The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel
What it's about (courtesy of Weinstein Books):
Based on the wildly popular YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl has been described as " Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity for the new media age." YA fans new and old will learn the secrets behind Sunshine—the adorkable girl living in a haunted house—a story that is much bigger, and runs much deeper, than even the most devoted viewer can imagine…
Why you should read it: I have to admit that I had no idea about the YouTube channel (hey, I read, not watch), but Sunshine is adorable and very funny. The book reads a bit younger than my typical YA fare, but it was still enjoyable, and that cover is gorgeous! Sunshine's character has this weird light vibe around her. It's like reading about your favorite younger cousin or your slightly awkward best friend. You're rooting for her the entire time and just want her to get to the bottom of it all. Nolan is also a great hero. He's the only one who believes her, and it was so so funny yet sweet watching them bond. I have to say, too, there aren't that many books that scare me, and while this isn't as terrifying as some of the zombie horror books I've read, there were definitely some scenes that had my ick factor way up. I'm off to watch season two now! For a truly "adorkable" heroine and a lot of mischief and Monopoly-playing ghosts, pick this up!
What Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel have to say …
Tell us about Nolan and Sunshine!
Paige and Alyssa: When Sunshine Griffith finds herself living in a haunted house shortly after her 16th birthday, she thinks no one will ever believe what she's feeling and hearing and seeing. Until she meets Nolan Foster. She's drawn to him immediately — and not just because he's cute (in a nerdy way, like he popped out of an '80s movie or something). Nolan is the first person to believe her, and their shared belief in ghouls and ghosts bonds them right from the start. Together, they try to figure out what's really going on inside Sunshine's house — a journey that takes them to places and leads to revelations that neither of them could have imagined.
What are you currently working on?
Paige and Alyssa: We're currently hard at work on the sequel to The Haunting of Sunshine Girl — The Sacrifice of Sunshine Girl — and there are some crazy-cool and very creepy new adventures headed Sunshine's way! We're revealing even more about Sunshine's backstory — and how much of her past has to do with what's going to happen in her future. It's going to be spooky and strange and we can't wait for readers to see it!
And, for something completely different ... Alyssa is also working on a book called Faceless that comes out this September. It's the story of a girl named Maisie Winters who is in a terrible accident — and wakes from a coma to discover that she's a candidate for a rare medical treatment: a face transplant. But with someone else's features staring back at her in the mirror, Maisie looks — and feels — like a stranger. Before, she was just a regular girl — a track star and a good student who loved her boyfriend and her best friend and argued with her parents from time to time. Now, she can't even recognize herself.
Favorite line/snippet from The Haunting of Sunshine Girl?
Paige and Alyssa: We can't agree on just one snippet! Alyssa says her favorite part has to be the last few lines of Chapter One:
But I swear, just as I'm drifting out of consciousness, in that place where you're more asleep than awake anymore, I hear something else. A phrase uttered in a child's voice, no more than a whisper:
But Paige's favorite is from Chapter 11, when Sunshine's taxidermied owl, Dr. Hoo, suddenly comes to life. Paige actually had to read the entire book out loud to record the audio book, and she thinks this was so much fun to say out loud:
Oh my gosh, Dr. Hoo is going to kill me! Ashley was right all along. Taxidermied owls are creepy. I should have been grossed out by him.
I scream again, but at the last second Dr. Hoo shifts, and instead of hitting me, he hits the lamp at my bedside, knocking it over and plunging the room into darkness.
Duplicity by N.K. Traver
What it's about (courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books):
In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he's worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he's learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he'll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.
Then two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon's reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something—washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it's preparing to trade places.
And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he's going to have to face some hard truths about who he's become. Otherwise he'll be stuck in a digital hell until he's old and gray, and no one will even know he's gone.
Why you should read it: This has been one of my favorite reads this month, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the twisted and strange. Brandon is a bad boy who uses his image to hold the world at bay, and uses his hacking skills to keep the world at arm's length. Our heroine, Emma, really sees him, which is why I think Brandon really connects with her. Now on to the plot! I think some readers will have a hard time suspending disbelief, but if you do it's a really, really intriguing concept. Without giving too much away, the mirrors are a separate "world," and Brandon can hack them from his computer. His reflection, Obran, is everything he is … and isn't. My husband works with coding and computers, so when I read aloud some of the coding and hacking, he thought the idea was really cool and promptly went to look at his reflection. For tech-oriented readers and those looking for something different, I'd recommend Duplicity and am eagerly awaiting the next installment!
What N.K. Traver has to say …
Tell us about the idea behind Brandon's reflection?
N.K.: The idea of a soul being able to live in a mirror has stuck with me since elementary school, ever since my friends traumatized me with a game of Bloody Mary at a sleepover. So it plays off an old fear of mine that there could be another world behind the mirror, and of course, that there might be someone in the mirror who wants to get out.
What are you currently working on?
N.K.: Right now I'm outlining a sequel for Duplicity and fine-tuning a new horror project.
Favorite line/snippet from Duplicity?
N.K.: I'd have to say it's a snippet from the opening, after Brandon's laptop goes rogue and starts typing messages to him:
"HERE'S THE GAME, HACKER. I'M DONE WATCHING YOU RUIN PEOPLE'S LIVES.
HEARD THE PHRASE 'YOU'RE OWN WORST ENEMY'?
YOU'RE ABOUT TO LIVE IT."
Ash by Shani Petroff and Darci Manley
What it's about (courtesy of Polis Books):
Destiny is pre-determined. It is strictly monitored. It is unchangeable.
Or is it?
Madden's life is a whirlwind of privilege and perks. Born into the elite Purple ring, she is fated to be a Minister of the Seven. Although her position comes with the burden of great responsibility, she's nothing if not confident in her future. After all, Destiny Specialists have determined how she will fulfill her life's purpose, and they are never wrong.
Her classmate Dax, an Ash, is clinging to the opposite end of the spectrum. While everyone around her knows what destiny awaits them, Dax's fate is…missing. Isolated and ignored, she refuses to let her lack of status define her.
After a stunning twist of fate, Dax and Madden's paths intertwine in ways neither could have possibly imagined. The two are forced to question their own past, present and future as they realize who they are is not necessarily who they were meant to be.
Why you should read it: This was an interesting book in that's a bit of dystopia and a bit of predetermination. I loved that readers got a close look at the life of privilege along with the life of a blank and their two interwoven paths. There's a lot of action and intrigue and, of course, some great romance for the two girls. I think Ash is a strong-enough first installment to get readers hooked and wanting to know what will happen with Dax and Madden and the guys. I do hope that a few questions will be addressed: I didn't buy into the randomness of fate being a chain reaction. I wanted more info on what Madden's mom wrote and, finally, more about the Destiny system: where exactly it came from and what exactly the process entails. Overall, though, the main characters are awesome to watch in their growth, and the ending has me ticked that I have to wait another year for the sequel. Ash is a crazy dystopian that will have you wanting to change your fate and choose your own destiny.
What Shani Petroff and Darci Manley have to say …
If your fate was destined what would it be for?
Shani: If we got to pick, that would be incredible.
Darci: I'd go for a happy, fulfilling life.
Shani: With good health, good people and love.
Darci: And helping others.
Shani: Definitely! Making a difference.
Darci: And let's not forget writing. To be destined to write books would be pretty cool!
Shani: We could do this all day!
What are you currently working on?
Shani and Darci: We're working on the sequel to Ash — Ultraviolet. And we're working on a few separate projects as well!
Favorite line/snippet from Ash?
Shani and Darci: It's a huge spoiler! We don't want to give it away, so we'll just say it's a moment between Madden and Sol where they uncover something that changes the whole course of the book!
Jessie Potts, also known as Book Taster, adores books in all forms. She also does reviews for RT Book Reviews magazine and works in the submissions departments at Dreamspinner Press and Entangled YA. You can follow her on Twitter (@BookTaster).