The Diabolic

diabolicby S. J. Kincaid
First sentence: “Everyone believed Diabolics were fearless, but in my earliest years, all I knew was fear.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: November 1, 2016
Review copy provided by the publisher rep.
Content: It’s violent, brutally so in some parts. (No worse than the Hunger Games series.) There’s some romance, but no sex. There’s inferences to rape, but nothing on-screen. I’ll probably put this in our YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I  was trying to explain this book to someone the other night, and I realized 1) the plot is super complex, and all the parts are important. And 2) I needed to come up with a super-short, catching elevator speech for this one. I think I have it: if you crossed Battlestar Galactica with ancient Rome and thrown in a dash of Game of Thrones,  then tone it down a bit, you have The Diabolic.

Nemesis is a diabolic, a being genetically engineered to be bonded to someone in the upper class to be their personal bodyguard. Nemesis is programmed to love and protect (at all costs) Sidonia, the only daughter and heir of a senator in the empire. The current fashion is to repress education, especially in science and technology, and encourage this outlandish and extravagant religion they call Helionic. But the universe is falling apart, and Sidonia’s father is the leader of a faction that believes they need to encourage education and development of new technology in order to save the universe. The Emperor doesn’t like this, so he calls Sidonia to court in order to hold her hostage. This is where Nemesis comes in: Sidonia’s mother decides that she won’t lose her only child, and instead commits treason by sending Nemesis in her place. Which means Nemesis has to pass.

And that’s just the beginning.

This book is not only fun (though it begins a bit slow, and takes a little to get into), it’s incredibly thought-provoking, dealing with whether or not genetically engineered beings can be “human” and deserving of the same rights as others. There’s the issues of hierarchy and education vs. tradition. It’s fascinating. There are twists and turns (the final one is very, very satisfying), and I thoroughly enjoyed the love story.

I’ll admit that when my Simon rep told me about this one, I was dubious. But, she was right: it’s a fantastic book.

Insert Coin to Continue

insertcointby John David Anderson
First sentence: ”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: There’s talk of crushes, and some bullying. It’s got a quick pace, and short-ish chapters. It’s currently in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore, but I’d give it to the older end of that spectrum. I think 5th-7th graders might enjoy it more. (But I don’t know if it’s worth moving it.)

Bryan Biggins is a gamer. Specifically, he’s a master of the Sovereign of Darkness video game, handily beating the Demon King over and over again. It’s the best part of his day; he’s middling at school, there are a handful of bullies who call him and his best friend Oz names, and he’s got a crush on a girl that he will pretty much never get. Why not spend all of your free time perfecting this game?

Then, one day he breaks through to the secret level. He doesn’t think anything of it, until he can’t get up the next morning before feeding a coin in the slot that has magically appeared over his alarm clock. And that’s just the beginning: his life has become a video game, complete with hit points, experience points, quests, and leveling up.

It’s confusing for Bryan at first, but eventually, he figures out (sort of) how to “play” the “game”. He finds himself making decisions that he wouldn’t have before. And maybe that’s a good thing.

I’ve enjoyed Anderson’s books in the past, and this was no exception. It’s got a clever premise (a really great contemporary-fantasy blend) and Anderson has a great light, fun delivery with this. It captures the difficulty of being a 7th grader, of being someone who hasn’t quite got everything together yet, but the whole gaming element adds a level of fun that makes this one stand out. It was a unique premise, and a delightful book to read.

My Lady Jane

myladyjaneby Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
First sentence: “You may think you know the story.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some mention of sex (it’s a “special hug”) but it’s completely off the page. Otherwise, it’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

You think you know the story of Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for 9 days. (And you probably do.) But Hand, Ashton, and Meadows have re-imagined it as a love story, a humor story, with a big of magic (there are people who can change into animals in this version of history). It’s charming.

The plot is somewhat irrelevant: there’s Edward, the king who dies and gives the throne to his cousin rather than his half-sisters. But, that’s really all there is of history. The authors go from there, letting characters live who should have died, giving characters romances and a future together. I’m trying not to give too much away, because it really is fun discovering how they twist history.

There is a bit of an intrusive narrator thing going on, but for the most part it works. It’s a silly story (actually the word I kept coming up with while I was reading was “adorable”), but it’s a silly that isn’t overbearing or dumb. Maybe it ran a wee bit long (I found myself losing interest about halfway through, but I didn’t put it down and it picked back up). But, it was a light, fluffy distraction for a little bit.

Thoughts from KidlitCon 2016

I think I’ve recovered enough from hosting KidlitCon this year to write this.

Hauling the swag boxes and the bookselling boxes to the hotel… good thing my minivan holds a LOT.

Not that it was bad; it wasn’t. It was small (the smallest I think since the beginning), but the people who came were enthusiastic and smart and made me laugh. The staff at the Drury Inn — especially Tony the Meeting Room Guy (who was mortified that we didn’t get help on Thursday night) to Dee the food lady —  was fantastic. And the hotel was delightful. I stayed over on Friday night just because and I definitely have to recommend this to people coming in from out of town.

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I could NOT have pulled this off without the help of these wonderful people:

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I feel like they were the ones who did all the work and made this happen. I just got to take the credit.

And then there were our wonderful authors who came. Not just the big ones like A. S. King


and Clare Vanderpool (I never think to get a picture with Clare because I see her frequently!)


(Both of their keynote speeches were wildly different and excellent in their own ways. I’m so glad we had both of them!)

But there were all the other authors who took time out of their schedules to come. I didn’t get a pictures with a LOT of them (I felt bad; if I hadn’t been trying to do everything, I’d have had more time to get selfies with all the authors). I did make time to get pictures with James Kennedy, since I was a fan of his book way back when


and Alexander London, who I didn’t know anything about but who quickly became one of my favorite people. I want to work towards having him back at the store for school visits/store event. He’s fantastic.


And then there were the sessions. I sat in on a few, and they were terrific. (They always are.) There was an interesting discussion on the impact of state awards. The disinvitation panel was fascinating and scary. The YA topics/issues panel resulted in a new TBR list:


But Paula Willey did the session I’ve been waiting years to go to: writing about art for non-artists. I still need some practice, but she gave us some great tips (plus her presentation was STELLAR.)

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There was some good food (we ate at places I’ve been meaning to go to for a while!)

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And lots and lots of good conversation. I’m glad I got the chance to host it (one thing I learned: I don’t think I’m cut out for organizing a conference/festival!) and share my town with my blogging friends. But I’m also really glad it’s over.

Creeping Shadow

9781484709672by Jonathan Stroud
First sentence: “I knew at once, when I slipped into the moonlit office and eased the door shut behind me, that I was in the presence of the dead.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy
Content: This  is not for the faint of heart, but rather for people who like to be scared. Still, lots of action, and if you don’t mind the scary stuff… It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Lucy has left Lockwood and Co.

Let that sit in for a minute.

There was a poltergeist at the end of The Hollow Boy who told Lucy she would be responsible for Lockwood’s death, and that spooked her so much that she couldn’t stay. She didn’t really leave on the best terms, and since then she’s been freelancing for other firms. It’s not ideal. But she (and the Skull, who is really one of my favorite characters) is managing alone.

Until a case — of the ghost of a cannibal — comes that Lockwood needs Lucy’s talents for. She goes to help — as a consultant, only for a night — and they successfully catch and eliminate the ghost. But things go wrong from there. The skull is stolen, there’s a collector who is buying up strong sources, there’s a Creeping Shadow terrorizing a nearby town. And all those things lead up to something Very Big and Very Wrong. And Lockwood and Co are the only ones who are equipped to deal with it.

I feel like a broken record: read these! They’re awesome! The mystery is intriguing, the characters are fantastic, and it’s spooky without being gory. It’s fast-paced, and action-packed, with tons of funny elements. It’s just SO good. The whole series. I love how they’re all inter-connected, but also individual stories. And Stroud just knows how to tell a story.

Just read the series, already. It’s that good.

What Light

whatlightby Jay Asher
First sentence: “‘I hate this time of year,’ Rachel says.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Release date: October 18, 2016
Content:  There’s some mild swearing and some mention of violence. It will be in the YA (grades 6-9) section of the bookstore.

Sierra has spent her whole life going to California for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her parents own a Christmas tree farm in Oregon, and they haul their trees down to a small California town to sell them. It’s usually just in and out for them; they don’t really have too many connections in California. But this year, the year Sierra is 16, things change. Sierra meets Caleb, who’s cute, charming, sweet, and generous. But, he’s also got a past.

On the surface, this is a very sweet first love story. Sierra and Caleb meet cute, have a whirlwhind romance and are together by the end. But it’s also more complicated than that. First complication: Sierra being in California is temporary. Second complication: Caleb’s past, which everyone’s warning Sierra about. But she does the admirable thing and instead of judging him based on rumors and what other people say. She gets to know him, and decides for herself. Which is something I really appreciated. Asher takes a simple love story and gives us something with depth, something that’s worth reading.

Very, very sweet.


heartlessby Marissa Meyer
First sentence: “Three luscious lemon tarts glistened up at Catherine.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some kissing. And it’s length might turn some readers off. It’ll be in the YA (grades 6-8) section of the bookstore.

All Cath wants to do is bake amazing sweets. It’s something she’s good at, it’s something she enjoys, it’s what makes her happy. She has dreams of opening up a bakery, of selling her goods to everyone in the Kingdom of Hearts. But she’s the daughter of the Marquis of Rock Turtle Cove, and her business partner is her maid, and she’s attracted the attention of the King, and, well, it just isn’t Done.

And then she meets Jest. Dark, brooding, handsome, and the court joker. Not someone she should be paying attention to. And yet, she’s attracted to everything about him. His sense of whimsy, his magic. It’s all… impossible.

And because this is Wonderland, fate has something else entirely in mind for Cath.

This book is to Alice in Wonderland as Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz. Its the backstory of not only the Queen of Hearts, but many of the characters in Alice. In fact, the better you know Alice in Wonderland, the more fun Heartless is. It’s clever the way Meyer weaves in the original story (and Through the Looking Glass as well!) and gives us a wholly new story as well. I liked Cath as a character, I liked that she had a dream and a plan to have a happy life. And yet, she wants to please those people she cares about. And she gets put into an increasingly tight situation. Which leads to heartbreak and some less than ideal choices.

I found it fascinating. I enjoyed the way Meyer played with the original. I liked the chemistry between Cath and Jest. Where it kind of fell apart was the dark ending. It had to be that way — it’s the backstory about the Queen of Hearts, after all — but it kind of came out of left field for me. That said, it wasn’t enough to completely throw my enjoyment of the book. It was a good story, complete, and one that is definitely is worth spending time on.