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The Sweetness at the Bottom of Pi in the Sky

Cover art for Pi in the SkyFrom the author of Every Soul a Star comes a story that’s out of this world — literally! In Pi in the Sky, Wendy Mass weaves an imaginative tale of worlds colliding, and the rollercoaster adventure that results.
 

Joss is a seventh son. Not just any seventh son, but the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. Expecting a superhero, imbued with extraordinary powers and responsibilities? Guess again. Despite what you may have heard, being that special “seventh son” does not imbue you with any great powers or great responsibilities — even if your dad is the SOU. With six older brothers, the greatest responsibility Joss has ever held is delivering pies across The Realms to the Powers That Be.
 

That’s right; a glorified pie delivery boy.
 

Mind you, these aren’t ordinary pies, but more about that later...
 

To date, Joss’ life has revolved around going to school (even immortals need an education), hanging out with his best friend Kal and getting those pies delivered on time. Then one day, a girl from Earth winds up in The Realms after her planet has been obliterated and Joss’ whole world is thrown out of orbit. Upgraded from delivery boy to world architect, it’s up to Joss to somehow rebuild Earth with the help of the planet’s last human, Annika.
 

Pi in the Sky is a spirited fantasy of friendship, adventure and the awesome sciences that shape our world. It is a balanced story that is accessible and fun to read even as it incorporates some challenging concepts. The characters are relatable and the story is alternately playful and poignant. Chapters are headed by quotes from scientists and visionaries that succinctly capture the theme of the chapter to follow. Recommended for middle grade readers and, in particular, fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Meghan

 
 

Help Save the World

Help Save the World

posted by:
September 20, 2013 - 6:00am

Cover art for Wild BornBrandon Mull kicks off the latest multi-platform series for tweens with Wild Born, the first book in the Spirit Animals series. Each title will be written by a different popular children’s author. This new fantasy adventure series joins kid favorites, The 39 Clues and Infinity Ring, and is sure to be a hit with readers who appreciate fast-paced stories combined with online interaction.
 

The series is set in Erdas, a fantasy world where 11-year-old children are tested to see if they possess a spirit animal. If positive, the children will share a rare connection with an animal, a bond so strong that great powers are bestowed on both. Four children from vastly different cultures and all parts of the world not only reveal a spirit animal, but each calls one of The Four Fallen Beasts. Conor, Abeke, Meilin and Rollan call forth a wolf, leopard, panda and falcon. The resurrection of these four mighty animals signals a resurgence of an evil power that needs to be stopped. These four children are destined for the ultimate mission — to save Erdas. With the assistance of a powerful-but-secretive order, the four learn to bond with their animal and gain strength, wisdom and courage. The action is non-stop entertainment, and the world of Erdas is so clearly drawn, readers will be easily transported to this fantasy land.
 

The online role-playing game, available here, allows children to customize their own unique heroes, choose their spirit animals and go on their own quests to help save Erdas. Each book will unlock additional levels of game play. Look for the second book in the series in January, written by New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater. Additional authors slated to add installments include Marie Lu and Garth Nix.

Maureen

 
 

Holly Black to Visit Reisterstown Branch

Cover art for The Coldest Girl in ColdtownAuthor Holly Black will visit BCPL’s Reisterstown Branch on September 23rd at 2:30 p.m. to meet her readers and talk to teens about her new novel The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Black has written many novels for children and teens, including co-authoring the bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles series. This dark new novel features vampires, but it isn’t the typical teen vampire novel. Black brings a new twist to vampire mythology in this spine-tingling story.
 

Seventeen-year-old Tana lives in a world that is a lot like ours. The big difference is that in her world vampires aren’t just found in stories. They are real, and they are terrifying. When someone survives being bitten by a vampire, that person is infected and becomes Cold. Those who have been infected become crazed, craving blood beyond reason. If they drink human blood while infected, they turn into vampires. Special walled cities called Coldtowns have been created to quarantine both vampires and the infected. Coldtown is a dangerous and terrible place. Most humans fear vampires and Coldtown, but some romanticize it and find it glamorous. They see the endless Coldtown parties that are broadcast on TV and the Internet 24/7. They don’t understand the horror that takes place there, so they think that they want to be part of it.
 

When Tana wakes up at a party to discover that all of her friends have been massacred in a bloody vampire attack, she finds that the only other person left alive is her ex-boyfriend Aiden who is now Cold. Tana is bitten during her escape, so she takes Aiden and a mysterious vampire named Gavriel to the nearest Coldtown. She knows that she has to go inside with them, but everyone knows that once you enter Coldtown, you won’t ever leave.

 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a compulsively readable novel that is written for teens but will also appeal to adult readers. Tana is a strong heroine, and Black’s world of vampires is unique and compelling. Readers will race through this story, eager to find out what happens to Tana next.
 

Click the link for more information about this exciting opportunity for teens to meet Holly Black, or contact the the Reisterstown Branch.

Beth

 
 

National Book Award Longlists Announced

National Book Award Longlists Announced

posted by:
September 19, 2013 - 10:00am

National Book Foundation LogoEarlier this morning, the National Book Foundation announced the Longlist of titles for the National Book Award for Fiction. This is the fourth Longlist announced this week, the others being Young People’s Literature, Poetry and Nonfiction. This is also the first time in the history of the award that the Foundation has offered Longlists in each category. All titles are available here. Start reading now and see if your winners match the Foundation's. The finalists will be announced on October 16th and the winners will be announced on November 20th.

Maureen

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Ahoy, Me Hearties!

Ahoy, Me Hearties!

posted by:
September 19, 2013 - 6:00am

Cover art for A Pirate's Guide to RecessCover art for Twenty-six PiratesCover art for Peek-a-Boo PiratesImagination runs wild in James Preller’s A Pirate’s Guide to Recess, illustrated by Greg Ruth. Cap’n Red and his merry crew are off on an adventure to find treasure when the lookout spies Molly and her mates. When Red calls for Molly’s surrender, his crew turns mutinous. Will Red be marooned on the open seas or will he be saved by the recess bell? Ruth’s illustrations easily delineate between full color reality and the line drawings in sepia and blue of the imaginary world. A homework section at the end of the book will help the reader expand their piratical vocabulary. This book is a follow up to Preller’s A Pirates Guide to First Grade.
 

Dave Horowitz takes us on a rhyming journey through the alphabet in Twenty-six Pirates.  A call has gone out to assemble the crew of the Sea Princess, and 26 boys arrive in the hopes of joining the frog captain’s crew.  From Arty to Zach, each boy’s name represents a letter of the alphabet. The illustrations are colorful and comical. Your little buccaneer will enjoy looking for the letters on each page.
 

Younger mateys will be delighted reading Peek-a-Boo Pirates by Charles Reasoner. The cardboard pages, simple dialogue and sweet illustrations are appealing to the wee rapscallions. Toddlers can identify each of the different animals of the pirate crew as they follow the treasure map to where X marks the spot.

Christina

 
 

Mommy Not-So Dearest

Mommy Not-So Dearest

posted by:
September 19, 2013 - 6:00am

Cover art for Mother, MotherIf you’re looking for a bold new page-turner, Koren Zailckas, memoirist of Smashed and Fury, delivers with her shocking fiction debut Mother, Mother. This physiological thriller provides two alternating narrators: that of the volatile younger sister, Violet, and the delicate yet determined mamma’s boy, William.
 

The plot has already thickened at the beginning of the novel when it’s revealed that the eldest and most cherished child, Rose, has fled the family for an undisclosed location. The remaining and less “perfect” children, Violet and Will, are left under the calculated and cunning reign of the matriarch, Josephine. And then there’s distracted and weak-willed father.
 

From an outsider’s view, the Hurst family has achieved all upper middle class aspirations. However, when an unexpected act of violence takes place in the picturesque home, the secrets surrounding the absentee Rose steadily unravel through Violet and Will’s dueling accounts; the effects of which rival the circular layers of an onion being stripped away. As tensions build, the book gets creepier and creepier. As Josephine’s tight control begins to slip, small daily activities at home prove that her and William’s relationship makes for one of the most unnerving mother and son pairs in recent history.
 

For those who cannot get enough of the current trope of Mother as Narcissist, as seen in Wendy Lawless’ Chanel Bonfire: A Memoir and in Cate Blanchett’s performance in the film Blue Jasmine. When you start this book, make sure you have enough time to finish it because you won’t be able to put it down.

Sarah Jane

 
 

Seeking Solace in Revenge

Seeking Solace in Revenge

posted by:
September 18, 2013 - 6:00am

Cover art for Premidiated What would you do if someone caused your best friend to attempt suicide? Josin L. McQuein’s upcoming novel Premeditated describes just how far one devastated teen goes to exact revenge for her comatose best friend. Claire is more than Dinah’s best friend; she is her 14-year-old cousin too. Claire attempts to kill herself leaving her best friend and close family wondering why. Though her attempt was unsuccessful, she unfortunately hits her head on the sink as she passes out and is living in a coma, teetering on the brink.
 

Dinah is devastated when she hears about her cousin and she searches Claire’s room to find her diary and discover what caused her to feel like she needed to commit suicide. After reading the diary, Dinah uncovers that it was because of a 17-year-old prep school boy she’d been spending time with. Upon learning this, Dinah decides that she is going to destroy his life like he destroyed Claire’s. Before she can set her plan in motion, she must transform her edgy and alternative persona into a prep school Barbie doll for the covert mission.
 

This book follows Dinah in her efforts to find retribution and solace in bringing her own special kind of justice. The novel unfolds the story of Dinah’s transformation as well as Claire’s secret past and how she came to feel that suicide was her best option. Readers who enjoy Premeditated, may also enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak, which unfolds much like Claire’s story.
 

Randalee

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Lost on the Fringes

Lost on the Fringes

posted by:
September 18, 2013 - 6:00am

Cover art for Lost GirlsIn the eyes of society, five young women were lost even before they went physically missing and found dead. In Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, Robert Kolker vividly details not only a modern-day true crime case but also the stories of these women who slipped through the cracks of American society. Melissa Barthelemy. Maureen Brainard-Barnes. Shannan Gilbert. Amber Lynn Overstreet Costello. Megan Waterman. None of these became household names like Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway did when they were reported missing. In fact, for several of them, their relatives had trouble being taken seriously by law enforcement. Yet all five women had personal histories, albeit with many common threads. They all grew up in towns without a lot of economic opportunities, they all had troubled family backgrounds, and several had children of their own they struggled to support. They all turned to prostitution as a way to make ends meet. And all of their bodies were discovered in the Oak Beach, NY area, a sparsely populated strip of land off the coast of Long Island.
 

Kolker masterfully interweaves the histories of these five women with suspenseful and frustrating elements of the crime investigation, including questionable detective work and an uncooperative beach town with secrets of its own. Ultimately, this is still a cold case, with speculation about whether all five died at the hands of the same person(s). Kolker also traces the evolution of prostitution, with women now being able to find clients through sites like Craigslist. This Internet business model belies the dangers that still exist in this line of work and has made it all the easier for those in desperate situations to sell themselves. For true crime fans, this is a book to read not only for the unsolved murders but for what it reveals about overlooked pockets of American life today.

Melanie

 
 

A Sharp Minor

A Sharp Minor

posted by:
September 17, 2013 - 6:00am

Cover art for The Lucy VariationsNational Book Award-finalist Sara Zarr is known for her spot-on portrayals of contemporary American teens. In The Lucy Variations, Zarr once again writes teen characters with pitch-perfect voices and concerns. While in her previous work she dealt mostly with middle-class families, this novel is a bit of a departure, looking at the rarefied world of a family of classical music prodigies. As a child and young teen, Lucy was a top concert pianist who was known among this elite group of musicians. But suddenly everything changed, and Lucy stopped playing altogether. Now, will her younger brother Augustus (“Gus”), a pianist prodigy himself, take up the family mantle?
 

Zarr is a master of plotting and examining family dynamics. Lucy’s grandfather, the patriarch of this musical family, shows utter disappointment and disbelief that his granddaughter with so much promise throws it all away when faced with adversity. Meanwhile, Lucy’s father has to recalibrate his life after having been her de facto manager for so many years. And Lucy and Gus have a supportive, intelligent sibling relationship, a nice change from the often-adversarial portrayal of siblings in books for teens.
 

Glamorous whirlwind tours of European concert halls, backstage intrigue and grand parties contrast with Lucy's desire to simply be a normal teen. Her friendship with down-to-earth Reyna provides grounding. The possibility of reclaiming her former glory comes in the appearance of Gus’ new piano teacher, who encourages Lucy to sit behind the keys again. Readers will be drawn in to the often unfamiliar world of a teen whose love of classical music is lost and regained.

Todd

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Never to Forget

Never to Forget

posted by:
September 17, 2013 - 6:00am

Cover art for Prisoner B-3087For most Jewish boys, the event they must prepare for is the Bar Mitzvah at age 13. For 12-year-old Yanek Gruener, his greatest concern is where his next meal is coming from and whether he will live to see another day. In Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz, young Yanek’s life is forever changed when the Nazis invade Krakow, Poland, and force him and his family to live in a ghetto. They face incredible deprivations and the constant threat of deportation to concentration camps, or being shot for no reason. It is a harrowing existence that stretches Yanek to the limits of human endurance as he plays a cat and mouse game of survival with the Nazis.
 

Based on the true story of Holocaust survivor Jack Gruener, Prisoner B-3087 relates in graphic detail the horrors that Yanek witnesses as he is sent from the ghetto in Krakow to work in such concentration camps as Birkenau, Auschwitz, and Dachau, and even the salt mine at Wieliczka. His family disappears one day when he is coming home from his work detail, and Yanek never hears from them again. Separated from all those he loves, Yanek spends nearly nine years as a captive trying to make sense of why the Nazis treated the Jews and the other ‘undesirables’ (ex., Gypsies, homosexuals) with such unthinkable cruelty. While Yanek’s story is a powerful one, this frank depiction of life in the ghetto and concentration camps may be disturbing to younger or sensitive readers.

Regina