Saturday, December 31, 2011

Read in December

This month I read the following books:

1 Midnight Sun - Stephenie Meyer

2 Family Wanted: Stories of Adoption - Sara Holloway
3 Squish: Super Amoeba - Jennifer & Matt Holm
4 The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
5 Radiant Shadows - Melissa Marr
6 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever - Jeff Kinney
7 Soul Thief - Jana Oliver
8 The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss
9 Full Circle - Melora Hobbs Pond
10 The Emerald Atlas - John Stevens
11 The Girl Who Owned a City: The Graphic Novel - Dan Jolley
12 Shattered Dreams - Ellie James

Picture credit: The Reading Girl by Johann Georg Meyer von Bremen

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cabin Fever review

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
by Jeff Kinney
November 2011

I've been looking forward to reading this book, especially since hearing Jeff Kinney speak at the American Library Association last summer. As promised, this book reigns things in a bit, returning with a pared-down cast of characters: Greg Heffley and his family members, with a few mentions of his best friend Rowley. Like the earlier books in the series, this is a series of loosely-connected vignettes featuring Greg's family and friends. Middle-child Greg is just as self-centered as always and the family dynamics are very believable. Be careful what you wish for: in the last book, The Ugly Truth, I was a bit disappointed that Greg seemed to be growing up too fast. In this volume, Greg actually seems younger than he did in previous books. It's winter time, Christmas is around the corner, and Greg is more than a little creeped out by the idea that Santa is watching his every move! I did find it a bit of a stretch that Greg, who should be in 8th grade by now, would still actually believe in Santa Claus, but this was the crux of so many great jokes, that I didn't care. Just go with it!

More than ever, readers will see that Greg is a bright troublemaker, who means well, but can't seem to do anything right. When he puts up posters at school which are rained on, it leaves a mess, and he's terrified that the police will arrest him for vandalism. I think my favorite parts of the book are the flashbacks when we see a slightly younger Greg - for example, when Greg's younger brother Manny is a newborn, his mom buys Greg a baby doll to get him used to the idea of being a big brother. Young Greg loves that doll! Greg is adorable as he dotes over it, and readers are treated to a great picture of him caring for the doll as his mother sizes him up approvingly and his father looks on in mild alarm. Greg's always felt guilty for losing track of the doll - but it turns up after the basement is flooded. After years of neglect the doll is missing a leg and covered with muck so that it looks like something from a horror show - which in Greg's eyes only makes it cooler.

When a blizzard hits
, Greg's dad is forced to hole up in a hotel and spends the holidays in peace and quiet in the warm comfort of his room. I was reminded strongly of the father from Calvin and Hobbes. Greg's older brother Roderick has been the baddie in previous books, but in this volume Manny is the villain. When the family is snowed in, and the house loses power, fussy toddler Manny craftily hoards all the best resources for himself. It's another bit of a stretch to think that little Manny could successfully adjust the house fuse boxes himself, but the story moves so quickly, I didn't mind it. And we have to give Manny credit - he's probably learned a lot by watching Greg in action. Who was once the student is now the master! 

This book is hilarious - I found myself laughing out loud, making embarrassing snorting noises, and demanding to read-aloud random portions to anyone who would listen. It's bust-a-gut funny and everything you hope for in a humor novel. I highly recommend it.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Crunch time

It's crunch time! I'm thisclose to hitting my reading goals this year. Will I make it? Only time will tell!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Waiting on Incarnate

The fantastic cover was the first thing to grab my attention, but the description sounds really interesting too.  Can't wait to try it!

by Jodi Meadows
January 2012

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My thoughts on AR Quizzes

I've been storing these thoughts up for a while, letting them rattle around, and I'm still not 100% certain I want to post about this yet. I've been thinking about Accelerated Reader Quizzes which are owned and run by Renaissance Learning, Inc. They're increasingly popular in schools. Kids read books, and then sign online to take a quiz. Enough successfully completed quizzes will accrue them points, and then they can spend points on prizes provided by their school. There usually are AR parties, hosted several times a year for kids who have maintained a certain level of success with the program.

Despite the expense, it's a very, very attractive package for schools to use. It quickly and easily sorts books by reading level and provides a nearly instantaneous level of feedback for administrators. They use a system called ATOS, similar to reading lexile to determine the difficulty of each book. Educators can log in and immediately pinpoint what classes, districtwide, have comprehension or vocabulary problems. Parents can log in and get several charts and graphs, displaying their child's accomplishments.

Ordinarily, I might not worry overmuch about what happens in schools. Sure, I want to support what homework kids might be doing, and educating everyone (including teachers!) about the difference between "the internet" and "databases" is a constant struggle. But, on the whole, I see the public library as an ideal place for pleasure reading - for people to turn their minds to what interests them. There's a real benefit to that. Taking a break from serious study refreshes the mind. When kids and teens have the chance to explore their own interests, they're more invested, and keeping involved at the public library (especially over the summer) has been shown to improve students skills. But, AR Quizzes are on my mind more and more, because they're growing increasingly ubiquitous, and the demand for them is beginning to encroach on what I do.

There are a couple of kids I helped at the library recently who especially stuck out in my mind. Probably the most heartbreaking was a little girl and her mother who came to me looking for suggestions for remedial reading - the girl hadn't gotten to go to any AR Quiz parties at her school that year, but she had high hopes that if she did a little better she'd make it next year. Wow! This was a child who sincerely enjoyed reading - maybe she was a little behind her grade level, but she wasn't what you'd call a "reluctant reader" - someone who finds reading difficult or a chore. She was still in high spirits, and frequently read for pleasure. I wondered how long it might take for that to change in the face of repeated messages that she was a failure.

I also particularly remember a kid who was energetically telling me about all the reading she'd done that week. She raced through five books and had aced the AR Quizzes for all of them! When I congratulated her, and asked her which were her favorites, she blithely assured me that she didn't remember any of them - she didn't need to, now that she'd finished the quiz. Wow. Will she be a lifelong reader? I somehow kind of doubt it. After all, with no quiz, or points to motivate her, why would she ever pick up a book? She seemed to enjoy reading in the same Skinnerian way that you might enjoy racking up points on a boring, easy, pointless video game. In my mind, that hardly counts as enjoying reading at all.

Finally, I worked with a boy this past week who was looking to stock up on chapter books for the holiday break. With his smartphone at the ready, he checked each book I recommended, and dismissed 4 or 5 of them out of hand when he didn't find them on, or when they came up as "not on his level."

I've had hurried parents ask me why we don't shelve books by their AR level, as opposed to by author or by Dewey Decimal number, and I've had many requests to begin labeling our books with the AR book level prominent on the spine, as many school libraries currently do. That alone seems like a monumental task involving considerable expense in office supplies and staff time. It's not something that I'd look forward to doing, especially considering it's a proprietary system, owned by one company.

Last summer my library participated in a pilot program where we offered AR Quizzes at the branch (normally, they are only available at school) and barring any unusual circumstance, we will probably offer them next summer. I have my concerns though... last year the library got access to the quizzes for free, through the auspices of the local school that had a contract with Renaissance Learning. What will happen if and when Renaissance Learning asks the library for money to continue funding the ability to take quizzes at the library? What will happen if and and when the library discontinues carrying the quizzes, and then must cope with an outpouring of complaints from parents who demand the service?

Despite my concerns, public libraries exist to meet the needs of our communities. If people want AR Quizzes, if they're excited about them, we'll try to provide them. I can't begin to number the times that I've helped a parent by showing them how to use the arbookfind website - how grateful, even gleeful they were to have access to such a great tool. I've even seen aspiring authors use the AR website to gauge how to assess what level their unpublished books might be considered, and how to accordingly pitch their manuscripts.

Like it or not, AR Quizzes seem like they're here to stay for a while. I'm keeping a curious and cautious eye on how public libraries will continue to respond to the demand that they create.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My 2011 YA Favorites

Putting together my list of favorite books this year was harder than I thought. I have a tendency to overweight the books I've read recently, so in the interest of fairness, I'm listing them alphabetically by title. I'd been hoping to come up with a list of 10, but after a couple days of winnowing, I think we're going to have to go with a top 20.

Across the Universe
by Beth Revis
January 2011

Amazing! There are no words.

by Courtney Allison Moulton
February 2011

Bad-ass heroine! I loved this one.
by Sophie Flack
October 2011

It's about the super-competitive world of ballet, but it's not your typical anorexic ballerina book. Loved it.
Darker Still
by Leanna Renee Hieber
Sourcebooks Fire
November 2011

It really takes you to another magical era. It's insta-love, but it works.

by Lauren Oliver
February 2011

Loved that this book was set in Portland, Maine. Fantastic dystopian.

The Demon Trapper's Daughter
by Jana Oliver
St. Martin's Griffin
February 2011

Set in Atlanta, Georgia! In and around some of my favorite neighborhoods: Little 5 Points, Oakland Cemetery. Awesome.

by Pam Bachorz
Egmont USA
January 2011

A weird, weird book that really makes you think!

by Ann Aguirre
Feiwel and Friends
April 2011

I didn't think I was going to love this dystopian as much as I did, but it swept me away.
The False Princess
by Eilis O'Neal
Egmont USA
January 2011 

The lost princess trope turned on it's head - turns out this princess is secretly a peasant. You know I wouldn't rave about this one unless she also had secret magical powers, of course!
Hurricane Dancers
by Margarita Engle
Holt, Henry & Co.
March 2011

Historical fiction, narrative poetry. So well done.
Inside Out and Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
February 2011

Heartbreaking refugee story told in narrative poetry style.

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance
by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin
Walker Books for Young Readers
February 2011

Clever and funny, with lots of Shakespeare sneakily worked in.

A Long, Long Sleep
by Anna Sheehan
August 2011

Wow! Science-fiction Rapunzel, but more than that, it's about how to recover from having a crazy family and find the people in the world who care about you.
Lost Voices 
by Sarah Porter 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's 
July 2011

I've been obsessed with mermaids for years, and am so glad that mermaids are becoming a trend. This story, about a group of dysfunctional, cruel teenage mermaids is the cream of the crop.
Red Glove
by Holly Black
Margeret K. McElderry
April 2011

A stunning sequel to White Cat! Can't wait for the third in this trilogy.
by Jack D. Ferraiolo
Amulet Books
April 2011

I read this book by accident, having actually been recommended a book by the same name by Dan Santat. This ended up being one of my favorites of the year! And I discovered a new author, Jack D. Ferraiolo, who is offbeat and hilarious. I, for one, welcome our robot clone King of Paraguay overlords!

by Cynthia Hand
January 2011

Here's another book that took me by surprise - it was so much more stunning than I expected.

The Vespertine
by Saundra Mitchell
Harcourt Children's Books
March 2011

Terrific historical fantasy.

by Lauren deStefano
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
March 2011

Incredible dystopian! I can't wait to find out what happens next!
Words in the Dust
by Trent Reedy
Arthur A. Levine Books
January 2011

A moving tale about the struggles of a disfigured girl in Afghanistan.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas! Here's another awesome Mother Goose rebus that I received from author/illustrator Will Hillenbrand. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best Books 2011

I pulled together a list of "best books" for middle-grade and YA fiction from Hornbook, Kirkus, National Book Awards, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and Amazon. It's cool to see how certain titles really stand out! I've got to get on reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Scorpio Races right away.

Any interest in seeing something similar for picture books?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Construction Crew review

The Construction Crew
by Lynn Meltzer, illustrated by Carrie Eko-Burgess
Henry Holt & Co.
November 2011

Here's a nice, simple book celebrating construction vehicles of every type. In short rhyming sentences, readers see a house begin to take shape. Colorful digital illustrations have a very crisp, smartly designed, cut-paper feel. Rhyming couplets such as "Dig now/Build later/What do we need?/Excavator!" use clean sans-serif font with each vehicle name punched up in color. The construction crew (and the surrounding neighbors watching the proceedings) are diverse and inclusive. I loved the page where one of the construction workers, deeply concentrating on the work at hand, is squinting and sticking out his tongue. I also liked seeing the dreadlocked housepainter climbing the extension ladder and the female backhoe driver. Keep a sharp eye out for the little bluebird who is hidden on nearly every page.

This is a great
selection for transportation obsessed toddlers and preschoolers. Where the typical construction book ends with the completion of a project and the workers going home, this story takes an unusual turn when the purple and gold mansard roof home is completed, and we see the family move in. "On the wall/Let's hang a poem/What does it say?/HOME SWEET HOME!" Sure to be a storytime hit.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hobbit Trailer

I'm so excited for The Hobbit! I'm a little surprised that they've split it up into two films, but this looks very promising, eh?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waiting on Havoc

I greatly enjoyed Vesper. Great paranormal universe, and a really appealing main character coming to terms with new powers. I'm looking forward to the sequel coming out next month.

by Jeff Sampson
Balzer + Bray
January 2012

Emily Webb thought life would return to normal after the death of the man who attacked her and her fellow “Deviants.” Or as normal as it could be, after discovering that she has nighttime superpowers . . . and she’s a werewolf. But when Emily awakes one night to find an otherworldy Shadowman watching her, she knows the danger has only just begun.

So Emily and her pack-mates set out to find the people who made them what they are, and why. But as they get closer to the truth, they realize they aren’t the only ones in town with special powers: The most popular girls in school might just have a secret of their own–and they might just have it out for Emily.

With shadowy beings stalking them, a mysterious company doing all it can to keep the truth hidden, and the secrecy of her new identity in jeopardy, life threatens to spiral out of control for Emily. Soon these dangers will come together in one terrifying confrontation that may force her to make the toughest choice of her life . . . so far.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pretty Bad Things review

Pretty Bad Things
C.J. Skuse
The Chicken House
July 2011

In a story that hints of Hansel and Gretel, twins Paisley and Beau Argent explain in alternating chapters how they came to be on a candy-strewn crime spree. After the death of their mother when they were six-years old, they were dubbed the "Wonder Twins" during the dramatic rescue which captured the interest of the nation. Now, foul-mouthed, impetuous, sarcastic sixteen-year old Pais is the perfect foil to her shy, obedient twin brother Beau. Their father has been in jail after stealing to support the family. Their greedy custodial grandmother is after the fortune the twins have amassed with their acting careers. Following a few clues in letters their grandmother has hidden from them, the twins head to Las Vegas to find their father. When the trail runs cold, Paisley decides to get her father's attention the only way she knows how - by coming up with a creative way to land herself in the spotlight again. She pressures Beau into committing a series of signature hold-ups. Dressed in black and white, they hit candy shops, taking no money, just leaving the message, "Tell Buddy we love him" along with a Wonder Twins sticker. As a media-induced frenzy whips up new legends around the twins, over-the-top fan clubs for the whimsical bandits spring up, leading things to a surprising conclusion. This fast-paced, humorous, quirky novel will appeal to older teens.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Blogging Pet Peeves

What I really ought to do, is use Google Reader more consistently, so that these kinds of things don't necessarily come across my radar. But, here are the kinds of things that drive me craaaazy on people's blogs.

1. White text on black background. 
I know. I know. I've been there. The first website I designed had white text on black background, and I thought it looked so cool. Plus, there's a certain old-school charm for those of us old enough to remember those old-fashioned green and black, or amber and black computer screens. Except, no. It's murder on the eyes, and there's no reason for it.

2. Curlique fonts.
Can't stand it! Keep the fonts simple. There's a few that are good: Verdana, Georgia, Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial. Don't stray too far afield from those classics.

3. HUGE blog header.
Don't overdo it! Should I know the name of your blog? Yes. Should it be the only thing that I see when I open the page? No! Blog headers should be wider than they are tall.

4. Auto-play music.
That's an instant close the window for me. Can. Not. Stand. It. I don't care how cleverly you got the sound of ocean waves to play or whatever. I don't want to hear it!

5. Misspellings and grammatical mistakes.
I am terribly judge-y when it comes to these. It's so unfair. I know we in the blogopshere don't have the luxury of editors to smooth over our words. I'll forgive the occasional obvious typo. But when I see a common mistake, like "your" for "you're" I'm clicking on the "x" to close a window faster than fast.

6. Sidebars gone wild.
It might start out simply enough... a link or two, some cool widget, a count-down thingie for the next book in your favorite series, maybe an ad or a shout-out to your other favorite bloggers. Before you know it, things get out of hand, and your blog is all sidebar and no content. I know I lean pretty heavily on the "anti-sidebar" side of things. As it is, I feel like my blog already has too much junk on the sidebar, but my followers have asked for this and that. I think your blog should take up about 75% (or more) of the window. Once a sidebar is at 50%, you've got to be offering something pretty special in your content to compete with all that clutter. And I've seen lots of blogs, that easily have 70% sidebar stuff, 30% reviews and whatnot, which is a total turn-off to me.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In My Mailbox 18

I got two completely random books out of the blue this week. I'm pretty excited to read The Mystic Phyles... it's written in a handwritten diary format, and it's illustrated by Ralph Masiello. He's done a fantastic series of "how to draw" books which are popular at my library.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book charger

What a shame these are all sold out for the holidays. Still! What a neat idea. It's an iPhone charger - made out of books!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Darth Paper Strikes Back review

Darth Paper Strikes Back
by Tom Angleberger
Amulet Books
August 2011

The whole gang from The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda returns. This book really has all the elements familiar to the current school environment. High stakes testing, computer lab firewalls which students cleverly work around and bullying are all addressed throughout the course of the story.

Antagonist Harvey has begun using his origami Darth Vader to sow discord at Ralph McQuarrie Middle School and undermine Dwight's Origami Yoda followers. Dwight - whose quirky sense of humor, keen social insight and outsider status leave adults uncertain whether to label him as gifted or special needs is made to stand trial, as his mother heartbreakingly confronts the principal, school board, teachers and fellow students who have failed him. Tommy and Kellen, the two "ordinary guys" in the story, function as observers as they try to pull together a set of "files" to prove how Dwight's presence at school has been helpful rather than destructive.

As an adult, reading this book, the saddest part for me was seeing the school principal who had solid buy-in for the testing program which seemed to be stressing so many students out, and failing to recognize those kids (like Dwight) who were truly innovative and intelligent.

Kids will enjoy picking up the storyline from the first wildly popular Origami Yoda book, complete with diary-style hand-written fonts and doodles in the margins. Star Wars quips and jokes abound, of course.

I'll recommend this book for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Frankie Pickle and Big Nate who are hungry for more highly-illustrated middle-grade, boy-friendly fiction.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Limelight Larry review

Limelight Larry
by Leigh Hodgkinson
Tiger Tales
September 2011

This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Readers haven't seen such a wacky character since a certain Pigeon who demands to drive a bus. Breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly at every opportunity, scintillating peacock Limelight Larry is quick to deride the interlopers who have managed to finagle their way into HIS story. "Bear is too popular, Bunny is too cute, Elephant is too big and smart, Bird is too funny, Wolf is too interested in fairy tales, and Mouse is too nice and helpful (and had been in too many pages for Larry's liking.) It would be fair to say that everybody is cramping Larry's style!"

Pages that start
out with plenty of white space grow more colorful as more and more characters crowd their way in, and then turn blue and green when Larry shoos everyone away so he can enjoy the limelight that he feels he is properly due. It's a surprise ending of course, with Larry realizing that being in the limelight isn't much fun without a proper audience. Exuberant collage with a bit of foil effects on Larry's peacock tail paired with a wide variety of fonts that lend emphasis to Larry's overly dramatic style all adds to the fun in this silly, enjoyable picture book. Don't miss the glowing "review" blurbs quoted on the back cover by Limelight Larry, President Limelight Larry and Mr. L. Larry... or the author's website at

This is a fun romp for readers aged 5-8. Highly recommended.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Waiting on Truth

I greatly enjoyed XVI, even though it was uneven in a few places, it was still a fast, fun read. I'm looking forward to the sequel coming out next month.

by Julia Karr
January 2012

Nina Oberon’s life has changed enormously in the last few months. When her mother was killed, Nina discovered the truth about her father, the leader of the Resistance. And now she sports the same Governing Council–ordered tattoo of XVI on her wrist that all sixteen-year-old girls have. The one that announces to the world that she is easy prey to predators. But Nina won’t be anyone’s stereotype. And when she joins an organization of girls working within the Resistance, she knows that they can put an end to one of the most terrifying secret programs the GC has ever conceived. Because the truth always comes out... and the consequences can be deadly.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Seussian Ghostbusters

Brilliant! It's a mash-up of Dr. Seuss and Ghostbusters. Better yet, the same artist has been working on a Cthulu-inspired Dr. Seuss.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Darker Still review

Darker Still
by Leanna Renee Hieber
Sourcebooks Fire
November 2011

17 year-old Natalie Stewart lives a privileged life amongst the New York art scene elite in the 1880's, thanks to her father's connections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because of the tragic loss of her mother at a young age, Natalie has not spoken in years.

Natalie becomes transfixed by a new painting of Lord Denbury, rumored to be haunted. With the help of wealthy, older patroness of the arts, Mrs. Northe, she and her father purchase the painting for the museum. Natalie is stunned to discover that she actually has the ability to cross over into the painting, where she learns that Denbury is trapped in the painting, while a demon wearing his form is terrorizing lower Manhattan, brutally killing young women.

The book is described as "The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and I honestly can't think of a better description. The tone of the book is unmistakably Gothic, through and through. The pacing is slow and mysterious. The romance between Denbury and Natalie is quite restrained. Much like Bram Stoker's Dracula, the story mainly consists of diary entries, mixed with a few letters and official police reports.

Natalie is taken under Mrs. Northe's wing as she struggles to regain her powers of speech. Mrs. Northe, who is a bit of a spiritualist with psychic powers, mentors Natalie as she begins to gain her own mentalist abilities. When Natalie theorizes that she and Denbury may be soulmates, which would explain their deep and immediate connection, Mrs. Northe delivers one of the best monologues on love I've heard in a long time:
Don't put stock in past lives. It's this life that makes the difference. And in this life there may be certain destinies, people you're meant to meet... But there is no sole person for another's heart. Souls cannot be broken and then completed by another. That's not healthy, nor wise. There are infinite possiblilites as there are infinite people and some matches better made than others... Just don't say that you'll die without the other one or that you'll never love again or that you're not whole - That's the stuff of Romeo and Juliet, hasty nonsense, and you know how well that turned out. There's magic about the two of you, yes. Just don't be desperate about it. That's where souls go wrong.
The ending of the book kind of dragged for me. Everything comes to a fairly satisfying conclusion, but I felt that the follow-up with constable, who reads Natalie's diary, but finds he can't believe the tale within was unnecessary and a bit belabored. The book ends with a definite lead-in to a sequel, with Natalie and Denbury on the run together to Chicago. Fans o
f the Brontë sisters, or du Maurier's Rebecca will find a lot to like in this debut offering.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In My Mailbox 17

I think this is my last binge of the year... I couldn't resist checking out these titles from the library. I've got some serious reading to do if I want to hit my reading goals by the end of the year. It's a close thing, but I think I'll make it!

Hounded by friends, I finally gave in and started reading Patrick Rothfuss's Kingslayer Chronicles. In a word: Amazing! I was excited to pick up a copy of Soul Thief, the sequel to The Demon Trapper's Daughter. The Wizard Heir is another sequel I've been meaning to get to for some time, and I liked Dash & Lily's Book of Dares so I thought I'd give Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List a try.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dewey Makeover: 001.9

When a library collection hasn't been weeded or updated in a while, patrons' overall impression of the collection will suffer. Most people don't have the time or patience to sift through the shelves looking for the diamonds in the rough. One of my goals for the upcoming year is to go through the non-fiction collection, which hasn't gotten much attention in a while. Might as well start at the beginning!

Dewey Decimal number 001.9 covers "controversial knowledge." Think Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, unexplained psychic phenomenon, etc. I loved these kinds of books about the paranormal when I was a kid. I also like to pull them to plump up Halloween displays.

I'll be getting rid of titles like these, which are all more than 25 years old, obviously shabby and haven't circulated in over five years.

Into the Unknown: Nine Astounding Stories
by Stephen Mooser
HarperCollins Children's Books
April 1980

It's hard to tell exactly, but I think this cover is supposed to look like a face, exploding with psychic possibility.

Monsters of the Mountains
by Jon Jameson
Franklin Watts
January 1980

A face only a mother could love.

The Earth is Flat and Other Great Mistakes
by Laurence P. Pringle
William Morrow & Co.
October 1983

Wow! This cover takes you right back, doesn't it? I love the backwards "E" in the title.

If You Were Really Superstitious
by Jane Sarnoff
Scribner Book Company
April 1980

I do love the crossed fingers on this one. Don't know if you can make out the couple kissing under a ladder as a black cat crosses their path.

Hopefully, (budget permitting!) I can replace them with titles like this:

Unexplained: An Encyclopedia of Curious Phenomena, Strange Superstitions, and Ancient Mysteries
by Judy Allen
October 2006

Maybe one day we'll laugh at this cover (it looks like a yodeler atop a cat mask, to me) but in person it doesn't look so bad, and I've read great reviews of the short accessible stories of the mysterious within.

The Legend of Bigfoot
by Thomas Kingsley Troupe
Picture Window Books
August 2010

Published for the school market, the cover appeal and recent pub date put this book miles ahead of what we currently have.

Tales of the Cryptids: Mysterious Creatures that May or May Not Exist
by Kelly Milner Halls, Rick Spears, Roxyanne Young
Darby Creek Publishing
September 2006

One of my favorite books, ever. Seriously! An awesome book.

The Earth is Flat! Science Facts and Fictions
by Mary Atkinson
Children's Press
September 2007

Okay, I cheated. This book is actually in the Dewey 500's but I still think it works quite well. I love the woodcut cover. It's deliberately retro.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Book Tree

File under: I wish I had thought of this. One of my co-workers created this book-themed tree by laminating print-outs of book covers to use as ornaments. I love it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Forgotten review

by Cat Patrick
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
June 2011

16 year-old London Lane is harboring a secret. Her memories and her mind work differently than most. Instead of remembering the past, she remembers the future, seeing the next day very clearly, and further events slightly less so. Every morning at exactly 4:33 am, the slate is wiped clean and she forgets the events of the previous day.

This book is, dare I say it, eminently readable. Even that beginning premise isn't explicitly given away to readers right away. I had read the first few chapters before I figured it out. She "remembers" the events that will spawn a long-running inside joke between her and her best friend Jamie, and knows that she and Jamie will backpack Europe together, that Jamie will develop a signature flirting move and have her heart broken by several bad romances in college. There's a fascinating dynamic to their friendship, as Jamie is one of the few people who knows about London's ability. Jamie helps London cover for her memory lapses at school and London futilely tries to keep irrepressible Jamie from falling for the wrong guys.

The plot thickens when London meets a new guy who she didn't predict coming into her life, and who she consistently doesn't see in her future. She writes careful notes to herself so she can quickly catch up on what she did the day before and it's interesting to see how she approaches things with her new boyfriend Luke. After they have a fight, she alters her past notes, effectively "forgetting" him for a while. They eventually work things out, and London continues to feel that rush of euphoria of first-time attraction every time she she sees him.

London begins seeing disturbing visions for the first time. "Memories" that aren't quite clear to her, but she sees herself at a funeral for a little boy and lives with a sense of dread, not knowing who the boy is, or how he will come into her life, but knowing that she will feel awful about his loss. Unless...? Maybe this vision is so different from the rest because she's finally remembering her past?

There were a few things that I wondered about. With an ability like hers, why doesn't London read up on winning lottery numbers and buy a winning ticket? I found it odd that she and her mother are reluctant to seek any medical attention to find out why her brain is wired like this. Why on earth is Luke the sole exception to London's memories. He does feature in her future, why can't she see it? What makes him different? And, of course, her vision of the funeral is so mysterious. What does it mean? Everytime you think you have things figured out, Patrick throws another spanner in the works, introducing yet another surprise twist of the plot, ret-conning things over and over again. Everything wraps up very satisfyingly, with most questions answered by the end. This feels like a stand-alone book, rather than the start of a series.

I preferred the cover on my Advanced Reader's Copy, rather than the finished cover which I can't help but read as three words: For. Got. Ten. It took me a second to realize that it's the same photograph! Fast-paced, smoothly-written mystery and adventure makes this an easy book for me to recommend.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.


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