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The Stories That Haunt Our Childhood: Local legends and superstitions in YA lit

Most areas have some type of local legend that gets passed down through the ages.  Sometimes we hear about them on a large scale, like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland or the Mothman legend in Pittsburgh, and other times you only learn them when you visit the area.  Sit in a pub or sit around a campfire and someone will start telling you the story of how a house is haunted, a child drowned in a lake and haunts the shoreline, etc.

While reading Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey, which I reviewed yesterday, I was really struck by the setting and how it was steeped in a rich local mythology.  In this case the legends were true, there really were Otherworlders that interfered with local life.  Often the legends are not true, though they have no less power over the local culture.  Today I am going to share with you 10 (technically 11) more books that have strong local legends and superstitions, compiled in part with the librarians on the YALSA-BK listserv.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries — before it’s too late for little Mimi.  (synopsis from Goodreads)

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie is shipped off to New York to live with her Uncle, the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”  Set in the 1920s, there is a lot of good stuff here.

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family’s woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father’s death, the bad luck piles up

Highway to Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore
One dead cow later and it becomes clear that a creature of legend is stalking the ranch.

 Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Amy comes from a long line of witches, but spends her time watching a ranch. Soon bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks.


The Siren series by Tracia Rayburn
Vanessa’s town doesn’t know what to do when a series of dead bodies wash up on the shore, grinning from ear to ear.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. 

Fury (Book 1 in the Fury trilogy) by Elizabeth Miles
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay. Em and Chase have been chosen.

Have more to add to our list? Please share in the comments.

Top 10: You Could Have Been an X-Men

“Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that mutants are very real, and that they are among us. We must know who they are, and above all, what they can do!” – X-Men, 2000

Inspired by today’s review of Nobody by Jennifer Lynne Barnes, here is a list of 10 ya titles with characters that have supernatural or genetically altered powers, which would make them awesome X-men.  Because some people might consider this list spoilery, proceed with caution.  After you click READ MORE, the covers will appear and there is no turning back.

 You have been warned.

 Spoiler Space

“People are always going to think something about you that isn’t real. It doesn’t matter what they think.”
Malinda Lo, Adaptation

“I have a curse.
I’m a monster.
My touch Is lethal.
I am their weapon.
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

‘No, you don’t.’ If I hear him say the word love, I don’t know what I’ll do. I still have my gun. Maybe one day I can forgive him, but all chance of that goes out the window if he claims he did it for love. If you love someone, the idea is respect them enough to trust them. Not to take away their freedom. Their life.”
Dan Krokos, False Memory

“I’ll add it to the box under my bed labeled ‘The Secret Confession of the Immortal Pia’. Good Lord, girl, don’t look so mortified. There’s not actually a box.”
Jessica Khoury, Origin

“In the dictionary, next to the word stress, there is a picture of a midsize mutant stuck inside a dog crate, wondering if her destiny is to be killed or to save the world. Okay, not really. But there should be.”
James Patterson, The Angel Experiment

“I filled my head with thoughts of the future, of infinite possibly. There’s someone out there who will one day find me and fall in love with me and prove that all this waiting actually meant something….”
Perry Moore, Hero

“Life at H.I.V.E. may have its attractions after all, Otto thought. Friends, as they say, may come and go, but high-powered laser weapons are forever.”
Mark Walden, H.I.V.E. Higher Institute of Villainous Education

“I have perfect instincts. And my sister can see the future.  And my boss’s secretary can read minds. And my ex-roommate can feel other people’s emotion’s” – Kiersten White, Mind Games

Have any others? Share with us in the comments. 

Take 5: Under the radar with Harlequin Teen

As you can see by their 2013 catalog list, Harlequin Teen has a lot of great titles coming out this year.  And though we tried to cover them all, we simply couldn’t.  So here is a look at 5 Harlequin Teen titles that you don’t want to let fly under your radar.

Indigo Awakening (The Hunted, book 1) by Jordan Dane
There are legends of what are called Indigo children, children with special talents and abilities.  There is a church that wants to hunt down all of these Indigo children and wipe them out, their psychic abilities are an abberation.  Indigo Awakening is an intensely thrilling look at life on the run for these teens who are trying to understand the secret powers that reside in them.  A good companion read to Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi or Nobody by Jennifer Lynne Barnes.

Temptation (Temptation series) by Karen Ann Hopkins
Rose falls hopelessly, madly in love with Noah and it seems like it should be true love forever.  There is one thing that stands in their way: he is Amish and she is not.

Ink (The Paper Gods books 1) by Amanda Sun
Katie never wanted to move to Japan, but when she sees the images move on the drawings of a boy named Tomo, the both begin to realize things about themselves that make them targets.  Katie may not make it out of Japan alive.

Indelible (The Twixt book 1) by Dawn Metcalf
Somewhere between the world of myth and reality lies the Twixt . . . Accidentally marked by Ink, Joy must pretend to be his chosen one.

Countdown by Michelle Rowen
A street thief and a convicted murderer must work together against the clock to beat a deadly reality game. Countdown is a reworking of a previous novel, you can read more about it here.

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Take 10: Myths Made Real, when the world of myth invades the real world

“If I wasn’t careful, I had no doubt this monstrous wonderland would swallow Alice whole . . .” – My Soul to Save, Rachel Vincent

With All My Soul, book 7 in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, is scheduled for publication on April 1, 2013.  Soul Screamers is an urban fantasy about bean sidhe (banshee) Kaylee Cavanaugh.  Kaylee must balance her life as a high school student while trying to prevent the Netherworld from bleeding over into it.  There are hellions, reapers and more out to steal her soul.  Oh yeah, and we people are about to die, she starts screaming.

A Banshee is a woman from Irish mythology who begins to wail when someone is about to die.  A banshee is considered by some to be a type of fairy or a representative of the Underworld. You can find out more about the Soul Screamers series at http://rachelvincent.com/soulscreamers.htm.  Also, The Soul Screamers series has a huge following on Tumblr so check it out.  If you are not reading the Soul Screamers series, you are missing a great paranormal series that has developed a complex mythology based on characters not typically seen in today’s paranormal romance; there are plenty of vampires, werewolves and angels, so I recommend that you try Soul Screamers for something new and very interesting.

Want to dip your toe into more of the underworld? Check out these books.

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
Megan Chase finally learns the reason she has never felt like she truly fit into this world, she is the daughter of the mythical faerie king.
“I licked my lips and whispered, “Is this where you say you’ll kill me?”
One corner of his lips curled. “If you like,” he murmured, a flicker of amusement finally crossing his face. “Though it’s gotten far too interesting for that.”  – The Iron King, The Iron Fey book 1
Misfit by Jon Skovron
Jael discovers that she is part-demon the same time that she discovers that there are those among the demon world that want her dead.
“The stuff you do is way more important than the stuff you believe.”
The Fury Trilogy by Elizabeth Miles
Three strange girls visit the town of Ascension, Maine during a snowy winter and life is never the same as a deadly plan for revenge is put into place.
“Sometimes sorry isn’t enough . . .”
Croak by Gina Damico
Lex gets shipped off to live with her uncle who decides he is going to teach her the family business: reaping.
“Life isn’t fair. Why should death be any different?”
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Kate must pass a series of seven tests in order to make a deal with Hades and keep her dying mother alive.
“Me?” The corner of his mouth twitched. “I rule the dead. I am not one of them” 
The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
Aeslyn has always seen the faeiries, but they suddenly seem to be taking an interest in her.
“And he smiled at her, truly smiled- wicked and lovely…” 
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
A family curse, a haunting mystery, and the tragic love between a mermaid and a mortal weave their way into this haunting tale of love and death over the years.
“The more she loved, the more she ached.” 
The Reaper Diaries by Michelle Vail
At the age of 16, Molly is sent to an elite boarding school where she is trained to be a necromancer.
“The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird . . .”
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue is drawn to the Raven Boys, who are on a quest of their own to wake a sleeping spirit.
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Neeve said. ‘Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

YA Greek Mythology on Goodreads
YA Mermaids on Goodreads

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Book Review: Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

The Brief Review:

I love this book hardcore and if you don’t read it minions will die and dragons will torch the Earth.  It will be all your fault.  Plus, you will be missing one of the most laugh out loud reading experiences you will ever have.  People will sit around at dinner parties talking about it, rolling in laughter, and you will feel left out and wonder what you are missing.  And what you are missing is awesomesauce!

The Real Review:

Necromancing the Stone is the sequel to Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, a title that appears on my Top 10 Reads for Buffy Fans.  That is your first clue that this is a good series.  The question you are asking yourself is this: Why? Here are 5 reasons.

Synopsis: With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn’t exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?

Well . . . not really. He’s pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can’t help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he’s not exactly sure how to use it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.

But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it’s time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead? (from the Goodreads page)

The Snark is Strong with This One

Sam is a likable guy as a main character.  An “average Joe” really who doesn’t really know what to do with his skateboarding, fast food life until FATE takes over and we learn that Sam was never really average because he is a necromancer.  I will save you the trip to dictionary.com and tell you that a necromancer is someone who can raise and control the dead.  And Sam does all of this while punning away and providing snarktacular quips as asides.

“I know you’re frustrated, Sam, but the reality is you’re in a world now where the majority of the people you run into will be able to snap you like a twig.”

“My world was like that before.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

“Slow down and explain to us plebeians. If you have to, use sock puppets.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

Don’t Let the Snark Fool You, There is Depth

Many people get up in arms when magic and witchcraft and zombies appear in a book, and they definitely have a right to their personal opinions.  But here is the deal: Sam is an incredibly moral young man thrown into a bizarre world with incredible power that could absolutely corrupt him and he struggles immensely with making sure he uses that power responsibly.  He lives in a world where people murder people – even animals – without a second thought and yet Sam has second, third and fourth thoughts and makes some profoundly difficult and moral decisions.  And he is a vegetarian; again another personal lifestyle choice, but another example of how he regards the sanctity of life and his moral character.  A lot of paranormal fiction I read (and I read a lot) has some shady ethics and puts some admittedly despicable characters on a pedestal.  Seriously, sometimes the heroine in paranormal falls in love with a guy that you wouldn’t want your worst enemy dating in real life.  For example, although I love many things about Masque of the Red Death and feel it is an excellent book, one of the 2 male sides of the love triangle just squicks me out – he would not be a real life option for anyone other than those type of girls that write letters to serial killers in prison.  But I digress, my point is this:  Sam is likable, relateable, commendable, funny and thoughtful.  I don’t mean thoughtful like he’ll bring you flowers and open doors on a date, but thoughtful in that he thinks about this world he has been thrust into and what it all means and who he wants to be as a part of it.  He uses both his heart and his noggin to navigate the landscape.  Bottom line: Readers will like Sam and root for him.

“Life is a series of calculated risks, James. I happen to think that this one is worth it.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone
“Sometimes life offers you up that kind of dichotomy, that soul-shearing rift of two very different things happening at once.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone
“Fear, left unchecked, can spread like a virus.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

The Joss Whedon Family Effect

I believe the underlying meme of the Whedonverse is that we are broken people and we build our own families.  And is this not the quest of the teenage years to find your pack (or hive or group or whatever)?  And the reality is, friends and family sometimes fail us – we can forgive or wake up one day as old cranky people yelling at the neighbors to stay off of our lawn.  Sam’s story is one about finding family, choosing to love and forgive, and accepting the weirdness that comes when your best friend can turn into a grizzly bear.  What?  Oh, did I not mention there were a lot of cool fantasy elements and characters?  My bad.  There are.  It is fun.  There are dragons.  I want a dragon.

“And maybe I was a fool, but I wanted to believe – I needed to believe – that James had started to see us all as friend. As family.”
– Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

Bonus Points for Strong Women

I am a huge fan of Brooke.  And Brid.  This is our Brid: “I’m sorry, did you just try to order me around?” (p. 297).  Sam and Brid have some serious bumps in their relationships here; although to be fair, they did meet while being held hostage in a cage together in book one.  Plus, Brid is surrounded by a pack of alpha males that she is supposed to lead, which is no doubt challenging.  And she doesn’t really have an easy time of it here in book 2.  McBride puts her characters through some unkind challenges, because even in the midst of paranormal worlds, real life still happens.  That’s the beauty of it – the characters and heartbreak are relatable even if you won’t find yourself surrounded by magical creatures and such.  But I am holding out hope for Sam and Brid.

Name That Tune

As with Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, every chapter title is a song lyric.  I wondered if McBride would go with movie titles given the nod to Romancing the Stone as the title, but it’s song lyrics.  Right there you have a fun built in contest or way to use your social media page with teens – have them find out what song the lyrics are from.  You will want to as you read.  (Okay so I just went and looked it up, there is a song called Romancing the Stone by Eddy Grant.  The universe is once again in synergy.)

Sample chapter titles:
Hello darkness, my old friend
Our house, was our castle and our keep
Hello, is it me you’re looking for?
Summertime, and the living is easy

I obviously like and recommend this series.  It gets bonus points because I think teen guys will read and love it and Sam.  I am always looking for good guy reads, it is my quest.  Pair this series with A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand and Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan.  Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride is nominated for the 2012 Cybils in the Teen Science Fiction/Fantasy category.  It was published in 2012 by Henry Holt. ISBN: 978-0-805-09099-4. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Top 10 Reads for Buffy fans
Book Review: A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand
Book Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

What’s the (Short) Story?

In my review of The Curiosities, I mention that short stories seem to be a hard sell to teens.  Most often, they are also a mixed bag; I have yet to come across a short story collection where I thought every story was a divine work of inspiration (although The Curiosities comes close).  But here are 5 short story collections that I think are must have for teens and the libraries that serve them . . .

Steampunk Poe
They are the original works of Poe with Steampunk illustrations.  You can never go wrong with Poe.

Although there are some good stories about being bullied, standing up to bullies, etc., the reason this book is a must have is for the short story How Auto-Tune Saved My Life, a story that reminds us that sometimes adults in positions of power can be bullies.  This is a must read for all teachers.

Dear Teen Me
It’s such a unique concept and a great look at life as a teenager, and an important reminder that most of us make it out alive and relatively unscathed.

The Letter Q: Queer writers notes to their younger selves
David Levithan, Malinda Lo and more talk about growing up, coming out and surviving as they learned to understand their sexuality and embrace who they are.

And of course, The Curiosities

Now it’s your turn. What short story collections are on your must have list and why?

Book Review: The Curiositites: a collection of stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff

A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck.

Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing.

A world where fires never go out (with references to ice cream.)

Are you curious?

The Curiosities began as a writing experiment between three friends, popular YA Lit writers Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Breena Yovanoff.  And it ended with an awesome epic amazing curiously awesome collection of short stories.

The Curiosities is a fun look not only into the paranormal world, but into the world of writing and at a glimpse into the life of 3 friends who happen to be writers.  These stories are unedited and contain a variety of hand written notes throughout; in fact at one point, one of the authors circles a bunch of “it is” in one story and says that if she was editing the story, she would use more contractions.  Some of the other notes include:

“Full disclosure: I still don’t really know what this title means. But I liked how it sounded.” (p. 212)

“I almost convinced myself I could give this story a less unhappy ending, but that wouldn’t really be in keeping with the prompt.” (p. 78)

“Contrary to popular belief, this IS an ending.” (p. 10)

There are notes about the stories, notes about each other as a writer and fun things like a hand drawn diagram of Brenna’s brain, Tessa’s liver and Maggie’s heart.

Karen’s Pick for a Holiday Season Gift Book

There are other fun asides in this book, such as this list:

How to End a Story When You’re Stuck:
Kill Someone
Kill Everyone
Burn Things Down (apparently Maggie Stiefvater has someone inside her always saying “fire, fire”)
Make Them Kiss
Get the Paino Wire
Start Over
It Was All a Dream
End Mid-Sente . . .

Most of the short stories in this collection are good, unlike a lot of other short story collections.  But in many ways, that hardly seems like the point of this book.  No, this is a heartfelt look into the life of a writer and into a friendship – and it is truly quite glorious.  I really loved this book.  It is creative, interesting, and such an intimate look in the writing process, friendship, and the hearts (and brain and liver) of three very talented ya writers.

Here is my caveat: I don’t know about you, but my teens don’t really check out short story collections.  I don’t know why, but they don’t.  They never have.  And this book seems like a real fan’s book.  I imagine that the audience for this book is limited, maybe to three types of people: 1) those that are interested in learning more about the art of writing, 2) fangirls (and guys) – those who are fans to any one of or all of these ya authors and 3) me people like me who love a good story.  I can also seeing this be a huge success in the classroom as it kind of lifts the veil to the writing and editing process and behind the curtain you see the editing wizard.

To be honest, this is a 5 star book and I highly recommend it, with the above mentioned caveat.  And I think this is a great holiday gift book to anyone who would put themselves in the above categories.

P.S. – there is a really interesting twist on the zombie story in here.
So tell me, do your teens read short story collections, or are they dust collectors at your library too?/