New Release Spotlight: January 29, 2019

Congratulations to Carol H. in Texas for winning last week’s New Release Spotlight giveaway! Carol has selected The Cold Is In Her Bones from last week’s list of new releases as her prize.

This is my last week of school before our two-week Chinese New Year break! Shanghai is cold and polluted right now, but spring usually comes to Shanghai by about mid-March. Because the air pollution levels are tied to older coal heaters in the north part of China, the pollution will ease up as the weather warms. I am so ready to NOT have to wear my mask every day!

This week is a big one for new releases, with most titles receiving at least one starred professional review. If you subscribe to Junior Library Guild, you’ll find many of this week’s books on upcoming JLG shipments. Be sure to double-check your JLG shipments so you don’t accidentally double-order. I’ve included JLG information in the “Stars and Awards” section for each book, but as the JLG website isn’t so easy to search, it is entirely possible I missed a title or two.

NOTE: Titles start with YA and go down in age to picture books at the end. Scroll to the bottom for sequels and this week’s new release giveaway. Titles highlighted in purple are those that received two or more starred professional reviews.

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Spin (Lamar Giles)

I’m not a fan of the cover (I thought this would be a low-budget hi-lo), but the story sounds interesting and unique. Great reviews, too!

When rising star Paris Secord (aka DJ ParSec) is found dead on her turntables, it sends the local music scene reeling. No one is feeling that grief more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and ParSec’s chief groupie, Fuse — two sworn enemies who happened to be the ones who discovered her body.

PAGES: 400
GENRES: mystery
THEMES: murder, hip-hop music, fandoms
READALIKES: The Falling Between Us (Parsons), Girl Last Seen (Anastasiu, Brown), I’m Glad I Did (Weil)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, SLJ starred; JLG selection for April 2019 (PG High)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Spin delivers everything you could want in a book: lush, complex characters; a spine-chilling plot; a vividly drawn world; and, best of all, hip-hop.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Jan 2019)

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The Wild Lands (Paul Greci)

This is exactly the kind of book I love reading, so I can think of tons of readalikes.

When a collapsing U.S. government abandoned an Alaska ravaged by earthquakes and wildfires, Travis’s family chose not to evacuate. Too late, they realized their mistake.Now Travis and his younger sister Jess must cross hundreds of miles to head south, in search of what remains of civilization. The wilderness they’re crossing is filled with ravenous animals and strangers competing for dwindling resources.

PAGES: 384
GENRES: science fiction, post-apocalypse, thriller
THEMES: environmental crisis, survival
READALIKES: The 5th Wave (Yancey), Not a Drop to Drink (Mindy McGinnis), Ashfall (Mullin)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The exquisitely described land sometimes has a stronger personality than characters—and environmental consequences are well-deployed in the plot.” (Kirkus, 15 Nov 2018)

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The The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali (Sabina Khan)

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali is looking forward to going to Caltech and getting away from her conservative Muslim parents’ expectation that she will marry, especially since she is in love with her girlfriend Ariana–but when her parents catch her kissing Ariana, they whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh and a world of tradition and arranged marriages, and she must find the courage to fight for the right to choose her own path.

PAGES: 326
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: Bangladesh, arranged marriages, homosexuality, Islam
READALIKES: If You Could Be Mine (Sara Farizan), Moon at Nine (Deborah Ellis)
STARS AND AWARDS: SLJ starred; JLG selection for March 2019 (City High School)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “With an up-close depiction of the intersection of the LGBTQIA+ community with Bengali culture, this hard-hitting and hopeful story is a must-purchase for any YA collection.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Dec 2018)

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The Lonely Dead (April Henry)

April Henry’s mysteries are go-to recommendations for mystery readers in my MS/HS library.

For seventeen-year-old Adele Vanderarde, the dead aren’t really dead. She can see them and even talk to them. When Adele realizes her ex-friend Tori is really a murder victim, she takes it upon herself to help Tori find her killer–before the killer finds Adele–or before Adele is charged with the murder. Master mystery-writer April Henry weaves another edge-of-your-seat murder mystery–this time with a chilling paranormal twist.

PAGES: 240
GENRES: mystery, supernatural
THEMES: mental illness, murder
READALIKES: The Body Finder (Derting), The Summoning (Armstong)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “[Henry’s] clear, lucid prose and well-paced action scenes make for a fast, accessible read with high appeal for both the middle- and high-school crowd.” (Booklist, 15 Dec 2018)

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King of Scars (Leigh Bardugo)

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

PAGES: 527
GENRES: fantasy, adventure
THEMES: Grishaverse, politics, human experimentation
READALIKES: Six of Crows (Bardugo), Children of Blood and Bone (Adeyemi), The Girl King (Yu)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred; JLG selection for March 2019 (HS Current Trends)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Deadly clever political intrigue, heart-stopping adventure, memorable characters, and several understated, hinted-at romances (how will we wait?!) come together in one glorious, Slavic-folklore-infused package.” (Booklist starred, 1 Feb 2019)

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Goodbye Perfect (Sara Barnard)

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their final exams. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that Bonnie’s boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr. Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents, and her own growing doubts.

PAGES: 375
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: best friends, secrets, teacher-student relationships
READALIKES: Boy Toy (Lyga), One of Us Is Lying (McManus)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, BCCB starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Eden’s healthy relationship with “sweet, quiet, and drama-free” boyfriend Connor is beautifully drawn, as is her growing realization that Bonnie’s “good” background gives her leeway and sympathy Eden herself would never receive. Nuanced, compelling, honest, and important.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Nov 2018)

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Death Prefers Blondes (Caleb Roehrig)

Ooh, this looks like fun! Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines. But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune?

PAGES: 442
GENRES: thriller, adventure
THEMES: drag queens, celebrity, robberies
READALIKES: Heist Society (Carter), The Royal Runaway (Emory)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred; JLG selection for April 2019 (High-Interest High)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: ” Balancing Oceans 11–level heists, corporate espionage, and gender and sexual identity politics isn’t easy, but Roehrig manages it with aplomb, skillfully threading in Hamlet references to boot. Clever, thrilling, and a wildly good time.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Jan 2019)

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The Dead Queens Club (Hannah Capin)

Annie Marck, aka Cleveland, is not your typical new girl struggling to find her place in her new home, Small Town, Indiana. Instead, Cleveland enters the scene on the arm of the most popular boy in town, super jock, genius, and prankster Henry. No, she’s not his girlfriend, but yes maybe she’d like to be. Henry is on his sixth girlfriend in two years, and his most recent ex is dead, killed in a mysterious prom explosion. Everyone has their theories, but Cleves is determined to find out what really happened before it’s too late and history repeats itself.

PAGES: 455
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: Henry VIII, prom, England history
READALIKES: My Lady Jane (Hand), Fatal Throne (Anderson)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Though sometimes a bit contrived and overly detailed, the novel’s light humor and whodunit aspect will keep readers’ interest in this send-up of King Henry VIII and his many wives.” (SLJ, 1 Jan 2019)

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Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow
(Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Tonya Bolden)

This is a story about America during and after Reconstruction, one of history’s most pivotal and misunderstood chapters. In a stirring account of emancipation, the struggle for citizenship and national reunion, and the advent of racial segregation, Harvard professor Henry Gates delivers a book that is illuminating and timely. Real-life accounts drive the narrative, spanning the half century between the Civil War and Birth of a Nation.

PAGES: 225
GENRES: nonfiction
THEMES: Reconstruction period of US History, slavery, Jim Crow laws, racism, segregation
READALIKES: Just Mercy (Stevenson), The New Jim Crow (Alexander)
STARS AND AWARDS: SLJ starred; JLG selection for March 2019 (Nonfiction Middle Plus)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The writing is at times lyrical, with repeated phrases and beautifully constructed prose. Historical quotes, photographs, contemporaneous illustrations, and other primary sources that bring depth to the history are presented throughout.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Nov 2018)

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Brigid Kemmerer)

Fall in love, break the curse. It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

PAGES: 484
GENRES: retelling, fantasy
THEMES: Beauty and the Beast, inner beauty, curses, cerebral palsy
READALIKES: Of Beast and Beauty (Jay), Cruel Beauty (Hodge)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, SLJ starred, Publishers Weekly Annex starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Avoiding disability inspiration tropes, [Harper] is a fallible, well-rounded character who fights for the vulnerable and resists being labeled as such herself despite how others perceive her.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Nov 2018)

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Bloom (Kevin Panetta; illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau)

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band, if he can just convince his dad to let him quit their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away his days over rising doughs and hot ovens. But in the midst of interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easy-going guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of breads, love begins to bloom…that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

PAGES: 351
GENRES: graphic novel, romance, realistic fiction
THEMES: LGBT+, family business, teens with jobs
READALIKES: The Prince and the Dressmaker (Wang), Check, Please! (Ukazu)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred; JLG selection for April 2019 (Graphic Novels High)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A tender blend of sugary, buttery, and other complex flavors that’s baked with a tremendous dash of heart.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Dec 2018)

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Come Find Me (Megan Miranda)

After surviving an infamous family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Kennedy Jones has made it her mission to keep her brother’s search through the cosmos alive. But then something disturbs the frequency on his radio telescope–a pattern registering where no signal should transmit. In a neighboring county, seventeen-year-old Nolan Chandler is determined to find out what really happened to his brother, who disappeared the day after Nolan had an eerie premonition. There hasn’t been a single lead for two years, until Nolan picks up an odd signal–a pattern coming from his brother’s bedroom.

PAGES: 327
GENRES: thriller, supernatural
THEMES: missing persons, siblings, family problems
READALIKES: Watching You (Jewell), The Replacement (Yovanoff)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This delivers on every level of tension and storytelling and will draw readers into its pages as strongly as it draws its protagonists together.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Nov 2018)

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The Cerulean (Amy Ewing)

Sera Lighthaven has always felt as if she didn’t quite belong among her people, the Cerulean, who live in the City Above the Sky. She is curious about everything–especially the planet that her City is magically tethered to–and can’t stop questioning things. Sera has always longed for the day when the tether will finally break and the Cerulean can move to a new planet. But when Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the tether, she feels betrayed by everything in which she’d been taught to trust. In order to save her City, Sera must end her own life.

PAGES: 483
GENRES: fantasy
THEMES: magic, sacrifice
READALIKES: The Impostor Queen (Fine), The Gilded Wolves (Chokshi)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Part high fantasy, part mystery, with a whole lot of feminism, this first volume in a duology inventively explores the themes of gender, nonconformity, self-acceptance, and family.” (SLJ, 1 Jan 2019)

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A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending) (India Desjardins, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer)

A 15-year old girl heads towards the hospital waiting room where the doctors are going to tell her how much time she’s got to live. As she walks, she thinks about her journey up to this point . . . the terrible decor in the hospital, wearing a headscarf, the horrible treatments, but also being with her friends, family, and her new boyfriend Victor. This is a story about cancer with a happy ending. It’s about life, love, and especially, hope.

GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: cancer, leukemia, hope
READALIKES: Lissa A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution (Hamdy,
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Through a well-told first person account and captivating illustrations, this personal yet universal story of illness and hope presents the many shades of human emotion.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Jan 2019)

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Locked in Ice: Nansen’s Daring Quest for the North Pole (Peter Lourie)

A celebrity among the ranks of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton at the turn of the twentieth century, Fridtjof Nansen contributed tremendous amounts of new information to our knowledge about the Arctic. At a time when the North Pole was still undiscovered territory, he attempted to make it to the Pole in a way that most experts thought was mad: Nansen purposefully locked his ship in ice for two years in order to float northward along the currents.

PAGES: 316
GENRES: narrative nonfiction
THEMES: adventure, arctic exploration, North Pole
READALIKES: Expedition to the Arctic (Hyde), The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish (Martin, Krommes)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: no professional reviews found

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Cicada (Shaun Tan)

This is the story of a hardworking little cicada who is completely unappreciated for what he does. He is bullied, overworked, and ignored most of the time. But in the end, just when you think he’s given up, he makes a transformation into something ineffably beautiful.

GENRES: picture book (for older readers)
THEMES: perseverance, hard work
READALIKES: The Metamorphosis (graphic novel by Peter Kuper), Journey (Becker)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred; JLG selection for May 2019 (High-Interest Middle Plus)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Cicada’s narration suggests, coincidentally or not, that of an Asian immigrant, and Tan’s story could be regarded as one that holds out the hope of liberation for every mistreated foreign laborer.” (Publishers Weekly, 15 Oct 2018)

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When Sadness Is At Your Door (Eva Eland)

This story gives sadness a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. Eland suggests activities to do with sadness, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to “get over” it or indicates that it’s “bad,” both of which are anxiety-producing notions.

GENRES: picture book
THEMES: mental health, emotions, depression
READALIKES: I Am Human: A Book of Empathy (Verde, Reynolds), Grumpy Monkey (Lang, Lang)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly Annex starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Front endpapers show depressed people ignoring their sadnesses, while back endpapers show these same characters interacting with them and feeling better.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Nov 2018)

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Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet
(Curtis Manley, Jessica Lanan)

Our sun is a star.
In the night sky are all kinds of stars,
and orbiting those stars
are planets like the ones in our own solar system.

Could those planets have life
like we do on Earth?

Planet Earth is not too big,
not too small, not too hot,
and not too cold. It’s just right.
Our very own Goldilocks planet…

GENRES: picture book
THEMES: outer space, life on other planets
READALIKES: Shawn Loves Sharks (Manley, Subisak), Hidden Figures (Shetterly, Freeman)
STARS AND AWARDS: SLJ starred; JLG selection for March 2019 (Science Nonfiction Elementary)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Beginning with the insights of astronomers such as Lucretius and Giordano Bruno and continuing with the observations of a fictional young black girl from the present day, this illuminating book examines the possibility of life on other planets.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Jan 2019)

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Perfect (Max Amato)

Debut author! A fussy eraser tries to keep the pages clean by erasing the scribbles of a mischievous pencil. But before long, the eraser discovers what can happen when two opposing forces come together to have fun.

GENRES: picture book fiction
THEMES: art, personification
READALIKES: Exclamation Mark (Rosenthal, Lichtenheld), The Dot (Reynolds)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Children will be amused by the relationship and intrigued with the technique, comprehending that one can draw with a pencil and an eraser—and that opposites can co-exist.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Oct 2018)

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Hats Off to Mr. Pockles! (Sally Lloyd-Jones and David Litchfield)

This is perfect for our annual “Hats Off to Reading Day”!

For Mr. Pockles, going without a hat is as unthinkable as going around without any pants on. He has millions of hats, for every occasion–an Eating His Cornflakes hat, a Drinking Cups of Tea hat, and even an In the Bath hat–but for some reason, he doesn’t have any friends. One day, when Lady CoCo Fitz-Tulip–a Very Important Panda–finds that her hat has been gobbled up by some hungry bunnies, Mr. Pockles knows just how to help.

GENRES: picture book fiction
THEMES: friendship, read-alouds, hats
READALIKES: Hats for Sale (Slobodkina), I Want My Hat Back (Klassen)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The drolly humorous story is told in a strong narrative voice, with melodramatic flair, clever dialogue, and distinctive personalities for both Mr. Pockles and Lady Fitz-Tulip.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Oct 2018)

This week’s sequels:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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This list also appears on my New Releases–Weekly Board on Pinterest:


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