Posted in Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Once Upon a Con: Bookish and the Beast keeps the magic going

Bookish and the Beast, by Ashley Poston, (Aug. 2020, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781683691938

Ages 12+

The third Once Upon a Con book is coming! I’ve been enjoying this series since picking up Geekerella back in 2017. Remixed fairy tales, updated to take place in a fandom world? Yes, please! In this third installment, we’ve got some returning characters, some new faces, and a familiar storyline with a little fandom magic.

Rosie Thorne is a high school senior, living with her widowed dad, and mourning her mom, who happened to be a huge fan of… you know it, Starfield, the sci-fi series introduced in Geekerella. She’s also stuck on her college application essays and on the memory of the masked General Sond cosplayer she met at ExelsiCon. While trying to do a good deed, she inadvertently stumbles into a house where Vance Reigns – actor, Hollywood bad boy, and Starfield’s very own General Sond – is hiding out from the paparazzi after a major scandal hit the tabloids. He’s predictably beastly (see what I did there?) to Rosie, who’s so taken aback that she ruins a rare book in the house’s gorgeous library. She offers to work off the cost of the book, which means she’s now spending every day in Vance’s presence. As the two get used to one another, literal and proverbial masks come off, but they’re both hurt and vulnerable people: can Rosie and Vance let their guards down enough to fall in love?

Bookish and the Beast has all the elements that make Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series so readable: great dialogue and pacing, fun characters that you want to fall in love with and hang out with, and most importantly, the genuine love of fandom. Her characters’ fandoms – in this case, Starfield – have passed on through generations, from parents to children, and it’s here that the heart of fandom lies. Fandom is a community, with its good, bad, and ugly, and Ashley Poston respects that community by creating characters that inhabit that space in her books and the readers who love them. Each character goes on their own personal journeys here, and so many relatable, enjoyable characters.

Rainbow Rowell readers, this series is for you. Check out Ashley Poston’s website for an FAQ, links to her social media, and more information about her books.

Posted in Uncategorized

A league of heroes dedicated to protecting: Spark and the League of Ursus

Spark and the League of Ursus, by Robert Repino, (Apr. 2020, Quirk Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781683691662

Ages 8-12

Have you ever seen that meme with a teddy bear standing over a sleeping child, challenging a looming monster? If you have, you’ve got the basis for Spark and the Legends of Ursus. Spark and Sir Reginald are teddy bears, pledged to protect their now-tween children, Loretta and Matthew, from monsters. Sir Reginald is the elder bear and mentor to Spark, the one who introduced her to the League of Ursus – the secret society of teddy bears, sworn to protect. Things are dire when a monster shows up in Loretta’s room, and when a neighborhood girl goes missing. Spark and Sir Reginald are determined to protect their charges, but find themselves up against a terrible evil that they need help battling. Additional League of Ursus members, a sock monkey, and Amazon warrior princess doll are all that stands between the monster and the children of their neighborhood.

This is an exciting, heartfelt adventure book that embraces our love of teddy bears. Their gentle natures belie the fact that they are bears, who can be pretty ferocious! The story also looks at the love between a toy and a child – in this universe, a toy doesn’t “awaken” until it’s loved by a child – and how that changes as the child gets older and finds less time for their toys. If you have Toy Story fans, and readers of books like Brian Lynch’s Toy Academy series, that are ready for a more involved book, this is the book to give them. Spark is a wonderfully idealistic, eager young character, waiting to be called upon for her moment; Sir Reginald is a world-weary warrior with much to pass along to his student. Loretta and Matthew are burgeoning filmmakers with their own YouTube channel, so there’s some filmmaking tidbits here and there that could link up nicely with some Summer Reading programming involving filmmaking, maybe on a cell phone.

Spark and the League of Ursus is a good first fantasy novel to give to readers who are looking for something new, and a good fantasy novel to give to readers who may need that reassurance that it’s still okay to love a teddy bear. (I do.) Have Stranger Things fans? Give them this one, too – that monster can surely come from The Upside Down.

Note: I believe the final book will have illustrations; my ARC didn’t.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Comic Quests: Choose your own comic book adventure!

Quirk has such fun books, don’t they? Who else would find authors and illustrators that give us The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer pictures books, Star Wars as the Shakespearean masterpieces we all know they are, and now… Choose Your Own Adventure graphic novels in their Comic Quests series?

Released in September, there are two Comic Quests adventures: Knights Club and Hocus & Pocus. The rules are closer to role-playing games than merely choose your own adventure comics; readers will collect supplies, solve puzzles, and keep track of food and supplies for themselves and any familiars and pets they’re traveling with on their own handy dandy Quest Tracker – tabletop gamers will recognize the similarity to character sheets for roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. Don’t worry about destroying your book, though – there are free, downloadable PDFs online. Librarians, consider putting a note on the covers of your copies to let your readers know this.

Knights Club: The Bands of Bravery, by Novy, Shuky, and Waltch/Translated by Melanie Strang-Hardy, (Sept. 2018, Quirk Books), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-68369-057-3

Ages 8-12

Originally published in France in 2012, this first Knights Club adventure takes place in the year 1012, in the kingdom of Louis the Little. The Royal Order of Knights help keep the peace in Louis’ kingdom, and three farming brothers dream of joining their ranks. They set off to join Knights School, and that’s where the fun begins. Readers get to select which brother they want to be, and the adventure unfolds, questing through snowy mountains, dark forests, and mysterious lakes. Readers get to solve riddles, seek out magical objects, and choose their own path by following numbered panels through to the end of each tale. Panels are in color, and the storytelling pace moves along, but some challenges can be a little daunting for readers who are expecting a simple choose your own adventure story. My suggestion? Make it into a roleplaying program, and invite kids to learn how to play as they read! You may be creating your next generation of Dungeons & Dragons players, after all.

Knights Club: The Message of Destiny is the second book in the series and will be available in January 2019.

Hocus & Focus: The Legend of Grimm’s Woods, by Gorobei and Manuro, (Sept. 2018, Quirk Books), $13.99, ISBN: 9781-168369-055-9

Ages 8-12

Originally published in France in 2016, Hocus & Focus takes place in a more fairy tale-inspired fantasy world where readers can choose to be either a male (Hocus) or female (Pocus) character, choose a pet and keep it fed, and go on an adventure where you can discover gingerbread houses, make your way through a brain-teasing forest, and find missing children. There are numbered paths and riddles to be solved in order to advance, and panels are in full-color, just like the Knights Club. Gameplay can be a bit of a challenge – there’s one riddle where I had to count spots on baby wolves in order to get the next panel number that confounded me time and again (“is that a spot, or an ink blot? My ARC is black and white!”), so you may want to mark up your own ARC, if you have one, or keep a handy document of answers for kids that approach you needing help.

Hocus & Pocus: The Search for the Missing Dwarves is the second book in the series and will be available in January 2019.

All in all? A fun series of brain teasers for kids, and a nice way to side-eye anyone who says comics and graphic novels aren’t real reading!

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen

Garrison Girl: YA in the Attack on Titan universe!

Garrison Girl: An Attack on Titan novel, by Rachel Aaron, (Aug. 2018, Quirk Books), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68369-061-0

Ages 12+

Humanity lives in walled cities while giant titans roam the earth. They’re without sense, without intelligence, motivated by a ravenous hunger for human flesh. The military guards the walls, always watching, always waiting. Rosalie Dumarque is the daughter of a wealthy, prominent general; her only purpose in life is to marry well and bring honor to her family, but that’s not going to work for Rosalie. She graduated from military school with honors, and she wants to fight titans, not get married. She convinces her father to let her serve for the six months before her wedding; he sends her to the Wall Rose Garrison in the hopes that she’ll be scared off. With titans wandering too close to the wall, death is always a possibility; under the command of Jax Cunningham, it’s more of a certainty. But Rosalie, along with new friends Willow and Emmett, are determined to stick it out and improve. At first, Rosalie is looked down on as the rich girl, but her commitment to the wall and Rose Garrison quickly makes her part of the team. She even manages to get through to Jax, who starts seeing her as more than a spoiled rich girl. The specter of her engagement looms as a romance blooms between the two, and when Rosalie decides that six months isn’t enough for her, she risks losing her father’s respect and her family’s support. BUT WHO CARES? THERE ARE TITANS, MAN!

Garrison Girl is a YA novel set in the Attack on Titan universe. Look, I’d never seen an episode or cracked open an Attack on Titan manga in my life before Ivy at Quirk sent me this book; I had a vague notion of what the story is about, so that was good enough for me. I finished the book in a day and a half. I refused to put it down, it was so good. These are original characters in a familiar universe, but if you’ve never set foot in that universe before, fear not! The book gets you up to speed pretty quickly with everything you need to know, and the action hits fast, hard, and brutally. I turned to my 14 year-old, who watches anime and reads manga, and said, “HE ATE A GUY!” My son sagely nodded and said, “Yup. Like a carrot.” I threw the book down on the couch in the break room at work and yelled at the end, and had a coworker comment, “You read books like people watch movies”. Well, yes, I do, and if you read this book, you will too. There are characters you will love and want to shield with your own body, and there are characters you will want to punch until a titan walks by and munches on them like potato chips. The book moves fast, the characters are well-thought out and written, and the action and tension are equally high. Fantasy fans, add this to your TBR. Put this on your Attack on Titan displays.

And, Rachel and Ivy? We’re getting more of this, right? RIGHT?

Posted in geek, geek culture, Middle Grade, programs, Tween Reads

I had a BookPop! party and it was great!

Quirk Books is a… well, quirky, fun book publisher that has a comic book writer and former YA librarian in their ranks, spreading the good word. It’s pretty awesome, because now, my library gets to do things like have a gallery dedicated to horror paperbacks of the ’70s and ’80s (Paperbacks From Hell), and have a mini pop culture con for my kiddos and tweens.

First up, my Paperbacks From Hell gallery, in my teen section. It’s garnering some looks, some chuckles, and some conversations: “What the hell is that?” “That is a giant gila monster. And watch your mouth.” (The display is in the teen area, but you know, little pitchers, big ears). The teens are pretty baffled, the grownups get a kick out of it, and it just makes me happy.

Next up, BookPop: Quirk’s traveling pop culture fest, happening in libraries and bookstores all over the place. I held mine late, because I thought it would be the perfect program to hold when the kids were out of school; last Thursday – since most of the families in my community don’t observe Rosh Hashanah – was the day. Quirk sent me a box o’swag, including ET: The Extra-Terrestrial tattoos (not in the picture: those babies were GONE); posters of the new kids’ books, X-Files: Children are Weird, and the YA novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism; and a spiffy tote bag to put everything in. I downloaded Quirk’s Geek Guides for putting on a great day of programming, and was ready.

First program of BookPop! Day was Superhero Storytime. I had a handful of kiddos and their parents attend, and we made masks and Geek Family Crests when we were done. The kids loved the masks – I downloaded some blank templates from First Palette, handed out scissors, markers, crayons, and lanyard to tie the masks, and the kids loved it. One little one even wore her mask through the next program…

Nick and Tesla’s Science Workshop. The Nick and Tesla books are tons of fun and loaded with STEM experiments, but I wanted something that even my littler ones could do. Enter, bubbles. I told the kids that Nick and Tesla are a brother-sister team that solve mysteries and get out of trouble by creating great science projects, and that we were going to learn about surface tension, and the difference between bubbling your milk and bubbling water with a little dish soap in it. I had a gallon-sized tub filled with water, gave out droppers, straws, and cups, and we bubbled away. Then, I had one of the kids add a cup of plain old liquid dish soap, and they all took turns stirring it. I spread some water on the table and demonstrate how to blow a table bubble, and that was all the kids needed. Look at these bubbles!

The entire table, at one point, was covered in bubbles. They loved it, I loved it, and they want more fun science programming, so win, all around. Next up was…

The Miss Peregrine Photo Workshop. Originally, I planned this for my teen patrons, but they weren’t interested – I had a group of tweens, though, who were all over it. We talked about the movie, I showed them the books, and brought out the equipment: photos I printed onto card stock from a Miss Peregrine-inspired Pinterest board (search on “vintage weird” and I guarantee you won’t be sorry), lots of paper towel, a spray bottle full of coffee, and two containers of coffee and tea. The kids loved aging their photos, and I was amazed by their creativity: one girl laid a paper towel over her photo to give it more texture as the coffee seeped through, and another tore the borders of her photo to make it look even older.

When I told them I wanted to create a photo gallery of their work, they all donated the photos to the library! So today, we have “Queensboro Hill’s Library for Outstanding Children” (forgive the glare, I laminated the photos so they wouldn’t deteriorate further):

I handed swag bags out for most of the day, and everything went except for one tote, two X-Files posters, and a handful of My Best Friend’s Exorcism posters, which will all be prizes for future programs. One kid couldn’t even wait to get home: he gave himself an ET tattoo sleeve, which was pretty fabulous.

I’d call our Queensboro Hill BookPop! a success.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Paperbacks from Hell is a love letter to ’70s and ’80s horror fiction

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction, by Grady Hendrix, (Sept. 2017, Quirk Books), $24.99, ISBN: 9781594749810

Recommended for readers 16+

I know you may be looking at this review funny: ’70s and ’80s horror fiction? For teens now? YES. Walk with me.

First off, Grady Hendrix is straight up hilarious. If you haven’t read Horrorstor or My Best Friend’s Exorcism, you haven’t yet been introduced to his brand of smart, snarky horror: a haunted Swedish furniture store (Horrorstor) starts out witty, and leaves you sleeping with the light on for a week. A YA novel about demonic possession in the ’80s (My Best Friend’s Exorcism) starts with insidious, creepy storytelling, takes it into sheer horror territory, and ends on the most ’80s of endings; you can practically hear the synths in your mind as you turn pages. And now, Hendrix writes a love letter to that crazy time with his retrospective of horror paperback fiction. We go back to a time when paperbacks were sold in the supermarket; when kids like me would sneak peeks at VC Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic while on line at the A&P grocery store. So many creepy children. So much Satan, with so many cultists. So many animals bent on our destruction.

Hendrix is one of those authors that make you pause, grab a friend – or your teenager, in my case  and say, “No, wait, you have to hear this.” Multiple times. Until said teenager finally asks, “Wait a minute: Gestapochauns? There was a book about Nazi leprechauns? Are you serious?” And that, my friends, is where you hook them. You pick a section – any section – and you show them some of the covers. Then you read some of the text, because Hendrix’s knowledge about these books – in conjunction with Too Much Horror’s Will Errickson – is encyclopedic. And the teen is laughing and kind of terrified and wants to know more, all the same.

 

Gestapochauns are indeed a thing.

 

Paperbacks from Hell is perfect for us readers of a certain age, sure, but it’s also a book that connects us with our teens. We can get them on board with the craziness and the overwrought drama of the art and the stories. You can point out authors that teens will know, like VC Andrews, who’s now considered YA, and RL Stine, who was writing horror long before Goosebumps made him a household name. Let horror build a bridge between you and your teens. As my teen told me, “You grew up in a different time, Mom.” Yes, son. Yes, I did. And it was amazing.

Grab a copy and take a tour through the bookshelves of your youth, and invite your teens to make the trip with you. And while you’re at it, share your best six-word horror story with Quirk Books on Twitter by this Friday (9/22/17) and maybe you’ll win your own copy of Paperbacks from Hell! Details are here.

 

Posted in Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Geekerella gave me feels!

Geekerella, by Ashley Poston, (Apr. 2016, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1594749476

Recommended for readers 12+

The short story: Geekerella is Cinderella for geeks, starring a fangirl and fanboy.

The slightly less short story, but short enough for review purposes: Elle is a devoted fan of the science fiction show, Starfield. Its got a fandom right up there with Star Trek and Star Wars, with conventions and cosplay, online forums and blogs. Elle’s still feeling the loss of her father, who introduced her to the love of Starfield as a child, and the mother that died when she was little. She’s living with her awful, social climbing stepmother and her vapid, beauty vlogger stepsisters and working in the vegan food truck, The Magic Pumpkin.

Darien Freeman is a teen sensation. Half-British society, half Indian, he lives with his Dadager (dad manager), who will sell Darien and his insured abs at any opportunity. Darien’s claim to fame came on an OC-type teen soap opera, but playing Federation Prince Carmindor is going to make him a star – and since he’s a Starfield fanboy, it’s kind of a dream come true. Too bad he’s miserable: his best friend sold him out to the paparazzi, he’s under fire online for taking on the role of Carmindor, and his father is a social climber who uses his son as his stepladder. And now, his dad has him going to this Starfield convention where he just knows he’s going to get eaten alive by the fandom.

Told in shifting perspectives between Elle and Darien, this is the fangirl adaptation of the Cinderella story, complete with cosplay masquerade ball, a magic pumpkin and a punk lesbian fairy godmother in the form of Sage, who works the Magic Pumpkin truck, has a fantastic eye for dress design, and quotes Lord of the Rings at will.

Geekerella hits all the feels for me. I’m a 46 year-old fangirl; a fangirl nurtured by my dad, my uncle, J.R. R. Tolkien, and the kind creators of Star Trek and Star Wars. Unlike Elle, I’m still lucky enough to have my parents, but the story and feelings resonate. Do you know how it’s going to end? Of course you do, but darned if you don’t love the journey. There’s something for every fan in here: Firefly references join hands with Lord of the Rings, Supernatural, Avengers, Trek, and Star Wars winks and nudges. You’ll embrace the characters like longtime friends (I’m partial to Sage and Frank the dachshund), because Ashley Poston’s writing to her tribe: the fans, the cosplayers, the fanfic writers, those of us who have looked beyond the ordinary and dared to see more.

Give this to your fangirls, fanboys, gamers, and geeks. Display or pair with other fandom fic like All the Feels, Queens of Geek, and The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love.

Follow Ashley Poston’s Tumblr for great fandom musings and pictures of amazing cosplay (Yuri on Ice fans, get over there now). Her website has more info about her books and an FAQ.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

Happy Warren the 13th!

What better way to greet a Friday the 13th than with a specially created Warren the 13th story just for you?

Readers met Warren the 13th in his first adventure, Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, in late 2015. The story is a little bit steampunk and a lot of fun as we meet Warren, an orphan working in his family’s hotel and trying to thwart his evil aunt and clueless uncle. Warren’s second adventure, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, will be hitting shelves in March, but author Tania del Rio couldn’t let a Friday the 13th go by unnoticed! She’s created a special short story, celebrating Warren’s unlucky day on Friday the 13th, and you can enjoy it right now, along with additional activities! The booklet is available for download on Scribd, absolutely free.

friday-the-13th-image

Visit Quirk’s Warren website for previews, trailers, and activities, and find out more about Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye and the upcoming Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods at their Quirk pages.

Happy Warren the 13th!

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Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Kid Artists is a great addition to Quirk’s “Kid” series

kidartists_1Kid Artists, by David Stabler/Illustrated by Doogie Horner (Aug. 2016, Quirk Books), $13.95, ISBN: 9781594748967

Recommended for ages 8-12

The third outing in Stabler and Horner’s “Kid” series, following Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes, introduces kids to artists. Before the museum exhibitions, every artist was a kid, shaped by his or her circumstances. Kid Artists organizes 17 artist profiles into three sections: Call of the Wild, focusing on artists who grew up with a love of the outdoors; It’s a Hard-Knock Life, featuring artists who overcame obstacles like discrimination, war, poverty, and extreme shyness; and Practice Makes Perfect, where artists who had a teacher, friend, or family member cheering them on to practice, perfect, and succeed.

There are funny stories and inspirational stories, all illustrated in full-color. We learn that Claude Monet had a lucrative caricature business as a kid, and that Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of Medusa, on a shield was so terrifying that his father almost ran away from it! Kids will meet artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose graffiti art on the streets of New York garnered them fame, and Jacob Lawrence, whose Migration Series tells the story of the migration of African-American families from the rural, southern United States up north, in search of a better life.

I enjoy this series, because it introduces kids to a wide range of people under one umbrella term. They’ll be exposed to new people, cultures, and ideas, in a kid-friendly atmosphere with a bite-sized biography that shows them that no only do we all start out as kids, but we all have challenges to overcome.

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

My Best Friend’s Exorcism gives a touch of ’80s horror to YA

my best friendMy Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix (May 2016, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781594748622

Recommended for ages 12+

It’s 1988 and Abby and Gretchen, two high school sophomores, have been BFFs since fourth grade. After a night of partying goes a little awry, Abby notices Gretchen acting strangely. Really strangely. She finds herself on the outs with her group of friends when Gretchen turns on her, but Abby knows there’s something more to it than usual teenage friendship drama. The more she digs to find out what’s wrong with her friend, the worse the news seems to get. Abby’s convinced that Gretchen is possessed, but can she save her best friend without getting herself in more trouble?

I loved Grady Hendrix’s previous book, Horrorstor, so I dove into My Best Friend’s Exorcism with delight. Hendrix’s characters are in my age bracket, so the generous ’80s references (shout-out to Duran Duran!) and the song-titled chapters were just what the doctor ordered. I was in the frame of mind, and Hendrix captures the time and the attitude beautifully.

The creepiness of the actual possession story is deliciously insidious and skin-crawling. It builds, and I was right there with Abby, feeling my guts squirm and my knuckles tighten, waiting for someone to realize what was going on. Freaking adults, man! When Abby takes matters into her own hands, I was rooting for her; I was right there with her.

Then the exorcism happened, and I have to be honest, it fell a little flat for me. I get what Hendrix was doing, but it felt like the manufactured plot of an ’80s teen chick flick. If that’s what he was going for, he hit it on the head, but I was hoping for more. I was ready for an all-out ’80s horror fest, but what I got was a little more anticlimactic, a bit more melodramatic. Still, the book had a satisfying ending and overall, I enjoyed it.

Teens will get a kick out of it; it appeals to fans of high school drama and horror alike; there’s some truly creeptastic stuff to be found in here. Give it a whirl. My Best Friend’s Exorcism has received a starred review from Booklist. Check out an excerpt, below:

my best friend_1

my best friend_2

my best friend_3