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The Black Bull of Norroway by Cat Seaton

Here's Marley from our Teen Advisory Corps charging in with a review of the graphic novel Norroway: The Black Bull of Norroway

Sibylla has always been prophesied to marry the black bull of Norroway, a knight so bloodthirsty he was cursed to live as a bull. When he shows up, claiming her as his wife and telling her to prepare for a long journey, she isn’t surprised. She is however, surprised to learn that there is more to his curse than is told. 

 The Black Bull of Norroway is the first graphic novel in the Norroway series. The plot is based on a Scottish fairy tale, and reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. Short but very sweet, it was a very fun read, both through the art and the writing.

The art style alone is worth the read, it aided in making the entire book feel wonderfully whimsical. This could just be because Beauty and the Beast was on my mind, but the art definitely reminded me of Disney. The clothing looked very flowy and light, and every movement felt fluid. The characters were drawn amazingly, each design unique and detailed. The buildings were especially well drawn. There were a couple of drawings that I spent a couple minutes looking at the architecture and details of the buildings instead of actually reading the book. 

Adding to the great art, the storytelling is great. It’s a retelling, but it adds its own flavor and spice to the original. The characters were fleshed out in a new way and it felt like a completely new story. The personality of every character is thoroughly developed and explored. It doesn’t just retell the story, it adds much more to it.

I do have a very minor critiqu. The characters physical design was unique, but some of the characters felt cliche. They didn’t really offer anything unique from other books’ characters. Sibylla has a bit of a flat personality, which is kind of expected because there wasn’t much time to develop her character but I do hope that in the next book we will see that more. 

I really liked this one, and I definitely want more of it. It’s short, but still manages to progress the plot enough to invest readers. I think the next book has a lot to offer and I’m interested to see how it turns out. I’d give The Black Bull of Norroway a ⅘ and will be looking out for the second book.

Books: 
Staff Pick Badge
Norroway Book 1: The Black Bull of Norroway Cover Image
By Cat Seaton, Kit Seaton (Artist)
$14.99
ISBN: 9781534308558
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Image Comics - November 13th, 2018

Winterwood by Shea Earnshaw

Teen Advisory Corps Marren goes deep into the woods this time with Shea Earnshaws Winterwood

In the mountain town of Fir Haven rumors weave through the people like roots.

Some say rumors aren’t true, but deep down everyone knows that rumors are how we admit the terrifying truths that surround us. Like how on the night of a winter storm a boy goes missing, the power goes out and the only road down the mountain is snowed in. 

Nora walker and all her ancestors are rumored to be witches. Each one of them is born with a shadow side. The part of them that makes them different from everyone else. Nora is convinced she’s the only walker to ever be born without a shadow side, that is until she finds the missing boy in the woods and strange things start to happen. In order to save everyone she loves Nora will need to believe in herself and bring out her shadow side before it’s too late. 

 

Books: 
Winterwood Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781534439412
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon Pulse - November 5th, 2019

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Teen Advisory Corps member Marren was carried away by the evocative work by Julia Drake, The Last True Poets of the Sea. She says:

16 year old Violet believes their family is cursed to “wreck” because of the mysterious perseverance of her great-great-great grandmother Feidlia. Who was the lone survivor of a shipwreck called, The Lyric . She becomes even more frightened of her theory when her younger brother Sam attempts suicide. Soon after Violet is sent to her mother’s childhood home in Lyric, Maine. The town founded by her great-great-great grandmother. While Sam braves a treatment facility in Vermont, Vi faces her own demons only a couple hours away. With the help of friends and a new-found love, Violet searches for the remains of The Lyric, hoping that if she can piece back together what happened to Feidlia, it will be enough to piece together her family. 

    THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA is a deeply honest book about putting the wreckage of your mistakes behind you and finding the courage to truly live. 

 

Books: 
The Last True Poets of the Sea Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781368048088
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - October 1st, 2019

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed.

Teen Advisory Corps member Claire L enjoyed Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed. 

Jamie and Maya were close in pre-school, but have since found new interests. Aspiring politician, Jamie, has his summer booked: volunteering for a state senator candidate’s campaign. However, though he would love to canvas, his work has mostly been behind the scenes due to his worries about public speaking. Maya on the other hand, was prepared to spend the summer with her best friend, who is going to college. When her friend becomes too busy to spend time with her, Maya’s summer suddenly has an opening. Not wanting her daughter to be moping around all summer, Maya’s mother suggests that she canvas with Jamie. Never having cared that much about politics, Maya is unconvinced. But as Jamie and Maya spend more time together, it turns out that canvassing can be fun when you have the right person to canvas with.

 

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is an inspiring story about two teens trying to make a difference in their community. First of all, I am so happy to see two young adult authors addressing politics with their story; it is not often that politically active teens are showcased in young adult books. Especially considering that Jamie and Maya are unable to vote, I am glad to see the story focuses on the other ways you can become involved with a campaign. In addition, I loved Jamie and Maya’s unexpected friendship. Though they were friends when they were younger, they have since learned more about themselves and who they want to be. But throughout the book they discover that their ambitions overlap more than they expected. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is a hopeful story that exudes optimism for the future of the nation.

Pre-Order your copy today, and check out more from our Teen Advisory Corps below!

Books: 
Yes No Maybe So Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780062937049
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Balzer + Bray - February 4th, 2020

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Twin brothers Emil and Brighton have grown up wanting to be Celestials, hoping to one day inherit magical powers. With a youtube channel dedicated to magic powers, Brighton hasn’t quite let go of their childhood fantasies, but Emil has changed his dreams to advocating for phoenixes and other mythical creatures. So when Emil is the one to discover fire powers in the middle of a subway fight, Brighton is a tiny bit jealous. While Brighton struggles to prove himself, Emil tries to cope with new powers and responsibilities, all while trying to stop a murderous gang leader from gaining immortality. 

Adam Silvera did not disappoint with Infinity Son. Taking place in modern day New York City, it’s a cross between a superhero novel and a fantasy novel, similar tropes to superheroes, but still has the mythical creatures and fantastical elements. 

To start off, I love the modern day element of Infinity Son. I thought the politics were particularly interesting, showing how magic might be treated in society today. It’s also fun to read about how normal people use their powers and what people who don’t have powers think about them. 

Silvera did a good job of writing realistic characters. The characters have powers, but aren't overpowered. Even the most powerful characters are beatable. The fight scenes are suspenseful because there is a possibility that the good side will lose, and they actually do frequently. Aside from the powers, he also gives the characters sensible emotions. Brighton especially, he gets jealous and upset when he feels he’s being overlooked or underestimated, but he isn’t portrayed as evil just because he feels negative emotions and is still a lovable character with good attributes. The other characters argue and get upset with each other unreasonably sometimes, giving more weaknesses to characters that could easily be overpowered.

The world building was very well thought out, but specifically the way that magic is viewed and the way that it’s handled by the police was a great touch to the world. Celestials are either vilified or glorified by people without powers, and the problems with each are shown. At some point in the story both sides give issues to the protagonists. Adding crime rings and other criminals into the magical realm felt very unique in the way that it was written. A black market for mythical creatures and making magical drugs added a very gritty element to the story, and gave more background for some of the villains. 

I don’t have any complaints about Infinity Son other than some of the writing during fight scenes. It was hard to tell what was going on in a couple of the scenes. There were a couple of times where there seemed to be pauses in battles for two characters to talk. I think there was supposed to still be things going on around the characters, or maybe the space where the fight was taking place was really big so they had space, but it felt a bit stilted.

I enjoyed Infinity Son, I’ll definitely be reading the next book. The characters and world building itself is worth sticking around for, but also I need some closure for the ending... I’d rate Infinity Son a 4.5/5, and I would recommend it to any fantasy lover.

Books: 
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Infinity Son (Infinity Cycle #1) Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780062457820
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Quill Tree Books - January 14th, 2020

Girls of July by Alex Flinn

Britta is a bubbly social butterfly, looking for a getaway from her life. Meradith is the overachiever who's only focus is college - she needs a break. Kate is the rich, Georgia debutante hiding from a family scandal. Spider is the film obsessed loner who's disabiliy has serparted her from her peers her whole life. So when spider and her grandmother post an ad for a month lopng vacation in the Adirondacks, the other girls jump at the chance. They don't know that one month in the mountains is exactly what they need. 

Britta, Meradith, Kate and Spider are all very different people. So when they end up spending the month in the mountains together, things don't go smoothly at first. But after a while the girls form a fierce bond and come out of it knowing themselves better than before. In the book the diverse collection of characters paint a beautiful picture of the worlds ups and downs. Girls of July shares a message about taking action when something goes wrong instead of sitting back and waiting it out. 

Books: 
Girls of July Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062447838
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperTeen - June 4th, 2019

Loveboat Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Having just finished a stressful senior year, Ever Wong is looking forward to the summer months before college. But when her parents announce that she will be going to Taiwan for a Mandarin immersion program, her original plans are ruined. Ever’s parents have always had high standards for her, and she worries this camp will involve similar expectations. However, as soon as she arrives, she learns that while the program is full of successful teens, they too are looking for freedom from their parents’ watchful eye. Nicknamed Loveboat by the students, the immersion program doubles as an opportunity to meet people, and maybe even date them.

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen is a fun read that explores the excitement and thrill of freedom. The adventures of Ever and her fellow campers include intriguing glimpses of Taiwanese sights and experiences. In addition, the adrenaline rush of the characters’ joys and discoveries are shared with you so that you feel as if you are part of the adventure, too. Furthermore, the plot develops in a riveting way that keeps you on the edge of your seat; you never know what the group will get up to next. Another enjoyable aspect of the story was Ever’s growing self-confidence. Her character development encourages you to stick up for what matters most to you. Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen is the perfect combination of romance, adventure, and self-discovery.

Books: 
Loveboat, Taipei Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780062957276
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: HarperTeen - January 7th, 2020

We Walked the Sky by Lisa Fiedler

Callie VanDrexel thinks she knows exactly what her future holds, until her mom accepts a job at an animal santuary in Florida, forcing callie to leave the circus and put her high wire dreams on hold. She is still struggling with the recent death of her grandmother, Victoria, and the move is doing little to help her cope. Fifty years earlier Victoria runs away to the circus with a plan to make a new life for herself in Texas. But as time goes on she gets closer to the members of VanDrexels Circus, and findes her place on the highwire. After a while Texas seems less and less like the right path to take. Frustrated and confused Victoria writes down lessons she picks up from the circus on scraps of paper that she stores in her jewelry box. 

We Walked the Sky telles the story of Callie and her grandmother, Victoria. Their journey shares a powerful message about love, change, and the difference between running from and running to. Throughout the book Victoria's many secrets unravel through a series of journal entries and random notes, leaving Callie to put the pieces together to reveal the shocking truth about her beloved grandmother. In the novel Callie and Victoria both learn to embrace change and deal with the hardships of life. 

Books: 
We Walked the Sky Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780451480804
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Razorbill - July 2nd, 2019

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

Jinghua has been exiled from her home and forced into slavery after her kingdom was conquored by the Mongolian empire. While stealing apples for her brothers ghost, she meets Khalaf, prince of Kipchak Khanate. Kind and smart, Jinghua is enamored by him. When Kipchak Khanate is attacked, Jinghua follows Khalaf and his father as they flee. Jinghua finds herself growing more deeply in love as the journey progresses, but Khalaf has other ideas. Turandokht, the Great Khans daughter, offers anyone who can answer three of her riddles her hand in marriage. Khalaf can save his Khanate and help his people if he is successful. But, if he fails to answer correctly, the consequence is death. 

    Based off the opera Turandot, The Bird and the Blade has a very play like style. It’s very character driven and there is a ton of dialog. Definitely my kind of book. 

    First of all, this book is hilarious. The way Jinghua describes her circumstances and basically everything Timur said made me smile. The humor also made it really easy to connect with the characters and sympathies with them. I don’t think Timur would have been likeable or even bearable without his amazing snarky comments. 

    It could be just because The Bird and the Blade is based on an opera, but all the characters were very well written. Every character had their own unique personality, even characters that only appears for one chapter. The characters react to different situations in ways that fit their personalities perfectly. It makes them seem more realistic, and again, easier to sympathies with. 

    The structure of the book was super cool. It skips through time, but in a very organized way. It makes the transition between timelines seamless and understandable. The riddles that Turandokht tells splits other more monotonous parts up and makes it more interesting as a whole. It also connects the riddles back to experiences that Khalaf had in the past which really tied everything together, and connected the past and present in an interesting way. 

    The ending of the book was full of plot twists that I didn’t see coming at all. They were the type of plot twists that make you want to reread the book to pick up on the clues that you overlooked. The twists aren’t revealed in an overly dramatic way either, they are revealed naturally through flashbacks and normal conversations. The ending of the book itself just felt like a giant plot twist, realistic, but still unexpected. It felt like a treat for finishing the book. 

    The only complaint I have is that it was a bit slow at some parts. Not unbearably so, because there were still things going on, just not for the plot. I think that’s to be expected of a book based off of an opera though. 

    Overall I would give The Bird and the Blade a 4.5/5. I really enjoyed this book, it was hilarious and entertaining. The characters were lovable but realistic and the plot was great. I really hope Megan Bannen continues to write because I would love to see more from her.

Books: 
The Bird and the Blade Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9780062674166
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Balzer + Bray - June 4th, 2019

Speak Easy, Speak Love by Mckelle George

Beatrice is studying to become a doctor, so when she was kicked out of her boarding school, she is unsure of what she will do next. Hearing of her expulsion, Beatrice’s uncle, Leo, invites her to come live with him. Little does she know, Leo runs a speakeasy, Hey Nonny Nonny, in their basement. As Beatrice is introduced to the other residents, she unravels more about Hey Nonny Nonny and the business of running a speakeasy. One resident, Benedick, a writer-hopeful, leaves his boarding school to get away from his father’s ideal future for him. Accepting bootlegging as a better destiny, he resorts to Hey Nonny Nonny, his second home. When they first meet, there is a curiosity sparked between the two, but each of Beatrice and Benedick’s conversations seem to end negatively. Despite this, there is an allure that draws the two towards each other.

Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George transports you to the roaring twenties. Following six residents of Hey Nonny Nonny, you see glimpses and exploration of the varying aspects of the 1920’s including prohibition, women’s rights, jazz, and gangs. I adored the dialogue and banter, especially between Beatrice and Benedick. Not only is the dialogue fitting for the time, but it also feels relevant today. In addition, I enjoyed the balance between light-hearted relationships to more serious issues pertaining to operating the speakeasy. Furthermore, the multiple themes contributed to the drama and intrigue of the story. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George is a fun and delightful story about the glamorous (and not so glamorous) 1920’s.

Books: 
Speak Easy, Speak Love Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780062560926
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Greenwillow Books - September 19th, 2017

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