Jenny Davidson‘s first YA novel, The Explosionist, takes place in an alternate version of Edinburgh in 1938. Sophie’s world diverges from our own when Napoleon wins at Waterloo in 1815, though there are other discrepancies that cannot be traced back to that battle–most importantly, the paranormal element of this book. Spiritualism is alive and well in this world, and actually real and sometimes state-sponsored. It’s quite possible to speak to the dead here, though not everyone can do it, and there are certainly plenty of frauds and skeptics.

Sophie is a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl who lives with her Great-aunt Tabitha in Edinburgh. Oh, how to explain this book! All of the political intrigue (to which Sophie is privy–often by eavesdropping–because of her great-aunt’s high status) and the ways in which this world differs from our own would take pages to explain properly (which is why you’re lucky there’s a lengthy novel about it). Suffice to say, Sophie and her friend Mikael soon find themselves involved in various mysteries and plots on which the fate of Scotland and the rest of the world hangs. Seances, explosions, terrorist groups, murder, politics, and various other things are involved. This world (like our own in 1938, though for different reasons) is on the brink of a war that will shape the coming years, a war that could be avoidable.

Like I said, this is a difficult book to explain, but not difficult to finish–I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! There’s suspense and intrigue and mystery and adventure and even a bit of romance. I was caught up in it all from the beginning, and now I absolutely cannot wait for a sequel–which is too bad for me, as this book isn’t even out until July, so there’ll be quite some time before any continuation of the adventures of Sophie and Mikael. I admire the way Jenny Davidson ended this in just the right place–readers are anxious to find out what happens next, and there’s no doubt that, barring exceptional circumstances, there will be a sequel, but there’s still a decent enough ending place so that the book actually ends rather than just stopping the way some series books do.

The Explosionist is an amazing book! Jenny Davidson is such a talented writer, able to make more than 450 pages absolutely fly by. The complicated twists and turns of the plot are never overwhelmingly confusing, but just enough to keep your brain busy. I quite enjoyed all of the characters, who were refreshingly real and human. This is an unputdownable, read-it-in-one-sitting kind of book, a remarkable feat for one so long. And remarkable really does describe this novel! I was so impressed and completely in awe of Jenny Davidson’s skill the whole time I was reading it. And when I finished, my first thought was of course a desire for more! Seriously, read this book. If you have any way of doing so, get ahold of a copy now, and if not, well, you’ll just have to wait for July.

This sequel to Michele Jaffe‘s fabulous Bad Kitty is pretty fantastic in its own right. In this book, Jasmine Callihan’s father has moved himself, Jas, and Jas’s stepmother, Sherri!, to Venice. Yes, to Italy. The day before the start of her senior year. With twenty-four hours’ notice. To research soap. He is, quite possibly, Jas thinks, insane. Or maybe evil. After all, what kind of a father would move his daughter half a world away from her friends, her new boyfriend, and her chances at graduating high school and continuing on to an institution of higher education? (Side note: I’d be thrilled to move to Italy today, right now, but I have been told that I am not representative of teenage girls–or people-in general).

Of course, moving to another continent doesn’t mean Jas will stay out of trouble like her father is hoping. Trouble can find her anywhere. In this case, it begins when her only friend in Venice is murdered, and more people may be in danger. This is a mystery that Jas can’t solve on her own, so I was thrilled to see more of some of the awesome cast of characters from Bad Kitty. Tom, Polly, Roxy, Alyson, and Veronique (excuse me–Sapphyre and Tiger’s*Eye) were as hilarious and quirky as ever.

Kitty Kitty is kind of like a mixture between Ally Carter, Meg Cabot, and Louise Rennison, but with Michele Jaffe’s own fabulously unique twist (and in many ways, dare I say it, better than these authors) on it all! It’s a smart, fresh, laugh-out-loud hilarious mystery full of cool gadgets and inventions a Gallagher girl would be proud of (reference to Ally Carter’s books, for those who haven’t read them). It’s as hilarious and insane as Louise Rennison only with a much better, suspenseful, and more recognizable plot. Jas is a heroine worthy of a Meg Cabot book. Put it all together, and you have near-perfection!

My only disappointment in this book was that we did not see more of Venice, but that’s more of a personal taste than anything else. I love great settings, and Venice was a barely-there backdrop; only the canals were of any importance, and any body of water would have worked there. Jasmine’s Italian classes and hilarious troubles with the language were the only indication that they were even in Italy!

Kitty Kitty is a funny, intelligent, and adventurous mystery that readers will love. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, and this one isn’t even out until July! I guess for now I’ll have to be content rereading Bad Kitty, but I think this book may be even better than that one (unbelievable, right?). Kitty Kitty is a madcap adventure in the streets and canals of Venice involving friendship, mystery, fashion, pigeons, crime fighting, language barriers, suspense, romance, water wings, six-foot-tall squirrels, locked-door murder mysteries, tweezer tasers, cats, gondoliers, and much more hilariousness that will have readers laughing hysterically as they turn pages as quickly as their fingers will allow.

Sara Zarr is the author of the much-loved and rather brilliant Story of a Girl. Sweethearts is her second novel, and, in my opinion, the better of the two (which, seriously, is so impressive; her first book is amazing!).

In elementary school, Jennifer Harris was an outcast. She was chubby and usually alone, until she met Cameron. Cameron had his own struggles, and the two of them became friends. They were each other’s best friends, only friends, really, with a bond that was far deeper and stronger than those of most kids that age, who may be friends bonding over tuna fish and jump rope one day, and bitter enemies the next. Cameron was all Jennifer had, but then, one day, he disappeared.

Then she hears some awful news: Cameron’s dead.

Or is he? Years later, Jennifer has moved, gotten a new stepfather, and new identity. She’s now Jenna Vaughn, a pretty, thin, popular high school senior. And then, her world turns upside-down: Cameron may not be as gone as she thought. She gets a note from her supposedly-dead best friend.

I don’t want to give too much away here, but, seriously, wow. This is an amazing book. The characters absolutely shine. They are so fully-developed, and incredibly real. Their relationships, too; Sara Zarr has a wonderful grasp of human relationships. Her writing is really incredible. She draws the reader into the story so completely. Sweethearts totally blew me away, with Sara Zarr’s amazing ability to capture the characters, the voice, the feelings–everything–absolutely perfectly. Readers will be racing to discover the truth about Cameron and Jenna, their pasts and presents. The narrative encompasses stories from their past and from their present, sacrificing neither. The ending wasn’t what I would have preferred, but it fit the story. The only thing I would have liked to be different about this book is a bit selfish–I wish it was longer! The characters are amazing and relatble, and I love the story, and I just would have loved to read more about Jenna and Cameron. This book comes out February 1st, according to Amazon, and I highly suggest that you rush to your nearest bookstore and grab a copy as soon as possible.