Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Disney Noir: City of Villains

City of Villains, Book 1, by Estelle Laure, (Jan. 2021, Disney-Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781368049382

Ages 12+

Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior and a police department intern for the Monarch City Police Department. Magic, once part of the populace’s lives, has seemingly left the world and taken countless lives with it, leaving denizens of magical families called The Legacies left to fend for themselves against the up-and-coming Narrows families, who seek to gentrify the neighborhood now known as the Scar.  A victim of horrific loss, Mary Elizabeth is Legacy, as are her friends, many with recognizable names: Mally, the withdrawn teen whose pet raven is the only thing who brings her comfort; Ursula, Mary Elizabeth’s boyfriend, James and his best friend, Smee. When Legacy teens start disappearing from the Scar, Mary Elizabeth is put on the case, along with detective Bella, but they are in no way ready for what they find once they start digging into what’s really going on in the Scar.

Gritty, with memorable Disney characters and a taut, well-paced storyline, City of Villains is the first in a new YA series that acts as a new origin point for Disney villains. There’s a gritty feel that makes for a perfect noir setting; our favorite villains are goth without being over the top, and I loved every second of their complex backgrounds. The subplot of magical families versus gentrifiers who want magic by association is brilliant fantasy writing that takes storytelling in a fresh direction, and Mary Elizabeth’s traumatic family history sets the stage for bigger reveals in future books. Give this to your teen Disney fans that are ready for some new stories about their favorite villains. Talk this up to any of the teens you’ve been feeding the Twisted Tales books to – they will thank you.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Grandpa’s Great Escape is brilliantly funny and touching

grandpaGrandpa’s Great Escape, by David Walliams/Illustrated by Tony Ross, (Feb. 2017, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062560896

Recommended for ages 8-12

I’ve been a David Walliams fan since the decidedly un-kid-friendly UK show, Little Britain; his children’s books have just made me love him that much more. He and illustrator Tony Ross are this generation’s Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake; bringing hilariously dry British humor with a touch of true affection to American audiences. Demon Dentist introduced readers to Alfie, a kid taking care of his father while fighting a dentist from hell. In Grandpa’s Great Escape, we head back to 1983 to meet Jack and his grandpa, a World War II flying ace who shares his stories with Jack. Grandpa is Jack’s absolute favorite person in the world, so when Grandpa starts forgetting things, Jack becomes the only person who knows how to communicate with him: by addressing the Wing Commander on his own battlefield. But Grandpa starts wandering, and Jack’s parents make the worst possible choice ever: to send Grandpa to Twilight Towers, a questionable old-age home run by the very questionable Matron Swine. It’s up to Jack to save Grandpa!

Grandpa’s Great Escape is laugh-out loud hilarious while addressing the stress of watching a grandparent grow older. Where people around him see Grandpa as a nuisance, a danger to himself and others, or both, Jack sees his World War II hero; his playmate; his best friend. He’ll never give up on Grandpa, and Grandpa will never give up on Jack. Jack draws on the life lessons Grandpa taught him to save his best friend: and take him on one last mission.

A must-add to any collection, and a great book to have on hand for discussions about grandparents and aging. Take a look at David Walliams’ website for more about his books, and special features – like newsagent Raj’s shop!

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

Are you ready for The Study Hall of Justice?

Young Bruce Wayne is excited to be accepted into the Ducard Academy in Gotham City, a prep school for gifted middle school students. Almost immediately, though, Bruce feels like something is off. The kids aren’t that friendly. The teachers encourage the kids to behave badly; even reward them for it! He teams up with two other misfit students – a farmboy named Clark Kent and an exchange student named Diana Prince – to figure out what’s really going on at Ducard Academy.

studyhall

Study Hall of Justice (DC Comics Secret Hero Society #1), by Derek Fridolfs/Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780545825016

Told using Bruce Wayne’s online journal, texts and messages between Bruce, Clark, and Diana, other digital media, Study Hall of Justice is a great way to create a new chapter book series to introduce younger readers to some of our most famous superheroes. The storytelling is fun, light, and fast-paced, and uses communication methods kids use nowadays. I’m a big fan of the superhero chapter book to get kids reading, and this series looks like a good one for intermediate readers.

There’s a great pedigree attached to this series, too – the writer and artist behind the DC comic, Lil’ Gotham, is at the controls for this first book in the DC Secret Society.

lilgotham_cover_rvsdSeriously, how cute is Lil’ Gotham?

I’m looking forward to more books in this series, and you should, too. The book is due out in just shy of two weeks, so you won’t have long to wait!

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

YA Spotlight: Powerless, by Tracy Deebs & Tera Lynn Childs

Powerless

Powerless, by Tera Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs (2015, Sourcebooks Fire), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492616573

Recommended for ages 13+

Imagine living in a society of superheroes. Being the daughter of two highly regarded superheroes – and having no powers at all. That’s 17 year-old Kenna’s life. Her father was killed by villains when she was a child, and her scientist mother will do anything to keep her safe. But when Kenna discovers a group of villains in the lab late one night, searching for a member of their group, she discovers that the heroes she’s looked up to all her life aren’t as heroic as she thought. Everyone has their secrets. Kenna’s about to discover hers.

Powerless is the first book in the new Hero Agenda series by accomplished YA authors Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs. This is a home run for any libraries taking part in the the CSLP Summer Reading program’s theme, Every Hero Has a Story, this year. We’ve got superheroes, villains, and a lot of blurred lines and secrets on each side. It’s a perfect read for teens!

I liked Kenna, the main character. She’s conflicted about her feelings toward the heroes in her life, being perceived as helpless because she’s powerless in a metahuman society. She’s always trying to prove her own worth, and is consumed with her status in hero society – even when forming an uneasy alliance with a villain. The other characters all have their own motivations and strong personalities, which propel the story forward and make it a fun read. There are also some strong parallels to draw between the story and what’s going on in the world today, with those perceived as “heroes” engaging in some pretty horrific behavior. There are some great book discussions to be had with Powerless.

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of Sourcebooks Fire’s Spotlight Tour for Powerless, so check out Sourcebooks’ summary below, read the excerpt, and make sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance at winning the novel and some lightning bolt jewlery! You can check out GoodReads for more information on Powerless, and you can buy the book, which hits shelves tomorrow, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Indie Bound. Make sure to check out the Hero Agenda website for more excerpts! Follow the fun on Facebook and Twitter.

PowerlessGraphic
Summary

Kenna is tired of being “normal.”

The only thing special about her is that she isn’t special at all. Which is frustrating when you’re constantly surrounded by superheroes. Her best friend, her ex-boyfriend, practically everyone she knows has some talent or power. Sure, Kenna’s smart and independent, but as an ordinary girl in an extraordinary world, it’s hard not to feel inferior.

So when three villains break into the lab where she interns, Kenna refuses to be a victim. She’s not about to let criminals steal the research that will make her extraordinary too.

But in the heat of battle, secrets are spilled and one of the villains saves her life. Twice. Suddenly, everything Kenna thought she knew about good and evil, heroes and villains is upended. And to protect her life and those she loves, she must team up with her sworn enemies on a mission that will redefine what it means to be powerful and powerless…

Excerpt

“You never answered my question. What are you doing down here so late?”

Those bright blue eyes sear into me as he takes a step back. “I have to go.”

His sudden evasiveness makes me suspicious, so when he starts to move past me, I sidestep into his path. “Excuse me,” I say, “but this is a secure level. Are you even authorized to be down here?”

“My dad,” he says, scowling at me. “He’s a security guard.”

A security guard? The facility might be so big that I can’t keep track of everyone who works in every lab, but I know all the guards by name. Especially the night guards, since I’m usually the last one here.

Travis and Luther are on duty tonight. Travis and his wife just had their first baby, a girl named Tia. Luther is old enough to be my great-grandfather and he never married.

I take half a step back as my suspicions turn to concern. “Who’s your dad?” I demand.

This guy definitely has the look of a villain.

What if he really is one?

He glances nervously over his shoulder. “He’s—”

I shake my head and start to walk away before he can finish the lie.

He reaches for me, but I shrug him off. My heart is beating way too fast. This could go way bad, way quick.

“Please, just listen.” He waits until I’m looking him in the eye before he continues. “You know me,” he says, his voice taking on this weird, hypnotic tone. “We’ve met before.”

His eyes start to burn brighter and brighter. Oh crap. He must be a villain, and one with a psy power. The vilest kind. Fear and anger collide inside me as I wonder what to do about him trying to mess with my head. How to play this? I can’t exactly tell him I’m—

Suddenly, the floor beneath my feet shudders violently, knocking me off balance. I lurch forward into Dark-and-Scowly’s arms. He catches me, grabs my upper arms, just as a concussion wave of air and sound hits us.

That sounded—and felt—like a bomb went off in the lab. If we weren’t a hundred feet underground and shielded by every protection science and superheroes can create, I’d think the supervillain Quake had struck. But that’s impossible.

Then again, impossible doesn’t always apply in the superhero world. After all, impossible didn’t keep Dark-and-Scowly from being where he doesn’t belong.

Suddenly, every alarm in the facility blares. I freak. The lab! All that research—Mom’s and mine—is priceless. The superhero blood samples alone are more valuable than anything else in the building.

Panic overrides judgment and I push away, but his grip only tightens. The jerk. A little super strength would be really useful right now.

“You can’t go in there.”

“Who are you?” I demand, struggling to get out of his grasp. If he really is a villain, I don’t want him near me or this lab. Not with what villains are capable of. “What have you done?”

He doesn’t answer. More pissed than ever, I fake left and pull right. He follows my fake-out, and as his hair swings with the momentum, I see the mark I’d been looking for earlier. Not under his right ear like the superheroes. Under his left.

Shit.

“You’re a villain.”

 

Author Biographies

TeraLynnChildsOne fateful summer, Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs embarked on a nine hour (each way!) road trip to Santa Fe that ended with a flaming samurai, an enduring friendship, and the kernel of an idea that would eventually become Powerless.

TracyDeebsOn their own, they have written YA tales about mermaids (Forgive My Fins, Tempest Rising), mythology (Doomed, Oh. My Gods., Sweet Venom), smooching (International Kissing Club), and fae princes (When Magic Sleeps). Between them, they have three boys (all Tracy), three dogs (mostly TLC), and almost fifty published books. Find TLC and the #TeamHillain headquarters at teralynnchilds.com. Check out Tracy and the #TeamVero lair at tracydeebs.com. Hang out with all the heroes, villains, ordinaries, and none-of-the-aboves at heroagenda.com.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Niles Wormwort, Accidental Supervillain – Supervillains go to summer camp?!

niles wormwortNiles Wormwort, Accidental Supervillain, by D.M. Cunningham (Nov. 2014, Spencer Hill Middle Grade), $7.95, ISBN:9781939392374

Recommended for ages 9-12

Niles Wormwort is determined to win the science fair this year – but he blew up the school instead. His father has packed him off to Camp Mayhem – a role-playing superhero camp – much against Niles’ wishes. Things only get worse when Niles discovers he’s actually at a training camp for supervillains. What could get worse than that? Oh, just the sinister plot he uncovers while at the camp – a faction working within the camp has plans to take over the world! Will Niles go full supervillain, or will he be wiped out?

I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected to. I’m usually a sucker for a good superhero story, it’s true, and Niles Wormwart, Accidental Supervillain gave me a good laugh while drawing me in. Told in the first person, Niles’ voice is spot-on for the put-upon teen. He can’t believe what’s going on around him, and that his father just dumped him at this camp, refusing to take his calls. He’s got hero-worship issues for the local bad boy, who ends up at the same camp. He learns how to stand on his own feet and take care of himself, and I just wanted to cheer because the kid finally got it.

Middle graders will get a kick out of this book, and parents, librarians, and teachers may want to handsell this to their reluctant readers – it’s worth it.

Read an interview with author DM Cunningham here. For a bio and links to his social media, click on over here.