Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
With fur hats, swooshing capes, and epic snowscapes, Leigh Bardugo sweeps you away into a Russian-inspired fantasy world in this adventurous and romantic teen novel. The action builds quickly as orphan Alina and her childhood best friend Mal are torn apart for the first time in their lives when they must cross the Fold - a swath of land covered in darkness and prowled by vicious monsters. Inexplicably, Alina saves Mal from certain death by wielding a weapon she never knew she had, the power to control light. From that point on, Alina is caught up into the world of the Grisha - the elite, magically inclined protectors of the realm--and placed under the thumb of the broodingly powerful Darkling. Alina struggles to come to terms with her newfound power and her separation from Mal but also finds herself drawn to the mysterious Darkling. This book has so much going for it and would be a great recommendation for a wide range of teens, 12 and up. Can't wait to read the sequel!
Julie from Books Inc. Laurel Village
When Gloria sets out to spend the summer before her senior year at a camp for gifted and talented students, she doesn’t know quite what to expect. Fresh from the heartache of losing her grandmother and missing her best friend, Gloria resolves to make the best of her new circumstances. But some things are proving to be more challenging than she expected. Like the series of mysterious clues left by a certain Professor X before he even shows up to teach his class, Secrets of the Written Word. Or the very sweet, but very conservative, roommate whose coal-industry family champions mountaintop removal. Not to mention the obnoxious Mason, who dresses like the Mad Hatter and immediately gets on Gloria’s nerves — but somehow won’t escape her thoughts. Beautifully told by debut author Sarah Combs, this honest and touching story of growing up is imbued with the serene atmosphere of Kentucky’s natural landscape.
What an accomplished first novel! I think Combs really makes the best of the YA genre and the first person narrative. This book explores how young people specifically can deal with: political disagreements with friends, crushing on someone you hate, honestly questioning the integrity of an authority figure, losing your #1 role model, growing out of the future you once dreamed for yourself, and so much more. It is also a rare and wonderful shout-out to my home state of Kentucky. Endorsed 100%!
Liz from Books Inc. Berkeley
A young seamstress and a royal nursemaid find themselves at the center of an epic power struggle in this stunning young-adult debut.
On the eve of Princess Sophia's wedding, the Scandinavian city of Skyggehavn prepares to fete the occasion with a sumptuous display of riches: brocade and satin and jewels, feasts of sugar fruit and sweet spiced wine. Yet beneath the veneer of celebration, a shiver of darkness creeps through the palace halls. A mysterious illness plagues the royal family, threatening the lives of the throne's heirs, and a courtier's wolfish hunger for the king's favors sets a devious plot in motion. Here in the palace at Skyggehavn, things are seldom as they seem -- and when a single errant prick of a needle sets off a series of events that will alter the course of history, the fates of seamstress Ava Bingen and mute nursemaid Midi Sorte become irrevocably intertwined with that of mad Queen Isabel. As they navigate a tangled web of palace intrigue, power-lust, and deception, Ava and Midi must carve out their own survival any way they can.
Gnarly is the word that comes to mind. This book combines the most horrific aspect of fairytales, the most disgusting bits of 16th century European royal court life, and the most disturbing details of being female to create something that is - in my opinion - spectacular. I would have devoured this book as a teenager, but there is some graphic violence. And yet... I love this book and consider it my favorite work of fiction I have read this year. And the ending is happy enough...
Liz from Books Inc. Berkeley
By the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson ("If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win"), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder's sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age. In 2000, I started writing full-time, and I haven't stopped... I've written eight books, and when I'm not working on the ninth, I'm contributing to my web magazine, Germ, thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I am always writing.
"The Fault in Our Stars" meets "Eleanor and Park" in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the "natural wonders" of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself--a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all. And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
- What/who was your biggest inspiration for All the Bright Places?
I wrote All the Bright Places the summer of 2013, following the death of my beloved literary agent of fifteen years. The last time I saw him, I was nearing the end of a series of books I’d begun writing in 2008 and was feeling depleted and ready—creatively— for something new and different. He told me, “Kid, whatever you write next, write it with all your heart. Write it no matter what. Write it because you can’t imagine writing anything else.” Years ago, I knew and loved a boy, and later I lost him. The experience was life changing. I’d always wanted to write about it—I just wasn’t convinced I would ever be able to. But that summer of 2013, I thought again about this boy and that experience, and I knew in my heart that it was the story I wanted to write.
- All the Bright Places covers some pretty heavy topics. Was there ever a time where you struggled with finding the right words or had to take a break from writing?
The fact that this story was personal and inspired by something that happened in my life made it at once easier and harder to write. I wrote the first draft in about six weeks, so the words came quickly. I never took a break from the writing, even though I wrote through tears more than once. At night I would regroup and catch my breath, and the next morning I would go right back to it.
- Theodore is obsessed with finding death and Violet longs to escape it; what’s your personal viewpoint on the topic of death?
I’ve lost so many people in my life— my father, my beloved grandparents, cousins, friends, mentors, cats, and, most recently, my mom, who was my very best friend. So much loss. But through it, I try to focus on something Violet realizes in the book: it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave. Every person I’ve lost has left me so much, and I like to think I carry them with me. I’ve also learned the importance of wandering the world, making it lovely, and leaving something behind.
- Which dead author would you most want to meet? What would you ask him/her?
I would love to have a writers workshop with Flannery O’Connor because she was the most brilliant, evocative, economical, darkly funny writer and because she is the writer—other than my own mother—I most admire. But it would also be interesting to meet those Brontë sisters. I’d like to sit around the hearth with them and ask dishy personal questions about failed love affairs and their addict brother and life on the moors.
- Your other books are targeted toward an adult audience, what was it like writing YA?
Even though I love reading YA, this is the first young adult novel I’ve written. I began my career writing adult nonfiction—back-to-back books about historic and tragic Arctic expeditions. I’ve also written a memoir and four historical novels for adults about a girl named Velva Jean Hart. The Velva Jean books have a strong YA following, and my memoir takes place during my high school years, but now that I’m officially writing for young adults, I am the happiest I’ve ever been creatively. So much of what’s being produced in YA literature is brilliant and daring and fantastically imaginative, and I can honestly say it’s where I feel most at home. I’m at work on my second YA novel now!
- If your book were made into a film, who would you like to see cast?
Funny you should ask that… when I was writing the book, I always pictured Elle Fanning as Violet. And now she’s attached to play Violet in the upcoming movie version! Finch hasn’t been cast yet, but Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, X-Men, Skins) will always be Finch to me.
- If you weren’t an author, what would be your ideal career?
International rock star detective. It’s what I’ve wanted to be ever since I was little.
- Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m a bit of both, but I find it really depends on the book. The work has a way of dictating how it wants to be written.
- Coffee or tea?
Tea, especially ginger or mint.
- Favorite TV show? Movie? Band?
Supernatural. Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. And ABBA.
And don't forget, Jennifer Niven will be at Books Inc. Palo Alto on January 8th to answer the rest of your questions!
Chris Scotton’s The Secret Wisdom of the Earth takes you to Kentucky where Kevin’s mother seeks refuge after tragedy. Sitting on the steps of his grandfather’s porch, Kevin listens to the talk of old men sipping sour mash whiskey. If Kevin could, though, he’d add a little heat to their glasses – Kevin has a small problem setting fires. So I did that for him.
2 oz. Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey
.25 oz. Simple Syrup
3 Dashes Bittermen’s Hellfire Habanero Shrub Bitters
Add all over one large piece of ice in an old-fashioned glass. Stir. No garnish.