Category: OZ: Young Adult Fiction (Page 2 of 14)

Three-Book Circus: Erica Recommends 3 Fantasy Picks

Okay guys, I’ve had some books on the brain lately, and if you don’t already know about them, then you should. They are The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, and Caraval by Stephanie Garber. If you’ve ever talked to me at Lemuria, then I have probably told you to read The Night Circusand if you took that advice, then you really need to know about The Crown’s Game and Caraval.

            “You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.

You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”

― Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus

night circus

The Night Circus is hands down one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. With a story that travels between New York and England and everywhere in between, it twists and turns with a nonlinear time line that will keep the reader guessing about what is to come, and what is even real. There is a dark challenge that is being played out in the beautiful black and white tents of Le Cirque des Rêves, unbeknownst to the audience—and most of the cast. Celia and Marco are tangled in a game that neither of them quite knows the rules, let alone how to win. As they play this dangerous game of illustrious illusions, the web of those affected reaches further than they can possibly imagine and there will be consequences. Morgenstern spins a story of bowler hats, charmed umbrellas, boys reading in apple trees, and a garden made of ice. In this nocturnal world of black and white, you will find the most vivid and colorful characters and writing.


“For the winner of the game, there would be unimaginable power.

For the defeated, desolate oblivion.

The Crown’s Game was not one to lose.”

― Evelyn Skye, The Crown’s Game

crown's game

The Crown’s Game was pitched to me as being like The Night Circus, but initially I was skeptical. I had yet to find a book that I would have put in the same category as The Night Circus, but indeed this book is. Set in a fantastical Imperial Russia full of rich historic details (thanks to Skye’s degree in Slavic language and her love for Russian history), the book presents a dark and beautiful world. Russia is trapped between the Ottomans on one side and the Kazakhs on the other, so the tsar has only one option: to initiate the Crown’s Game, where the only two enchanters will duel for the position of Imperial Enchanter, protector and adviser to the tsar. This dangerous game traps Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha. As the story is spun, these characters must navigate tense political situations, love, loss, and betrayal with the knowledge that they will have to die if either of the others wins. Skye’s beautiful imagery and writing brings the magic right off the page. The Crown’s Game is full of sparkling magic with a healthy dose of dark Russian folklore. Read it now so that you will be ready for the sequel that comes out in May 2017.


“No one is truly honest,” Nigel answered. “Even if we don’t lie to others, we often lie to ourselves. And the word good means different things to different people.”

― Stephanie Garber, Caravel


Caraval, which comes out today (Tuesday, January 31) has been sitting on the advance reading copy shelf, just begging me to read it for months. So, last week as I was procrastinating reading other books, I started Caraval. I finished in less than twenty-four hours (this includes the 8 hours of work). I knew within the first 40 pages that I was going to love it. The Caraval is not only a once-a-year performance, but also a dream that Scarlett has been dreaming since her Grandmother told her and her sister, Tella, about it when they were children. Now seeing the Caraval is suddenly an option, and a dangerous one at that. Will seeing the Caraval be the escape they have been looking for from their abusive father, or will it just be giving themselves over to another dangerous and powerful man? With the help of a mysterious sailor that seems to have secret motives, Scarlett enters into the magical world of the Caraval. You can either watch or play, but remember that they will try to make you believe it is real, although it is just a game. Garber spins a story that drags you in with the first page and doesn’t let go through all the twist and turns, betrayals and alliances. You will not rest until you reach the very end. Keep your eyes out January 2017.

The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern was Lemuria’s September 2011 First Editions Club selection. A signed first edition of the book can be found here.

‘The Thousandth Floor’ by Katherine McGee

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGthousandth-flooree is an impressive debut that I’m excited to see be made into a series.

When I read the prologue, I was immediately hooked. It starts out with a dazzling description of a night scene in 22nd century Manhattan that gets shockingly interrupted when a beautiful, unnamed girl falls to her death from the thousandth floor of a building. The writing truly gave me chills. It then goes back to a month or two beforehand and introduces the five main characters with each chapter shifting perspectives between each person. Normally, I’m wary of this format because it often makes things more confusing for the reader and doesn’t add much to the overall story, but in this case, I was surprised by how well it worked. Each character was so interesting that I frequently found myself thinking how they all deserved their own individual books. I never found myself disliking any particular character since they were all so well-defined and relatable, almost heartbreakingly so in the case of the “villain.”

The concept of the thousand-floor tower was especially fascinating as well because it was used as a physical representation of the social status of each character. The higher the floor, the more wealthy and luxurious the person, and the book follows people from a variety of different floors, which makes it all the more interesting. Unrequited love, secrets, scandal, addiction, heartbreak, and romance are all found in abundance in The Thousandth Floor. There were times when the plot twists were so surprising and unpredictable that I would audibly gasp while I was reading.


Some of the language might be considered strong, so I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone younger than 14, but other than that, I would give this book my complete and total endorsement. The Thousandth Floor is magnificent and glittering from start to finish, and the finale is a heart-pounding climax that you’ll never see coming.

Gifting the Perfect Book: For Lovers of the Fantastical

The Christmas season has officially begun!


It’s time to start picking out those perfect bookish gifts for the special people in your life, and Lemuria is here to help!


To kick off the recommendations, I’ve got a fantastic series that you can give to any picky teenager or adult with a love of the magical.

Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite authors in the Young Adult genre, and her Grisha trilogy takes the cake as THE fantasy series that I just can’t get enough of.


shadow-and-boneThe first book in the Grisha trilogy is Shadow and Bone, which introduces you to Bardugo’s dark and beautifully-developed world. The country of Ravka, which is reminiscent of Imperial Russia, is split in two by an expanse of darkness called the Shadow Fold. Monsters threaten anyone trying to make it across to the other side. When Alina Starkov, a humble cartographer for the Ravkan army, travels across the Shadow Fold, her best friend is attacked and injured, forcing Alina to release a power she didn’t know she had. Alina is revealed to be a Grisha. Grisha can control certain elements, heal, or even stop a person’s heart, but Alina’s ability is rare, even in the Grisha world. She is taken to train with the rest of the Grisha under the mysterious Darkling. There she learns the secrets of this elite world and what part she plays in it.

The Grisha trilogy—Shadow and BoneSiege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising—tell an epic, compelling tale of love and adventure that will have you binging the whole series.

six-of-crowsBardugo’s other series, the Six of Crows duology, is also set in the Grisha world, but it centers around a new cast of characters in the trade city of Ketterdam. Six of Crowsfollows six outcasts as they try to pull off a massive heist. There’s Kaz—the ringleader who has a knack for picking locks; Inej—the silent spy known as the Wraith; Jesper—a sharpshooter with a gambling problem; Nina—a Grisha Heartrender trying to survive the slums; Matthias—a convict who wants revenge; and Wylan—a runaway with a privileged past. Each member has something to gain if they can pull off the heist, but they will have to keep from killing each other first.

The duology (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom) is action-packed and takes turns telling the story from all six points of view. You won’t be able to put these books down!

You don’t have to read the Grisha trilogy before the Six of Crowsbooks, but it does help to already know about the world before you dive in. Plus, there are some fun Easter eggs for those who have read the original books.

I have to say that Bardugo is amazing at world building. She creates a very intricate culture for each country you travel to in the series, including customs, languages, food, etc. I enjoyed reading about the Russian-like Ravka, but I especially loved getting to explore the other countries in the Six of Crows duology. Bardugo’s use of all the senses and even how she adds in slang for certain cultures makes you feel like these places really do exist.

crooked-kingdomBut what I love about Bardugo’s books the most are her diverse cast of characters. She creates complex, flawed characters that draw you in. From the mysterious and swoon-worthy Darkling to the criminals in Six of Crows, you can’t help but fall in love with each of them.

I recommend Leigh Bardugo’s books for any young adult reader (young and old) that enjoys fantasy and adventure with some romance. I must also mention that the cover art for these books is GORGEOUS! The Six of Crows duology also has some beautiful black- and red-tinted pages. A great addition to any bookshelf!

BONUS: Here’s a picture of me getting to meet Leigh Bardugo in Austin, TX this October! 😀


Her Hardest Hue to Hold: ‘The Gold Seer Trilogy’ by Rae Carson

like-a-river-gloriousI’ve been in a reading funk for a little bit. Yep, it even happens to us booksellers. I just couldn’t get into any of the books I was picking up lately. So, I did what I always do to get out of said “funk”…I went to our young adult section and asked Clara to just go nuts and hand me books. Because, hey…..that section is just plain fun. Sure enough, she handed me an advance copy of the second book in Rae Carson’s The Gold Seer Trilogy, Like A River Glorious! I read the first book in the trilogy when it came out last September and loved it, so I was pretty excited to get back into the world that Carson has created.

walk-on-earth-a-strangerThe Gold Seer Trilogy begins with the first book, Walk on Earth a Stranger, which was long-listed for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature last year. I’m just going to write an overview of both books, because I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t even started the series. Which, you obviously should. Like, now.

This series is very much historical fiction, as it is set during the Gold Rush-era in America; but, in true Carson form, there is also magic throughout. Lee Westfall, the protagonist, has a strong, loving family. She has a home that she loves and a loyal longtime friend, Jefferson—who might want to be something more than friends. She also has a secret which only her family, including her awful uncle, knows: she can sense gold in the world around her…small nuggets in a stream, veins deep within the earth, even gold dust under her fingernails.

And y’all….she is a badass. She basically loses everything due to her special ability and her terrifying uncle. She begins a very long and hard journey westward to California disguised as a boy to not only hide from her uncle, but also to keep herself safe from others and to be seen as an equal to all other traveling men. Lee swears to herself that she will never marry, because then she and anything she does will become the property of her husband. Jefferson heads west as well to get away from his own abusive home life and the two meet up in Missouri. On their journey, they face sickness and exhaustion, greedy gold seekers sent by Lee’s uncle, and stampedes of buffalo. Once in California, Lee and Jefferson finally have a new group of people to call their family and with Lee’s ability, they set up their homestead on plots of land rich with gold. But, with gold….comes more trouble.


Carson does such a great job balancing the magic with all of the historical aspects. She also makes Lee Westfall an awesome, strong female lead. This is a great series for girls ages 14 and up.  If you haven’t read any Rae Carson, go to Lemuria, find me (I’m usually at the front desk) and then treat yourself to about three or four of her books. This is Carson’s second book series, her first is The Girl of Fire and Thorns series. READ IT. It is awesome as well.

Happy Reading!

SARAH J. MAAS is coming to Jackson!!!!!

So either you’re just as excited as I am and are dancing around in pure joy at the idea of getting to meet Sarah, or you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. Well, let me tell you why this is such a big deal.

JacketSarah J. Maas is a New York Times and USA Todaybestselling author of two amazing young adult fantasy series. As part of her tour for Empire of Storms, the newest installment in the Throne of Glass series, Sarah will be coming to Jackson this fall!

Throne of Glass centers around 18-year-old Celaena Sardothien, a well-known assassin who has spent the last year imprisoned in the salt mines of Endovier after she was caught for her crimes. When the king holds a competition to pick his new assassin, Prince Dorian agrees to free Celaena if she will be his champion for the contest. Competing with a hoard of twenty-three sponsored thieves and warriors gives Celaena a chance to show off her skills and earns her the interest of the prince and his captain of the guard. But when champions start turning up dead, the competition is the least of her worries. If she wants to become the king’s assassin and eventually earn her freedom, Celaena will have to not only survive, but win.

This is the series that got me into reading more fantasy. It starts off with a bang and gets more interesting with each book. It’s no surprise Sarah has been called the “Queen of YA Fantasy” by her legion of fans. Her world-building is creative and her characters are fun. Celaena in particular is a strong, independent heroine with a lot of sass, but she is also down-to-earth with her complicated past and teenage tendencies. I’ll admit I’m also a fan of the romance in these books. But if you think you know who’s ending up with whom, read on, because Sarah loves to hit readers with the unexpected. Each installment in this series is fresh and even better than the next. I love getting to meet new characters and explore new places within the complex world that Sarah has created. Not only is it an action-packed series filled with fighting, magic, and romance, but it also deals with issues such as class, power, friendship, and loss.

If I haven’t already convinced you to pick up these books, just do it! You won’t be disappointed. And you’ve still got plenty of time to binge this series before the release of the fifth book: Empire of Storms. Sarah will be here just two days after the book is released, so you can meet your new favorite author and get her new book signed at the same time!



When: Thursday, September 8 at 6 p.m.
Where: The Cedars—4145 Old Canton Road, Jackson, MS 39216

Things you need to know:
-Additional Sarah J. Maas books will be available for purchase at the event.
-The event will be outside on the back lawn. Bring lawn chairs and blankets. If it rains, the event will be inside.
-Line numbers will be given out when you exchange your ticket for a book.
-You must have a line number to enter the signing line—line will be capped at 250 people.
-You may bring a maximum of three (3) Sarah J. Maas books into the signing line to be signed (regardless of where they were purchased).
-Only one book may be personalized.
-Photography is allowed, but Sarah will not pose for photos.

Questions? Call 601-366-7619

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Jacket (2)“Wolf wilders are almost impossible to spot. A wolf wilder is not like a lion tamer nor a circus ringmaster: Wolf Wilders can go their whole lives without laying eyes on a sequin. They look, more or less, like ordinary people. There are clues: More than half are missing a piece of finger, the lobe of an ear, a toe or two. They go through clean bandages the way other people go through socks. They smell very faintly of raw meat.”

So begins Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder, a story that envelops readers in words, taking them on a journey into the dark of the snowy Russian forests and into the heart of St. Petersburg. It is a story that wraps around the reader much like the red coat the protagonist wears.

In The Wolf Wilder, the nobility of Russia purchase wolf pups to bring their families good fortune. The wolves wear gold chains and are taught to be tame. Once the wolf begins to act, well, like a wolf, they are sent back into the wilderness. This is where the wolf wilder comes in to help “untame” the wolf and teach it to run and hunt and survive in the wilderness where it belongs. Feodora, described as a “dark and stormy girl” and her mother, Marina, are wolf wilders in the deepest forests of Russia, far away from St. Petersburg, where they turn the wolves wild in an abandoned chapel.

When Marina is arrested by the cruel General Rakov for defiance against the tsar for “wilding” the wolves instead of shooting them outright, Feodora embarks on a dangerous journey to St. Petersburg to rescue her mother. She is accompanied by three wolves named White, Gray, and Black, and by Ilya, a boy her own age who used to be an imperial soldier but whose lightness of foot is much like the wolves.

With motifs from Little Red Riding Hood, Rundell spins her own fairytale that, much like the Grimms, goes into the darkest part of the forest, with little hope of escape. Rundell has a way with words and language, as seen in her previous two middle grade novels, Rooftoppers and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, and The Wolf Wilder does not disappoint. Feo, a little girl who might be too small to notice, outsmarts the imperial soldiers with her wits, her wolves, and the help of friends she makes along the way. A beautifully enchanting story to read this winter, The Wolf Wilder shows that there is glittering undercurrent even in the darkest of moments, and even the smallest of golden moments can illuminate the darkness.

Originally published in the Clarion-Ledger.

Gene Luen Yang Named the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature

Original to By Clara Martin.

Gene Luen YangEarlier this week, Gene Luen Yang was appointed the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature. Having heard Yang speak at the Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg in April of 2015, this news comes as a delight. His presentation was engaging, made everyone laugh, and I’ve never seen so many librarians queue up to buy a graphic novel. They were sold out minutes after his speech. With his friendly demeanor and an innate ability to teach, whether it is about the history of superheroes in comics—Superman was also an alien immigrant—or teaching history (the Boxer Rebellion) or coding, Yang’s range and appeal is wide and varied. There is one constant, though. Gene uses illustrations, comic-strips, in fact, to tell his stories.

He is the first graphic novelist to be chosen for the position of National Ambassador (which has been around since 2008), and it is perfect timing. The graphic novel is having a moment. Raina Telgemeier’s ever popular SmileSisters, and Drama books are always in high demand. My only regret with Victoria Jamieson’s Rollergirl is that I didn’t get to read it when I was eleven. The list goes on and on.

For those of you who don’t know what a graphic novel is, it is a term for a novel told through comic-strip drawings. Reading Without Walls, a platform Yang developed with his publisher that he will promote as the new National Ambassador, is about “being open to new kinds of stories.”

JacketAmerican Born Chinese (First Second, 2006) was the first graphic novel to both win the Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature and the first graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award. Yang drew on his own experience of being a first-generation Chinese boy growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. A coding teacher for 17 years, Yang only stopped when the demands of traveling to promote his books, but even though he’s not in the classroom, he continues to teach computer programming in his new book, Secret Coders. In just reading the first installment in this series, I now know the basics of coding, and this book will be an awesome introduction to computer programming for kids.

A graphic novel is a complex story, often more so because of its format. Children are innately open to new kinds of stories. In reading graphic novels, they make connections to their own lives, and they are constantly processing context clues both in the text and drawings.

As children’s literature continues to evolve, it is exciting that Gene Luen Yang will be leading the way for the next two years.

Congratulations, Gene!

Welcome to English Special Topics

Jacket (3)Over the break, I finally had some time to immerse myself in reading for fun! Did I ignore my impending final exams? Yes, I did! I read a couple of books during this time, but the one that really stood out to me was Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. When I first picked up Belzhar, I thought it would be a quick and fun read, just what I needed to get me back into reading for pleasure, but it surprised me. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a quick and easy read; rather, that it was deeper and had a much more serious tone than I expected.

This novel approaches grief and tragedy in a way I never thought of before. It tackles these serious themes fully and is careful not to make light of them or belittle the suffering and struggles of the characters. It has the right amount of teenage humor and angst to keep the reading light and fun while still making the reader truly think about the effects of tragedy and grief on a person. It addresses how different people process and deal with grief in different ways without saying one way is the best, or the only way to process life’s terrible moments. Using a magical twist, Meg Wolitzer explores these themes in a way that is easier for the reader without taking away from the seriousness of the topic; through the interesting world of Belzhar, into which a group of students has been forced.

The story follows Jam Gallahue who has lost her boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She has been sent to a therapeutic boarding school out in the country for students with delicate emotions. (In Jam’s opinion, this is a nice way of saying she is two steps away from being tossed into the loony bin). Once there, she is placed into Mrs. Quenell’s English Special Topics class, a class in which only a seemingly random few are chosen. There have been rumors and talk about past students of this class; each year is different, one year they create their own language, another they hide out in the woods; and they all act as if they have a secret that no one else would understand.

At first the class isn’t all that weird. They’re reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and keeping journals. However, the journal assignment seems a bit strange. The journals have the power to take them back to a happier time just before their lives were overtaken by tragedy. Unfortunately, the students soon find there’s a catch. The journal only has so many pages. What will they do when the pages run out? How can they move past their own tragedies and start truly living again?

2015, I’d like to kiss you on the mouth.

dbdb37f2-a00d-4114-b5d6-1e42a0bc65cfThis year was a doozy. I consumed everything from nonfiction about animal consciousness to the modern classic Fates and Furies by Lemuria’s new best friend, Lauren Groff. I can’t even get into the second paragraph without telling you that The Godfather was hands down my favorite read of the year. You can read my blog about it here. I had the chance to sit down and talk to Garth Risk Hallberg about his meteoric rise in the literary world. Jon Meacham made me cry.

I personally made the move from the hub that is Lemuria’s front desk to the quieter fiction room, where I now am elbows deep in the mechanics of our First Editions Club; and am coincidentally even more in love with fiction than I was before. My TBR pile has skyrocketed from about 10 books to roughly 30 on my bedside table. It’s getting out of control and I love it.

[Sidebar: This year, I fell even more in love with graphic novelsNimona surprised us all by making one of the short-lists for the National Book Award, and we were so pleased to see it get the recognition that it deserves. Go Noelle Stevenson! You rule!]

As a bookstore, we were able to be on the forefront of some of the most influential books of 2015 (see: Between the World and Me– when we passed that advance reader copy around, the rumblings were already beginning). Literary giants Salman Rushdie, John Irving, and Harper Lee put out new/very, very old works to (mostly) thunderous applause, and debut novelists absolutely stunned and shook up the book world. (My Sunshine Away, anyone? I have never seen the entire staff band behind a book like that before. We were/are obsessed.) Kent Haruf’s last book was published; it was perfect, and our hearts ache in his absence.

We marched through another Christmas, wrapping and reading and recommending and eating enough cookies to make us sick. We hired fresh new faces, we said goodbye to old friends, we cleaned up scraggly, hairy sections of the store and made them shiny and new. We had the privilege of having a hand in Mississippi’s first ever book festival. We heaved in the GIANT new Annie Leibovitz book, and spent a few days putting off work so that we could all flip through it. In short, this year has been anything but uneventful; it’s been an adventure. So here’s to 2016 absolutely knocking 2015 out of the park.

Read on, guys.



Alice in Wonderland is turning 150!


by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), wet collodion glass plate negative, July 1860

by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), wet collodion glass plate negative, July 1860

“Tell us a story.”

This is the age-old petition of children. There is the delight and wonder of hearing words spun from thin air, where even the creator of a story doesn’t quite know what will happen next. And so on a “golden afternoon” in 1862, the three Liddell sisters, Lorina Charlotte, Alice Pleasance and Edith, ask for a story from Mr. Dodgson. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church College where the three girls’ father was the dean.

The heroine of the story on this particular day was Alice. In his article “Alice on the Stage,” published in 1887, Dodgson confessed that in some “desperate attempt to strike out some new line of fairy-lore, I had sent my heroine straight down a rabbit-hole, to begin with, without the least idea what was to happen afterwards.”

What happened afterwards is the story of a girl who falls into a land of nonsense, logic games, puzzles and paradoxes. Published under the pseudonym “Lewis Carroll,” Dodgson presented the first manuscript of “Alice’s Adventures Underground” to Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift in 1863. After meeting publisher Alexander Macmillan, Carroll then asked satirical cartoonist John Tenniel to illustrate his Alice.


by Nicola Callahan

Tenniel portrays Alice as a little girl with long blond hair (the blue dress would come later), and this is how we remember her today, although the real life Alice had short, dark hair with bangs cut straight across her forehead. Tenniel’s illustrations were carved into woodblocks by engravers, and then those woodblocks were used as masters for making metal copies to be used in the actual printing of the books. The true first edition was published late in 1865 as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

In “The Lobster-Quadrille,” the Gryphon says to Alice,

“Come, let’s hear some of your adventures.”

“I could tell you my adventures — beginning from this morning,” said Alice a little timidly; “but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

alice_02b-alice_rabbitAlice tells the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle her adventure starting with her falling down the rabbit hole, but when they ask her to repeat the story, she cannot tell it twice. So it is with the original creation of Alice’s story; a story that is told aloud is constantly changing and morphing. Alice’s adventures have been around for 150 years, and each time one reads it, there is something new to uncover, something different that wasn’t understood before. As it is with reading stories, they are constantly changing and evolving, and it’s no use going back to yesterday. Alice is not the same as she was 150 years ago. She has grown (not just by eating cake) and has evolved into different literary and illustrated interpretations.

Alice has lasted 150 years because Wonderland is a puzzle that can never fully be solved — it is a place that continues to ask questions. Fall down the rabbit hole and walk through the looking glass. You won’t be the same as you were yesterday.


Original to the Clarion-Ledger 

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