Saturday, April 30, 2011

Read in April

This month I read the following books:

1 How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend - Gary Ghislain

2 The Latte Rebellion - Sarah Jamila Stevenson
3 Unearthly - Cynthia Hand
4 The Education of Bet - Lauren Baratz-Logsted
5 Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus - Atinuke
6 Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus - Atinkue
7 Inside Out and Back Again - Thanhha Lai
8 Dead Beautiful - Yvonne Woon
9 Pegasus - Robin McKinley
10 Drought - Pam Bachorz

Picture credit: Reading with Green Umbrella by Berthe Morisot

Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 5

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books.

This week's question is: Summer is coming quickly - what 2011 summer release are you are most looking forward to?

Lost Voices
by Sarah Porter
Houghton Mifflin
July 2011

I love mermaids, and I love that the mermaids in this book are recruited from the ranks of dangerous, troubled girls. I love the cover! I have high hopes for this book.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Inside Out and Back Again review

Inside Out and Back Again
February 2011

I love narrative poetry, and this book was no exception. At the height of the Vietnam War, 10 year-old Kim Ha is forced to leave Saigon with her mother and older brothers. Her father has been missing for several years, and the family continually hopes for his return. The decision to leave is heartwrenching, knowing that if they go, there will be no real way for their father to find them again, if indeed, he is still alive. Ha's mother gives her children the option of saving one thing... everything else must be destroyed, so as not to leave any evidence behind for the invading soldiers.

Once aboard the ship, the family suffers from extremely close quarters and lack of food. The boat captain's unlucky snap judgement on the best escape route means that their journey is drawn out much longer than they had anticipated, necessitating rationing. People grow ruthless and hoard what little food they have. The ship is rescued by Americans, and the families make their way to the States. Salvation? Hardly. Ha and her family end up in Alabama in the early-70's, with racial tensions at an all time high. After everything she's been through, Ha must endure appallingly racist bullies at school, as well as condescending teachers, who don't understand that just because she hasn't learned English perfectly yet, that doesn't mean that she isn't a bright and extremely observant girl. Ha is desperately homesick and finds heavily-processed American food disgusting compared to the fresh papayas and traditional Vietnamese fare that she is used to.

At this point, I really began to wish for some sort of break from the unrelenting sadness of the story - whether by comic relief, or a sympathetic character to lighten the tension. I had hoped that Ha's neighbor, Miss Washington would fill the bill, but even though she's kindly and means well, ultimately she comes across as a dotty old lady who doesn't quite get it.

A semi-autobiographical story, this book is simultaneously difficult to read, and very accessible. The four "chapters" it's broken into: Saigon, At Sea, Alabama, and From Now On, neatly break up the action. The emotional turmoil that Ha goes through makes this book quite challenging indeed, but the words flow so smoothly it's hard not to get drawn in to the tale. The writing was wonderfully crafted and made reading about the immigrant experience completely compelling. As powerful, arresting and in some ways just as sad as The Bridge to Terabithia, Inside Out and Back Again could definitely be a Newbery contender.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Phonebook Dress

This dress made by Jolis Paons is amazing. It's completely handmade and entirely made of phone books! Be sure to check out the rest of the pics on her photogallery.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets review

Dirty Little Secrets
February 2010

16 year-old Lucy Tompkins has been living with a horrible secret. Her mother is a hoarder. Over the years, their house has slowly but surely been transformed into a cesspool of filth. The strain of keeping the outside world from knowing how bad things really are is truly beginning to weigh on her. We immediately see how alien and strange Lucy's world has become when she confesses that she enjoys having a friend, despite how much hard work it is... something she hasn't dared to attempt in years, spending time in isolation at school, lest anyone find out about her horrendous home life. Lucy's older brother and sister moved out of the house as soon as they were legally able, and even they don't realize how much the situation has deteriorated in the short time they've been gone, as they blithely reassure Lucy that she only needs to tough it out another 2 years, then she'll be free... in the meantime, they caution her, don't touch any of mom's stuff, you know how that upsets her.

When Lucy comes home to find her mother dead, buried under a toppling stack of her own magazines, incredibly, unbelievably, the prime driving force of her life, that no one must know, has been so thoroughly, deeply ingrained in her, that rather than calling 9-1-1, or even calling a family member, instead, she decides to try to clean-up the house herself. During the next tense 24 hours, teenaged Lucy attempts to do alone what even a team of fully-geared professional cleaners could not do. As she sifts through her mother's "keepsakes," "collectibles" and "treasures" it's as if she's emptying out a time capsule, slowly going back in time, as she uncovers layer after layer of trash. She reminisces about her mother's increasingly odd behavior, reflects on how it all started (shortly after her dad abandoned the family, her mother's hoarding started in earnest.) She comes across unpaid bills and receipts from her mother's e-bay addiction, toys that she used to love to play with as a girl but lost in the mess, an unappreciated (yet still saved) hand-made gift she made for her mother, and even, incredibly, dead pets buried under the hoard. As Lucy starts to make progress, pitching junk out the window into the yard to dispose of later, even this relatively minor effort does not go unnoticed by the nosy neighbors. Stressed out and overwhelmed, Lucy decides to snatch "one last normal night" for herself, and hits a party with friends, including a boy she's crushing on, reasoning that she will have to figure out a way to deal with her mother's body in the morning. Why is Lucy so callous? It's the way she's been raised. At the heart of her mother's hoarding is her disconnect from other human beings and the way that material objects always seems to take first place.

Returning to her house in the wee hours of dawn, Lucy remembers the final scene from 90's Johnny Depp movie, What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and decides to burn the house down, making it look like an accident.

My one quibble with this book was that so much of the story happened in flashbacks. I wished we could have had more scenes while Lucy's mother was still alive. I wished that Lucy could have directly confronted her mother, rather than skirt around her craziness as she simply tries to survive. I wished too, that the other family members had been less selfish -- that at least one of them could have seen the house at its worst and been shocked by it.

Devastating, sad and as riveting as any episode of the television show Hoarders, this short novel will appeal to readers looking for realistic fiction about how a teen rises to the challenge of dealing with a shocking and disgusting situation.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bumped review

April 2011

I downed this fast-paced, silly, apocalyptic novel in one sitting. The invented slang is easy enough to pick up and quickly immerses you into their zany world: pregging, bumping, fertilicious, FunBumps, reproaesthetic, masSEX. Set in the near-future, everyone over 18 has become infertile and teens are highly paid for their ability to procreate.

While it's true that the U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world, the number of teen pregnancies has been declining steadily since the 1950's, with record lows in the past decade. Is the pendulum starting to swing the other way? We're surrounded by gossip mags speculating on who may or may not be sporting a baby bump, and ratings of MTV's Teen Mom are sky-high. Is it really such a stretch to imagine that one day teen girls will wear fake pregnancy pads in order to fit in at school?

In Bumped, high-school student Melody is sitting pretty. With her excellent academic record, good health and great looks, she's scored an amazing contract with a couple who want her to carry a child for them. The only problem is that they've been a little too picky, trying to score the perfect young man to be the father, and Melody isn't pregnant yet, and it doesn't look like she will be anytime soon. In the meantime, Melody's long-lost twin sister Harmony shows up, much to Melody's hyperactive, talk a mile-a-minute fertility agent's dismay, who has crafted a sales pitch for Melody based on her uniqueness. Harmony is on the run from the conservative religious compound where she's been raised. Naturally, several instances of mistaken identity, with one twin being mistaken for the other occur and hijinks, as they say, ensue.

Melody's friends crassly recommend that she take on her good friend Zen as her "everythingbut" - meaning, a friend you fool around with and do everything but what could lead to pregnancy. I thought it was a little sad that Zen would never get to be a father, because of his height. He's not a little person... just short... but that is enough to make him unworthy to the wealthy elite who are paying for perfect babies. With yuppies paying so much for procreation and adoption services, and with such a heavy emphasis on eugenics, I was surprised that the teen couples were expected to "bump" in the bedroom, rather than being inseminated in a lab, where any birth defects or unpromising looking embryos could be weeded out at the outset.

I wondered why so many of the girls outside of the religious compound didn't want to keep their children. As Melody's best friend explains to her, she's having this child now, and selling the child to the highest bidder to secure a financial future for herself, so that one day, she'll be able to pay someone to do the same for her. However, if people knew that their only chance of becoming grandparents was to help support their daughters through a teen pregnancy, and raise the baby, surely they'd step-up and we'd see more multi-generational families, right? Melody's adoptive parents were pretty unbelievable. What kind of monsters mortgage and re-mortgage their house, go on lavish vacations and shopping sprees on the chance of whoring out their daughter?

While my heart went out to Melody, who despite all the pressure just doesn't feel ready to get pregnant, I found her sanctimonious Bible-spouting twin Harmony fairly unlikable, which was really shame. The chapters alternate between the two and I enjoyed the Harmony chapters much less.

With its bitingly satirical message, I would love to pair Megan McCafferty's Bumped with Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal and see how teens would react.

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

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bunny book reviews

Little White Rabbit
January 2011

Here is a lovely addition to the collection of simple, toddler books by Henkes. The colored pencil and acrylic paint illustrations use soft pastel tones and bold green lines, much like the style of Old Bear, A Good Day and My Garden. The end papers are decorated with what look like paintings of willow leaves. The eponymous hero of the story hops along, wondering about all the things that he sees. The story alternates between a page with a sentence or two of text paired with a picture of Little White Rabbit in his natural habitat, and wordless double-page spreads where we see the results of his imaginings. I loved the spread of Little White Rabbit imagining being a rock. Split in four-parts we see the bunny (now a cozy little statue) sitting perfectly still in sun, rain, during sunset and at night. I also appreciated that when we see Little White Rabbit imagining he can fly, he doesn't grow wings, instead, he gains lift-off by frantically flapping his ears and wiggling his tail, amidst a sky of butterflies. Large, easy to see illustrations make this book a natural for storytime, but the nature of all the things that Little White Rabbit imagines would also make this book great for sparking one-on-one conversations with preschoolers.

April 2011

This story starts and ends with a gently-told message about acceptance, and appreciating the special gifts of each individual. The first hint that things are about to get a bit strange is when "nibbling, poking and playing, the baby bunnies grow into little bunnies. One baby bunny... grows and grows and GROWS!" The accompanying illustration of the quickly growing brown baby bunny ringed by psychedelic flowers manages to convey mild alarm, even with tiny dots for eyes, and no mouths à la Joan Walsh Anglund. While the little bunnies love using Big Bunny as a playground to climb on, and she loves taking them on long countryside hops, Big Bunny is dismayed that as they train for their Easter bunny duties, painting eggs and making baskets, her size is not an asset. After she runs away, the other bunnies "give the signal to form a Bunny Circle. Their ears touch and noses twitch, and they know what to do." Here we are treated to an illustration of the bunnies, standing Stonehenge-like in serious contemplation. They form a search party for Big Bunny, and when she's found, weave the biggest basket ever, for her to carry them on her back, facilitating their worldwide Easter egg drop-off. This is certainly the most unusual version of an Easter bunny story I have ever heard, but I have no doubt that kids will enjoy it.

I purchased these books.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tetris bookshelf

Good lord! It's a Tetris bookshelf. How awesome.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cover Trend: Butterflies

by Holly Black 
Simon Pulse 
March 2004

Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother's rock band until an ominous attack forces the sixteen-year-old back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms -- a struggle that could very well mean her death. -from Goodreads

The Patron Saint of Butterflies 
by Cecilia Galante 
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books 
April 2008

Agnes and Honey have been best friends for as long as they can remember. But everything is about to change, from their friendship to the only home they’ve ever known: a religious commune called Mount Blessing. Agnes loves being a believer and following the rules of the commune, but Honey has started to rebel. Then, when Agnes and Honey experience the outside world (on the run, no less), their friendship is tested further. After all, when everything you’ve ever known turns out to be a lie, how do you find the truth? A powerful story of faith, doubt, abuse, and above all, friendship. -from Goodreads

The Adoration of Jenna Fox 
by Mary E. Pearson 
Henry Holt and Co. 
April 2008

Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers? - from Goodreads

The Declaration 
by Gemma Malley 
Bloomsbury Publishing 
May 2008

In the year 2140, it is illegal to be young. Children are all but extinct. The world is a better place.
Longevity drugs are a fountain of youth. Sign the Declaration, agree not to have children and you too can live forever. Refuse, and you will live as an outcast. For the children born outside the law, it only gets worse – Surplus status. Not everyone thinks Longevity is a good thing, but you better be clear what side you’re on. . . . Surplus Anna is about to find out what happens when you can’t decide if you should cheat the law or cheat death. -from Goodreads (note: This is the paperback cover.)

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers 
March 2009

For the past two years, Bailey Morgan has lived a double life: high school student by day, ancient mystical being by night. As the third Fate, Bailey literally controls the fate of the world, but as Plain Old Bailey, her life is falling apart. She’s got a tattoo that was supposed to be temporary (but isn’t), friendships that were supposed to last forever (but might not), and no idea what her future holds after high school graduation. Then Bailey meets the rest of the Sidhe, an ancient race defined by their power, beauty, and a sinister habit of getting what they want at any cost. Before Bailey knows it, she’s being drawn into an otherworldly web more complicated than anything she weaves as a mortal Fate. -from Goodreads

Fragile Eternity 
by Melissa Marr 
April 2009

In this ethereal romance, Aislinn has achieved the fragile eternity of the title; she has become an immortal faery, complicating both her life and that of Seth, the man who loves her. -from Goodreads

by Aprilynne Pike 
May 2009

Laurel was mesmerized, staring at the pale things with wide eyes. They were terrifyingly beautiful—too beautiful for words. Laurel turned to the mirror again, her eyes on the hovering petals that floated beside her head. They looked almost like wings. In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever. -from Goodreads

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor 
by Lucy Christopher 
Chicken House Ltd. 
May 2009

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back? The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost. -from Goodreads

by Kristi Cook 
Simon Pulse 
February 2011

One month into her junior year, sixteen-year-old Violet McKenna transfers to the Winterhaven School in New York’s Hudson Valley, inexplicably drawn to the boarding school with high hopes. Leaving Atlanta behind, she’s looking forward to a fresh start--a new school, and new classmates who will not know her deepest, darkest secret, the one she’s tried to hide all her life: strange, foreboding visions of the future. But Winterhaven has secrets of its own, secrets that run far deeper than Violet’s. Everyone there--every student, every teacher--has psychic abilities, 'gifts and talents,' they like to call them. Once the initial shock of discovery wears off, Violet realizes that the school is a safe haven for people like her. Soon, Violet has a new circle of friends, a new life, and maybe even a boyfriend--Aidan Gray, perhaps the smartest, hottest guy at Winterhaven. Only there’s more to Aidan than meets the eye--much, much more. And once she learns the horrible truth, there’s no turning back from her destiny. Their destiny. Together, Violet and Aidan must face a common enemy--if only they can do so without destroying each other first. -from Goodreads

by Elana Johnson 
Simon & Schuster 
June 2011

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even thinkabout kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself. But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn. This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play. -from Goodreads

by Dawn Metcalf 
Dutton Children's Books 
July 20011

As reality slips and time stands still, Consuela finds herself thrust into the world of the Flow. Removed from all she loves into this shifting world overlapping our own, Consuela quickly discovers she has the power to step out of her earthly skin and cloak herself in new ones-skins made from the world around her, crafted from water, fire, air. She is joined by other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they no longer belong. When murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, attractive V to stop the killer. But the psychopath who threatens her new world may also hold the only key to Consuela's way home. -from Goodreads

Any that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fallen review

by Lauren Kate
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
December 2009

How captivating is the cover for this book? It reminds me, just a little, of the cover for The Forest of Hands and Teeth, because of the trees and the girl in profile.

Luce Price is sent to a mysterious boarding school, Sword & Cross, in Savannah, Georgia, after a freak accident causes the first boy she's kissed to burst into flame. All her life she's been haunted by terrifying, creepy shadows, which follow her everywhere. Lately, they've seemed to become more malevolent and powerful. While at the boarding school, she is immediately taken with two young men there. Daniel Grigori is gorgeous but quite distant. Cam is certainly friendlier, but almost too pushy, unlike standoffish Daniel.

I found it hard to suspend my disbelief at times. Why does the school require its juvenile delinquent students to dress only in black? Wouldn't that make them harder to see if any of them try to make a break for it? So, what is Daniel exactly? I was thinking vampire, or some kind of supernatural creature, maybe an angel? Luce has been getting reincarnated every 17 years, Daniel instantly falls in love with her, and then she dies. This cycle has been repeating for centuries. This cycle turns out to be different. It's different because Luce has never been baptized, which means her soul won't neccesarily come back if she doesn't make it this cycle. This seemed like a huge plot hole to me. Why not run out and get a quickie baptism, the moment she discovers this critical weakness?

Despite having some compelling plot points, a young person whose paranormal powers are starting to waken, a gothic boarding school setting, and a terrific surprise ending with an unexpected villain, Fallen just wasn't everything I was hoping it would be. The writing was leaden and I struggled to finish this book. In a field crowded with teen paranormal romances, this book simply failed to stand out.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Lost" Seuss

Dr. Seuss is probably one of the most famous children's writers to have lived, so it should come as no surprise that when someone discovers an unpublished Seuss, it's going to get published. Random House has found some short stories written for magazines that Seuss penned in the 1950's, and are re-releasing them under the title, The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, coming out this fall.

There are a few other books of his, based on his notes and rough sketches that  were published posthumously: Daisy-Head Mayzie, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! (completed by Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith), and My Many Colored Days (illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher). While they are all enjoyable books in their own right, I don't think they compare to Seuss's earlier works. And don't get me started about the Cat in the Hat Learning Library series, mostly written by Tish Rabe and usually illustrated by Aristides Ruiz. They may rhyme and look like Seuss's style, but they lack Seuss's genius for mad invention and wackiness. 
What I've seen of the cover and a few of the illustrations for the Bippolo Seed look terrific -- I think this book will "feel" more like the classic Seuss.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

E-book thoughts

Have you seen this video? It’s for a new Nursery Rhyme Storytelling app for the iPad: 

The interactive touchscreen looks amazing – can we call it a book, a videogame or what? It’s a bit of both. Sad that they show the dad being so far away though… that’s more of a drawback than a perk, to my mind.

Most of the patrons I talk to are expecting the library to provide the same seamless wifi experience that they get
when they purchase an e-book. Most of them are very surprised that they can’t download an e-book if it’s “checked out” to someone else. I find myself doing a lot of educating about the fact that before you select your e-books on Overdrive, you need to download Adobe Digital Editions to your computer, then physically plug in your e-reader to your computer to manually transfer titles to your device. There's a free Overdrive app for Mac products, which is helpful, but still not as easy to browse for available titles as I would like.

I spend
quite a bit of time encouraging people, because the first time you download a library e-book, it’s a very lengthy set-up process, getting your device “authorized” and so on. Once you’ve got all your accounts set up, and are ready to go, it’s a snap.

I'm hearing that several Barnes & Noble stores have been telling their customers if they have any problems with getting Overdrive books on the Nook, to just go to any nearby library and ask a helpful librarian. Sadly, I think this is a hit-or-miss proposition. Some librarians are excited about new technology and others aren't. 
I can tell you that the last time I was at Barnes & Noble I was mobbed by customers with questions when I made the mistake of helping a salesclerk download an app. I had to excuse myself amidst angry glares and woeful pleas for more help, with the explanation that I really didn't work there, and I had other errands I had to get to. Will those folks make it into the library? Will they get the help they need to get the books they want? I hope so.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Anna Hibiscus review

Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus
by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia 

This charming series features easy to read, realistic fiction short stories about Anna Hibiscus, an earnest and funny little girl growing up in "Africa. Amazing Africa." She lives with her parents, her extended family, and her two baby twin brothers who simply go by the names, "Double" and "Trouble." In this set of adventures, the onset of harmattan, or the dry season, means that the whole family must learn to conserve water. After carefully saving their water, they are able to keep their garden going... until big-hearted Anna realizes that there are poorer folk living in town who need the water more. In the next story, Double and Trouble more than earn their names when they dip into the candy supply, and leave Anna Hibiscus to take the blame. Finally, in preparation for her upcoming trip to visit her Canadian grandmother, Anna's well-meaning family take her shopping for "oyinbo" clothes to wear in the cold weather. Anna's mother is an oyinbo, or foreigner with white skin, and the whole family wants to make sure that Anna looks good and stays warm for her big trip abroad.

In Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus, Anna is off to Canada to visit with her white grandmother. She has never seen snow before, is frightened of Grandma Canada's pet dog, isn't sure if she'll be able to stomach foreign food, and initially doesn't get along with the other kids in town. Everything resolves happily, of course, when Anna discovers that she loves playing in snow and Grandma's dog Qimmiq is able to come to her rescue when she finds herself lodged in a snowbank. While nothing will ever replace the tasty African food she is used to, Anna Hibiscus finds traditional Canadian Christmas food delicious too, and eventually comes to befriend the neighbor kids.

While the book never explicitly states what country Anna Hibiscus lives in, or how old she is, I have to assume that she is probably a first-grader, and writer Atinuke says she was inspired by her own childhood growing up in Nigeria. The appealing illustrations which decorate nearly every page and large type make for a comfortable read for readers new to chapter books. I will put this series into the hands of children who are hungry for stories with black characters that are not set during the Civil War, or the 1960's. Warm, relate-able, and unique, Anna Hibiscus is certain to take her rightful place beside Junie B. Jones, Clementine, Ruby Lu, Ramona and other classic early middle-grade fiction.

I received free copies of these books from the publisher.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Infinite Days review

Infinite Days
August 2010

Lenah Beaudonte, a more than 500 year-old former vampire queen is desperately trying to adjust to modern life in a boarding school. After Rhode, a fellow vampire and the love of her life, sacrifices himself in an arcane ritual, she unwillingly becomes 16 years old and human again. In the meantime, the coven she left behind (now led by her former protégé, Vicken) are trying to track her down and destroy her new life.

I loved the way that Lenah's alien-ness, and cold, calculating nature immediately come across. The first half of the book deals with the fight against her vampire instincts. For example, when a teacher annoys her, her first thought is how quickly she would be able to kill him. She initially looks at her schoolmates as human prey, not as potential friends. Lenah has some trouble adjusting to modern technology, of course, because she's been hibernating for a hundred years. She also struggles with simply being human: after centuries of carefully honed caution, sunlight still scares her.

At school, Lenah immediately becomes interested in Justin Enos, a perfect, All-American, good looking jock. His brothers and their girlfriends make up the circle of popular kids, which, with her "new at school" status, and socially awkward ways, she is immediately shut out of. Instead, she befriends Tony, one of the kids in the arts crowd. When she does finally get Justin's attention, Tony's sense of betrayal is heartbreaking, and the vapid and clueless girlfriends' attempts to adopt Lenah's gothic fashion sense are truly laughable.

One thing I loved about this story is the way that Lenah's centuries of experience and schooling leave her far, far superior to her human classmates. This is hinted at in Twilight, with Edward's easy good grades, because he's repeated high school several times, but is fully realized in this book, where Lenah speaks dozens of languages fluently, and has already read every book on the course syllabus multiple times. Her intelligence is intimidating, and her clumsiness in social situations means that, at first, she doesn't think to tone it down to try to fit in with her classmates. After having traveled Europe, and ruled over a nest of vicious vampires with an iron fist, she carries an air of being supremely confident and sure of herself, even as she feels completely out of her depth at an American high school.

I have to admit, I was a little mystified by Lenah's attraction to Justin. She's already had two great, epic loves in her life (or unlife), Rhode and Vicken. What is it about Justin that draws her? (Aside from washboard abs?) I honestly thought that even Tony, the sensitive artist, best-friend who carries a torch for her, would make a better match. Although of course, I was rooting for her to stay loyal to Rhode all along. The only other minor quibble I had with the book was that when Lenah is originally made a vampire, during a rainstorm on her family estate in the 1500's (she happens to go out to her father's orchard after dark) I wished that she had some better knowledge or experience of being around vampires before being suddenly thrust into their company.

In many books, flashbacks can be poorly handled, distracting from the important action of the present day, and slowing the pace of the book; in this novel, they are a necessary way of understanding who Lenah is. The vampires in this world haven't tried to blend in with human society and it shows. They are ruthless, cruel, blood-thirsty and more than a little crazy. The sequel, Stolen Nights, was supposed to have been released on March 1st, but that obviously hasn't happened. Maizel has put out a statement that the delay is due to re-writes and she hopes to have the book ready "Soon I hope. Sooner than soon. Sooner than sooner than sooner." I'm sure all of her fans fervently agree.

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

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wither video

Check out this amazing book trailer for Lauren DeStefano's Wither. I love the way it picks up on so many of the design elements of the cover. My review is here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Won Ton review

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku
February 2011

This sassy collection of narrative poems tell the story of Won Ton, a shelter cat taken in by a young boy. Technically, the poems are not haiku, but, as Wardlaw explains in the author's note, senryu, identical to the haiku form, with a three line 5-7-5 syllable format, but instead "the foibles of human nature -or in this case, cat nature- are the focus, expressed by a narrator in a humorous, playful or ironic way."

The difference between haiku and senryu is immediately apparent. Rather than conjuring a soothing, reflective, meditative mood common to haiku, these poems are irreverent, funny and witty. Wardlaw perfectly captures the essence of Won Ton's catlike nature. I had initially assumed that Yelchin's illustrations (with clean lines that punctuate the text nicely) were digitally-enhanced, but they were created old-school, with graphite and gouche on watercolor paper. Won Ton is depicted as a lean, black cat with wide blue eyes and an expressive range of emotions.

Each poem is such a short little gem, it's hard not to quote the whole book, but I have a few that I must mention. On being in the shelter, Won Ton says, "Gypsy on my left/Pumpkin, my right. Together/we are all alone." Woefully bored cats stare out of cages, while Won Ton sits with his back turned, paws tucked in. Just after being chosen, Won Ton says, "Latch squeaks. Door swings wide./Free! Free at last! Yet, one claw/snags, clings to what's known." Oh my gosh. Who hasn't felt like that at least once in their lifetime? Here's another of my favorites, after Won Ton has finally started to settle in to his new home. "Your tummy, soft as/warm dough. I knead and knead, then/bake it with a nap." What great imagery!

Yes, this original and enjoyable book will receive plenty of attention in April, National Poetry Month, but it's too good to enjoy only one month of the year. I'll recommend this book for cat-lovers everywhere, year-round.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Random Noodling this week.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cover Trend: Important Necklace

Here's a cover trend I've noticed. A necklace. A super important necklace.

Silver Phoenix 
by Cindy Pon 
Greenwillow Books 
April 2009 (cover from 2011 paperback)

No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved - despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family - to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters. But now, something is after her. Something terrifying - a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined... -from Goodreads

The Reckoning 
by Kelley Armstrong 
April 2010

Only two weeks ago, life was all too predictable. But that was before I saw my first ghost. Now, along with my supernatural friends Tori, Derek, and Simon, I’m on the run from the Edison Group, which genetically altered us as part of their sinister experiment. We’re hiding in a safe house that might not be as safe as it seems. We’ll be gone soon anyway, back to rescue those we’d left behind and to take out the Edison Group... or so we hope. -from Goodreads

Ghost Town 
by Rachel Caine 
NAL Hardcover 
October 2010

While developing a new system to maintain Morganville's defenses, student Claire Danvers discovers a way to amplify vampire mental powers. Through this, she's able to re-establish the field around this vampire-infested Texas college town that protects it from outsiders. But the new upgrades have an unexpected consequence: people inside the town begin to slowly forget who they are-even the vampires. Soon, the town's little memory problem has turned into a full-on epidemic. Now Claire needs to figure out a way to pull the plug on her experiment- before she forgets how to save Morganville... -from Goodreads

Secondhand Charm 
by Julie Berry 
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books 
October 2010

In a secluded village, magic sparkles on the edges of the forest. There, a young girl named Evie possesses unusually strong powers as a healer. A gypsy's charms—no more than trinkets when worn by others—are remarkably potent when Evie ties them around her neck. Her talents, and charms, have not escaped the notice of the shy stonemason's apprentice. But Evie wants more than a quiet village and the boy next-door. When the young king's carriage arrives one day, and his footman has fallen ill, Evie might just get her chance after all... -from Goodreads

The False Princess 
by Eilis O'Neal 
Egmont USA 
January 2011

Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known. -from Goodreads

Circle of Fire 
by Michelle Zink 
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
August 2011

With time dwindling but her will to end the Prophecy stronger than ever, Lia sets out on a journey to find the remaining keys, locate the missing pages of the Prophecy, and convince her sister Alice to help - or risk her life trying... -from Goodreads

Shattered Dreams 
by Ellie James 
St. Martin's Griffin 
December 2011

Sixteen-year-old Trinity Monsour wants nothing more than to live a normal life. But that isn’t as easy as it seems. Trinity is different. She is special. She sees visions, and for those she’s seen, it’s already too late... -from Goodreads

I could have included so, so many more... but you get the idea.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream review

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream
January 2011

I loved this sweet story about a third-grade Korean-American girl. Clara Lee goes by her first and last name because, "It just sounds better that way. Like peanut butter and jelly, like trick-or-treat, or fairy and princess, those words just go together. Just like me, Clara Lee." Clara Lee has a lot of personality, and this realistic fiction novel offers a fun look at her family, school and friends. The illustrations keep the story moving along perfectly, and bridge the gap for kids who are just transitioning in to reading longer chapter books. Do you remember looking up to high school students, who seemed like the most grown-up, sophisticated, worldly individuals? Clara Lee's fondest dream is to win the Little Miss Apple Pie contest, and ride in a parade float, standing proudly next to the high school student who wins the Miss Apple Pie title during their town's yearly Apple Festival.

In order to win, she's got to deliver a speech in front of the whole school, which makes her very nervous. She has a bad dream the night before, which her grandfather tells her is actually a sign of good luck. Greatly cheered by this news, she goes on to have the luckiest day ever: she gets the best seat on the school bus, she manages to do well in gym class, her friend gives her gingersnap cookies (her favorite!) and she finds an awesome candy necklace, which she decides will be her "signature look" from now on. Kids will enjoy the hand-lettered list Clara Lee creates documenting all of her lucky occurrences. When her luck starts to run out, Clara Lee begins to worry. With an obnoxious "mean girl" classmate reminding Clara that "American as apple pie" usually means blonde and blue-eyed, NOT Korean-American, she's genuinely concerned. Does she still have a shot at winning the contest? Happily, the answer is "yes" and she's able to ride the float wearing her best Korean dress.

I'll be r
ecommending this charming book for 8-12 year-old readers who enjoyed Megan McDonald's Judy Moody series or the Clementine books by Sarah Pennypacker.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cars feltboard

I'm really happy with this latest felt board of mine. It was easy to do... only took about an hour, and I think they came out really well.

I used this clip art as the inspiration. I'm so glad that I did, as it wouldn't have occurred to me to square off the back wheel. Makes for much better perspective that way.

Here's the song I'll sing to go with it (modified from
 To the
tune of Frere Jacques:

I see a red car,
I see a red car,
On the street,
On the street,
Honking, rolling, speeding,
Honking, rolling, speeding.
All day long,
All day long.

Next verse:
blue car
green car
yellow car

Monday, April 11, 2011

Internets are awesome

I've been running across so much awesome stuff on the internet this week, I've just gotta share!

Check out the snarky goodness at Better Book Titles.

I'm sure I'm the last person in the world to discover this, but famed YA author John Green's YouTube channel is made of win. He and his brother Hank are hilarious. Go Nerdfighters! Also, while you're there, check out Jackson Pearce's YouTube channel: bonus points for being smart and funny and photogenic.

Hurrah, it's a mash-up of two of my favorite things: Jane Austen and Harry Potter. While you're at it, check out this amazing HP-themed marriage proposal.

I may be deliriously unmusical, but I still appreciate this: What if your favorite album was a book? Purple Rain is my favorite!

This video almost makes me wish I lived in New York.

Dream of books in this cozy book bed.

Nom, nom, nom. Book cupcake.

Amazing embroidered book covers!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance review

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance
February 2011

I found this book to be a light, delectable treat. 17 year-old Charlie Tracker and her teen co-star Fielding Withers find themselves trapped in a gilded prison. Ratings on their hit musical tv show How to be a Rockstar are dependent on whether or not they get good press... and the best way to get good press is by pretending that they are crazy about each other on-screen and off, when in fact, they only drive each other crazy with loathing. They've perfected their moves and have the paparazzi fooled with their patented "walk-n-snug" where they appear to be laughing and gazing deeply into each eyes as they stroll arm-in-arm, but actually are delivering insults, sotto voce, the whole time. Every aspect of their day is carefully planned: from what they will wear, to where they will hang-out, who they'll be seen with and what they will eat. For example, when ordering ice-cream, Charlie is only allowed to have vanilla or strawberry, to demonstrate that she is pure, yet playful. Fielding, who is vegetarian, must pretend to eat chicken in order to seem more mainstream.

Franklin and Halpin do a masterful job of co-writing: all of the Charlie (a.k.a. Jenna) chapters are written by Franklin, and all of the Fielding (a.k.a. Jonah, a.k.a. Aaron) chapters are written by Halpin. Each character has a very distinct voice. Perfectionist Charlie has always wanted nothing more than Hollywood stardom, while Fielding has been pushed into acting by his stage mom. Secretly, Fielding can't wait for their show to get cancelled, so that he can go to college, study serious drama, and prove to everyone that he's more than just a pretty face.

The story
takes a major turn about mid-way through -- dogged by rumors that they've been faking their romance to cover that Fielding is gay (he is in fact, totally straight) and with their show about to be cancelled, the two of them run away together for a weekend at Fielding's beach house to regroup and plan their strategy. They end up getting an offer for a summer stock gig -- a whole summer in rural Oregon, playing the roles of Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing. I loved all the Shakespeare references, and although they're both a little young for the roles, the parallel storyline about a snarky odd couple who are actually perfect for each other made a lot of sense. While a knowledge of Shakespeare, and this play in particular probably aren't necessary to understand and enjoy the second half of the book, I have no doubt that some familiarity with the text would definitely deepen one's appreciation of the story.

This book is like candy; sweet, fun and a very fast read. If its premise of a light, fluffy romance tricks teens into reading about Shakespeare, so much the better!

I borrowed this book from the library.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Cleaning!

The library where I'm working at now has been without a children's librarian for some time. One of the first things I noticed was how neglected the children's area seemed. I've been doing some spring cleaning... the first thing to tackle is signs!

Here's what used to serve
as signage for the children's corner.

Here's my replacement.

What a difference, no?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Poetrees review

March 2010

This charming collection of 19 poems celebrates trees in all their variety. With a playful, kid-friendly sense of rhythm, respected poet Florian turns the book on its side, presenting the poems and illustrations vertically, to emphasize the height of each tree. Loose, easy watercolor and oil pastel paintings on brown bag and recycled papers lend a relaxed feel. Beginning with the concrete poem Seed, in the shape of the eternity symbol, ∞, implying the infinite possibility that each seed harbors, the book goes on to celebrate Giant Sequoias, Scribbly Gum, Banyan, Paper Birch trees and more. I loved the poem about the coconut palm which reads in part, "I'm nuts about the coconut./I'm cuckoo for the coco./ I'm crazed for this amazing nut./For coco I am loco." accompanied by a picture of a man with a coconut tree growing out of his head. Whimsical, short and full of puns, these poems will appeal to second through fifth graders with a sense of humor.

The book is appended with a "glossatree" presenting additional scientific facts about each of the trees mentioned in the book. Great for poetry units, or as an addition to a science curriculum, this is a book sure to please, don't miss it.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Yes, I'm hosting Poetry Friday this week!
Looking for more poetry? Check out these posts:

Mary Lee's
Poem #8
Tabatha's Poetry by Linda Pastan
A Flower Festival from Random Noodling
Kurious Kitty is sharing Amy Lowell's "Monadnock in Early Spring"
Kurious K's Kwotes also has a quote from Amy Lowell
Heidi is sharing a poem by Alice Oswald
Andromeda Jazmon hosts an online bookclub as well as a haibun poem
B.C. has a poem by Adrienne Rich
Laurie from Book, Blog, Fun is sharing a poem of her own!
JoAnn at Teaching Authors has posted a poem about writing
Amy features poetry from fourth-graders and circular poems
Carol has a review of Pearl vs. The World
Sarah from Read, Write, Believe asks, "Are poetry slams a nuisance?"
Laura Salas has 2 posts for Poetry Friday: a review of The Year of Goodbyes and a 15 Words of Less Poetry Challenge
Jama shares an acrostic poem about lasagna
David Elzey has rounded up a bunch of haikus
Rasco from RIF posts about poetry in Afghanistan
Irene Latham shares poetry craft tips!
Ruth shares a David Young poem and explains how to get on a poetry e-mail list
Blythe Woolston posts a William Carlos Williams poem
Brimful Curiousities has an entry for the Kids' Poetry Challenge
The Write Sisters talk about memorizing Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards for school
Author Amok has a serious poem, "Liam Sits Folded"
Jeannine Atkins shares some thoughts about an article on poetry by Jane Hirshfield
Emily Jiang posts some haiku about her recent travels
Sylvia Vardell features a book trailer for a poetry collection
Dorian Bennett posts "Heavenly Playground" by Adrian Bass
Wild Rose Reader has a review of Twosomes by Marilyn Singer
A Teaching Life has posted some poems to heal wounds
Judy at Learning to Let Go has posted a poem by Stephen Mitchell
Father Goose shares an original poem, "Art Show in the Park"
Blue Rose Girls shares 3 clerihew poems on famous historical figures
Check out 7 Imp's gorgeous artwork paired with poetry for Kirkus
Gregory K. from Gotta Book has some more clerihews!
Books Dogs and Frogs has another original poem
Tanita Davis has some poems from schoolkids
Liz Scanlon shares some original haiku at her blog
Kelly R. Fineman blogs a review of Roots and Blues by Arnold Adoff
Jen Rothschild has a review of The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
Check out this reverso poem by Martha Calderaro
The Miss Rumphius Effect weighs in with "In Praise of My Bed" by Meredith Holmes
Janet Squires reviews "A Child's Calendar" by John Updike
Pentimento shares an Inuit poem
Library Chicken reviews Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Angelfire review

February 2011

I had trouble tackling this review, because it's one of those books that I enjoyed so much, I struggle for what to say about it, other than, "Yay, wonderful, woo-hoo, etc."

Set in the current day, 17-year-old Ellie Monroe is a pretty normal teen until she starts seeing monsters on the streets. Pretty soon, mysterious new guy Will lets her know that she is in fact, a reincarnated warrior, born to fight demons, and he's there to watch her back.

This was a book that owes a heavy debt to Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Ellie is sweet and likeable, and no one is more surprised than she is when she suddenly starts getting flashbacks of other lifetimes, including new super-fighting powers. It turns out that she is a "chosen one" with access to ethereal angelic blades, that magically appear when she needs to fight. Ellie definitely finds Will cute, but there's little time for romance, because she's got some serious ass-kicking to do. I liked that there isn't a love triangle, and while there's a dash of romance, it's not the main feature of the story. I also liked that there were immediate and serious consequences to the violence in the book. When she trashes her car fighting a reaper demon, (she tells her parents it was just a standard new driver mishap) her mom and dad are incredibly upset, and for the rest of the book, Ellie is annoyed that it's tougher for her to get around town, carless.

Will is fantastic as Ellie's best friend/servant -- he's dealing with his own centuries-long heavily suppressed feelings towards her; plus the worrying fact that Ellie seems to be more and more human with each incarnation, taking longer to reincarnate each time, and for the first time, she really doubts who she is, not immediately remembering her prior lifetimes. I felt it was gently hinted that her difficulty reincarnating spells trouble for the Forces of Good, but at the same time, her increased attachment to her humanity may be the thing that saves them all.

Is it just me, or did Ellie's dad seem pretty strange? There's something foreboding about him - he doesn't seem to care about Ellie that much, and I felt like there was some serious foreshadowing... maybe he'll turn out to be a villain in later books. There isn't a heartrending cliffhanger, but it is clear that this book is the first of a series, with more, definitely important, plot twists to come. I'll be recommending this book to all the usual suspects -- fans of teen paranormal will love this one.

I borrowed this book from the library.
I read this book for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


How much of a book-nerd am I? This much:

Yay! So glad my new plate is finally here!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cover Trend: Things on Fire

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
by Alison Goodman 
Viking Juvenile 
October 2008

Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he'll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragoneye, the human link to an energy dragon's power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and if discovered Eon faces a terrible death. -from Goodreads

Witch & Wizard 
by James Patterson 
Little Brown & Co. 
December 2009

Imagine you wake up and the world around you - life as you know it - has changed in an instant. That's what has happened to Whit Allgood and his sister, Whisty. They went to sleep as normal teenagers, and woke up as wanted criminals. Accused of holding incredible powers they'd never dreamed possible. And now, just how different they are - special, even - is just beginning to be revealed in a strange new world. -from Goodreads

The Candidates 
by Inara Scott 
August 2010

Dancia Lewis is far from popular. And that's not just because of her average grades or her less-than-glamorous wardrobe. In fact, Dancia's mediocrity is a welcome cover for her secret: whenever she sees a person threatening someone she cares about, things just...happen. Cars skid. Structures collapse... When recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room to offer her a full scholarship, Dancia's days of living under the radar may be over... But not even Dancia could have imagined what awaits her behind the gates of Delcroix Academy. -from Goodreads

Adios, Nirvana 
by Conrad Wesselhoeft 
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 
October 2010

Since the death of his brother, Jonathan’s been losing his grip on reality. Last year’s Best Young Poet and gifted guitarist is now Taft High School’s resident tortured artist, when he bothers to show up. He's on track to repeat eleventh grade, but his English teacher, his principal, and his crew of Thicks (who refuse to be seniors without him) won’t sit back and let him fail. -from Goodreads

A Flickering Fire 
by Alexandria Cramer 
Clifton Carriage House 
March 2011

Join Fiammetta, a young traveling entertainer, as she embarks on a journey that will change the course of a kingdom. An outcast among her own people, she possesses the power to create and control fire; it is this power that embroils her in the plot of the cruel King Nicholas, who as killed his brother and usurped the throne. Framed for the murder, Fiammetta must buy her family's freedom by accepting the King's quest to find the Gavino Claw. With her cursed companion, Paolo, she must endure an arduous journey that will either bring her face to face with destiny, or end her life. -from Goodreads

Are there any that I missed? Let me know in the comments.


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