I attended the Texas Library Association annual conference last Wednesday and Friday (living in Austin, where the conference was located, makes this easy). There’s just something about the way a library conference exhibit hall smells that makes me happy. I didn’t shell out for a full pass and opted just for the exhibit hall this year, since I wasn’t going to be able to make it to enough programs for it to be worth the money.
The first time I attended a library conference as a graduate student, I was amazed that publishers were just handing out free books left and right (not to mention lots of chocolate). Even over just the past few years, the frenzy at library conferences over the giveaways seems to have increased exponentially. (The staff at the publishers’ booths seemed even more Over It on the last day this year compared to previous years.) Several years into my career, my wonder at the exhibit halls has
significantly faded, in part because of this, but it still gives me warm fuzzies to see so many
people who love reading and libraries all in one place.
I’ve made a conscious effort at conferences in recent years to only pick up those books I’m reasonably sure I will read myself or that I can pass off to someone else to read. With that in mind, here are a few of the books I chose that I’m particularly excited about.
Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani
Maetani won the inaugural New Visions Award given by Tu Books, an imprint of Lee and Low, for a debut middle grade or YA novel by a writer of color. Ink and Ashes is a mystery featuring a teenage girl who discovers that her father was a member of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Teens getting involved with organized crime crops up fairly regularly in modern YA, and it’s a theme I usually enjoy (although I tend to dislike seeing it in film).
The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas
This is the third book in Thomas’ YA trilogy that she has called “Harry Potter with cross-dressing.” It’s a fantasy where our non-magic world coexists side-by-side with the magical one, much like in the Harry Potter books, but Thomas’ series has a very different feel and her writing style is quite distinct (it’s historical, for one). It’s a classic-style fantasy with lots of magic, adventure, romance, and a fight to bring down an ultimate bad guy. These books are hugely appealing with gorgeous covers.
Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
I haven’t read Graudin’s The Walled City, which I’ve heard terrific things about, but the buzz over that book is a large part of why I picked this one up. Wolf By Wolf is an alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II, much like Caroline Tung Richmond’s The Only Thing to Fear. Alternate history is a subgenre I love but that I don’t think is done completely successfully a whole lot. I’m curious to see how Graudin’s book fares.
The Hunted by Matt de la Pena
This is the sequel to the 2014 Cybils YA speculative fiction award winner, The Living. I served as a Round 1 panelist this past year and it was a terrific experience. The Living is a great book that I read in nearly a single sitting. It mixes a lot together, but does it successfully: survival story, government conspiracy, a little bit of romance. Protagonist Shy has such a strong, realistic voice and de la Pena doesn’t shy away from writing about how class and race has affected his characters (pun intended). I’ll dive into this one when I need a fast-paced, thrilling read.
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
I have seen so much buzz over this book, a modern urban fantasy where art is imbued with spirits, I’m surprised it was still sitting at the Scholastic booth on Friday morning when I stopped by. The staff at the booth were handing out all of their display copies so they didn’t have to ship them back to New York City, and I knew this was my only chance to get a copy of the book (there were no giveaway copies, probably because its publication date is fairly close). When I grabbed it, the staffer clapped and told me how great it was. So I’d say I’m excited to read it.