New Release Spotlight: March 12, 2019

I am so happy to have a steady VPN connection this week! Last week, I wasn’t able to post the NRS until Wednesday because of unstable an VPN connection, which is required to connect to Blogger in China. Last week also brought us awful, ugly air pollution levels and cold, gray weather days. Thankfully, the Chinese internet has stabilized considerably in the past few days, the weather today was gorgeous, and while the air pollution levels are still way too high, they came down this afternoon, which was such a relief. I really hate wearing that pollution mask!

This second week of March is awesome for new releases, particularly YA titles! It feels a bit Halloween-ish with all the witch-related books this week, including The Near Witch, Other Words for Smoke, and The Waking Forest. All but one of the YA titles featured received at least one starred professional review, and one even got an unprecedented SEVEN starred reviews! I’ve seen six starred reviews a couple of times, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen seven before.

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

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The Waking Forest (Alyssa Wees)

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

PAGES: 304
GENRES: fantasy
THEMES: sisters, dreams, witches
READALIKES: The Hazel Wood (Albert), Echo North (Meyer)
STARS AND AWARDS: SLJ starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Wees has borrowed everything and nothing at all from fairy tales, stitching the most timeless and archetypal elements of dream, darkness, the forest, corruption, and imperfect valor into an intricate pattern crafted to twist, invert, and fall apart with exquisite precision. Into the woods like never before.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

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Tin Heart (Shivaun Plozza)

When Marlowe gets a heart transplant and a second chance at life, all she wants to do is to thank her donor’s family. Maybe then she can move on. Maybe then she’ll discover who she is if she’s no longer The Dying Girl.

But with a little brother who dresses like every day is Halloween, a vegan warrior for a mother, and an all-out war with the hot butcher’s apprentice next door, Marlowe’s life is already pretty complicated. And her second chance is about to take an unexpected turn…

PAGES: 336
GENRES: realistic fiction, romance
THEMES: organ donation
READALIKES: This Heart of Mine (Hunter), When My Heart Joins the Thousand (Steiger)
STARS AND AWARDS: Publishers Weekly Annex starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Without didacticism, the text offers a glimpse into two sets of rare challenges: those faced by Marlowe, grappling with the fact that her life was restored by another’s death, and those faced by Carmen and her father, still grieving over 16-year-old Luis, whose organs were donated after a car accident.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Jan 2019)

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Shout (Laurie Halse Anderson)

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before.

PAGES: 304
GENRES: nonfiction, memoir, free verse
THEMES: rape, overcoming adversity, #MeToo, alienation
READALIKES: Speak: The Graphic Novel (Anderson, Carroll), Asking For It (O’Neill)
STARS AND AWARDS: SEVEN starred reviews! Here’s the list: SLJ, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, BCCB, Hornbook, and VOYA

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “It’s a strong example of how lived experience shapes art and an important book for the #MeToo movement. Necessary for every home, school, and public library.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Jan 2019)

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Other Words for Smoke (Sarah Maria Griffin)

When the women from the house at the end of the lane went missing, none of the townspeople knew what happened. A tragedy, they called it. Only twins Mae and Rossa know the truth about that fateful summer.

Only they know about the owl in the wall, the uncanny cat, the insidious creatures that devour love and fear. Only they know the trials of loving someone who longs for power, for freedom, for magic. Only they know what brought everything tumbling down around them. And they’ll never, ever breathe a word.

PAGES: 352
GENRES: fantasy, paranormal
THEMES: twins, witches, fear
READALIKES: The Bone Witch (Chupeco), Children of Blood and Bone (Adeyemi)
STARS AND AWARDS: BCCB starred, Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Griffin’s hallucinatory novel creeps under the skin, unnerving readers while urging them onward.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

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The Near Witch (V.E. Schwab)

Re-release of Schwab’s debut novel, which has been out of print for years. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.

PAGES: 320
GENRES: fantasy
THEMES: witches, missing children, folklore
READALIKES: The Steel Prince (Schwab), The Replacement (Yovanoff), The Darkest Part of the Forest (Black)
STARS AND AWARDS: Hornbook starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Lexi and Cole, the name she gives the stranger, have chemistry and an innocent relationship that readers will enjoy seeing develop. The ending of the story is intense, and young adults will read frantically to discover the outcome.” (SLJ, 1 Dec 2011–not a typo–this is a re-release)

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Kiss Number 8
(Ellen T. Crenshaw, Colleen AF Venable)

Mads is pretty happy with her life. She goes to church with her family, and minor league baseball games with her dad. She goofs off with her best friend Cat, and has thus far managed to avoid getting kissed by Adam, the boy next door. It’s everything she hoped high school would be… until all of a sudden, it’s not.

Her dad is hiding something big―so big it could tear her family apart. And that’s just the beginning of her problems: Mads is starting to figure out that she doesn’t want to kiss Adam…because the only person she wants to kiss is Cat.

PAGES: 320
GENRES: romance, graphic novel
THEMES: LGBT, family problems
READALIKES: Drama (Telgemeier), Bloom (Panetta)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Realistic relationships, well-developed characters of all ages, and diverse and positive LGBTQ representation make this an excellent choice for a wide range of readers.” (Booklist, 15 Feb 2019)

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The Iliad (Gareth Hinds)

More than three thousand years ago, two armies faced each other in an epic battle that rewrote history and came to be known as the Trojan War. The Iliad, Homer’s legendary account of this nine-year ordeal, is considered the greatest war story of all time and one of the most important works of Western literature. In this graphic novel adaptation, illustrator Gareth Hinds captures all the grim glory of Homer’s epic. Illustrations take readers directly to the plains of Troy, into the battle itself, and lay bare the complex emotions of the men, women, and gods whose struggles fueled the war and determined its outcome.

PAGES: 272
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 6-adult
GENRES: adventure, mythology, graphic novel
THEMES: war, Trojan War, ancient Greece
READALIKES: Beowulf (Hinds), The Odyssey (Hinds)
STARS AND AWARDS: BCCB starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Names of characters who were killed in battle are listed. Battle scenes are graphic though not gratuitous, fitting with the message about the consequences of war.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

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Heroine (Mindy McGinnis)

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there. The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

PAGES: 432
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: sports, softball, addiction, painkillers
READALIKES: Finding Hope (Nelson), Go Ask Alice (Anonymous), Crank (Hopkins)
STARS AND AWARDS: SLJ starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This powerful, harrowing, and compassionate story humanizes addiction and will challenge readers to rethink what they may believe about addicts.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

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Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer
(Emily Arnold McCully)

Even by 1800s standards, Ada Byron Lovelace had an unusual upbringing. Her strict mother worked hard at cultivating her own role as the long-suffering ex-wife of bad-boy poet Lord Byron while raising Ada in isolation. Tutored by the brightest minds, Ada developed a hunger for mental puzzles, mathematical conundrums, and scientific discovery that kept pace with the breathtaking advances of the industrial and social revolutions taking place in Europe.

PAGES: 176
GENRES: nonfiction, biography
THEMES: computer science, female roles
READALIKES: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (Padua)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “McCully demonstrates that although Ada had the potential to achieve more, she was hampered by sexism, ill health, and a temperament akin to her father’s.” (Kirkus, 1 Feb 2019)

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Bloodleaf (Crystal Smith)

Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt…To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat.

PAGES: 384
GENRES: fantasy, romance
THEMES: royalty, riches-to-rags, forbidden magic
READALIKES: The Impostor Queen (Fine), The Red Queen (Aveyard)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “An excellent choice for fans of smart, independent female leads, intriguing fantasy worlds, and a race against the clock to defeat evil.” (Booklist, 15 Nov 2018)

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Beware the Night (Jessica Fleck)

On the island of Bellona, they worship the sun. Seventeen-year-old Veda understands that keeping the sun content ensures plentiful crops, peace and harmony, and a thriving economy. But as a member of the Basso class, she never reaps those benefits. Life as a Basso is one fraught with back-breaking work and imposing rules. Her close friendship with Nico is Veda’s one saving grace in a cruel world. But when Veda’s grandfather is chosen as the next sacrificial offering to keep the sun’s favor, Veda is forced to see the injustice of her world.

PAGES: 320
GENRES: dystopia
THEMES: human sacrifice
READALIKES: Shadow & Bone (Bardugo), The Hunger Games (Collins)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The first in a series, this fantasy adventure is quickly paced with surprises at every turn and an ending that will leave teens breathless and awaiting more.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

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Finding the Speed of Light: The 1676 Discovery that Dazzled the World
(Mark Weston, Rebecca Evans)

More than two centuries before Einstein, using a crude telescope and a mechanical timepiece, Danish astronomer Ole Romer measured the speed of light with astounding accuracy. How was he able to do this when most scientists didn’t even believe that light traveled? Like many paradigm-shattering discoveries, Romer’s was accidental.

GENRES: nonfiction, picture book for older readers
THEMES: Grades 2-7
READALIKES: On A Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein (Berne), Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry (Tyson)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Evans tucks diagrams and mathematical calculations as well as banter and fanciful details into her lighthearted cartoon illustrations, wedging single and sequential panels of Romer and others at work into views of starscapes and planetary surfaces.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

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Young Captain Nemo (Jason Henderson)

I only found one professional review on this title and very few Goodreads reviews. I am including it anyway because I think this book will be popular with middle graders.

Armed with his wits, his friends, and his Nemotech submarine, a 12-year-old descendant of Jules Verne’s famous antihero is determined to help make the ocean a safer place one adventure at a time. Gabriel Nemo has spent the first years of his life living in obscurity, isolated in his parents’ peaceful underwater research lab. But with his older sister off following in their ancestor’s footsteps, sinking whalers, and running away from vengeful navies, Gabriel decides it’s time to forge his own path.

PAGES: 378
GENRES: action-adventure
THEMES: ocean adventure, sailing, conservation
READALIKES: Vampire Rising (Henderson), Moby Dick: A Graphic Novel (Rodriguez)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Stakes are high, the pace is fast, and there are excellent (and surprisingly subtle) messages of coping with childhood loneliness and the importance of taking care of our planet’s oceans.” (Booklist, 1 Mar 2019)

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A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park
(Ashley Benham Yazdani)

In 1858, New York City was growing so fast that new roads and tall buildings threatened to swallow up the remaining open space. The people needed a green place to be — a park with ponds to row on and paths for wandering through trees and over bridges. When a citywide contest solicited plans for creating a park out of barren swampland, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted put their heads together to create the winning design, and the hard work of making their plans a reality began.

GENRES: nonfiction picture book
THEMES: history, New York, Central Park, green spaces, community
READALIKES: The Little House (Burton), I Am Earth! (McDonald)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Strong back matter, in which Yazdani highlights the park’s social and environmental roles, anchors this visually appealing, well-written, and all-around successful informational picture book, which celebrates that parks all across America “were made for you.” (Booklist, 1 Mar 2019)

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A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon
(Suzanne Slade, Veronica Miller Jamison)

Katherine knew it was wrong that African Americans didn’t have the same rights as others–as wrong as 5+5=12. She knew it was wrong that people thought women could only be teachers or nurses–as wrong as 10-5=3. And she proved everyone wrong by zooming ahead of her classmates, starting college at fifteen, and eventually joining NASA, where her calculations helped pioneer America’s first manned flight into space, its first manned orbit of Earth, and the world’s first trip to the moon!

GENRES: picture book biography
THEMES: female roles, African-Americans, prejudice, science, math
READALIKES: Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge (Dougherty), Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 (Becker)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “An excellent way to introduce young readers to an African-American female mathematician who deserves to be remembered and celebrated.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Dec 2018)

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The Night Flower The Blooming of the Saguaro Cactus (Lara Hawthorne)

As the summer sun sets over the Sonoran desert in Arizona, wildlife gathers to witness a very special annual event. The night flower is about to bloom. For a few short hours, the desert is transformed into a riot of color and sound as mammals and insects congregate for this miracle of nature. Explore the fascinating desert ecosystem, from pollinating fruit bats to howling mice and reptilian monsters, in this nonfiction picture book.

GENRES: nonfiction picture book
THEMES: plants, botany, cacti
READALIKES: Cactus Hotel (Guiberson)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “With its rhyming text and stylized illustrations, this wonderful read-aloud possibility for an elementary school science unit will fascinate readers while conveying the importance of the saguaro in the desert ecosystem.” (SLJ, 1 Mar 2019)

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Anya’s Secret Society (Yevgenia Nayberg)

In Russia, right-handedness is demanded–it is the right way. This cultural expectation stifles young Anya’s creativity and artistic spirit as she draws the world around her in secret. Hiding away from family, teachers, and neighbors, Anya imagines a secret society of famous left-handed artists drawing alongside her. But once her family emigrates from Russia to America, her life becomes less clandestine, and she no longer feels she needs to conceal a piece of her identity.

GENRES: picture book
THEMES: Russia, left-handedness, artists
READALIKES: I could not find ANY books currently in-print about left-handedness. If you know of one, please add it in the comments!

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Anya’s secret society is so jovial and bighearted, you wish it upon all oppressed lefties.” (Kirkus, 1 Feb 2019)

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This week’s sequels (Middle Grades):

This week’s sequels (Elementary and Picture Books):

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

One Comment

  • Wow!!! Can't wait for summer to get here, so much reading, so little time! Thanks for your reviews and readalikes I put 3 on hold at the public library from your list.


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