B Witch By Paige McKenzie and Nancy Ohlin

B Witch represents the intrigue of a murder mystery and the imagination of a fantasy world all rolled into one spellbinding story– both literally and figuratively since the book is about witchcraft! The novel takes place in a town called Sorrow Point, where a new student is forced to keep her identity as a witch secret because of her country’s anti-magic laws and the emergence of a violent, witch-hating group known as the Antima. Luckily, she discovers she is not the only witch at school. In fact, there are two rival covens who are actually competing with each other to get her to join their side. When one of their fellow witches is murdered, however, the covens are forced to desist from their feuding and join together to uncover who the killer is, before they become the next victims.

This book is both quirky and charming, making it a quick read that was both short and sweet. The plot is a little slow to start off, with most of the novel seeming to be exposition until the end when more of the action occurred, which I found to be the part of the book where I was truly hooked. It also took me a while to get adjusted to some of the language and writing choices, like the use of texting abbreviations in place of phrases like “in real life” and the fact that one character uses Pokemon cards to perform magic. Once I got used to it, however, the language choices just made the book seem almost relatable to its teen audience, and even more relevant to our own world, even though it’s technically a fantasy novel.

I’d recommend B Witch to fans of Pretty Little Liars and to anyone who loves fantastical settings, charming female protagonists, or high school drama mixed in with a whole lot of magic.

Coral by Sarah Ella

The book Coral, by Sarah Ella, is an emotionally heart-wrenching story about a girl, a boy, and a mermaid. The girl, Brook, has extreme depression and anxiety. She is put in a facility to help her cope with it, though she doesn’t think it will help. She isn’t planning on staying long anyway, she wants to kill herself. The boy, Merrick, has a hard time with his father, the owner of a very successful company in San Francisco. His father is controlling and is too hard on Merrick and mean to his little sister, Amaya, and his mother. When Amaya tries to kill herself, Merrick feels it’s his father’s fault. He feels like he isn’t in control of his own life. The mermaid, Coral, is different than everyone else around her because she has the Disease. The Disease is emotions. Mermaids are supposed to be soulless creatures who kill sailors. She stands out in a society where blending in is vital. She feels even more alone when her oldest sister, the only one who really understands her, is at risk of being taken away by the Red Tide. When all three meet, they must save each other in order to truly understand themselves. Merrick must talk Brooke off the ledge. Brooke must help Coral see that she is not alone in the world. Coral must help Merrick understand that his father might not be the problem.

I really liked this book a lot. I thought the view that the author took on mental illness was really interesting and made it easier to understand. There was a quote in the book that I couldn’t find but it was along the lines of; you wouldn’t tell a cancer patient to just get over it, so why do people tell this to people with mental illnesses? I have firsthand experience with this because I have anxiety and depression and I have been told to “get over it”. It really helps to have a good support system of family and friends who you can rely on to be there for you and help you through the hard stuff. Brooke feels very alone until she meets Hope who helps her by reminding her that “You are not nothing, and neither am I”.

Coral, by Sarah Ella, is magnificent and definitely tear-inducing. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a mental illness or wants to learn more about what it’s like to live with mental illness every day. I would also recommend this book to anyone who likes an emotional love story, and mermaids.

The End and Other Beginnings by Veronica Roth

The End and Other Beginnings is a collection of six short stories (two from the Carve the Mark universe) written by Veronica Roth. All of them are set in the future, with all kinds of sci-fi fantasy technology. Some are more realistic than others, but all of them draw you in and leave you wanting more. Roth successfully writes six journeys, setting the scene, addressing the conflict, and sewing up the ends in the shorter amount of space than usual. But these stories feel like their own, drawing you in and letting you live in that world. Her writing is effective and beautiful, bringing in love, hatred, loss, and friendship. Her characters find the true meaning of the feelings they possess without previously knowing what was going on in their minds.
This collection is an interesting read, perfect for any sci-fi lovers and Veronica Roth lovers because it stays true to her previous writing, just taking on a different pathway. Roth makes us realize that despite the non-human beings and massive technological advances possible for the future, humans will always have the same set of problems

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Oh My Gosh!!! I am still not over how obsessively good this book is. Besides being a retelling of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” – A classic fairytale by the Grimm brothers in which twelve sisters, each more beautiful than the last, dance all night, wearing out their shoes by morning despite being securely locked up in their room by their father – this book is a whole new outlook to the plot with gruesomely horrifying twists and turns, mind games that’ll keep the mind churning, and illustrations that will make your bones chill to the core.
Annaleigh, the fifth oldest among twelve sisters, is now second in line to her father’s inheritance after the deaths of her older sisters – four consecutive deaths, one after the other – the most recent being Eulalie, who plunged to her death from a cliff, when (as rumor has it) she was running off to elope with her lover. However, Annaleigh does not believe that her family is cursed – as believed by the townspeople – but acts of murder by someone who is out to eliminate her and her sisters, one by one. But who? On top of that, the sisters end up discovering a magic door that transports them to wherever they wish to go, allowing them to attend lavish balls and dance with handsome men till their shoes wear out.
When things start to get out of control, with the girls addicted to sneaking out and dancing till sunrise and having no clue on how to find the killer who, as it seems, is now after Annaleigh herself – Annaleigh is just about losing her mind, or so it seems… However, there seems to be a lot of, “Is this real, or not” going in. Determined to find the killer of her sisters, Annaleigh will
do anything to protect and prevent any more of her sisters from sharing the same fate, even at the cost of her own sanity!

Ink In The Blood by Kim Smejkal

If you ever need transporting to a different world and a different story, Ink In The Blood by Kim Smejkal is the book to do it. This book devoured me from start to finish, fully enveloping me with its whimsical details, strong story line and lovable characters. I couldn’t read fast enough, longing to get to the end but dreading it as well.

Set place in a world in which magical ink exists to channel the Divine’s will, there is only one truth; obey the ink. But what if that truth is based on lies? What if the ink isn’t a force for good and wisdom, but for pain and suffering? Two inklings, Celia and Anya, having experienced the hate the ink is built on, do something that has never been done before: escape. They join the Rabble Mob, a collection of circus like performers that enchant and mystify their audiences, but when one of the members starts acting strange, Celia realizes the Divine has followed them. There lies the greatest truth of all; you can’t escape the ink. Left with no choice, Celia and Anya draft a plot that will destroy the ink forever, but while in process, may destroy them as well.

Ink In The Blood is everything a fantasy novel should be. Kim includes enough explanation of the world and how things work to keep us grounded, while adding elements such as the Rabble Mob to keep an air of mystery and curiosity. Throughout this book I constantly felt wonder, which to me, is one of the most important emotions for a fantasy novel to evoke.

Ink In The Blood is for anybody who wants to be whisked away to another reality full of devils, angels, plague doctors, fire dancers, mimes, inklings, and magic. For anyone who wants to experience adventure and emotion so deep you’d think you were part of the story.

Bid my Soul Farewell by Beth Revis

“Was that all it took to make a monster? A label and the accusations of others?”
The stunning finale of the epic fantasy duology from author Beth Revis. Alchemy student turned
necromancer Nedra Brysstain has made a life-changing decision to embrace the darkness–but
can the boy who loves her bring her back to the light before she pays the ultimate price?
The plague has been eradicated from Lunar island, and the people are on the path of healing
themselves and all that’s been savaged. But the girl who saved them has been labeled a monster.
A monster that should be hanged for her evil use of necromancy. Greggori “Grey” Astor is in a dilemma – hate Nedra, the girl he loves, for what she’s done, or
risk everything he’s ever known to protect her – all this while figuring out his new role at thecourt. Determined to help Emperor Auguste, the young and charming leader of the AllyrianEmpire in his plan to rebuild Lunar island. But the emperor has another plan: rid the island of necromancy once and for all. Though Grey wants what’s best for his people, he knows that allying with the king threatens the one he loves most: Nedra.
Resides at the quarantine hospital along with her army of revenants, Nedra wants nothing more than to keep her sister, Nessie, by her side. But when her revenants start to become increasinglyinhuman (like her sister), Nedra filled with guilt vows to find a way to free the dead and resurrecting her sister from her state.
But the people want someone to blame, and Grey can only protect Nedra for so long. When a battle with an even more terrifying adversary pushes Nedra to the darkest depths of her powers,she and Grey will be forced to decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to save their homeand the people they love the most.

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

Arrah should be one of the most powerful witch doctors in both the tribal lands and the capital city of Tamar, born to the heir to the great, magical Aatiri clan and the High Priestess of the kingdom. Instead, she was born without the ability to control any magic. To make matters worse, she can see it– twisting and sparkling, but always just outside of her grasp. Arrah desperately wishes for powers, if only to ease the disappointment of her mother, who is almost always emotionless and severely critical. Arrah’s only chance to control magic is to trade years of her life, which would make her old before her time, a visible marker of the hated charlatans. When children from her village start disappearing without a trace, however, she may be forced to use the dangerous magic, especially once she suspects the work of the terrifying and murderous Demon King. Arrah uses everything she has to fight against the actions of the Demon King and his cohorts, putting herself in danger with desperate attempts to stop the destruction and save her father, her friends, and her kingdom. 

This book, Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron, epitomizes the perfect balance between a fantastical setting, action based plot, and lovable characters. Rooted in the cultural beliefs of her West African ancestors, Barron’s world of witchdoctors and Orishas (magical deities) is vividly displayed through sensory descriptions of the setting, be it the smell of roasting peanuts in the marketplace or the grandiose sight of the temples in the city. In reading this book, I really enjoyed the setting and the creativity of the story, but felt like the plot became a bit too convoluted and confusing towards the end. It was difficult to follow, partially because of the number of plot twists and some of the incomplete explanations of many of the major events, including the deaths and subsequent reincarnations of many characters. Still, I enjoyed reading the book, and would recommend it to anyone who like creative fantasy settings, strong female characters, or the writing of Tomi Adeyemi (who wrote Children of Blood and Bone). 

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson is a book in which one can quite literally, get lost in the stars. It unlocks the mystery of the universe with improved technology, aliens galore, and…slugs. What better way to spend an evening than immersed in the chaos and action of a fighter pilot’s story?

Humans are confined on a solitary planet, constantly in battle with the Krell, their jail wardens. Spensa’s always dreamed of becoming a pilot, and now, with her own ship she’s finally making that dream come true. Fighting the Krell is all she’s ever known, but when an opportunity arises to go undercover and infiltrate the very center of the galaxy, she can’t pass it up. Along with her loyal ship, Spensa travels to Starsight, meeting other pilots and allies along the way. She discovers everything she thought she knew (technology, the Krell, humanity) may not be what it seems.

An action-packed plot with a strong female lead, and a talking robot sidekick makes for a book that anyone would want to read. Full of suspense and plot twists, Starsight is made for anyone willing to defy gravity and look beyond the stars, to the true secrets of the galaxy.

Interview with Kiersten White

Bookshop is so excited to announce that the amazing Kiersten White, author of some of our favorite tiles will be visiting Bookshop Santa Cruz on Friday, January 10th at 7pm.

In anticipation of her visit Kiersten kindly agreed to answer a few questions from Leala, a member of the Teen Book Crew.

Do you relate to any of your characters from Chosen? If so, which one(s)?

There comes a terrible moment in every person’s life when you realize you now relate to the parental figures more than anyone else. I feel a lot of compassion for Cillian’s mom, Esther. She thought she was doing her best to protect him, but she ended up hurting him. That’s one of my biggest fears as a parent—that I’ll be so focused on what I think my child needs, I won’t see what they actually need. Nina’s mother had a similar dynamic with her children. In her extreme efforts to keep Nina and Artemis safe, she ended up damaging her relationship with both of them.

That being said, I’m absolutely the Jade of any group. Can I sleep? Good. I will be sleeping.

What’s one of your favorite books that does not get the attention it deserves?

I really love the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. It’s a brilliant fantasy trilogy that is sharp and brutal and doesn’t shy away from really difficult questions, but does so in a deeply human way.

What was one of the reasons that you sent Nina down a darker path?

I really struggled to figure out what this book was about. And by that I don’t mean the plot, I mean the emotional core of the book. If the first book was about the nature of being Chosen—which inherently means you did not choose, it was chosen for you—I realized the second book should be about coping with trauma. Bad things happen and they change you. What do you do with that? In Nina’s case, I made the change literal, because a fantastic thing genre does is let you tell true stories, but with everything heightened.

So much of navigating being a teenager approaching adulthood is reconciling who you thought you were with who you are becoming and who you want to become. And to do that, sometimes we have to walk straight through our pain to learn who we are on the other side of it.

Was there an incentive for adding Artemis’s side into Chosen?

In Slayer, we had interstitial chapters from the point of view of someone who had spent years trying to kill one or both of the twins. Initially I was going to have that same format from the point of view of the big bad, but in this case, it didn’t have the emotional resonance I wanted. Artemis did. I loved exploring how she reacted to pain in contrast to how Nina did, and it was really fun giving readers information that Nina didn’t have. Delicious dramatic irony! Plus, I always love the push and pull of siblings. I have four siblings, and so much of who I was as a teenager was in relation to them.

Through your years of writing, who has given you the most valuable piece of writing advice, and what was it?

I honestly couldn’t tell you who—I’m at sixteen books and a decade in publishing!—but I think the best piece of advice for any writer is this: the only thing you can control is the writing. You can’t control when or how your books sell, or how readers receive them, or even your covers (I continue to luck out in that regard). So make sure you fiercely protect your creative space and nurture the things that made you fall in love with writing in the first place.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw is a blizzard of cold magic and wicked woods. Secrets fill the air, suffocating every breath. Lies and betrayal run deep into the bottomless lake. One boy is missing. One boy is dead.
Nora Walker has lived her whole life in the town of Fir Haven. It is where she was born, it is where she will die. Just like every other Walker before, she was born with nightshade in her blood and shares a strong connection with the woods surrounding her little town. Woods that some say are magical. Cursed, even. Rumored to be a witch and feared by many around her, she finds solace in the woods and the teachings of her ancestors.
During one of her ventures through the woods, she comes upon Oliver Huntsman, the boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago – and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but he’s alive with no memory of the time he’s been missing. But something’s not right, and Nora knows it. Oliver is hiding something, something that could eventually destroy the feelings she’s come to develop for this mysterious boy. And why is there an uneasy shift in the woods at his presence?
When she discovers that a boy died the same night Oliver went missing, Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind what happened that unfaithful night. With every person
holding secrets of their own, she doesn’t know if anyone is worth trusting. And just how far will someone go to keep their secrets buried…
Ernshaw’s personification of the woods is possibly the best character in the book, the true villain of the story. This book is truly an atmospheric novel. From the spooky forest to the ominous snowstorms – no amount of closing the book will make you feel safe. Readers, be ready to be frightened and try to unravel this mystery that will leave you second-guessing till the very last chapter!