Looking back at crazy school days

Did you read every BooksYALove recommendation this summer? No?

Well, be sure to check out these two very different books about school that you might have missed (click on the title link to open its page in a new tab/window):

book cover of Target Practice: Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack published by Graphixbook cover of Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer published by Knopf Books for Young ReadersTarget Practice,  by Mike Maihack – Great combo in this graphic novel with talking cats, aliens, and the Queen of the Nile as a curious teen.

Kate Hattemer’s Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy pits those who think “For Art’s Sake” reality show is their path to success against the kids who think it’s ruining their school.

Remember that you still have time to enter the free giveaway for an autographed copy of The Green Teen Cookbook from Zest Books. Go to my original recommendation here and comment by 11:59 pm Central Daylight Time on Sunday, 31 August 2014 to be entered. I’ll toss all the comments into Randomizer when I get back from #IASL2014 in Moscow, and we’ll see who the lucky winner is!

p.s. Do either of these schools resemble yours?

A Girl Called Fearless, by Catherine Linka (book review) – unwilling May-December marriage!

book cover of A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka published by St Martin's GriffinNo rights to an education,
sold in marriage to the highest bidder,
teen girls in an “advanced” society?

When all the mothers died because of corporate greed, young women like Avie became America’s only hope for the future. So love is a priceless luxury, and arranged marriages are major financial transactions. The Paternalists monitor young women constantly to stop kidnappings… but the power-hungry political movement has a more sinister agenda.

Read the first three chapters here for free, then grab this May 2014 release at your local library or independent bookstore to see what path Avie chooses.

Who is allowed to determine our freedoms? How far would you go to protect yours?

Book info: A Girl Called Fearless / Catherine Linka. St Martins Griffin, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Contracted to marry a man twice her age, Avie wants to escape to Canada, but can she leave her true love behind in today’s totalitarian California?

After a hormone in beef kills all women of childbearing age, young girls become incredibly valuable and are Signed as teen brides to the highest bidders. The Paternalists say this will prevent kidnappings, but 16-year-old Avie and her best friend Yates aren’t so sure.

When her dad Signs Avie to marry Jessop Hawkins as part of a deal to save his biotech company, suddenly her dreams of attending college are dust. Hawkins wants Avie with him on the campaign trail as he runs for governor, so they will marry in 3 weeks – unless she follows Yates’ advice and joins the underground Exodus to Canada. Now that she knows she’s in love with Yates, what else could she do? But Hawkins isn’t about to let his prize slip away…

An alternate history tale of a chilling today which really could happen tomorrow, first in a series.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on

Target Practice, by Mike Maihack (book review) – Cleopatra in Space! Talking cats! Alien war!

book cover of Target Practice: Cleopatra in Space #1 by Mike Maihack published by GraphixGood aim, quick reflexes,
sneaking out of class,
yes, Cleo is sure the rules don’t apply to her!

We all know about Cleopatra as queen of Egypt, but imagine her teen years – with time travel and intergalactic war and talking cats as teachers (yes, 15 year olds in the future have to go to school…)

Sample this action-packed graphic novel here free (thanks, Mike!), then head to your local library or independent bookstore for the rest of the tale.

Alas, we’ll have to wait until April 2015 for the second in this #diversebooks series: The Thief and the Story.

So, alternate history – thumbs up or thumbs down?


Book info: Target Practice (Cleopatra in Space #1)  / text and art by Mike Maihack. Graphix, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Curiosity sends Cleopatra from ancient Egypt to outer space where the teen is hailed as savior of the galaxy – if she survives training school!

If she hadn’t slipped away from boring algebra (does a queen really need math?) for slingshot practice with her pal Gozi, then 15-year-old Cleopatra wouldn’t have found the old temple or the glowing tablet there which transported her from the ancient Nile Valley to the future, where talking cats explain her prophesied arrival.

At Yasiro Academy, Cleo learns alien languages (yawn), algebra (snore), and target practice (ray guns!) as she prepares for intergalactic war against Xerx who is capturing all knowledge stored electronically – and their sector is next!

First graphic novel in the Cleopatra in Space series, Target Practice  shows the young queen-to-be facing danger from school dances, warring aliens, and her own impetuous nature.   (One of 6,000 books recommended on

Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski (book review) – a body is bought, the heart plots revolution

book cover of Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski published by Farrar Straus GirouxShe loves music more than war – not the Valorian way.
He seeks bloodshed and revenge – not tastefully Herrani.
Master and slave, locked in a struggle that may destroy everything.

Somehow it’s no accident that a noted singer is being sold just as Kestrel and her best friend Jess arrive at the slave market in the newly-conquered Herrani city – or that being a slave in the Valorian General’s home is worth more to Arin than his own freedom. But love has a way of changing the best-plotted plans…

When the price is too low, the cost of keeping your purchase may be too high – that’s “the winner’s curse” and Kestrel will never have a chance to forget it.

This “Bridge of Snow” short story prequel at will whet your appetite for Kestrel and Arin’s brutal, brilliant world, then chill your heart when you realize what’s about to unfold.

It’s publication day for The Winner’s Curse, so ask for it at your local library or independent bookstore now.

In this land so much like ancient Greece, can love conquer all?

Book info: The Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy, book 1)  / Marie Rutkoski. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014.   [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Soldier or wife – the only options open to Valorian young women. But the General’s daughter Kestrel lives for her music, a waste of time in their war-hardened society.

Death or slavery – all that remains for the Herrani people after the General’s successful invasion. Arin vows to give the occupiers a taste of their own barbaric ways.

Buy or sell – Kestrel didn’t plan to purchase a slave who could sing, to keep him when he refused.

Honor – the Valorians admire it above everything else.
Revenge – the Herrani want it totally, completely.

Win or lose – Kestrel can sense the right cards and the wrong play in Bite and Sting, but no gamble is the right one when she realizes how she feels about Arin, how he feels about her.

Masters, slaves, romance, rebellion – perhaps the gods of this ancient land have raised the stakes and are betting against either side winning…. (One of 6,000 books recommended on

My to-be-reviewed shelf is slowly shrinking… TBR2014 Challenge update

For most book-folk, TBR means “to be read” (as in “My TBR stack is taller than I am”), but for me it means that lonnng shelf of books that I’ve already read, but still need “to be reviewed” here!

Moving right along, I added recommendations of these books with 2013 or earlier copyright date to BooksYALove in February (click each link to open my no-spoiler review in a new tab/window):

book cover of Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason published by Chronicle Booksbook cover of Go A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd published by WorkmanThe Clockwork Scarab – Egyptian curse stalking young women in steampunk London or merely murder? Eva Stoker and Mina Holmes investigate!

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design – from color to typography, noted graphic designer Chip Kidd shares info, insight and project ideas.

book cover of Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestierbook cover of Flygirl by Sherri L Smith published by PenguinTeam Vampire – when transforming to vampire can leave you a zombie, why wouldn’t Mel want to keep her best friend among the living?

Flygirl – passing for white so she can fly during WWII, Ida Mae will face even more dangers on the ground than aloft.

book cover of How Not to Be a Dick by Meghan Doherty published by Zest BooksHow Not to Be a Dick – this common-sense (with a sense of humor) everyday etiquette guide will help you be a better person.

So far in 2014, I’ve 8 recommended of my targeted 50+ pre-2014 titles for this year’s Bookish 2014 TBR Reading Challenge – onward!

Clockwork Scarab, by Colleen Gleason (book review) – the Misses Stoker and Holmes, on the case!

book cover of Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason published by Chronicle BooksAncient Egypt is all the rage,
“Cognoggins” crave the newest steam-machines,
London society’s fairest maidens are being kidnapped…and worse!

It’s Evalina who inherited the Stoker family call to hunt vampires and the superhuman quickness needed to succeed. The logical mind and innate problem-solving skills shared by Sherlock and Mycroft also live on in gadget-loving Mina.

Only the personal request of Her Highness could make these rivals work together in this 1889 world powered by steam… and lies.

Add a handsome police detective, a young man of the streets who knows more than he should, and a stranger who claims to come from the future (where electricity is legal? Oh, who is he trying to fool?), and things get more complicated than either independent-minded miss had anticipated!

Check out the first Stoker & Holmes book today at your favorite local library or independent bookstore, and immerse yourself in a steampunk city with mystery and mayhem.

Or should modern writers not take classic tales beyond their original authors’ limits?

Book info: The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, book 1) / Colleen Gleason. Chronicle Books, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When young London society heiresses go missing and leave scarab amulets behind, Stoker and Holmes must investigate – that’s Eva Stoker, vampire hunter, and Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock.

Summoned by the Princess of Wales to solve the deadly mystery, the two young ladies find another dead girl in the British Museum’s Egyptian room – and a young man in strange garb who claims to come from the future!

Inspector Luckworth of Scotland Yard suspects this Dylan fellow in the case, charming street urchin Pix knows more than he’s telling, and another young lady of quality disappears…

Can Eva’s defensive talents keep rational Mina from becoming the scarab cult’s next victim?

Can Mina solve the scarab mystery before Eva’s impulsive actions close off all clues or get them both killed?

Can they get Dylan back to his time in his own world?

Something much deadlier than illegal electricity is stalking the streets and levels of steampunk London in this first volume of the Stoker and Holmes series, even if these dedicated young ladies are underappreciated by the men in their noted families!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on

Clockwork Heart, by Liesel Schwarz (book review) – dark powers invade steampunk London

book cover of A Clockwork Heart by Liesel Schwarz published by Del Rey BooksA warehouse filled with beating hearts,
An army of mechanical-hearted homeless,
Danger for London – can the Oracle hold back the Dark?

Grab book 2 of The Chronicles of Light and Dark if you like:

  • steampunk London + romance
  • true friend nightwalking vampires or absinthe fairies with poor judgment
  • dirigible captains with a penchant for gambling and daredevilry
  • ancient entities reborn into a more-modern time
  • the struggle between forces of Light and Dark cast in an alternate history

Naturally, you’ll enjoy this book more if you had already followed Elle battling A Conspiracy of Alchemists  (book 1 reviewed here) when she discovered her heritage as Oracle, but you’ll get bits of the backstory throughout this book as her beloved Marsh is captured and fitted with  A Clockwork Heart  whose time is running out!


Book info: A Clockwork Heart (Chronicles of Light and Shadow, book 2) / Liesel Schwarz. Del Rey, 2013.   [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The Oracle must solve the mystery of the Tickers to reclaim her true love and save the world from being overrun by the creatures of Shadow before time runs out!

Looking at young Lord Greychester and his lovely wife, one would never suspect them to be a bound warlock and the Sibyl herself. Marsh and Elle are trying to blend in with London society, but his experiments with Spark and her airship charter flights could make them conspicuous.

Elle’s dreams are interrupted by the warnings of all the Sibyls who have gone before, telling her to turn the airship around and return to London – Marsh has disappeared! Scotland Yard won’t help her find him, so she enlists the help of an absinthe fairy, a Nightwalker with a good heart despite her appetite for human blood, and her father with his inventions to find out where he’s been taken

The Consortium of Shadow prepares to attack the Council of Warlocks and overcome Light once and for all, using an army of mechanical-hearted people animated by Spark and darkness. Among the paupers and drunks brought into Clothilde’s grisly workshop within the electromancers’ monastery is Marsh.

Can Elle uncover the Consortium’s plan?
Can she rescue Marsh before it’s too late?
Is it all a trap to lure her into Shadow forever?

This second book in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow takes readers to an alternate steampunk London where the walls between the domains of good and evil are growing ever-thinner. Read A Conspiracy of Alchemists first to get the full story of this ages-old conflict and Elle’s unwilling rise to be the Oracle which both sides want to possess.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on

Legacy of the Clockwork Key, by Kristin Bailey (book review) – key to danger, love, time itself

book cover of Legacy of the Clockwork Key by Kristin Bailey published by Simon PulseA pocket-watch that is actually a key,
a key made of clockwork
and music and love and danger.

The infinitely intricate clockwork devices made by Meg’s late father and grandfather and other Secret Order ‘amusementists’ make the automatons whirring and blinking in Europe’s royal courts seem like primitive toys in comparison.

Read the beginning of Meg’s story, as Kristin shares part of chapter one here, and be sure to watch the book trailer, one of my favorites!

You’ll want to hurry to your local library  or independent bookstore to pick up this first book of the Secret Order series so you can travel through the mystery with Meg and Will, outwitting mazes and mechanical monsters, solving puzzles on a pirate ship, and trying to stay one step ahead of pure human evil.

What’s the most amazing clockwork device you’ve seen in action?

Book info: Legacy of the Clockwork Key (The Secret Order, #1) / Kristin Bailey. Simon Pulse, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My book talk: Rescued by a secretive benefactor, Meg is no longer a young lady of good society in Victorian England, but a orphaned housemaid in a mansion that time forgot. When intricate devices point to clues regarding her parents’ deaths, the sixteen-year-old knows she must follow them, despite the danger to herself, her reputation, and her heart.

Meg wonders why every detail here must stay as it was, why the Baron took her in, why the staff knows “he’s always watching” when no one sees him. She mourns for her learned parents, killed in the fire which consumed their clock shop and her future six months ago. If only her grandfather were still alive…

When she asks the Baron’s young coachman to repair the clock-locket which alone survived the fire, it turns out to be a clockwork key. Meg recognizes its design in the parlor fireplace and unlocks secrets about the Baron (and her grandfather) that send her rushing to Will for help. Visiting a graveyard, unlocking more secrets, befriending a young widow – the pair uncovers a far-reaching organization of inventors, a sinister plot, and a terrifying problem.

The unseen Baron fires them both for “unbecoming behavior” and Meg knows that he’s discovered her visit into his workroom. With widowed Mrs. Pricket, they flee London, trying to reach the nearest amusementist (as Lucinda Pricket calls these inventors in the Secret Order) and safety. Although the inventor is long gone, his larger-than-life clockwork-powered amusement remains, and they must reanimate it to find more clues. For if they cannot stop the Baron, then he will kill them as surely as he killed Meg’s parents and Lucinda’s husband and others of the Secret Order.

Can they outrun the man who wants to control time?
Can they survive the perils of the gigantic clockwork amusements?
Can Meg and Will ignore their attraction to one another?

An entire secret organization dedicated to inventing the most elaborate toys on earth, a murderer bent on snuffing out all competitors, a chance for love outside Victorian society’s cast-iron rules – all in the first book of The Secret Order series.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Renegade Magic, by Stephanie Burgis (book review) – dark magic, Regency manners, secrets everywhere

book cover of Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis published by AtheneumThe pointed comments about their mother,
the deliberate snubs by those in high society,
the accusations of magic being used…
can the healing waters of Bath wash away their troubles?

The Guardians have refused to train Kat to handle the magical powers she inherited from her mother, and all of England may be in dreadful peril because of it!

This funny and suspenseful series owes much to the author’s love of Regency romances, like those of Georgette Heyer, and her own life as one of several siblings.

Kat, Incorrigible is the first book of the series (my recommendation here), and Stolen Magic  is the third (review coming soon).

Try out the first chapter of Renegade Magic  here and get swept into A Tangle of Magicks  in “The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson” series, as it’s known in the UK.
And the “Dueling Magicks” short story is currently available free (grab it now here!).

What magic powers would you like to use against the stuffier conventions of  society?

Book info: Renegade Magic (Kat, Incorrigible #2) / Stephanie Burgis. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012 hardcover, 2013 paperback.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My recommendation: Kat doesn’t care about polite society, but when accusations of witchcraft during her eldest sister’s wedding send the family fleeing to see-and-be-seen Bath, she’ll take the change of scenery. But this spirited young lady had no idea that evil magic was gathering in the fashionable city – she may have to break a few more Guardian rules to stop it!

No one could have imagined that Frederick’s mother would storm the little country church to accuse middle sister Angeline of bewitching her son – with real witchcraft! Never mind that the three sisters really did inherit their mother’s magical skills and that Stepmama pretends they are not excluded from polite Regency society because of that scandalous family history.

Suddenly, they’re off to the resort city of Bath so that Angeline may acquire a new fiance to quell the gossips, with Stepmama settling the family into her distant relative’s well-placed townhouse by hinting that Lady Fotherington is Kat’s godmother. Of course, everyone important in society respects that great Lady; only Kat knows she’s one of the Guardians using magic to protect England against evil magic-wielders – and that she despises Kat for inheriting her mother’s powers.

As Angeline and Stepmama and reluctant Kat visit all the right places during the proper hours, brother Charles gets himself entangled in gambling again (all he learned at Oxford, it seems), a notorious man singles out Angeline, and Kat seeks out the unusual magic giving off sparks of evil with her cousin Lucy’s unexpected help.

Are the famous spring waters of Bath hiding a darker secret?
Why is scandalous Viscount Scarwood wooing Angeline?
How will Kat ever get the Guardians to train her properly?

Good magic, bad magic, and treachery lurk below the surface of 19th century Britain’s preoccupation with fashion and manners in this fast-paced sequel to Kat, Incorrigible.  Be sure to follow Kat’s quest to recover Stolen Magic  in the third book of the series, too.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson (book review) – chalk as weapon, geometry as war

Book cover of The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson published by Tor TeenHe has the strategy, but not the power.
She has the power, but not the skills.
Their enemy has all three, and will stop at nothing to have more.

Welcome to a completely new alternate Earth of the early 1900s, filled with islands instead of our current continents, Korea as world power which has pushed out European culture, and Wild Chalkling beasts which threaten to overtake and devour all flesh-based life!

If only he was a Rithmatist, Joel could be such a strong defense against the Wild Chalklings of Nebrask (a nod to author Sanderson’s birthplace)… but the power has passed him by.

Read the Prologue and chapter one here (it’s not ch. 5 as header shows) complete with McSweeney’s illustrations , and you’ll be hooked on this quirky premise which unfolds to become much more than a novelty steampunk/alternate history tale.  Contact your local independent bookstore so you can grab it on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 in the USA (the UK release date is May 23).

Which alternate history world would you like to live in?

Book info: The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1) / Brandon Sanderson; illustrations by Ben McSweeney. Tor Teen, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [author video interview]

My recommendation: n the right hands, a piece of chalk is defense against evil; in the wrong hands, it’s war on humanity; in Joel’s hands, it’s just chalk, no matter how much he longs to be a Rithmatist. When a schoolmate suggests that his dream is indeed possible, he leaps at the chance, right into a puzzle of kidnapping and conspiracy.

Joel is more interested in the Rithmatics lines that his late chalkmaker father studied than in his regular classes at Armedius Academy. Joel was sure that he’d be chosen as a Rithmatist at age 8, but events interfered with that. Who wouldn’t want to be able to defend the United Isles against the flesh-tearing Wild Chalklings with careful strategy and magic chalklines? The ability was granted to so few…

A new Rithmatist just back from the frontier of Nebrask displaces Prof. Fitch, ending the fourteen-year-old’s hopes of learning more about these arcane arts, for Prof. Nalizar is even more disdainful of ‘common’ students than the academy’s Rithmatics students (if such a thing is possible). Only Melody will speak to Joel as they spend summer term with Prof. Finch – she in remedial studies (her chalklings are stunning; her circles too wobbly to defend anything) and he as research assistant.

When an older Rithmatics student disappears, gossip says Lilly just ran away, but bloodstains and chalkling-attacked defense lines in her room tell another story. Inspector Harding of the national police arrives on campus to investigate, and Prof. Finch is given the task of uncovering any possible rogue Rithmatists.

Another advanced Rithmatics student vanishes, leaving signs of a chalk battle behind – now parents are worried, newspaper reporters clamor for details, and the investigative team at Armedius struggles to piece together the clues.

Is it mere coincidence that Prof. Nalizar arrived just before Lilly vanished?
Are the odd chalklines found at disappearance sites new Rithmatic lines of power?
Will the kidnapper strike again?

In his first novel for young adults, Brandon Sanderson unveils a brilliantly imagined alternative world where Korea’s JoSeun empire has invaded Europe and the Americas are many islands in a shallow sea, where machinery runs on clockwork instead of internal combustion and fear of the Wild Chalklings’ escape from Nebrask drives the Rithmatists’ training, where mere fragments of simple chalk stand between chaos and civilization. Ben McSweeney’s illustrations of Rithmatics lines enhance descriptions of the defenses, duels and battles, while readers can only hope that the Chalkling attackers that he draws stay firmly on the pages. First in a series that promises more adventure, magic, and treachery. (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.