes dark before ultimately killing them. As Marah watches those whom she loves most fall ill, she finds an unlikely friend in Azariah, a wealthy magician boy. Together they pursue a cure in secret, but more people are dying every day, and time is running out. Then Marah and Azariah make a shocking discovery that turns inside-out everything they thought they knew about magic and about Ashara, their home. 

Set in an imaginative world rich with language, lore, and music, this gripping adventure plunges the reader into the heart of a magical government where sparks of dissent may be even more deadly than the dark eyes.

~~~

UNGIFTED, by Gordon Korman

**Starred review from Kendon Himself**


From #1 New York Times best-selling author Gordon Korman comes a hilarious and heartfelt novel in which one middle-school troublemaker accidentally moves into the gifted and talented program—and changes everything. For fans of Louis Sachar and Jack Gantos, this funny and touching underdog story is a lovable and goofy adventure with robot fights, middle-school dances, live experiments, and statue-toppling pranks!

When Donovan Curtis pulls a major prank at his middle school, he thinks he’s finally gone too far. But thanks to a mix-up by one of the administrators, instead of getting in trouble, Donovan is sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, a special program for gifted and talented students.

Although it wasn’t exactly what Donovan had intended, the ASD couldn’t be a more perfectly unexpected hideout for someone like him. But as the students and teachers of ASD grow to realize that Donovan may not be good at math or science (or just about anything), he shows that his gifts may be exactly what the ASD students never knew they needed. 

~~~


THE WILDWOOD CHRONICLES, 
by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis 

For fans of The Chronicles of Narnia comes the the Wildwood Chronicles, the New York Times best-selling fantasy adventure series by Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, acclaimed illustrator of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

In Wildwood, Prue and her friend Curtis uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval—a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much greater as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness. A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.

Wildwood captivates readers with the wonder and thrill of a secret world within the landscape of a modern city. It feels at once firmly steeped in the classics of children's literature and completely fresh at the same time. The story is told from multiple points of view, and the book features more than eighty illustrations, including six full-color plates, making this an absolutely gorgeous object.

~~~

THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM, by Christopher Healy

(A series -- three books available!)

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a completely original take on the world of fairy tales, the truth about what happens after “happily ever after.” It’s a must-have for middle grade readers who enjoy their fantasy adventures mixed with the humor of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Witty black-and-white drawings by Todd Harris add to the fun.

~~~

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL, 
Volume One, by Neil Gaiman et al

(Volume Two is now available! It's on my shopping list.)


The first volume of a glorious two-volume, four-color graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's #1 New York Times best-selling and Newbery Medal-winning novel The Graveyard Book, adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by an extraordinary team of renowned artists.

Inventive, chilling, and filled with wonder, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book reaches new heights in this stunning adaptation. Artists Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott lend their own signature styles to create an imaginatively diverse and yet cohesive interpretation of Neil Gaiman's luminous novel.

Volume One contains Chapter One through the Interlude, while Volume Two will include Chapter Six to the end.


~~~

THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE, 
by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis


Wherever you need to go—the Map to Everywhere can take you there.
-->

To Master Thief Fin, an orphan from the murky pirate world of the Khaznot Quay, the Map is the key to finding his mother. To suburban schoolgirl Marrill, it’s her only way home after getting stranded on the Pirate Stream, the magical waterway that connects every world in creation.

With the help of a bumbling wizard and his crew, they must scour the many worlds of the Pirate Stream to gather the pieces of the Map to Everywhere—but they aren’t the only ones looking. A sinister figure is hot on their tail, and if they can’t beat his ghostly ship to find the Map, it could mean the destruction of everything they hold dear!

In Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis’s first installment of a fantastical new series, adventure, magic, and hilarity collide in the treacherous skies and dangerous waters of the Pirate Stream. Heart-pounding escapades and a colorful cast of characters will have readers setting sail through this wholly original and unforgettable tale.


~~~

THE LAND OF STORIES, a series by Chris Colfer

(Three books out in this series; #4 hits shelves July 7, 2015.)


Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales.

The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.

But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought. 

~~~ 

JAKE AND LILY, by Jerry Spinelli 


Beloved Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli, author of Maniac Magee and Wringer, addresses issues of identity, belonging, family, and bullying in this humorous and heartfelt novel about twins.

Jake and Lily are twins. Despite their slightly different interests and temperaments, they feel exactly the same—like two halves of one person. But the year they turn eleven, everything changes. Their parents announce it’s time for separate bedrooms. Jake starts hanging out with a pack of boys on the block. And Lily is devastated, not to mention angry. Who is she without Jake? And as her brother falls under the influence of the neighborhood bully, he also must ask himself—who is the real Jake?

This is an often funny, poignant, and profound story of growing up, growing apart, and the difficult process of figuring out who you really are.

~~~

EL DEAFO, by Cece Bell


Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers!

In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is.

After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

~~~

THE BALANCE KEEPERS: FIRES OF CALDERON, 
by Lindsay Cummings

The Fires of Calderon is Book One in Lindsay Cummings’s epic Balance Keepers series. These exciting fantasy adventure books are full of magic, mystery, friendship, and humor and are perfect for fans of books like Brandon Mull’s The Candy Shop War or the Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann.

With themes of friendship, self-discovery, and courage; both boy and girl main characters; fierce creatures to battle; a mystery to solve; and a boarding school that could be described as Hogwarts underground, there’s something for every reader to enjoy in this contemporary—and fantastically imaginative—spin on the classic Journey to the Center of the Earth.

When eleven-year-old Albert Flynn follows a mysterious map deep into the woods, and then under the woods, he discovers he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for keeping harmony in fantastical underground worlds. Together with his teammates Leroy and Birdie, Albert must master his magical talents in time to stop the fires in the Calderon Realm from destroying New York City above.

~~~

AMULET #6: ESCAPE FROM LUCIEN, 
by Kazu Kibuishi


Navin and his classmates journey to Lucien, a city ravaged by war and plagued by mysterious creatures, where they search for a beacon essential to their fight against the Elf King. 

Meanwhile, Emily heads back into the Void with Max, one of the Elf King's loyal followers, where she learns his darkest secrets. The stakes, for both Emily and Navin, are higher than ever.









~~~

PHEW! What a list. Okay, so you should be able to find a thing or two here for your eager reader. Be sure to pop by and let me know YOUR favorite reads ... there is no such thing as TOO MANY BOOKS.

Merry Christmas!
Joyeux Noël!
Happy Hanukkah!
HAPPY ALL THE OTHER STUFF YOU CELEBRATE!

Xs and Os, bookish friends ...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Eliza Gordon Strikes Again: NEUROTICA Is LIVE!

My alter ego has been busy while the other personality -- the real me -- rewrites Sleight. Yes. It is The Book That Never Ends. Wish me luck on this latest adventure.

SOOOOO, even though it's not August 21, and that's when I said NEUROTICA would be available for purchase, I got tired of waiting and decided that we needed some giggles this week. As such ...

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE:

Neuro AmazonGRSW

Summary


If you find yourself talking to Jayne Dandy, keep the conversation on Star Wars and rubber ducks—best not to mention men, dating, or S-E-X. Because Jayne is fine with the way things are: writer of obituaries and garage sale ads by day, secret scribe of adventures in distant galaxies by night. But her crippling fear of intimacy has made her the butt of jokes since forever, and hiding behind her laptop isn’t going to get her lightsaber lit.

After her therapist recommends that she write erotica as a form of exposure therapy, Jayne joins forces with pen and paper to combat the demons that won’t let her kiss and tell. Unexpectedly downsized at work, she adopts a pseudonym and secretly self-publishes one of her naughty books to make ends meet. When her adorable, long-time friend Luke, co-owner of the popular Portland food truck Luke Piewalker’s, hears she’s been demoted, he insists on hiring her to sling éclairs and turnovers at his side. Her secret must be kept, but sparks ignite between them, sending Jayne and her X-Wing into a tailspin that will either make her face down her neuroses or trigger a meltdown of Death Star proportions.


webbed-feet


If you're interested in a signed paperback, drop me an email or find me on Facebook. It's awfully cute in paperback, I must say.

Neurotica cover

Now go out and take pictures of your best Star Wars cosplay, your favorite eclairs, or the cutest ducks you can find, and share them with me so we can say, 
"Welcome to the world, Jayne Dandy!"

Early reviews:


~ “My soul is happy. Neurotica was perfect. I enjoyed every single word.” 

~ “You probably can’t see the sections I highlighted in the book but people would think I’m nuts because it’s the scenes where you describe Portland and the areas they are sitting that just grabbed my heart. Honestly, at moments I wanted to cry, because you did my heart’s home such service. Your love of Portland shines in this book and it’s beautiful ... Jayne was just so real, and honest (despite what Luke may have thought a couple times). She felt like someone I would just love to know personally.” 

~ “This book has so much going own that you will not be able to put it down. I love everything about it, from the way it is written, to the storyline and its many twist and turns. This book is different from the author’s first book but I think I love it as much or maybe even more. This is a must read now book. Don’t just put it on your long to be read list because it is that good. The wittiness of the storyline is incredible. I want more of these characters when I finished the book because I didn’t want it to end. Loved every word of this book!” 

~ “Gordon keeps readers on edge, snickering, and in love with all the characters as this humorous story unfolds. A must read. And perhaps my favorite part is that it’s completely clean. While the MC writes erotica, Gordon keeps this NA novel PG, which is exactly where it needs to be to get the point across.”

 ~~~


As a friendly reminder, for those of you with delicate sensibilities:

Neurotica-reader-discretion-warning

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